Monday, December 15, 2014

Which Mentoring Style Describes You?

Growing up, I’d often describe myself as an only child with a brother and a sister.

The last of my much-older siblings left home when I was just 7 years old. We had large, laughter-filled holiday gatherings for years until drugs and other troubles caught up with my siblings. The effects of addiction took my sister’s life at 44. I haven’t seen or heard from my brother in nearly 20 years.

The phrase “sisters and brothers in Christ” means the world to me. Deep down, I thrill to the idea of spiritual siblings. I missed out on sisterly connection - not just arguments, but hard-earned advice, and long conversations about life from under the covers with a flashlight. 

For years after I lost my biological sister - first by physical distance and later to the grave - there was not another woman I’d consider a true sister in Christ. I didn’t understand how anyone could fulfill that missing role of sister in my life and provide the wise counsel I craved.  I wasn’t aware of the Biblical command to take counsel from other women, even if they were outside my own family. I didn’t realize I needed a mentor.

We don’t read specifically about mentors in Scripture, but the principle rings loud and clear. Ruth and Naomi, Mary and Elizabeth, Paul and Timothy, Lemuel’s mother and her description of a virtuous woman. In each example we see sharing of experience and knowledge that lead to spiritual growth. 

Most of the time we imagine a mentor as someone older and more experienced who provides one-on-one advice. We can feel intimidated when considering the responsibility of mentoring others; it is often hard to find a mentor willing to offer the gift of generous time. 

Thinking about mentoring in a non-traditional sense helped me recognize many who fill that role for me. I’m told that I've helped others feel mentored and inspired. I’m grateful for each relationship. 

There are a variety of styles through which we can give and receive mentoring:  

  • The “Modeling Mentor.”  Judith volunteers to clean our church offices. She makes things sparkle and spends hours finding each speck of grime that hides itself in our offices. Judith models a valuable ministry lesson that I carry every day: Whatever we do, do it enthusiastically as something done for the Lord and not for men. (Colossians 3:23) Judith doesn’t clean as a favor to me. She doesn’t even clean for our pastors. Judith cleans for the Lord. The aim of her efforts is to glorify Him.

  • The “Group Mentor.” Years ago, Cathi was my first female Bible teacher and one of the first people I ever watched live out the Word of God. She taught her students to dig deep, examine ourselves through the lens of Scripture, and walk in obedience to the Lord. She set the stage for spiritual growth and coached us through it. I think of her often and admire her methods. Her guidance still inspires me today.

  • The “Peer Mentor.”  My friend Sue radiates with a level of joy that few people carry. I’m blessed to know a part of Sue’s difficult story. She’s experienced profound pain and loss, yet models daily strength that comes from the joy of the Lord. I admire her deeply and want to be more like her.  Another friend, Deborah, pushes me to deeper faith. She challenges me to pray harder, seek more diligently and watch more intently for the Holy Spirit’s work.  My spiritual growth has blossomed through our friendship. We’ve earned the duty of speaking freely and truthfully to one another, even when those truthful words sting. Love and growth are our desire and when challenges come, we face them together.

  • The “Virtual Mentor.”  I consider Beth Moore a mentor, though we’ve never been formally introduced.  She’s mentored me through her writing and teaching ministry for nearly 2 decades. I’m also blessed to have received a literal face-to-face shove from the Holy Spirit that came right through Beth and pushed me into ministry. Ask me about it sometime. I love to share the story.

  • The “Reverse Mentor.”  Taylor is my favorite daughter. (Yes, she’s my only daughter but that doesn’t make her any less my favorite).  This precious one inspires me and pushes me to be better than I am.  If I ask any question she’ll respond in complete honesty (which can  make me careful what I ask). She knows me better than I know myself and predicts my response in most situations. Taylor has my trust - and not just the parental kind. I trust her with my heart and every emotion that courses through my veins. I trust her with my deepest, ugliest junk and she loves me right through it. She provides hope and helps me know that there is still goodness in this fallen world. I don’t just adore her, I learn from her, in spite of our generational differences. 

  • The “Personal Mentor.”  Doreen is a dear, precious woman of God. I seek her out when I have a question or need to know how to navigate parenting, or marriage, or life. Never once has she lectured or pushed her opinions. She listens. Then she shares a personal story from her vast collection of memorial stones, which evidence the Lord’s great work in her life. She doesn’t profess to have all the answers or know how to solve every problem, but she’ll stop to pray with me, then generously share her wisdom.  I love her to pieces and call her my “Spiritual Momma.”

There are many other women who have had profound influence on my life - spiritually, professionally and personally. I doubt that most of these gems (named or unnamed) consider themselves mentors - and that’s the beauty of it. The way they helped shape who I am came in a comfortable, natural sense.

Mentoring can take on many different styles. Each provide a way to fulfill two of our Biblically commanded roles as women: serving as a mentor and learning from a mentor. 

As we consider mentoring, we don’t ask whether we should become or obtain a mentor. We already know we should do both as Titus 2 directs. The questions are, instead, “how shall I make myself available to mentor?” and “who do I allow to influence me as my mentor?”   

Our challenge is to accept both roles. God’s tremendous blessing - His best - awaits as we walk in obedience to Him.

Your Turn:

Who are the mentors in your life?

In which mentoring style are you most comfortable as you share with others?

How can you stretch yourself to mentor through a style that may feel a little uncomfortable?

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28



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