In my young adulthood it was common in Christian circles to seek out an older woman you admired and ask her to “disciple” you. Though it was similar to mentoring, it was much more involved. There was a weekly meeting at an appointed time with your mentor (think Bible page-turner with a bouffant hair-do), to sit down in the formal living room, one on one, for an hour of uninterrupted spiritual instruction. There was homework. There was accountability. It was important work, but it was difficult to maintain for long. Why?

Life happened. The best disciplers had super busy calendars. If you couldn’t make the appointment at the given time, you missed out that week. Eventually the meetings fizzled due to any number of variables: babysitting issues, sick kids, car trouble, conflicts in schedules or lack of accountability.

I confess, I, personally, was a drop-out! I was just too busy and for years, I thought I was a slacker because I squandered my opportunity with a mentor.

Many ‘could-be mentors’ today remember that old system of discipleship, and, like me, they run! Formal living room? That does not sound very Joanna Gaines’ farmhouse chic! Long term commitment? When? Way too demanding!

Times and priorities have changed

  • We value exercise more now because we see the generations that sat around in formal living rooms now fight health battles we want to prevent. That leaves us less time to sit around and chat.
  • Families are scattered and the built-in grandmother-mother-daughter relationships are challenged by distance, ideology, and differences.
  • Most prefer a casual meet-up in a Starbucks to practicing hospitality with a simple coffee date at home.
  • We seldom call each other to calendar ongoing dates, we text. For one date. We communicate quickly about the next meet up, prayer request or update. Then move on.
  • We almost never commit to weekly…anything! Ar least not for ourselves. When we do, it’s for our kids.

Yet the biblical command to guide younger women is still imperative. The need for guidance from older generations has not changed. They may be more important today than ever!

Situational Mentoring

Discipleship has been replaced by situational mentoring– a type of mentoring that happens more organically, and more spontaneously. It is often more inspired rather than planned. And there is no ongoing commitment.

In this way, one young person may have a whole cadre of mentors! One mentor who helps them understand household organization, one who sets an example of their parenting style with kids of the same temperament or skill set. Perhaps a mentor who helps them understand the Holy Spirit, or methods of prayer. Or maybe a mentor who has a model marriage they want to emulate. Or a business mentor.

No one person could possibly mentor in all those areas and still have time to lead a life of their own!

Sometimes, mentoring in the form of example-setting, may happen without any preparation or recognition, no meeting, no questions. Someone may, without acknowledging you, follow your example. Your character may be watched closely from a distance by a mom who is struggling, interested, curious, or just thrown into a similar situation. 

Next post, we will discuss how to prepare for mentoring. But first, answer this question:

If you mentored someone today–specially if it was without your knowledge–what would a younger, or less experienced person, learn from you?

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