Her answer to my question rang over and over again in my mind. Sitting in a local coffee shop, I posed the question I’ve been peppering my friends with over the beginning months of the pandemic.
“Do you have anyone mentoring you?”
I wasn’t surprised when her answer was no. Instead, my heart was saddened. This gal was near my age, a single mom of an adorable toddler, and desiring to live a new life in Christ, navigate the dating world, be a godly mom and grow in her faith.
Why had I so suddenly become obsessed with this idea of mentorship? Because there was a hunger for it, not only in my life, and not only a visible longing in my peers, but in dozens and dozens of women of all ages in my community, which I soon found out.
After that local coffee shop conversation, the Spirit at work in me finally pushed me over the edge to take a step towards clarity. Fingers to the keyboard, I underwent one of the most frightening moments I’ve had in this mentorship journey. I posted on our local church’s ladies page, vaguely asking if anyone was interested in either being mentored or being a spiritual mentor. The responses flooded forth in droves. I wasn’t shocked to see my gal pals pop up in the comment section with interest in being mentored. Instead, what I was startled to see was ladies in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and older, stating their desire to be a spiritual mother and have a spiritual mother.
That was over a year ago. By the grace of God I have made unique connections to other ladies in my local church as well as behold the relationships built between other women. For that I am thankful and I have no desire to take for granted the work of God to bring these women together. But the dearth of spiritual mentorship is still evident in my own life and possibly the lives of other women, so by the Spirit’s continual pressing of this on my mind and heart, my desire is to prayerfully unpack a bit of this spiritual mentoring/mothering.
WHY DO WE NEED TO BE SPIRITUAL MENTORS?
A moment of confession, I didn’t even read Simon Sinek’s, Start with Why, to digest the message he was pushing forward. It was obvious by his title. The idea I took, especially in ministry, has enveloped me for a few years now. Why do we live for Christ? Why do we serve? Why should we mentor? Why do we need mentors?
In the book, Word-Filled Women’s Ministry, by Gloria Furman and Kathleen B. Nielson, I read this, “We began asking the why question: Why should a woman make this investment? Whether we want to be or have a spiritual mother, if we are motivated by guilt, self-fulfillment, or excitement for a new program in our women’s ministry, we will fizzle out when the relationships disappoint us.”
So then why, like these authors are asking, do we make an investment in something that is sacrificial, costly, and time-consuming? Because the Bible lays it before us!
In Matthew 28, Jesus gives His disciples, including us believers today, the Great Commission.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20
If you’ve been in the church for a bit, you’re probably familiar with this Scripture. But even with the knowledge of being Bible-believing followers of Jesus who know we are called to make disciples, what does that have to do with spiritual mentorship, especially among ladies?
Paul tells us (and Titus, of course) in the book of Titus.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Titus 2:3-5
Ding, ding, ding! There’s the call right there for spiritual mothering. We do it because the Bible instructs us to.
HOW DO WE ACT AS SPIRITUAL MENTORS?
Sinek later goes on in his book to say, “Passion alone can’t cut it. For passion to survive it needs structure. A why without how has little probability of success.”
So we know this is something we should be doing. We know our why. We may even be passionate about it. But how do we do it?
Word-Filled Women’s Ministry continues to lay it out with simplicity.
“Covenantal discipleship is educational, relational, and transformational. Women need godly, mature women to “teach them what is good” according to God’s Word. Women need to learn the theological basis for our creation design, our roles in the home and church, and our calling to be life givers in every role and stage of life. Women need women who will share their lives to train them how to apply the Word of God in all of life- how to love others, care for their families, cultivate community, work productively, and extend compassion according to God’s Word. They need godly women who prayerfully and continually point them to the sufficiency of Scripture to transform them from life takers to life givers.”
If you’re anything like me, you’re likely sitting back giggling (or let’s be honest, wailing), wondering how on earth you, in all your (and my) little experience, little time, little resources, could possibly teach, learn, share, care, cultivate, pray, and more, not just for yourself but for someone else!
How kind is the goodness of God to answer that question for us, in the totality of Scripture, yes, but also in the book of Titus.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. Titus 3:4-8
Paul is saying only because of Christ we can do these things. We were brought from death to eternal life because of the goodness and loving kindness of God. This work of regeneration in our lives is not done by our works but by God who chose us before the foundations of the world. That same power that justified and sanctifies us gives us the power through the Holy Spirit for everything we need for life and godliness, including but not limited to spiritual mentorship. That means the response of God to do regenerative work in the lives of anyone we mentor is His work alone and not our responsibility to “play God” to make anyone bear fruit. By the grace and power of God we are called to devote ourselves to good works that will be profitable to others and raise them up and root them in Christ.
We can step forward in our fragile flesh and scared obedience, trusting God that His Word will not return void and that whatever He has purposed will come to pass.
With this confidence in mind and with the hope of Christ alive within us, we can step forward.
BREAKING DOWN SPIRITUAL MENTORSHIP IN 4 STEPS
Raise your hand if over the past year, you’ve gotten wound up about social issues, political debates, and opinions within the church? I am raising my hand.
There are times where we know something needs to be done or stood up for, but aren’t entirely sure how to go about it. We feel insecure, inadequate, or lacking the time and resources to start something new or stake our flag in the ground, even if it’s beneficial.
