Front Porch Mentoring

One of the things I love best about hearing tales of “the good old days” is the camaraderie between neighbors and the kinship that linked generations. Little girls learned how to be women simply by being with the women in their lives. Cooking, keeping house, taking care of babies — all the ins and outs of womanhood were learned as a matter of course, simply by one generation absorbing these things from previous ones.

This old-fashioned, front-porch style of passing on values and skills seems lost on my generation.  In part, because we are simply too busy to be involved in each other’s lives and, in part, because we are a very scattered generation of young folk.

A lot of us live hours — or even states — away from our parents and extended family. Our generation has more technology at its fingertips than previous ones ever dreamt possible; email, instant messaging, texting and cell phones all enable us to keep in touch with loved ones, literally at the touch of a button.

Yet we are more emotionally distant and withdrawn from those around us than generations past. How many of us know more about our next-door neighbors than their first names? How many times have we invited friends from church into our home or visited in the homes of our pastor or church family?

One of the greatest challenges of being a twenty-first century woman is letting your guard down and being “real” with people.

Since we’ve lost the “connectedness” of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, we somehow feel we have to live up to an image projected by Hollywood. You know what I’m talking about. The illusion that real womanhood revolves around keeping up on the latest fashions, filling your home with designer furniture, driving expensive vehicles, having picture-perfect kids and a successful, mannequin-handsome husband.

If we find our lives falling short of this picture-perfect scenario, we tend to shut others out.

We shy away from inviting our friends over because they might see our old, ugly carpet, or how outdated the couch is. And since our kitchen is definitely not state-of-the-art, and our cooking expertise doesn’t match Rachel Ray or Paula Dean, it’s too “risky” to ask people over for dinner. They might criticize our imperfections and it’s easier just to keep everyone a safe distance away.

The thought that perhaps some of the younger girls in our circle of friendship might like to spend some time in our company probably doesn’t even enter our minds. I mean, teenagers don’t like the types of things I like — they probably think I’m an old, worn-out fogey, anyway. Girls these days don’t even have an inkling that they should be learning to cook or clean or take care of babies. I don’t have any extra time in my day to spend entertaining, anyway.

And so we cut the ties before us and after us. Each generation is self-contained, self-absorbed. And, like a plant with shallow roots, each generation withers on the vine. We live among, go to church with, and are even related to people with whom we share very little of our lives. The results are fragmented families, churches without true unity, and young women who grow up isolated and afraid to reach out.

The Biblical mandate for passing the torch of womanhood from generation to generation is so simple and clear:

“The aged women…teach the young women.”
(Titus 2:2, 3)

I would love to see this concept of Biblical mentoring rekindled among the Christian women in our culture. However, I’m not going to sit around “waiting” for it to happen. While I obviously can’t change our culture, I can make a difference in the small sphere of influence God has given me. My family, my friends, my church, my community. I can choose to reach out to those God has brought into my life, both older and younger, and offer the gift of friendship.

I love one definition of a mentor: “Someone farther down the path than you, who is going where you want to go, and who is willing to give you some light to help you get there”.

Accordingly, we can all be a mentor to someone.

So whom can I invite for a little front porch chat this week?

Photography: JenniMarie Photography


  1. Loved your post, Kristy =)
    it makes me think of the “grandma” who always has time to sit down from her chores to talk to someone who needs it,
    who keeps little band aids in her medicine cabinet for little bruises on little knees,
    who has time to carry a crying baby on her shoulder for a few hours while the tired mama rests,
    who cooks supper for “one more” just in case,
    who comes by the new neighbour with a cake and
    who leaves cookies in the mail box for the mail man… the kind of woman I want to be =)
    And I’d like to start now… long before I’m a grandmother..

  2. I just loved this post. I am a foreign girl, just married, and it is my prayer to find a Christian lady here to mentor me in my early stages as a wife. Thank God, my mom was a great example and technology keeps us united 😉

  3. Mentoring has a very special place in my heart. When I was younger I wanted so desperately to have someone mentor me… but no one put forth much effort (I think perhaps because I had a wonderful mother- it probably didn’t seem like I needed a mentor to those around me) but when I was nineteen, I felt the Lord say, “Now’s your chance. You’re the older woman to a whole generation.” So, I started a group called Women of Promise and it has been one of the most rewarding things in my life.

  4. See, this is why I thank the Lord that I grew up right around the corner from my grandparents, because my grandma taught me all these things that my own mom doesn’t know how to do! For example: use a sewing machine and read patterns (even though I’m still not a great seamstress because I hardly do it, lol), hang wash on a line, clean in hard-to-reach places, cook tons of things that my mama has never even attempted (she’s not quite the domestic type, lol), and appreciation of just visiting people.

    Grandma was like another parent to me, and no amount of technology or money in the world could have equaled that experience! She passed last fall, and a couple of weeks before she went, she told me “I’m old and tired and I’m tired of not feeling well. I love you, Emily, and I’ve had a good long life with a lot of happy memories, but if the Lord decides it’s my time soon, I will go with Him and I will see you in heaven.” Her faith was unshakeable, and she is my hero, and I would not be who I am today without her!

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