There was a time when I felt so stuck, so lost, that I reached out for a mentor in my life, an older woman to walk me through, and encourage me as I felt ill-equipped and timid in every decision, and every situation I was in. As I started searching out a mentor, and kept getting turned down by women I respected, as they were so intimidated by even the question, I began to understand that the word “mentor” is lost in women’s ministry. People have ideas of what this type of ministry looks like, but as I started studying Titus 2 myself, and then finally started mentoring younger women in my life, I feel the need to set the record straight. Mentorship is incredibly Biblical and foundational for any women’s ministry in the church. But first, we have to get past the myths.
Here’s a look at 7 Myths about Biblical Mentoring.
1)You have to have your life together before you can be a mentor.
Being a mentor doesn’t mean you are perfect. It means that maybe the lesson that God is teaching a younger woman in your church for the 20th time is a lesson that He has had to teach you 60 times… so far.
You have more experience learning that lesson. You have an intimate knowledge of conviction from the Holy Spirit, and you have experience in forgiveness. You have personal knowledge of the Law and the Gospel. If a sinless life was required to teach younger women, the Bible wouldn’t have even brought it up because no one, besides Jesus, would fit that description. Being about 10-20 years down the road ahead of her in her journey is the general idea.
2)You have to tell the younger woman what to do with her life, and her job is to listen to every ounce of your advice
…so make it good.
I’m not sure if that myth is scarier for the older woman or the younger woman. God is doing the work in the younger woman’s heart. He has a plan for her sanctification. You don’t need to think it up. You are not directing anything. (Now take a big sigh of relief!) Your invitation to this front row seat of what God is doing involves being present, being prayerful, being trustworthy, and just pick up the annoying habit of pointing her back to God’s Word, back to prayer, and speaking truth to whatever lie Satan happens to be beating her with that day. It is a leadership position, but like all church leadership positions outlined in the Bible, they are all about serving others, as Christ served us. What the God’s Word talks about in Titus 2 isn’t an authoritative relationship, but a relationship built on trust, and guidance, for the purpose of helping her understand how God’s Word applies to her unique situation.
You don’t need to tell her where to send her kids to school, or how to put her baby to sleep, or teach her to get her husband to do what she wants. However, when she is stuck making a tough decision, pray, and show her Scripture that comes to mind. Tell her about how God was faithful when you had to make a similar decision. Tell her how the gospel applies to everything. Speak of God’s faithfulness when she feels unsteady. Remind her of her identity in Christ when she feels unworthy. You don’t have to know all the answers. You don’t have the weight of that authority. But you do have to know God, and just keep sharing him.
3)You need a ton of time.
Here’s a funny little secret…you don’t have time at any age. Younger women are just as busy as older women. If you are waiting for that time in your life when you have more time, logically, you will look to mentor a younger woman who is back in that busy time you just left, and she will say she has no time for that kind of relationship either. Or will she? The reality is, she will probably jump at meeting with you, not because she’s just full of free time, but because she is desperate for it. She is at her busiest, craziest, most needy time and she will make the time. You want to wait until you have more time, not because you are busier than her, but because you are not as desperate as her.
This passage certainly isn’t saying to wait until you are both out of the crazy times of your life. It’s saying that we are supposed to meet women during those intense times.
Also, the illusion that you will be flooded with time someday, I personally believe, is a mythical unicorn.
God is so gracious, and there are certainly seasons of crazy, but when you have a lifetime of crazy, at some point it comes down to the choices that you make. As a rule of thumb, for myself, if I don’t have the time to get a proper night’s sleep, or eat 3 meals a day, I may not actually have time. (Can I get an “AMEN!” from the young moms with newborns, or 2-3 kids under the age of 5 who literally can’t remember the last time they slept through the night?) If your mother is in the hospital and you are sleeping in an uncomfortable recliner at her bedside, and meeting with doctors and trying to get her in a nursing home, there just may not be time. Are you exhausted from cancer treatments? You may not have the time. Sometimes it’s not even the time, it’s the mental exhaustion. This isn’t a law to crush you. But perhaps we have a strange idea of how much time this actually takes.
Though, ironically, the list of people who have the best reasons for not having time are usually the most encouraging, uplifting people to be around. Why? They are fantastic at ministering to others…not because they have time, but because they are already in a posture of leaning heavy on God, and so they are operating at a super-natural level, while the rest of us are trying to do everything independently, by our bootstraps, ourselves, and getting down to the posture of dependence required is oftentimes painful.
I am at the point in my mothering where I sleep most nights. I can get up and eat breakfast with a younger woman once a month. That won’t break me. You could get together with someone for a meal. If you have time to eat, time to sleep and have time to pray, you have time. When you realize how little time mentoring actually takes, it is actually pretty silly.
It’s a priority issue, and a posture issue, but it is rarely a time issue. Maybe we even a worry that we aren’t strong enough for such a job because we are looking at our weaknesses rather than God’s strength. If you genuinely don’t have time pray about it, since God is the author of time and can do some pretty nifty things with that, or maybe he will just tell you to wait. Pray for the desire. Pray for the time. Pray for the timing. It’s so simple to just start there. There are no calendar parameters outlined in Titus 2. The point here is to take this time issue to God, not just shrug your shoulders and say you don’t know how it would work.
