Over the summer, I was asked to launch a Women’s Mentoring Ministry at our church. Mentoring is one of my passions. I didn’t realize it until several years ago, but the passion grew out of love with my first mentor, my mother. I see so much of what she has taught me in the daily living of my life.
Spiritually and professionally, I have been on both sides of the mentor-mentee relationship for over eleven years. In the same capacity, some would consider most of my past mentoring relationships as “informal” mentoring. In other words, there was no program, activity, or “structured way” to mentor. Though not “structured,” I would say that all of those relationships were quite intentional. During the times that I was being mentored by others, I clearly had responsibilities to read, study, pray, train, etc. There were also clear goals: some were tangible (i.e. situations where I was preparing myself to be a mentor, trainer, or leader) and others were intangible (i.e. situations where I was growing and being challenged in spiritual disciplines, while trusting God to change my character). Likewise, I was intentional about the people that I was mentoring.
In partnership with several other women at my former church, I was faced with the unique opportunity of launching a women’s small group ministry. The small group ministry had a strong emphasis on mentoring. God used my past experiences to lay the foundation for that ministry. As one of the pillars of that ministry, mentoring was implemented as a by-product of the small group ministry model (which is doable and can be quite effective). The ministry obviously met a felt need within the church, and women were drawn to the ministry.
However, the necessary prayer, planning, and research had not been completed to address the “good problem” of serving more people. The “small groups” grew into “mega-small groups” with no new leaders being identified and no multiplication plan to consider. (Over the course of the first year, my group grew to 18 members.) We continued with Bible Study, book discussions for practical application, and intercessory prayer; however, I felt strongly that the mentoring element of the ministry was being lost. No one is equipped to mentor eighteen people. Jesus himself only committed to twelve, and one of them was wayward.
So, I was excited (yet prayerfully cautious and discerning) when asked to start a ministry that specifically focused on mentoring. One of the first challenges…where to begin? How do you take intentional, yet informal mentoring experiences and turn them into a church ministry (or what some would consider a “formal” ministry) that meets the various spiritual needs and challenges that women face no matter there position in life? If there is a book out there, please let me know, because I haven’t found it. I might have to write it myself.
After reading through the ministry and leadership material on hand, and researching the topic on the internet, I came across a recommendation of Regi Campbell’s book entitled, “Mentor Like Jesus.” I have often thought of Jesus as a lot of things. Not only has he impacted my life, but he is my life. Similar to the obvious situation with my mother, however, I had never really thought of him as a mentor. Wow! At the time his book was published, Regi had “graduated” his eighth group of young men from his personal mentoring ministry, a ministry that has the mentoring relationships between Jesus and his twelve disciples as its foundation. Here is what Regi presents as foundational for mentoring a small group:
- Jesus chose his mentees or mentorees, those that would be mentored. They did not choose him.
- “More time spent with fewer people equals greater kingdom impact.”
- Jesus called on his mentees in the midst of the busyness of their lives. They immediately responded with a “Yes,” and were fully committed to his mission.
- Jesus was very intentional in the ministry of mentoring. He began his ministry in prayer and continued in prayer. The core of Jesus’ teaching was scripture. He lived out his faith among his disciples and all who were open to his message.
- Jesus mentored his disciples to live with purpose. The disciples were chosen to carry the gospel message to all the nations.
“Those he mentored became totally committed to his mission, worked together as an effective team, and through their efforts, arguably one-third of the world’s population believes in what they taught. From eleven people to two billion people…Jesus was a pretty good mentor (preface).”
We will revisit this book and the topic of mentoring throughout our leadership discussions.
Have you been in an informal or formal mentoring relationship or ministry?
If so, what worked? What did not work?
What would you like to “see” in a mentoring ministry offered through your church?
© Natasha L. Robinson 2010