Name at least one woman who has influenced your life spiritually. Women need women in their lives who can identify with their experiences and emotions. Women’s leaders need to know how to implement a mentoring ministry with women in their churches.
The Bible is our primary resource in implementing mentoring relationships among women in the local church. In keeping the Bible as our guidebook, we will be joining God where He is already working in the lives of women today.1 Through His Word we can find out what a mentor is, why it’s important to have a mentoring ministry in the local church, what type of women God is looking for as mentors, and what’s involved in ministering effectively to women. In addition, we can explore the needs of women today and the how-to of meeting these needs through mentoring relationships.
Let’s define the word mentor. In his book, Mentoring: Confidence in Finding a Mentor and Becoming One, Bobb Biehl says that a mentor “helps a protégé reach her or his God-given potential…Mentoring is more ‘how can I help you?’ than ‘what should I teach you’”2 This does not mean a mentor does not teach. The Bible specifically says women are to teach other women. This will be discussed a little later, but keep in mind that teaching and modeling are involved in mentoring.
God has a plan for women that will stand the test of time. In some ways it seems that our modern generation has disregarded this teaching on mentoring. Therefore, many young women, wives, and mothers have never been taught to live godly lives as examples which can be passed on to the next generation. But “down through the centuries, young people have learned most through careful observation of those who are more experienced,”3 and “throughout human history, mentoring has been the primary means of passing on knowledge and skills in every field and in every culture.”4 To support this concept of mentoring, Bob and Yvonne Turnbull suggest four keys for mentoring effectively.5 I have adapted these for our discussion. Combined, they offer a definition of mentoring as well as a guide for us to follow.
Key One: Share Your Successes and Struggles.
When I lost my temper with another church member, I confided my lack of patience to my senior friend, Faye. She had previously shared with me her own former struggle with controlling her temper. When I told her of my situation and that I wondered if I’d ever conquer my temper like she had, she replied, “Honey, just because you’re 74 doesn’t mean you still don’t have to work at not losing your temper. It’s just under control.” Warning: Don’t let sharing your struggles be seen as an excuse for sin. A shared common experience should be a way to move a mentoree toward Scripture for guidance on how to live.
Key Two: Share What You Do and How You Do It.
When I was searching for a way to have a short, meaningful quiet time, a lay renewal speaker came to our church and suggested using Journey: A Woman’s Guide to Intimacy with God. Mentors can suggest books they have found helpful on child-rearing, marriage, or specific subject matters in which the mentoree needs assistance.
Key Three: Build Skills to Meet Needs.
This is done in obvious and not so obvious ways. For example, my mother-in-law taught me directly how to make a pie crust, but she also taught me indirectly that Kenny, my husband, enjoyed eating her pies. That’s why I wanted to learn her method—I had watched him eat her pies.
Key Four: Make Adjustments to Find What Works Best.
Elders have the authority to guide us in making adjustments as we submit to them in humility. They can see some of the pitfalls that lie ahead if we continue on a harmful course. A wise older woman who baby-sat for me once told me I was trying to do too much on my own. “Valerie,” she said, “some day you’ll learn to receive help.” Her evaluation freed me to be able to do just that—receive help! Each mentoring relationship will take on characteristics of its own, but teaching and modeling will always be involved. Mentoring is ministry one on one!
This article is adapted from a chapter written by Valerie Howe and found in Women Reaching Women: Beginning and Building a Growing Women’s Ministry compiled by Chris Adams.
1. Adapted from Henry T. Blackaby and Clyde V. King, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God (Nashville: LifeWay Press, 1990), 32.
2. Bobb Biehl, Mentoring: Confidence in Finding a Mentor and Becoming One (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1996), 19.
3. Drs. Les III and Leslie Parrott, The Marriage Manual (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 7.
4. Ibid., 12.
5. Material in this section adapted from Bob and Yvonne Turnbull, Marriage Mentors (Nashville: Lifeway Press, 1995), 19-20.