4)You need to sign up or be assigned a younger woman in your church, like a buddy program.
Some churches have some great mentorship programs set up. Most struggle with this. It’s funny, though, that we would have this idea of assignment with this particular Biblical imperative. When Jesus says “Love your neighbor” we don’t wait to be assigned a neighbor by our pastor to look out for, and love. When we are told to share the gospel, sometimes the church will strategically assign missionaries to certain people groups. But when your neighbor asks a question about your faith, do you say, “Um, I haven’t been cleared by my pastor for this kind of conversation, and we haven’t exactly been assigned, and I’m really not the right person to talk about this.” Assigned mentorship isn’t wrong, and neither are spontaneous relationships. But don’t wait for an assignment. That was never a condition.
5)Relationships like this just spring up naturally
Sometimes. Sometimes. I love it when that happens. I just wish it happened more.
I don’t know about you, but I am a homebody. I like to stay in and binge watch TV series on Netflix. When looking at other imperatives in the New Testament, I have to admit, I don’t naturally respect my husband. He’s a pretty respectable guy, don’t get me wrong, but I tend to have attitude problems, and have trouble controlling my temper sometimes. I don’t remember it always being easy obeying my parents. I’m going out on a limb and say that most commands in the Bible don’t come naturally to us. The point isn’t to do what comes naturally. God is calling us through His Word to something super-natural. That’s why He spells his vision out to us through his Word. It’s only something that will happen with super-natural power, and that means leaning hard on Him instead of ourselves. It means doing these from the place of redemption, from the place of abiding in Jesus. It’s something that springs out supernaturally from God, and He actually uses us in our weakness!
When we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, we have the faith to step forward. When we fix our eyes on ourselves, and what comes naturally to us, and the failings within ourselves that we are acutely aware of and Satan keeps throwing in our faces even though Jesus covers all that, it’s going to be a “no” almost every time.
Also, people naturally gravitate towards people who are just like them. Young moms gather in the nursery together. Older women go out to coffee together in the morning and meet for Bible study. Sunday School classes and small groups in churches are often divided up by ages or stages in life. The whole inter-generational concept of a church “family” is often something you have to be intentional to pursue. It rarely drops in your lap.
6)When mentoring a younger woman, we should focus mostly on young moms.
Well, I’ll admit that is an intense phase of life that the church body should offer its support and moms are even mentioned most specifically in this passage, but not exclusively. Wouldn’t it be nice when you are in the process of deciding whether or not to put your mother in a nursing home, not because she wants it but because she needs it, wouldn’t it be nice to have an older woman, 10-20 years down the road who has gone through it come alongside you and pray with you as someone who has the callused knees of understanding from someone who has spent time in prayer on that same issue? If you are going through a divorce, and feel judgment all around, wouldn’t it be nice to have an older woman who has gone through that come alongside you and breathe the gospel into your wounded heart? When you were in Jr. High and High School and your parents were too busy and you think your teachers hate you and your boyfriend seems to be the only one who cares, but then again he’s pretty pushy, wouldn’t it be nice to have a young woman in college who has come out of all these new hormones alive, who is willing come alongside you and remind you to fix your eyes on Jesus and the cross, and what that means, and help your soul to sigh in relief?
7)You must be in a committed relationship with an older/younger woman.
Sometimes that nice. I think we all wish for that. I think that the benefit of that would accountability and follow through. I think consistency builds trust, and that is essential. If someone offers you that, don’t turn it down.
But the Bible does not talk about this type of relationship in marriage-binding terms. There’s a lot of freedom in this passage. Sometimes I need some insight on homeschooling. So I talk to an older homeschooling mom. Sometimes I need help in my marriage. So I talk to the older woman whose marriage I admire. Sometimes I need help breaking through to my teen. So I talk to the older woman who just watched her daughter get married last summer, and I saw how close they are as adults. Sometimes a mentoring relationship is just for a season, and then that season passes.
The perfect, mythical woman who is exactly who you want to be 10 years down the road doesn’t exist. God has called you, and only you, to live your life. What he is calling you to may be different than another woman, even in the small things. That’s ok. Stop trying to find your perfect match or your mini-you. Sometimes walking in obedience means encouraging a younger woman once, at that exact time she needs it. Sometimes it means meeting with her weekly for 20 years. Don’t let fear of commitment deter you, as this passage doesn’t require any.
The point of a mentoring relationship is to breathe the truth of the Law and the Gospel to a war-tattered younger woman getting flooded with the lies of the world on who she is, and all of the unattainable expectations it has on her.
The art of applying the gospel in the broken and intimate parts of a younger woman’s life is so essential to the health of women, marriages, the health of the children being raised, the health of our churches as a whole. Having that kind of impact, that kind of reach, no wonder Satan works so hard to convince you that you aren’t ready.
I have a simple, self-paced online course that is available if you would like more information on fostering inter-generational relationships in your church. This is my heartbeat and passion. Hundreds of women have been trained in as mentors in their church through these video lessons. Right now, it’s completely FREE. For more information, visit www.gospelmentoring.com