Spiritual mentorship doesn’t need to be something we are confused about. For over a year now, I have made excuses about why I don’t need to be a spiritual mentor. The list may be as follows:
I am a baby Christian
I am too busy
I won’t be good at this
No one needs me
I already do enough at church
I am still a messed up sinner
I don’t know what I’m doing
I can’t tell if I’m doing this for prideful reasons or to be obedient
I am not godly enough
The list could go on and on.
At the end of the day, Matthew 28 and Titus 2 still beckons us to step into this role; to die to self, pride, and insecurities and step into the purposes of God for the local church under the direction and leadership of our church elders.
Laying aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, how do we move forward?
1. Ask or say yes
When I was moved by the Spirit to obey the nudges in me to spiritually mentor, I asked a student in my church’s student ministry who God had placed on my heart to see built up in the faith. The same Spirit at work in her led her to say yes.
Then, a week ago, our church took 39 of our middle and high school students to Student Life Camp. Whilst chatting about camp fun, family, crushes, and more, this thirteen year old gal turned towards me and asked if I would mentor her. I said yes.
Kristie Anyabwile, while writing for Word-Filled Women’s Ministry, shared her struggles with spiritual mentorship and her rejection from ladies she admired and approached. This was her later response.
“I promised God that if any woman in my local church ever asked me to mentor her, I would never say no. I would find some quality time that we could spend together in a one-to-one discipling relationship, whether once a month or once a week, whether for a few weeks, months, or years.”
Anyabwile’s response became the response of my heart, to not let anyone who desired mentorship go without it.
Does this mean you mentor perfectly? No. No. No. Even at 24 years of age I’ve already failed at being a mentor.
A few summers ago, I purchased a popular author’s study guide and met up with a younger sister in Christ. After the first week of said study, I followed up no more in regards to the curriculum and it fizzled out just as fast as it began. The content was not my favorite, so it slid by and wasn’t mentioned again.
I’ve also failed at being a mentee. Walking through Proverbs with a dear friend, we both fizzled out a few chapters in. My heart still cherishes the time we were able to spend together and the wisdom the Lord allowed me to glean from her, but it ended without notice and created that semi-awkward void.
If you’d like to follow the Scriptures presented in Titus 2, either ask someone or say yes!
2. Clarify the schedule
Have you ever made loose plans with a friend and when that day comes to engage in said plans, you’re staring at your phone wondering if they’re going to text you to follow up to get together? Sometimes you feel sad because they don’t and other times you’re relieved because you weren’t in the mood to socialize? Guilty.
This seems to be the downfall of many mentoring relationships. There is no clear plan forward. There is no set time frame.
To avoid this, when you enter into a mentoring relationship, see how often they’d like to meet and for how long. Maybe you meet once a week for two months. Maybe you meet every other week until you finish a study guide or book. Perhaps you meet once a month for lunch to catch up and pray together for a specific season of life.
No more awkward fizzling out. No more being scared to make eye contact with someone you had a failed mentor relationship with. Yay!
3. Pick something to study
There are countless things to study as you enter into a mentoring relationship. First and foremost, there are 66 books in the Bible to choose from. That’s a lot!
Outside of the Word of God, there are other great resources, books, and studies that can help you and I mentor well. The Gospel Coalition has even published a book to walk us through a mentoring relationship week by week. It’s called Growing Together by Melissa B. Kruger. It’s a hassle free, no confusion needed way to get started mentoring someone.
Another option is to ask the gal you’re going to mentor what season of life she is in. Is she battling the throws of anxiety? Is she in the waiting of college decision making? Are her parents going through a divorce? If you’re a more seasoned believer, maybe you’ll walk through what a healthy, God-honoring marriage looks like with a soon-to-be bride, or being a wife and caring for your family, or how to glorify God while working in the secular workforce. Maybe your sister is a new believer and needs guidance on the core doctrines of the faith.
Seeing what season of life you both are in opens the door to a whole new way of looking for content to study through your mentoring relationship.
4. Pray pray pray
In my own efforts to either bolster my pride or look like some type of super Christian, I have already failed to be dependent on God through my attempts to mentor. I am so thankful the Lord chooses to not give up on me even though I seek selfish gain or the approval of man.
In response to my selfishness and to beg the Lord to act, I must pray. We must pray. If we are genuinely going to believe it is the Lord who brings the fruit and regenerates dead hearts, we must pray.
Praying doesn’t simply start with the beginning of a mentoring relationship. It continues throughout it. It continues through the entirety of our pilgrimage on this side of eternity, too. We pray for the needs of those we walk beside. We pray to see the Lord deal kindly with them, for the Lord to guard their hearts and minds, for the peace of God to rule in their hearts. We pray the Lord would be glorified in our meetings and conversations. We pray the Lord will illuminate His Word in our hearts and minds as we approach Him.
We pray for all these things and more. To be dependent on Him and not ourselves, we must pray.
My response to hearing about the lack of spiritual mentorship is no longer saddened, insecure, arms crossed sitting across from a friend in a local coffee shop. By the Spirit of God it is active with open arms, ready to see all the Lord can do by Word-filled women desiring to fulfill the purposes the Lord has planned for us within the local church.