Care for Ladies “New Believers” Through Mentoring
By Shelagh Rice
A speaker at a women’s breakfast some 10 years ago first encouraged me to think seriously about mentoring relationships. God had already planted in me the seed of desire to reach out compassionately to other women, and I began to look around to see who God had placed in my life.
I approached a friend who was somewhat younger and newer in the Lord than I was, and we agreed to meet on a regular basis for conversation, study, and prayer. It was a growing time for us both, and since then I’ve mentored a number of women in my congregation many of them new to the church, many with young children. Some didn’t have positive female role models in their lives and welcomed a relationship with someone who would encourage them and share their struggles, someone they could ask questions.
My current mentoring relationship began over four years ago. We meet weekly, usually at McDonald’s, where her preschoolers can play. I ask her about what God has been teaching her and what she’s been reading in the Bible. We always pray together. It’s been rewarding beyond description to watch her mature in her spiritual life; she has shown marvelous growth as she learns to deal with the disappointments of life while standing firm in her faith.
With our culture tugging us in a million different directions, it’s easy to be too caught up in our own lives and schedules to notice the needs of those around us, much less make time for new relationships.
Yet the rewards of walking with younger or newer believers are well worth the investment of time and energy. The enthusiasm of these women is incredible, their desire for learning great. And by becoming a spiritual friend “cheering them on, directing them to scripture, helping them discern God’s plan and purpose for their lives” each of us can make an incredible difference.
A common barrier that prevents us from reaching out to new believers is the feeling that we aren’t wise enough, learned enough, or strong enough in faith to be a good mentor. The key to remember is that our own abilities aren’t what matters because God wants to work through us. God will do the work. All that’s required of us is love, the desire to connect with this person and to be used in this way.
Much of what I do is listen. When hard questions come, I often say, “I don’t know.” My friend and I pour through the Bible together. We recount what we do know to be true that God is sovereign, for instance, and that God won’t put before us more than we can handle. Mostly we pray. And God provides what is needed.
Occasionally, when a person’s issues were clearly beyond my ability to help, I have been able to refer her to a Christian counselor or other resource. Providing those connections is also an important service.
For those considering approaching newer believers about a more deliberate relationship, here are a few thoughts.
First, don’t be thrown if the person declines. The timing may not be right. Or maybe you’re not the right person for her. That’s not a reflection on you as a person, and you don’t need to feel awkward about it. If someone is on your heart, it doesn’t hurt to make the offer the gesture itself is a sign of caring.
In my experience, spiritual friendships do not always develop immediately; I may have to show that I love the person, that I’m not just flying into her life to try to “fix her” which can be a temptation for mentors. Only time can show my real motivation: to help draw her into a deeper relationship with God so that she may more fully know God’s love and be all that God wants her to be. The person can respond when she is ready.
Also, in mentoring newer believers, remember that your time together is not the time for you to unload or vent your frustrations. We do need to find someone with whom we can share our own struggles; the best person may be a fellow mentor.
Many of us have been powerfully affected by relationships with older persons who expressed an interest in us and showed that we’re valuable to them. This is how God works: through human relationships. Is God asking you to reach out to someone in your life?
To learn more about spiritual friendships, see Learning to Listen by Wendy Miller (Upper Room Books, 1993) or Finding a Spiritual Friend by Timothy Jones (Upper Room Books, 1998).
You might consider sponsoring a special retreat in which those interested in being a mentor can learn about doing it, and also those who would like a mentor can meet women who might serve this role for them.
From Women Together: Ideas for Women’s Groups, volume 1
By Shelagh Rice
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”