Every other fall semester, I have the wonderful privilege of teaching college women who are interested in pursuing ministry. Each year, my perspective is broadened and enriched by the insights I gain from listening to and learning from these gifted young women.
A topic that has come up rather frequently this year is the topic of mentoring. I have been approached by several young women, asking if I knew someone who could be a mentor for them. We also discussed this topic in class, in conjunction with a book we were reading together. It was out of these discussions and responses, that I became burdened about the lack of women who are willing to serve as mentors, and more importantly, the reasons behind why.
A question I posed to these young women was this: “Too often our discipleship ministries never seem to go very deep with each other. What are some of the barriers or challenges that keep us from going spiritually deeper with women in our churches and how can we overcome these barriers?” Let me share some of the responses:
“Older women get scared of letting others down and bail out. Also, younger women expect too much. The way we can overcome this is by talking about it and finding a middle ground where reality and hopes are together, so the source of the discipleship is on the Word and not just faulty expectations.”
“There is often a lack of older women who are willing to mentor younger women because they were not mentored, or they feel incompetent. Also, a discipleship program could be superficial, not allowing the relationship to go deep. Authentic discipleship requires sharing one’s life honestly and studying the Word together. We need to be willing to step up and pour into the younger ones. The younger ones also need to have grace with their mentors and not place unrealistic expectations on them. When this works, both generations grow beautifully.”
“One way that keeps us from going spiritually deeper with women in our churches is that the older generation does not feel adequate theologically. By feeling that way, they do not want to take on the challenge of teaching, mentoring, or making disciples of the younger generations. A way to overcome this barrier is to offer training for older members of the church but also showing that it is okay to not know everything about theology to be able to make an impact on the life of someone younger than them. It is something that the younger generations have been looking for but have never had because the older generations are too worried to do anything wrong, so they do nothing at all.”
“There are many barriers or challenges that can keep us from going spiritually deeper with women in our churches. I think the biggest one is not knowing the Bible for yourself. When we don’t really know what the Bible says for ourselves then we are unable to teach it to other women or go deeper in studying it. Sometimes, people are unequipped on how to study the Bible deeper on their own. They can go to church on Sunday and be in a Life Group, but they do not know how to read and study the Bible for themselves. I think another barrier sometimes is that they haven’t built relationships with each other. When you do not have a strong relationship with the other women, it makes it hard to go deeper in Scripture with them.”
After reading these responses, I was challenged by the honesty and wisdom evidenced by these young women. The hard truth is if we are not mentoring, teaching, and intentionally encouraging the younger women in our midst, we are not being obedient to the command Paul gives to Titus, “the older women are to teach what is good …” in Titus 2:3-5. The question is, what will we do to step up and step into the lives of these young women who yearn for older women to pour wisdom, life experience, and biblical truth into them?
I have a few suggestions:
- Pray and ask God to show us who we can be a mentor to.
- Learn how to read our Bibles so that we can show someone else what God is teaching us from His Word.
- Notice the younger women in our midst and have courage to speak up and offer a mentor relationship. These young women desire for older women to speak into their lives and have often been turned down for various reasons.
Where is God challenging you in this area?
“One generation will declare your works to the next …” Psalm 145:4