A version of this column was first published in January 2011. Since I spent this weekend at a women’s ministry retreat it seemed appropriate to revisit the topic.
The concept of mentoring has become very popular in the fields of both education and business in recent years. It is recognized as a beneficial tool in many situations.
Our county has a mentoring outreach program for at-risk youth that seeks to match volunteer mentors with young people in need of guidance.
In observing these mentoring relationships, both those that work and those that don’t, I’ve seen that the most basic element for success in mentoring is trust. The person being mentored, referred to as the mentee, must trust the motives of the mentor.
It becomes all too obvious if the mentor is more interested in the concept of being a mentor than in the welfare of the mentee. The homeless and foster kids in these programs have highly developed radar for this sort of self-serving agenda.
Even adults being guided in their professional growth sooner or later become aware when they are being used as a stepping stone for the mentor’s advancement rather than their own.
I’ve been thinking lately of the concept of mentoring as it applies to women’s ministry.
Many women’s ministry groups today are made up predominately of older women. Older women are admonished in the Bible to become spiritual mentors to the younger women, but many of us lack the opportunity to respond to that Biblical teaching just because there are no younger women in the group.
Younger women may have come briefly among us, but then drifted away. We are left to wonder why. Was it the style of our gatherings? The time? No child care? High-fat snacks rather than healthier offerings?
Perhaps one answer is that the young women are distrustful of our motives.
Do they feel that we are interested in each of them as individuals, or simply members of an attractive demographic? Affirmative action, while well-meaning, has almost always been met with ambivalence. People want to be included, to be wanted, to be valued on their own merits and not because they are needed to balance the diversity of a group of people.
The goal of a mentor is to guide the mentee, to help her to grow into the capability to become a mentor, as well. This means gradually relinquishing responsibility and control to the trainee as she becomes an equal partner who is able to both guide and be guided.
Is your ministry group willing to allow the younger women to exercise influence and control or are you trying to keep them from becoming mentors in their own right?
These are valid questions to consider in women’s ministry relationships, and in personal relationships, as well.
We women are natural mentors and nurturers, as in the mother-child relationship. It’s those rocky years when our children transition into adults that give us problems.