In any group of people—friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, or even in a church—a unique culture develops. There’s a typical way of doing things, a common language or way of speaking, predictable reactions to stress or challenges, and traditions for celebrating milestones.
As a woman leading women, do you know these things about your group? Hopefully one distinctive of your women’s ministry is some sort of mentoring. How are women teaching, nurturing, encouraging, and exhorting each other? In formal settings, in everyday relationships, or in both?
Start with God’s Word
To consider these questions and others, we should first establish what mentoring is and why it’s important. As is essential in all things, our starting place should be God’s Word. There we can find all kinds of examples of mentoring. You can investigate the relationships between Moses and Joshua, David and Solomon, Jesus and His disciples, or Paul and Timothy. In each one, there was someone with experience, knowledge, and wisdom who guided someone with less maturity. There were times when direct instruction or teaching happened. There were challenges to new thoughts and actions. Correction was given when mistakes were made. There was love, notice, and care. And there was always the authentic example of the mentor lived out before the mentee.
The Bible also gives direct instruction for women to teach women in the familiar passage Titus 2:3–5.
With these biblical examples and instruction, it’s clear that mentoring should be a part of the culture of any group of women. So how do you, as a leader, establish that distinctive? How do you grow it? Deepen it? Participate in it? I’d like to offer five steps that can work together to create and nurture mentoring in your group.
5 Steps to Create a Mentoring Culture
1. Live it.
The first step is you being mentored and you mentoring a woman. No matter how long you have been a Christian—even as a leader—there is someone you know who is more mature in her faith and someone who is less. There is most likely a woman you have a connection with that needs your counsel and encouragement in a specific way. While you cannot and should not expect to have a deep mentoring relationship with lots of women, there should be at least one you are intentionally, specifically pouring into. Pray about and pursue those opportunities as God reveals them.
On the flip side, you need mentors for your own spiritual health and growth. In the midst of a myriad of family and ministry responsibilities, including either providing or facilitating mentoring for others, you can overlook or not prioritize your own need for a mentor. So if I may offer one exhortation to you: Don’t let that happen. Believe me, I’m talking to myself right now too. There is no part of our Christian walk that we can ignore and then expect to lead others to engage in. So engage as both mentor and mentee as you lead.
2. Look for it.
Look for mentoring that is happening organically within your group of women—both mentoring relationships and mentoring moments. Mentoring relationships are what usually comes to mind when the word “mentoring” is used—a more formal, structured relationship between two people. But don’t overlook mentoring moments, which are also essential and often just as impactful.
Mentoring moments happen naturally when a pair or a group of women come together. Through comments, stories, advice, and tips women give in the context of everyday life, mentoring happens.
One of my most memorable mentoring moments happened while cleaning out an attic. I asked one of the older women in our church family to help me sort through an attic storage room filled with women’s ministry supplies. We sat on metal folding chairs for hours, talking as we decided what to keep, donate, or trash.
As we dug through stacks of leftover Bible study workbooks, certain books sparked stories from when they were used—including some cautions, instruction, and challenges. When we hit the shelves filled with hospitality and decorating items, I made wisecracks about the things I found hideous and ridiculous. My older friend gently corrected me and changed my perspective as she explained what was happening in the church and the world when they were used. It was an afternoon filled with mentoring moments.
3. Talk about it.
As you notice the mentoring relationships and moments happening within your group, talk about them. Ask two women in a mentoring relationship to give a testimony about their friendship. Welcome questions about mentoring and requests for a mentor. Share a story like the one I just shared. When a mentoring moment happens during an event or class (and it usually does!), point it out right there in the moment. There are all kinds of opportunities to talk about mentoring, so take them.
4. Teach it.
As helpful as organic and in-the-moment mentoring can be, there is also a need for teaching, resources, and tools for mentoring. This may include workshops or classes where mentoring is the focus. It should also include pointing out mentoring principles and truths within Bible studies—whether they are on a particular book of the Bible or a topical study. Then arm yourself and other women with sound resources—books, blogs, podcasts, and more—about mentoring. I’m so grateful that many of those resources are right here on the Revive Our Hearts website!
5. Repeat in any order.
In a Leader Connection article, “The Gospel Goal of Mentoring,” Melissa Kruger sets our perspective for mentoring with a passage from Ephesians 4:7, 11–14:
Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. . . . And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Do you want to establish a culture of women mentoring women? Then through relationships, events, conversations, teaching opportunities, and even afternoons in the attic, pursue and talk about mentoring with the women you lead. Live it. Look for it. Talk about it. Teach it. And repeat.