A Biblical Model for Mentoring
Carole and Jessica sit across from each other and the awkwardness is evident. Today is the first time this mentor and mentee are meeting and neither really knows what to do or say. They both have the same thought. . . “Now what?”
As many women’s ministries implement mentoring programs, the most often asked question is, “What does a mentor do when she meets with her mentee?”
Susan Hunt reminds us that mentoring is more than a program or a calendar event to add; rather mentoring involves women building relationships with women as the family of God. “Our relationship with the Lord is personal, but it is not individualistic. When he adopts us into his family, our relationship with him means that we are also related to his other children. And our relationships with one another are to mirror our Father’s relationship with us.” 1
Paul truly understood this. Throughout his writings to the churches we see he is all about the replication process, often challenging those he mentors to be imitators of him as he imitates Christ. It is the life replicating life process that is truly how we fulfill the commands to love God, love others, and make disciples. It is where the gospel and life collide.
But, you may still be asking, “What’s a mentor to do?”
A mentor is to share the gospel and her life just like a nurturing mother, exhorting, comforting, and imploring her spiritual daughters that both may walk worthy of God.
Share The Gospel (1 Thess 2:4-6)
We have been entrusted with the gospel (v 4) and God expects us to be a faithful steward of the gospel. Do you, as a mentor, know without a doubt, you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and have been entrusted with something precious?
It is imperative that the mentor knows Jesus as Savior if she is truly going to mentor as God designed it. We live in a day that we can no longer “fake it” but have to be confident that we have a personal relationship with Christ. Additionally, one of the first things that the mentor must be sure of is her mentee’s relationship with Christ. We can teach all the life skills we want, but if we don’t filter that through the truth of the gospel and the word of God, then all the life skills in the world will simply be a stick house built on shifting sands.
Mentoring is not about you, nor is it about your mentee. It is about the fact that if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you have been entrusted with the gospel, and God, in His infinite, creative self, has determined the best way to share the gospel is life on life.
Like A Nursing Mother (1 Thess 2:7-10)
You may have heard it said, “It’s not what you do but how you do it.” We are to mentor like a nursing mother. That is, in a manner that keeps us faithful to the gospel message coupled with the gentleness, love, and care of a nursing mother.
Women are created to be nurturers, have the need to nurture, and God uses women to nurture other women for His glory.
Paul continues to unpack this idea in the next few verses of 1 Thess 2. In verse 8, he says, “We cared so much for you.” This can also read we cherished you or we longed for you. For a mother to nurse, the baby must be in her arms and close to her heart. They make eye contact in a way like no other. It is how she imparts her own life. Paul goes on to emphasize this closeness writing . . . That we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives. Herein lies the ultimate disciple making process. It is sharing the gospel by sharing our own lives. And when he says lives, he means the inner life, the heart, and the soul. This is why it is so important that you first know that you have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
We need spiritual mothers today because we have so many spiritual orphans. Esther Burroughs expressed it so clearly when she wrote:
“In today’s culture we must recognize the many separations in family usually centering around the three D’s: Dysfunctional, Distance, Divorce. Never before has there been a time in the history of mankind when cross-generational nurturing is more needed in our society.” 2
Paul allowed those he was mentoring to move past the façade, and the outer layers to see whom he truly was, not to be a burden (v 9) but to show them by the example of their lives (v10). This is exactly what our mentees want. They know we may not do everything perfect all the time. But if we show them our hearts and goal of seeking holiness everyday, then they too, learn as we walk our own journey.
Exhorting, Comforting and Imploring (1 Thess 2:11-12a)
All mentoring moments, whether formal or informal, longstanding or brief, will do one of these three things: Exhort, Comfort, or Implore (vs. 11-12).
Exhort – To exhort means to give advice and counsel combined with encouragement. Women today need to hear from other women how to be wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters all with a dose of encouragement that only another woman can give. Invariably, when one of my students marries, about 6 weeks after the wedding she is in my office trying to figure out how to be a Proverbs 31 woman. This is a mentoring moment when I can encourage her, point out all the good she is doing, and help her to keep growing as a wife.
Comfort – We all know what providing comfort means. It is consoling during those difficult trials, troubles, and temptations. When a woman is going through a difficult time, it is often another woman who best understands and can speak the language of the heart.
Implore – To implore gives the connotation of charging or challenging one to follow the Lord’s teaching. As Susan Hunt explains, “Isn’t it interesting that of all the ways Paul could have for the women to combat the decadence of their culture, he told them to invest their energies in teaching their younger women to live Christianly in their society?”3
What do we do in mentoring? We encourage, comfort, and challenge women to follow what Scripture says. It is as simple as that. And we mentor for one ultimate goal. . .
That Both Will Walk Worthy (1 Thess 2:12b)
Everything we do goes back to the gospel that has been entrusted to us, that must be shared with others, so that both the mentor and the mentee may walk worthy (vs 12) throughout their lives in this fallen world.
If you are a mentor, keep the big picture in mind and don’t get caught up in the logistics. As you are mentoring, sharing your life and the gospel you will know what to do with your mentee in the same way a mother knows what her child needs. If exhortation is needed, it may mean helping her see the blessings and encouraging her through the challenges. If she needs comfort, it may mean praying with her, sitting quietly with her, or being a listening ear. If she needs to be challenged to follow the Lord’s teaching, this may be a time to take her to scripture to teach her all that God has commanded, and as a mother, gently correcting and pushing in the right direction.
Mentoring. . . . it is where life and the gospel collide that all may walk worthy of God.
1. Susan Hunt, “Older Women Mentoring Younger Women,” in Becoming God’s True Woman, ed. Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Wheaton: Crossway, 2002), 163.
2. Esther Burroughs, A Garden Path to Mentoring (Birmingham: New Hope Publishers, 1997), 6.
3. Susan Hunt, Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Mandate for Women Mentoring Women (Wheaton: Crossway, 1992), 43.