It’s spring! The trees are budding, the grass is greening, flowers are bursting forth with color – allergies are afflicting those who are sensitive to pollen! As a new Texas resident this spring I experienced allergies for the first time. I don’t care for them but I do love spring and summer! However, like the pollen that comes with the flowers, each season has its beauty and challenges – the same is true of the seasons of mentoring. Last month I shared with you the biblical mentoring strategies outlined in Titus 2:3-5, a passage that provides the biblical foundation for understanding the mentoring relationship. The book of Ruth gives us a real-life example of how woman-to-woman mentoring should work. This month I am excited to share with you the seasons of mentoring!
The Season of Contact
The Season of Contact is first characterized by discussing the expectations of the relationship. It is not to be a dependent relationship, but simply a growing friendship that emerges as time is spent with a woman who possesses the character, knowledge, skills, expertise, and experience that the younger woman desires to assimilate into her life. Our wise heavenly Father brings a variety of temperaments together to sharpen one another in the mentoring relationship (Prov. 27:17). Sometimes the mentor and mentoree will be very similar; other times they will be very different. Regardless of the temperaments of the younger and older women, the Season of Contact begins with respect for the older woman and a desire to learn from her life experiences.
The Season of Coaching
The Season of Coaching suggests that the younger and older woman know one another, their individual interests, their future goals as well as their previous experiences. The younger woman’s struggles and victories with sin, the joys and difficulties of career and relationships, and the need for spiritual maturity provide the catalyst for her to probe the depths of the older woman’s treasure chest of wisdom (Prov. 16:31). The Season of Coaching transitions to the Season of Counseling as the relationship matures. As with each of the seasons, it is impossible to place a period on this season or to assume that the “Season Cycle” will continue.
The Season of Counseling
The older woman is to be open, vulnerable, and modeling behavior that reflects her spiritual age. Her goal is to become so filled with God that He will make her a woman of great spiritual power (Prov. 31:26). Several words describe the behavior of the younger and older woman during the Season of Counseling—the younger woman is teachable, as the older woman is discerning. Essentially, the younger woman desires to absorb the wisdom of the older woman and allow the older woman to teach her. The older woman is quick to discern whether her response will be active or passive. She offers counsel when she is asked and possesses the discernment to either offer or withhold assistance when she is not. The older woman prayerfully offers spiritual nourishment through encouragement, admonition, and reproof (Prov. 15:23, 24:26, 25:11, 31:26; Ephesians 4:29-32). [i]
- Encourage (Gk. protrepo) means to urge forward or to persuade. As the mentor, the older woman must look for ways to intentionally encourage on a regular basis so that when admonition or reproof is needed the younger woman is pliable rather than hardened by having consistently received harsh words.
- Admonition (Gk. nouthesia) means “training by word,” whether of encouragement, or, if necessary, by reproof or remonstrance. The older woman will be careful to use the Word of God as a source for any admonition.
- Reproof (Gk. elegmos) refers to conviction or rebuke. 2 Tim. 3:16-17 provides the biblical pattern for reproof –“all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Often the mentoring relationship remains at the Season of Counseling.
The Season of Companionship
Should the mentoring relationship continue, one day the Season of Counseling gently fades into theSeason of Companionship. Just as the difference between the final day of winter and the first day of spring is subtle, so is the transition that marks the disappearance of intergenerational boundaries when the relationship turns to friendship. Characteristic of the Season of Companionship is the willingness on the part of women to share intimately. The older woman should be willing to share at the same level of disclosure that the younger woman is sharing and both exercise caution as they move slowly into intimate sharing. Vulnerability is evidenced as convictions, joys and disappointments, weaknesses, failures and fears, victories and successes are shared.
The Season of Spiritual Continuance
The Season of Continuance, is a season of spiritual replication. As a new younger woman desires to be mentored, the existing younger woman becomes the mature woman or spiritual mother while the older woman transitions to the role of spiritual grandmother. The truth of 1 John 1:4 is evident in the lives of both the now-mature and older woman as the “Seasons Cycle” replicates itself. The roles of the mature and older woman reverse in the Season of Spiritual Continuance—the mature woman charts the direction and the older woman supports her. When asked, the older woman merges into the intergenerational relationship; when she is not, she receives pleasure in viewing it from a distance. Using care not to usurp the mature woman’s position, the older woman shares her spiritual mentoree’s joys and sorrows. As she “rejoices with them that do rejoice, and weeps with them that weep” (Rom. 12:15), the spiritual legacy of the older woman mirrors the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 1:3-5.
The daily mentoring relationship I have with two of the women I work with has moved through these various seasons of mentoring and will soon be coming to an end; one of the young women graduates and the other is moving on to a new professional position. We are rapidly approaching the season of companionship. It is my prayer that our gracious heavenly Father will allow to our relationship to continue and that He will mature them into their own season of continuance as they pass along the lessons they have learned, so that I have the privilege of saying of them, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth,” (3 John 1:4).
[i] Word study for encouragement, admonition, and reproof conducted through LOGOS BIBLE software, version 4.5