Do you always know when you are mentoring someone? Recently, I was referred to as a mentor three times in two days, each time by different people. When something like that happens, I pay attention. It’s like one of those photos that’s filtered so everything is in black and white except one thing- and it’s red or blue and stands out. It gets your attention, right? As Christians, our “Attention Getter» is the Holy Spirit. (John 14:26) Prompted by the Holy Spirit, I started thinking about mentoring and what that actually means, what it looks like in my life and in the lives of the people whose paths have crossed mine.
In my role, I hear from many church ministry leaders who struggle to establish a program that doesn’t feel “forced” or overwhelming. The best advice I can give here is to prayerfully choose a program that works for you and the majority of the women in your ministry, and to not be afraid to tweak it here and there to suit the needs of the women you lead.
What has worked for me is rather unorthodox and casual. I have simply rested in allowing the Holy Spirit to bring women into my life whom he wants me to be in community with. I have never formally created a mentoring relationship- in fact, it has looked rather “accidental,” but we know in Him there are no accidents. That’s also a little scary. We need to remember that, as mature women of God, we are setting examples all the time. Regardless of whether we want to be examples, we are. Kind of puts it in a different perspective, doesn’t it?
In writing this “guide,” I asked the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to see what has worked in my life and what didn’t. In my next two blog installments I will attempt to share some insight. Please know this list is not exhaustive, nor is it the same for everyone. While I have divided it, the points are shared for both parties in the relationship to read. Reasonable expectations are important from both sides.
One last thing before we dig in: after about 12 minutes of research, and for lack of a better word, I am going to refer to the person being mentored as the “mentee.” I know, wordsmiths, it’s an American word and not in the OED. But it works. Deal.
For the Mentor:
- Your relationship to the mentee is and should be limited. You are an advisor. You are a voice. You are not a parent, spouse, boss, or pastor. Don’t overstep; it can ruin the relationship. Crossing boundaries can end what could have been a very productive relationship.
- Being authentic is the very best example.
- Not everything is a teaching moment. In my experience, just having fun together has been a lesson in itself. In leadership, for example, allowing someone who knows the stresses of leading women to see me laugh, even though facing a tough season, has spoken volumes about the goodness of God.
- You are allowed your privacy. Just because God has placed you in the lives of one-another doesn’t mean that you have to—or that you should— share everything. You are BOTH entitled to your privacy.
- Remember, the mentee has the right to make her own decisions. I know it’s hard when you see someone making a choice that you disagree with. If the choice is a sinful one, it may be time to back out of the relationship and allow the full impact of the choice to develop. There are some very specific ways to do this in accordance with Scripture. I suggest you seek wise counsel, while maintaining confidence, so that no further damage is done to the relationship.
- Not every mentor/mentee relationship works. It doesn’t mean that there is no compassion or love, just that it’s not a “fit” at this time. This needs to be done with love and kindness. It also helps if you know someone (only if you have obtained her permission in advance) to recommend to the mentee.
- Keep your opinions about your church to yourself. This relationship is not about gossip, division, or maligning.
- You are not a licensed counselor- unless you are. There is a big difference between mentoring and counseling. You would be wise to establish guidelines so that you don’t cross these lines.
- Maintain confidence but know when to suggest professional help or appropriate intervention.
- Know that this relationship may not be meant to go on for a long time. When you feel that it is time to step back, communicate that in love and clarity.
- Know that the enemy will try to convince you that you have nothing to offer. He’s a liar. God has equipped you uniquely for such a time as this and He has prepared this work for you in advance, so that you will be blessed, and the kingdom will be advanced. Embrace this blessing and don’t be afraid to share your gifting, knowledge, and experience with your sister in Christ.
I hope this has been an encouragement to you as you seek to fulfill a Titus 2 calling. Next time we’ll look at a guide for the mentee, as well as what you both should know. It’s my hope that this guide helps you to know that, as we learn from each other and pour into each other, we can do so with mutual respect.