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How to Have a Mentoring Relationship That Has Kingdom Impact

Ideally, every older woman in the congregation will be mentoring every younger woman in the congregation in some way at some point. That’s part of the blessing of being part of the body, isn’t it? At one church we were in, I asked older women all sorts of things, from, “What do I do about a flooding basement?” to “I am really frustrated with this person. How can I overcome that?” And the younger women asked me all sorts of things, from, “Do I have to use a zipper foot to put the zipper in this dress?” to “I’m not feeling much respect for my parents; what can I do about it?” That situation was a general mentoring, which was good in its own way.

But in most cases, we will develop a mentoring relationship with one person more than others in the congregation, simply because of schedules, living locations and personalities that fit better than others. That’s the sort of relationship we generally mean when we discuss mentoring: one-on-one, deliberate life-teaching. Typically, the healthiest mentoring happens within a local congregation, because it (1) is under pastoral oversight, (2) builds up the local body and (3) has a regular, social and relational context within a congregation.

Mentoring is more than the older woman getting to know the younger woman so that she can help shepherd her. A huge part of mentoring is the younger woman getting to know the older well. We should be able to say to them what Paul said to the Corinthians: “Follow me as I follow Christ” (I Cor. 11:1). That doesn’t mean that we’re saying that we are perfect or have it all figured out. In fact, if we’re opening our lives, it’s going to become very obvious that we’re not perfect. But because we are older and have been running this race longer, we do usually have more figured out than younger women and so can help them run better than we have.

So what does this look like in real life? Here are three (real) examples of Christian women doing a good job at mentoring. Some are momentary, some are long-term, depending on the younger woman’s need:

1. Jen is mentoring someone that doesn’t know she is being mentored. The younger woman is a young Christian who comes by Jen’s house because of a work routine. After the younger woman finishes her work, she goes to the kitchen for a drink and they talk while Jen makes supper for her family. Jen asks a lot of questions that helps the younger woman evaluate her situation. It’s only about half an hour once a week, and though the younger woman would not call it mentoring, it is having a significant influence on her life.

2. One summer, Michelle was in a different town for a weekend because of a wedding. An older pastor’s wife, who knew Michelle’s family, was there, too. This older woman basically spent the weekend mentoring Michelle. They sat together for several meals and she asked Michelle a lot of good questions that helped her think, she encouraged her and she let Michelle close enough to see how she interacted with others, including her husband, how she dealt with new social situations, how she conversed with other people.

3. A dating couple that started attending a church while they were at university; she came from a very unique background and lived thousands of miles away from her family. For the years that this couple attended the church, the pastor’s wife had them over almost every Sunday for lunch, and really taught the younger woman what it looked like to be a Protestant wife, a hard-working mum and Christian hostess. That mentoring relationship formed a lot of that young woman’s ideas about marriage and motherhood, let alone Christian community.

Mentoring is being deliberate with the relationships you already have. It’s a lifestyle, not a special occasion. It’s not stopping work to mentor, it’s part of work: showing a younger woman what it looks like to have your boots on the ground in the Christian life. Be creative in maximizing your mentoring time; let younger women see your life in action.

And being mentored is being deliberate with the relationships you already have. It’s a lifestyle, not a special occasion. It’s not stopping work to hang out with someone you think is cool; it’s learning to work more faithfully as you work. It’s watching an older woman so you can learn what it looks like to walk the Christian walk in real time. That won’t always be pretty, but it will be fruitful, Lord willing. Be creative in maximizing your mentoring time; follow an older woman so you can see her life in action.

I want to emphasize what a gift mentorship is—it can sound like a lot of work on both sides, and that is true. For older women, it’s a work of service: freely giving up your limited time and energy to a younger woman to teach and pray for her. For a younger woman, it’s a work of learning: being humble and diligent to get wisdom from an older saint and make sure that it is the Bible’s wisdom instead of justifying what your current thinking is. On both sides, it is a lot of work. But God has given us an incredible blessing in commanding that older women teach the younger women.

As a younger woman, it is so encouraging to have someone say, “Hey, can I help you out there? You’re doing good, hard work, but if you do it this way, it might be better.” It is so good to know that an older believer cares for you, prays for you and is looking out for you, and is there in times of trouble. And as an older woman, it is so encouraging to watch a younger woman pursue biblical Christianity in her life and calling! It is so good to know that God is raising another generation of saints who are hungering and thirsting after holiness, and that you can be a small part of building that.

Of course, God knew when He inspired the verses and examples of older women teaching younger women that this would be the case. As in so much of life, the blessing is woven into obedience. Let’s not allow cultural preconceptions or some other hesitation make us miss out on either.  

This article originally appeared on The Christian Pundit. Used with permission.

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Dr. William Van­Doo­d­e­waard (PhD Aberdeen) has served as Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Church His­tory at Puri­tan Reformed The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary since 2010. Prior to this he served as a university professor and teacher for thirteen years, including teaching positions at Patrick Henry Col­lege, near Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Hunt­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity in Indiana, and Providence Reformed Collegiate in Canada. Dr. VanDoodewaard’s PhD dissertation was published in 2011 as "The Mar­row Con­tro­versy and Seceder Tra­di­tion: Atone­ment, Sav­ing Faith and the Gospel Offer in Scot­land (1718–1799)." He is a con­tributor to books including the republication of Edward Fisher’s "The Mar­row of Mod­ern Divin­ity" (2009), "The Beauty and Glory of Christ" (2011), "The Beauty and Glory of the Holy Spirit" (2012), and "The Beauty and Glory of the Father" (2013), as well as academic journals. An ordained min­is­ter in the Asso­ciate Reformed Pres­by­ter­ian Church (ARP), Dr. VanDoodewaard serves as the lead church planter at Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church in downtown Grand Rapids. He and his wife Rebecca blog at The Chris­t­ian Pun­dit.