In my post about "The Joys of Mentoring" this past Sunday, I promised to put up an article I wrote several years ago for Nancy Campbell's Above Rubies magazine.
When many women hear about “Titus 2” style ministry, with the older women training the younger women “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God,” they often envision the older woman as a sweet gray haired grandma setting an extra place for tea in her cozy cottage. And that’s wonderful! I’m so thankful for the foundational principles I’ve learned from older authors and speakers like Nancy Campbell, Elisabeth Elliot, and Edith Schaeffer. But I also need to see these things lived out, so I am grateful for friends, usually only several years older than me, whose personal examples I can watch and follow in the areas of raising young children, home schooling, and handling the cultural challenges that teenagers face. I think that when the Lord is talking about older women, he is also looking for any serious Christian woman who is further down the road in life, anyone with valuable experience to share with someone coming along behind. We all need to aspire to this ministry, and we all need to start the process now. Don’t waste these years while waiting to attain senior saint status! Get all the help you can from mentors in your own life, and then turn around and help someone else.
Years ago, I felt the call to start ministering to other moms. Knowing how absolutely imperfect I am, I felt extremely inadequate. However, I knew I had a message to share, through one-on-one conversations, public presentations, and most of all, writing. I started small but the opportunities have grown tremendously. God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. During the years of trying to share with other women what is on my heart about family life and home education, I’ve seen four keys to mentoring.
Truth: This is our solid and enduring message. We can’t just blurt out our personal opinions. Our curriculum is God’s Word, his standards, his desires for our lives and families. We must be Bible students, we must be women of prayer, we must surround ourselves with godly teaching and encouragement from other believers, and we must be serious about living reverently! And, yes, we must be brave enough to apply that truth to personal situations, even if it means confronting someone (gently) with an area which is making them stumble. We can also fortify one another for the realities of life.
Transparency: Along with truth about God’s word, we must be truthful about ourselves. We’re not even close to perfect. If you exude a Super Mom image, that will be very discouraging to a younger woman who feels she could never measure up, and it can be so disillusioning when they finally see you mess up. Boom! You fall off the pedestal! No, we must always be humble and confess how much we need God’s grace to cover our sin and shortcoming. That’s the gospel. We haven’t fully attained, but we are pressing on anyway. If a mom has an idealized notion of motherhood and is disheartened by her own failure, it’s a relief for her to hear that others struggle with the same things. From our own hard knocks experiences, we can challenge her to engage in spiritual warfare on behalf of her children, rather than expecting a rose garden without weeds and thorns. (I need to be reminded of this all the time!) On the other hand, we must also be discrete and not just dump our past and present problems in full view. This destroys our family’s privacy and makes the other person extremely uncomfortable. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your lips. There is a time to share your struggles with someone, and a time to refrain, which brings us to the next key.
Trust: In any mentoring relationship, there must be mutual trust. We need to know that the other person will not gossip or turn against us. We need to know that the person will be honest with us. When advising someone, we need to trust that person to do what is best in her own situation. She may not be at a place in life where she can receive what we say right now. Or she may agree, but isn’t in a position to implement it because of other family members, health or finances. Or maybe it just wasn’t what God would want to say through us in the first place! We must always trust God that he will work these things out in his own good time. We plant the seeds, and he can make them grow.
Training: Finally, in all of our emphasis on spiritual issues, we must not neglect the practical every day “keepers at home” stuff, like how to organize a house, feed the family, serve the husband, and teach the children. I think of the “wives meetings” that our church had when I was a newlywed career lady, and how I was encouraged to trust God for starting our family. Two of these friends also showed me how to make log cabin quilt blocks. I remember my excitement about going to a home decorating class at a local church -- what an outreach opportunity! When I first started home schooling, several moms showed me their books, shared their catalogs, and gave me helpful hints. I’ve been a mom for fourteen years now [in 2009, let's update that to 22 years!], but I still love to learn about all of this stuff! I need it! What an area for Titus 2 training!
Whatever your age, ask God to show you what you can do to encourage other women to follow his ways!