I’m around women of various ages probably because I have two grown daughters (22 and 24) plus an eleven-year-old daughter. Approaching ffffiiiifty(50) has given me a unique perspective on mentoring. I am more often around younger women and sadly hear, “I desperately want someone to mentor me, but I don’t know of any older women who are willing.” On the flip side the “older” women I know have been made to feel like a “has been.” I too have had this experience but honestly, I believe in the last decade this is unique among younger churches predominantly comprised of college students and young families. Regardless, we must figure out how to bridge this gap but let’s start at the beginning.
Exactly how is mentoring defined? Below are a few definitions I found.
- A mutual relationship with an intentional agenda designed to convey specific content along with life wisdom from one individual to another.
- A person who aids another in achieving a goal.
Synonyms: Counselor, shepherd, tutor, teacher, adviser, instructor, trainer, guide.
Did you know the term mentor was derived from Homer’s “Odyssey?” Odysseus the Greek warrior went off to fight in the Trojan War leaving behind his son, Telemachus, in the care of a man named Mentor. Twenty years later Odysseus returned home to a son who had grown into a man and was trained by Mentor. Thus Mentor was adopted in English denoting a trusted guide and counselor, someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague.
I like to think of a mentor as one being a conduit for Jesus to flow through into the lives of others. This role could be as a friend, mother, homemaker, or one serving the community.
Mentoring relationships should have an understood and well-defined objective.
Susan Hunt, in “Spiritual Mothering,” defines the mentoring relationship this way, “When a woman possessing faith and spiritual maturity enters into a relationship with a younger woman in order to encourage and equip her to live for God’s glory.” Mentoring is a wonderful and spiritually enriching relationship. Most important of all, mentoring encourages women to live for the glory of God!
Whether old or young, single or married, God has a special role for you as a mentor to other women younger than you. Who has God placed in your path to mentor? I believe a large part of our mentoring ministry is with our own family. Mentoring does not begin when we get “older,” as older is comparative. However, the older we are the more life experiences we encounter and the probability of younger women we meet becomes greater.
As a mom, one of my many jobs was equipping and teaching my children how to mentor those younger than themselves knowing they too had something to impart.
1 Timothy 4:12 “don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”
My daughters saw the value I placed on mentoring relationships plus experienced the many benefits themselves. I fondly recall a sweet young adult who had a heart for teens so she created a group for girls 12-16 and for over a year they met monthly. This mentoring relationship greatly shaped my daughter. While in high school my daughters mentored junior high girls as well as the young children they babysat for. I greatly encouraged them to be in a mentoring relationship with older women (girls in college and/or a mom they admired, etc…) Why?
1 Peter 5:5 “In the same way, younger people should be willing to be under older people. And all of you should be very humble with each other. “God is against the proud but he gives grace to the humble.”
There is no way I could possibly be everything to my daughters. Our children need others to speak into their lives, to love, encourage, pray, and do life with them. They are richer plus far better equipped because of their mentors. Today they continue to mentor and be mentored. Mentoring relationships must be cultivated throughout life and are applicable for the various seasons.
Look for people with these qualities when you are searching for a mentor. Embody them yourself when you are mentoring others.
M Motivates you to be more Christ like.
E Encourages and equips.
N Never gives up on you or lets you give up on yourself.
T Tells you the truth, even when it’s difficult.
O Open arms plus accepts you as you are.
R Really cares about you and your spiritual growth.
In closing, no one is perfect. If you are holding out for the “perfect” mentor, you will be severely disappointed and in for a long wait. Likewise, If you are waiting to be the “perfect” mentor before you reach out to younger women, you will never become perfect and miss out on some great opportunities. Do you admire someone? Initiate time together and hang around them. Ask questions. Seek to learn from people and you will come away with a wealth of wisdom. Perhaps you will be pleasantly surprised and realize that, instead of one person being there, you are soon surrounded with wonderful people that greatly enrich your life. Everyone’s story is different. Look for the treasures that God has placed uniquely in your life.