Help! I Need a Mentor!
I spent my thirties, directing, leading, and developing ministries for moms at a church of 8,000. It was complicated. You can probably predict some of the challenges we faced. There wasn’t enough space for childcare, so we had to host two different groups and take turns with the classrooms. Finding enough childcare workers was a consistent challenge, as well as funding the cost of it. It was a continual challenge to raise leaders, develop meaningful and relevant curriculum. But the biggest challenge was finding older women who were willing to mentor younger women. In fact, in the ten years that I served in that capacity, I found four. Four women in a church of 8,000 were willing to consistently commit to pouring into our young moms.
Now I know that statement isn’t completely accurate, for there were those pouring into young women outside of a programming format - and many I don’t even know about. But the reality was that in a large ministry that was consistently advertising, recruiting, and training volunteers, the position of “mentor mom” was always difficult to fill.
These experiences and others in relational discipleship models have taught me a few things about finding a mentor that I would love to share with you.
This is the step that always seems obvious, but is often forgotten. One of the main reasons I think this step is so important is that we often have in mind what we need in a mentor. We see holes in our lives and ways we want to grow, and we tend to look for someone who can help us fill in those holes. The thing is, God may see different holes in our life than we do. I personally have to remind myself continuously that part of the beauty of the gospel is that it is God’s job to sanctify me. He sees what we need, and he knows who needs to be a part of our growth. So ask God, “How do I need to grow? What do I need in my life? Who can be a part of helping me grow? Can you send them my way?”
After you have submitted your will to God in this, begin observing those around you. Is there someone that you seem to be encountering often? A women who you feel drawn to? Someone at church? In your small group? Maybe even another parent at your child’s school? A childhood friend’s mom? Be open to where God may be pointing things out.
I’ll let you in on a little secret here. I have had the opportunity to cross paths with some decently well-known women in the Christian world. I remember begging God to let me build a relationship with a particular woman whom I felt understood so much of God’s heart in areas I was lacking. I wanted to catch her passion and understanding. God did not answer that request. Nor did he answer several similar requests. Instead, he put women in my life that were not well-known or prominent in any way. As time has gone on, I’ve watched prominent women veer off course in their theology while the unknown, faithful women in the background continue a steady path with no personal agenda.
I think in our day and age, with the ability to connect with women all over the world online, it is tempting to wish we could have real, live relationships with women who have built large platforms and seem to have the answers. But platforms can also be consuming and dangerous. Celebrate what God is doing in and through them, but don’t feel that the women in your own circles have less to offer.
Think Relationship Over Title
In my years of working in women’s ministry, I’ve discovered that the “M” word scares people. Offered a title, some of the most godly, women feel they have nothing to really offer. These same women are greatly admired by the young women around them and naturally offer incredible wisdom to those they are in relationship with. So when you are hoping that someone will be willing to mentor you, be careful how you approach it. This brings us to our next point.
If you feel you have identified someone who could be a good mentor for you, invite them into a relationship. Don’t ask them to assume a title in your life. The title feels weighty and in need of a job description that must be measured up to. Start by a simple invitation to have coffee. You could approach it by simply telling her that you recognize the wisdom in Scripture of older and younger women being in relationship, and you would like to expand your friendships to women of other generations. Spend some casual time together, and see if you really connect. If you would like to meet with her again, just ask. “Can we do this again sometime?” Maybe ask her if you can call her if you think of things she might be able to give you advice about. See what happens. She may suggest meeting with you more often. It could naturally evolve into something rhythmic and beautiful. If not, remember that if nothing else you are building your community of women.
Value the Beauty of Groups
It is true that Titus 2 speaks of older women teaching younger women (Tit. 2:3-5). There are a couple of examples of one on one mentoring relationship in Scripture, such as Elizabeth and Mary (Lk. 1:39-45), Naomi and Ruth (Ruth). But Scripture also teaches about the wisdom of having many counselors (Prov. 11:14) and sharing life in community (Mt. 18:20 Acts 2:42-47; Philemon 6; Heb. 3:13, 10:25). There is no Scriptural mandate to find one woman who will fill all your needs. One on one mentoring relationships can be very beautiful, but so are relationships in community. It is often tempting to stick in groups of people like ourselves. It is great to have groups of friends that you share a common theme with, such as raising kids or getting through school - but imagine being in a multi-generational community that gifts you with four or five mentors. There is invaluable benefit to surrounding ourselves with women who are NOT like us.
Above all, trust the God who said he has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). He knows exactly what you need, and has already promised to provide it. It just might not look like you thought it would.