Where to Start When You Want a Mentor (Or Want to Be One)
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which won’t change your price.
Her name was Lynne. She had shoulder-length, wavy hair that was a blend of red and brown hues which framed her soft, pale face and infectious smile. Her titles were many: pastor’s wife, mother, homeschool mama, Sunday school teacher, puppet team coach, friend, and more. But I called her Mama Hobbes.
She was part of my life before I can even remember. I never asked her to be my mentor and she never asked if I wanted a mentor; she was just there. I was friends with her daughters, I was in her Jr. High Sunday School class, and I was on her puppet team. I was watching every moment and she used every opportunity to pour into me. There were moments that I challenged her and times when we disagreed. But from Mama Hobbes, I learned what it meant to be a pastor’s wife, even though at that time it was something I didn’t yet know I would need.
In 1999, she and her family moved away and three short years later I married my husband and also moved to a new town. While I no longer had Mama Hobbes’ weekly influence in my life, she had–unknowingly to both of us–cultivated in my heart a desire for mentoring relationships, for friendships that are like iron sharpening iron.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
In my new hometown, I was lonely and struggling to adjust to my new surroundings and my new roles as wife. God gave me another woman who graciously poured into me as she could. He also used her to introduce me to other women who could help me when she was unavailable. These women were authors and as I read their books I found myself surrounded by mentors.
Over the years, God gave me a handful of mentors, some more recognizable than others. He also began placing younger women in my life for me to continue the mentoring cycle. There were some amazing moments and some not-so-amazing moments; times when I saw great fruit, and times when I fell flat on my face. Through it all, I continued to seek the wisdom of women who had walked the journey ahead of me.
I’d like to introduce you to three groups of women and share with you the lessons they have taught me about mentoring and how to be mentored.
How To Mentor
Susan Hunt wrote Spiritual Mothering which has been recently updated (the new edition has a lovely cover!). Spiritual Mothering is a comprehensive handbook for learning about the Titus 2 mandate and what it looks like fleshed out in our everyday life. Susan will help you understand that spiritual mothering, while similar to biological mothering, does not require you to bear the title of mother, nor does it mean you need be “old” before you can mentor. The twelve chapters explain the mandate, the model, and the method. Each chapter ends with a “Spiritual Mothering Challenge” that gives you practical assignments to apply what you have just learned.
Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Mahaney Whitacre have written Girl Talk together, a handbook to mother-daughter conversations and passing on the understanding of Biblical womanhood. This book is meant for both mothers and daughters to read and then come together to chat about what they have read but any women will benefit from reading this book, even before your daughter is old enough to do so with you. The chapters are short, easy to read, and pack a powerful punch for taking solid truth and making it incredibly practical.
Elyse Fitzpatrick filled the role of general editor for two super helpful books: Women Helping Women and Women Counseling Women. Both of these books may seem overwhelming at first at more than 300 pages each, but I recommend them as reference books that are quickly accessible for your daily browsing. While both are beneficial as a complete read, they are each filled with chapters that stand alone for a quick read when you are facing a very specific situation. I am confident that as you use these resources, your own soul will be mentored and discipled.
Martha Peace has written a very practical guide to mentoring titled Becoming A Titus 2 Woman. This book is a shorter than the above books but a solid combination of teaching and practical assignments. You may feel like it sounds redundant, but I assure you that Martha takes a different approach and this book will be very helpful, too.
How To Be Mentored
All of the books above are focused on teaching one how to be a mentor. But each book I’ve read about mentoring also briefly talks about how to be mentored. The key word here is “briefly”.
Spiritual Mothering is aimed towards the mentors, but I believe reading it will benefit the mentee as well. Susan gives great advice when she says:
“Older women can do the cultivating, but younger women need to do the instigating.”
(Spiritual Mothering, page 102)
For those, like myself, that frequently desire a formal mentoring relationship, Susan points out that,
“Spiritual mothering has more to do with demonstrating ‘the shape of godliness’ than with the teaching of lesson plans.”
(Spiritual Mothering, page 93)
Susan also wisely counsels:
“Spiritual mothering is not a cure-all for the older or the younger woman.”
(Spiritual Mothering, page 57)
Keep in mind that the desire for a mentor is great but a mentor is not the solution to your problems: only Christ can save you from what you are facing. Sometimes He chooses to use other women to help us and sometimes He allows us to walk the path alone because it is the best in His grand plan for our life. Reading Susan’s book Spiritual Mothering will help as you seek a mentor; reading A Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George may also help you in this area.
How To Be Mentored from Afar
Sometimes, for a whole variety of reasons, there are no real life mentors available to us. In those seasons of life, you can still be mentored, but it will take a little more work on your part. However, on the bright side, it can be easier to work into your schedule than a real-life chat.
Here is a simple list of books whose words and authors will serve as fabulous mentors to you as you seek to live for Christ in whatever location and role God has placed you:
- Life Management for Busy Women: Living Out God’s Plan with Passion & Purpose by Elizabeth George
- Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother by Carolyn Mahaney
- Shopping for Time: How to Do It All and Not Be Overwhelmed by Carolyn Mahaney & daughters
- Womanly Dominion: More Than a Gentle Spirit by Mark Chanski
A Word to the Overwhelmed
Are you feeling overwhelmed with all the book titles to choose from? Have you read so much from this month’s mentoring theme that you feel dazed at where to begin? That’s okay! Don’t let that discourage you or hold you back. Simply stated, mentoring is pouring into the life of another woman or accepting someone pouring into your own life. It’s that easy and that hard.
Don’t run out and buy all these books nor wait until you’ve read them all to start mentoring or seeking mentorship. Pick the one book that stood out to you and start with reading that.
Ask God to show you one person whom you can care for more intentionally and cultivate a humble heart to receive wisdom from others, no matter their age. And lastly, but most important, watch as God does a work in your life!
Photography: JenniMarie Photography
Thank you for sharing this post in the most relatable manner and for the gorgeous resources you recommended!
I have never been in a formal mentoring relationship, but I have truly desired to be in one (or more?) and coincidentally, today is my last day in a semi-mentorship arrangement, 4 weeks, 12 ladies with an awesome lady who just releases the fragrance of Christ in every area of her life! She LIVES for Jesus through and through!
Can I admit that I am a bit scared of what will happen after now?
I’ve leaned alot on our sharing for practical wisdom and now it feels like standing on unsteady feet. Again.
Would you be willing to share some counsel on what I should do?
Hi Faith! I’m so glad you got to experience this 12 weeks study and that it was helpful to you. I would encourage you to pray for God to make it very clear to you what you should do next. Is there someone in your life that you would like to mentor you? If so, ask her! But make your desire very clear. What are you looking for her to mentor you in? How do you want it to look? Have a conversation and be very open with your expectations and desires and invite her to be open in return with what she would be willing/able to do. If there is no real life person currently in your life, I highly encourage you to read some of the books I listed above. Some of those same books would make great studies for you and a real life mentor to work through as an intro to what mentoring can look like. I’d love to hear how God works in this are!
Mandy, thank you so much for this practical post chock full of resources! I especially love your reminder that only in Jesus will we find salvation from our problems. It’s so easy to look to a mentor or another person as our hope and help, when we can only find it in Him alone.
So true Gretchen! I know too often I fall into the trap of expecting others to “save” me from my problem rather than Christ. Mentors are just a gift of grace to help us, but God alone will do the work in us.