My commitment to mentoring comes from my early years as a young professional when there was an absence of older women who were willing to lend a helping hand. Many offered criticism, few offered help. I vowed that if I could grow past these experiences, I would be willing to help others on their spiritual and professional journeys. The young women whom I have mentored serve our Lord throughout the world. I love the times when I answer the phone to find one of them on the other end of the line. Their personal visits are always a blessing and their e-mails, cards, and letters often arrive to encourage and minister to me on challenging days. I am looking forward to our reunion in heaven and count it a privilege to be “the older woman” in their lives!
The strategy outlined in Titus 2:3-5 provides the biblical foundation for understanding the mentoring relationship while the book of Ruth details an example of its application. However, despite the fact that Titus 2:3-5 is an instruction (not a suggestion) to Christian women, few are willing to mentor. Excuses range from, “I don’t have time” to “no one cares what I have to say.”
In the process of completing a writing project focused on the Titus passage I processed 2,254 “Perception of Homemaking” surveys. The analysis of the data suggests that there is a break in the mentoring circuit. Somewhere in our evangelical cycle of women’s ministry, the Titus 2:3-5 model is being ignored. These results pose a thought-provoking question:
Have the younger women become less teachable or have the older women failed to teach? *
I recently discussed how the Titus 2:3-5 passage is practically applied to a mentor/mentoree relationship with a young woman I work with. A gifted, well-educated young woman in her mid-twenties, she provided some insight in to what comprises a meaningful mentoring relationship. She commented that a mentor is much more like having a “big sister.” She is willing to make a life-to-life investment that is relational. Nurturing, involved, invested, and a willingness to walk with you through “her journey” are qualities of the relationship.
Probing a bit deeper I asked where the “spiritual big sis” draws the line between being interested and intrusive. I so appreciate her suggestion to use examples (with their permission) from the “spiritual big sis” relationship that I share with her and the other young woman that works as her partner under my leadership.
- Ask questions rather than make demands. Our working relationship requires the fulfillment of a myriad of tasks during the week. Some are predictable, some are not. When an unexpected change presents itself I have learned to ask how we are going to adjust to the unexpected request. Rather than issuing the order, which I could do, and leaving them to figure out the remedy we pray together and pursue a reasonable solution. Whenever possible we celebrate the fulfillment of the task.
- Serve instead of control. My position allows me the right to control situations. However, I choose to relinquish that right and partner with the Interns rather than using my position as leverage to demand results. This choice usually yields a favorable result. We have built numerous memories and shared many laughs as we worked together on projects.
- Affirm whenever possible. Obviously there are times when I need to offer correction but if all that the women whom I nurture hear from me is how they could do the project better I will break their spirits. The Titus 2 mentor will model the type of speech she desires to hear from her mentoree’s lips.
- Purpose to adapt to the younger woman’s world. For the women with whom I work, cell phones are their lifeline to relationships. I am purposing to understand their social communities so that I can maintain communication with them. I also want to model for them other forms of communication that contribute to meaningful relationships.
- Wait to be invited into the relationship. Though it is usually best for the younger woman to initiate the mentor relationship, the older woman can demonstrate that she is willing to mentor.
- Be an available voice. There are days when the ladies I’m investing in want to chat and days when they desire silence. As I plan my day I choose to leave a window of time so that if they want to visit I am not shutting them down by needing to hurry on to the next item on my “to do list”. I also need to respect their need for silence and purpose to not be intrusive (even though I may really want to know what’s going on).
- Avoid perfectionism. The scriptures challenge us toward excellence. Perfectionism is God’s responsibility. That means older women need to intentionally “mess up” occasionally so that the younger woman understands that she does not walk on water.
I believe that mentoring relationships can be either formal (regular meetings for a specific purpose) or informal (unscheduled relationship-building) and have some practical suggestions for each to share with you.
Formal Mentoring Suggestions
- Reading and discussing a Christian women’s book together (for example, Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free by Nancy DeMoss, Love to Eat, Hate to Eat by Elyse Fitzpatrick or perhaps my book, Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God).
- Completing a study on a book of the Bible (perhaps the book of James or Philippians).
- Reading and discussing a commentary.
- Memorizing Scripture or keeping a prayer journal and then spending time talking and praying together each week.
Informal Mentoring Suggestions
- Discussing questions raised by the younger woman (questions can be related to relationships, skills, or life experiences).
- Working on projects together such as planning events or holidays to learn practical skills in management (set goals then work together to accomplish them).
- Simply spending time together talking and letting the younger woman see your life and family.
- Sharing your knowledge about practical home management (menu planning, cleaning house, or paying the bills).
A common question both mentors and mentorees have is “How much time could I expect to invest in those settings?” The actual time investment will vary from relationship to relationship. The formula for success rests in placing the opportunity in our heavenly Father’s hands and allowing Him to work out the details. It is my prayer that you will not wait until you have time to mentor or be mentored. To do so may exempt you from a life changing experience! Whether formal or informal, “The Seasons of the Mentoring Cycle” begins when younger and older women regularly spend time together.
Dr. Patricia Ennis is a Distinguished Professor of Homemaking at Southwestern Seminary. She has authored several works, including Precious in the Sight of God, The Art of Becoming a Godly Woman, Practicing Hospitality, the Joy of Serving Others (with Lisa Tatlock), and Becoming a Young Woman Who Pleases God, A Teen’s Guide to Developing Her Biblical Potential.
*(If you would like a summary of the study e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org).