What’s a Mentor to Do?

Carole and Jessica sit across from each other, and the awkwardness is evident. Today is the first time this mentor and mentee are meeting, and neither really knows what to do or say. They both have the same thought . . . Now what?

As many women’s ministries implement mentoring programs, the most often asked question is, “What does a mentor do when she meets with her mentee?”

In Becoming God’s True Woman, Susan Hunt reminds us that mentoring is more than a program or a calendar event to add; rather mentoring involves women building relationships with women as the family of God:

Our relationship with the Lord is personal, but it is not individualistic. When he adopts us into his family, our relationship with him means that we are also related to his other children. And our relationships with one another are to mirror our Father’s relationship with us.

Paul truly understood this. Throughout his writings to the churches, we see he is all about the replication process, often challenging those he mentors to be imitators of him as he imitates Christ. The life-replicating-life process is how we truly fulfill the commands to love God, love others, and make disciples. It is where the gospel and life collide.

But you may still be asking, “What’s a mentor to do?”

Share The Gospel . . .

We have been entrusted with the gospel, and God expects us to be a faithful steward of it (1 Thess. 2:4–6). Do you, as a mentor, know without a doubt you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and have been entrusted with something precious?

It is imperative that the mentor knows Jesus as Savior if she is truly going to mentor as God designed. Additionally, the mentor must be sure of her mentee’s relationship with Christ. We can teach all the life skills we want, but if we don’t filter that through the truth of the gospel and the Word of God, then all the life skills in the world will simply be a stick house built on shifting sands.

Mentoring is not about you, nor is it about your mentee. It is about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ life on life.

Like A Nursing Mother . . .

You may have heard it said, “It’s not what you do but how you do it.” We are to mentor like a nursing mother (1 Thess. 2:7–10), in a manner that keeps us faithful to the gospel message coupled with the gentleness, love, and care of a nursing mother.

Paul continues to unpack this idea in the next few verses of 1 Thessalonians 2. In verse 8, he says, “being affectionately desirous of you.” This can also read “we cherished you” or “we longed for you.” For a mother to nurse, the baby must be in her arms and close to her heart. They make eye contact in a way like no other. It is how she imparts her own life.

Paul goes on to emphasize this closeness, writing, “We were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves.” Herein lies the ultimate disciple-making process. It is sharing the gospel by sharing our own lives. This is why it is so important that you first know that you have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

We need spiritual mothers today, because we have so many spiritual orphans. Author Esther Burroughs expressed it so clearly when she wrote in A Garden Path to Mentoring:

In today’s culture we must recognize the many separations in family usually center around the three D’s: Dysfunctional, Distance, Divorce. Never before has there been a time in the history of mankind when cross-generational nurturing is more needed in our society.

Paul allowed those he was mentoring to move past the façade and the outer layers to see who he truly was, not to be a burden (v. 9) but to show them Jesus Christ by the example of his life (v. 10). This is exactly what our mentees want. They know we may not do everything perfect all the time. But if through our own example we can show them the practice of seeking holiness every day, then they, too, will learn as they walk their own journey.

Exhorting, Comforting, and Imploring . . .

All mentoring moments, whether formal or informal, longstanding or brief, will do one of these three things: exhort, comfort, or implore (1 Thess. 2:11–12).

  • Exhort—To exhort means to give advice and counsel combined with encouragement. Women today need to hear from other women how to be wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters—all with a dose of encouragement that only another woman can give. Invariably, when one of my students marries, about six weeks after the wedding she is in my office trying to figure out how to be a Proverbs 31 woman. This is a mentoring moment when I can encourage her, point out all the good she is doing and help her to keep growing as a wife.
  • Comfort—We all know what providing comfort means. It is consoling during those difficult trials, troubles, and temptations. When a woman is going through a difficult time, it is often another woman who best understands and can speak the language of the heart.
  • Implore—To implore gives the connotation of charging or challenging one to follow the Lord’s teaching. As Susan Hunt says in her book Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Mandate for Women Mentoring Women, “Isn’t it interesting that of all the ways Paul could have for the women to combat the decadence of their culture, he told them to invest their energies in teaching their younger women to live Christianly in their society?”

What do we do in mentoring? We encourage, comfort, and challenge women to follow what Scripture says. It is as simple as that. And we mentor for one ultimate goal . . .

That Both Will Walk Worthy . . .

Everything we do in mentoring has the goal of both the mentor and the mentee walking worthily throughout their lives in this fallen world (1 Thess. 2:12).

If you are a mentor, keep the big picture in mind, and don’t get caught up in the logistics. If exhortation is needed, it may mean helping your mentee see the blessings and encouraging her through the challenges. If she needs comfort, it may mean praying with her, sitting quietly with her, or being a listening ear. If she needs to be challenged to follow the Lord’s teaching, this may be a time to take her to Scripture to teach her all that God has commanded, and as a mother, gently correcting and pushing in the right direction.

Mentoring . . . it is where life and the gospel collide that all may walk worthy of God.

This article was adapted from a post at biblicalwoman.com. It is reprinted with permission.

About the Author

Terri Stovall

Terri Stovall, Ph.D., is the Dean of Women and Professor of Women's Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. She oversees the academic programs for women, as well as the various women's organizations on campus. Terri is the co-author of Women Leading Women: The Biblical Model for the Church and a contributing author of The Teaching Ministry of the Church. Her heart and passion is to equip and enable women to reach women and families for Christ. She and her husband, Jay, make their home in Texas.