At XChange, a leadership event focused on conversations around the table with among various generations of women, we addressed three main subjects. I will be addressing each topic in a series of articles, starting with mentoring the postmodern woman.
I have had a variety of mentors in my life. Some were the result of formal pairing but most were spontaneous and never really saw themselves as mentors. A widow who had no children adopted me in my very early marriage years and taught me so much about cooking, making my house a home, and loving my husband — even remembering to put him first (even before the kids). Another woman mentored me through raising children and some major challenges we faced. God brought her into my life primarily to model living as a godly woman, since she too had a challenging child. She truly showed me how to trust God through it all.
A couple of women have shown me how to serve faithfully as a woman in vocational ministry. And countless others have mentored me in many different ways, most having no idea they influenced me! Mentoring takes lots of different roads, but according to Titus 2:3-5 all are a part of God’s overall plan for women.
What is a mentor?
One of the best definitions I’ve ever seen for “mentor” was from a student in a class I taught at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The students wrote their own definitions of a mentor, and this was my favorite: “A spiritually mature woman having a more compete puzzle of life assembled guiding me in the placement of my missing pieces!”
What do we expect from mentors?
In talking with the postmodern generation of women, we asked: What is your expectation of a mentor? The overall response focused on someone who was real, did life with them, and modeled the Christian life. They value mentors being real and modeling the walk in a godly way — even sharing about when they make mistakes. They appreciate honesty and knowing their mentor doesn’t always have it all together! Vulnerability builds trust in the relationship.
Younger generations also want to be mentored by women who will ask them challenging questions and help them find the biblical and practical answers. A mentee wants to contribute her knowledge and insight to the relationship as well; she wants to contribute and build a relationship of mutuality.
How do we prevent barriers in mentoring relationships?
Sometimes misperceptions about other generations can be a barrier to a healthy mentoring relationship. Because of this, it’s important to take initiative to get to know women of different ages and life stages. I believe BOTH mentors and mentees must be intentional to make connections. Perhaps an older woman sees a younger one struggling in an area and just comes alongside her to let her know she’s praying and available to her. Maybe a younger woman sees something about an older woman she desires in her own life and just asks her, “How did you get here?”
What should we do when we meet?
It’s simple, but one of the most powerful ways to connect through mentoring is by praying together. Share each other’s burdens and intercede on behalf of the other person. Ask God to strengthen your relationship with Him and each other. Serving or doing missions together is a great way to get to know each other, stretch your comfort zones and grow as a follower of Christ. Another idea: Do a Bible study together. Study individually and then come together and share what the Lord is teaching you. You will learn from each other and be exercising the discipline of Bible study. And all the while sharing these experiences together, it’s important to share stories of your lives — the good and the difficult.
Mentoring can be discussed and arranged formally ahead of time or it can be flexible and spontaneous. Often I hear women say: “I would love to have someone who is available at the spur of the moment for a text, call or email. Someone just to listen and let me bounce ideas off of.”
What are your expectations of a mentor? What has made your mentoring relationships meaningful and effective? Watch for more on this topic!
Mentoring Resources: Mentor: How Along-the-Way Mentorship Will Change Your Life is a six-part Bible study from Dr. Chuck Lawless that explores the life-transforming process of a mentoring relationship. Also, Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level and Women Reaching Women: Beginning and Building a Growing Women’s Ministry both include information on mentoring relationships.