Debunking Myths about Mentoring

Have you been asked to be a mentor? Or have you wondered if you should reach out to a younger believer, but are just not sure if you’re qualified to be a mentor? Are you looking for a mentor and wondering how old the person should be? 

Questions swirl around the topic of mentoring, so let’s take a few minutes today to debunk a few common myths. 

Myth #1: Mentoring Is for the Old People at Church

The key text for biblical mentoring comes from Titus 2 in which Paul exhorts older men and older women to teach the younger men and younger women respectively. He says this specifically to the women:

In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands, so that God's word will not be slandered. (Titus 2:3–5)

Notice, he does not say that the “old women,” “senior saints,” or “golden oldies” need to do this. He calls upon those who are older. “Older than whom?” you ask. Just older. The high school student is older than the middle school student. The young mom is older than the college student. The empty nester is older than the young mom. The great-grandmother is younger than the recent retiree. Don’t believe the myth that you have to reach a certain age to qualify to be a mentor. 

Myth #2: I’m Qualified to Mentor Just Because I’m Older

A second myth is that age somehow equals maturity. You don’t have to spend much time in church to know that spiritual growth requires a lot more of a believer than merely the passage of time. Having lived more years on this earth may mean that you’re fit to disciple and encourage another believer, but not necessarily. 

The biblical principle is this: You can’t lead someone to a place where you haven’t been. Notice that in Titus 2:3 Paul gives a pattern first for what an older woman’s life should look like. This has to be established before she sets about teaching anything to anyone. An undisciplined, irreverent, gossipy woman—regardless of her age—will not make a good mentor. On the other hand, a sixteen-year-old on fire for God and growing in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ may be a great first mentor for the shy junior higher in youth group. 

It's worth noting that struggling with sin does not automatically disqualify (or absolve) you from mentoring. If it did, there would be no mentors. Paul intends for the mentor to be a spiritually mature and maturing Christian who desires to both speak truth to and live truth before their mentee. 

Myth #3: I Don’t Have to Mentor If I Don’t Want To

You might be thinking that you’ve got me. “How’s she possibly going to refute this one? No one can make me mentor!” True. No one is going to force you to set up a time with that younger woman in your church to have her into your house or to meet up for coffee on a regular basis. If you don’t want to do that, you certainly won’t have to. 

But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentoring. 

Whether you like it or not, your life is teaching someone. On one hand, that’s encouraging. Perhaps you don’t see how you could possibly fit a formal mentoring relationship into your calendar. You are totally slammed already. You can take heart because most likely someone is watching your day-to-day faithfulness. Perhaps your daughter is watching how you respond to your husband and to her and her siblings. Perhaps your daughter-in-law is watching how you interact with her husband (your son) and learning how to love him better. Your life is teaching someone. 

On the other hand, maybe the curriculum your life is teaching doesn’t look much like the curriculum set up by Paul in Titus 2:4. You’re busy, sure, but you’re also short-tempered, materialistic, and selfish. Those things will be noticed as well. Your life is teaching someone. 

You’re a mentor, for good or bad, whether you like it or not. 

Myth #4: My Life Teaches, So I Don’t Need to Pursue a Formal Mentoring Relationship 

Before we go any farther, we need to acknowledge that your life being observed from a distance does not mean that you never need to pursue a formal mentoring relationship. While you may be an unwitting mentor to someone, that doesn’t quite cover what Paul means in Titus 2. Look at verse 4 again: “so that they may encourage the young women” (emphasis added). 

Paul uses a verb in this verse that isn’t used anywhere else in the New Testament, a Greek word (sophronizo) that means “to hold one to his duty” or to “restore to one’s senses.”1 This type of relationship does not happen with superficial or casual conversations. In order to truly fulfill the spirit of Titus 2, you’ll need to go deep with someone, at least for a period of time. You need not enter into a lifelong covenant with the other person, but for an agreed upon amount of time (perhaps six weeks or maybe six months), you will need to allow one another to enter into the personal areas of your life: marriage, parenting, spiritual struggles, relational difficulties.

Sounds scary, right? Here’s one example from my life where this happened. My point in sharing this story is to show that mentoring doesn’t have to be flashy or formal to be influential.

Several years ago, I was a young single teacher at a Christian school while very slowly pursuing a master’s degree in biblical counseling. A former colleague at school had gotten a master’s in counseling several years earlier, and she invited me to meet with her once a week after school to read through a book on a counseling topic. I accepted. We’d read the chapter and discuss it—as well as a number of other things, like family, school, and church. Sometimes I’d stick around for dinner. Other times I’d head home after we were done. While I learned a lot about counseling from a seasoned counselor and wise woman, I also learned a lot just by being in her home. I saw how my friend interacted with her husband. I listened to how she talked about her family and watched as she navigated personal suffering. Whether she intended to mentor me in all those things or not, I’m really not sure. But she did. And I’m forever grateful. 

Myth 5: If I Don’t Mentor, It’s Not That Big of a Deal

I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but failing to mentor is a pretty big deal. Consider the end of Titus 2:5—“so that the Word of God will not be dishonored” (NASB). My friend, there is much more at stake in deciding to mentor or not than just teaching someone how to fold a fitted sheet (though if anyone would like to mentor me in that skill, feel free!) or how to potty train a willful toddler. As helpful as those life skills are, they’re not the end that Paul had in mind. The purpose of mentoring is actually the glory of God and His Word. To state it another way, we must mentor for the sake of the Kingdom. 

Stated positively, here are six foundational principles for mentoring. 

Principle #1

: Older doesn’t mean old. (v.3) 

Principle #2:

You can’t take someone where you haven’t been. (v.3)

Principle #3:

Mentoring is an expected part of maturity.

Principle #4:

Our lives teach, for good or for bad. 

Principle #5:

Mentoring requires more than superficial conversations.

Principle #6:

We mentor for the sake of the kingdom. (v. 5)

Take them with you as you look for a younger someone to mentor and an older someone to mentor you. 

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1“G4994 - Sōphronizō - Strong's Greek Lexicon (CSB),” Blue Letter Bible, accessed March 9, 2023,

About the Author

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson lives in a small Minnesota town with her husband, son and daughter, and ridiculous black dog. She enjoys reading books, drinking coffee, and coaching basketball. You can read more of her musings about God's Word at

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