Top Ten Tips for Women Mentors

Top Ten Tips for Women Mentors
By Margaret Marcuson

What does it take to be a mentor? The following tips may help in a variety of mentoring relationships with other women (and even with our children).

1. Take responsibility for yourself, not the one you are mentoring. The work of a mentor is to help the other grow, and that means giving her room to handle her own challenges. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Phil. 2:12

2. Define your own views. When we give our own perspective on something (“I believe”) rather than telling someone what to do (“you should”), it is easier for them to hear us. For example, when Jesus is talking to the woman at the well, everything he says makes her want to know more. (John 4)

3. Manage your anxiety. When someone is struggling, we often want to jump in to help. Instead, we can trust the one we mentor to God. “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Phil. 4:4-6

4. Listen more than you talk. If you find yourself talking more than listening, you may be caught by an anxious need to be helpful. “The prudent are restrained in speech.” Prov. 10:19.

5. Challenge the one you are mentoring. We can do this in a nice way. But since our goal to help foster growth, not merely be nice, challenge is essential. Paul did not hesitate to do this, when necessary: “I am astonished that you are quickly deserting the one who called you” Galatians 1:6.

6. Bring your presence more than your expertise. The value of mentoring is in the relationship, not in what you manage to transmit from your head to hers. Sharing your experiences may be valuable, but others have to find their own way. Jesus’ presence with his disciples transformed them, even though they didn’t always “get” what he taught.

7. Don’t chase after the one you are mentoring. She will hear you better if she is motivated. Allow her to take the initiative; don’t call her more than she calls you. Throughout the gospels Jesus gives people room to come to him rather than pursuing them.

8. Give advice rarely. Only give advice after thoughtfully considering whether what you have to say is really useful, and whether the other can hear it at this moment. “…a word in season, how good it is” Prov. 15:23.

9. Ask questions. Open-ended questions are one of the best tools for mentoring. Bring your curiosity to the relationship. As you learn about the one you mentor and her experience of ministry and of life, you will find yourself better able to respond in ways that are useful. (But avoid “why” questions, which rarely stimulate constructive thinking.) Jesus often answered questions by asking a question in return.

10. Pray for the one you are mentoring. Trust her and her ministry to God, and then let go of it. “We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Col. 1:9


Rev. Margaret J. Marcuson works with church leaders who want to learn an easier, more effective way to lead. The author of Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry (Seabury, 2009), she can be reached at

From: July 2009

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