more than a conversation over coffee, less than a counseling session

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by Jean Bronson

Two years ago, I attended a workshop addressing the What, Why and How of mentoring women in the church.  Here’s a definition of mentoring that was used, a direct quote from Susan Hunt’s book Spiritual Mothering.

Mentoring is a specific tool of discipleship used when a women of faith and spiritual maturity enters into a nurturing relationship with a younger woman in order to encourage her and equip her to live for God’s glory.

After attending that conference, I initiated a conversation at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethseda, Maryland. I met with our senior pastor, discussed it with The Women’s Council (our leadership team), and we put together a small team of women who had shown a heart for this in conversations that we’d had in the past.  I presented it to all of our pastors and waited to be cleared by our Session.  In the meantime, we named this new program Life-on-Life.

Logo (1)

It was important from the very beginning that we understood the difference between mentoring that’s implicit and what we were going to begin – explicit mentoring.  At Fourth we already had Bible studies where “more senior” ladies study scripture together and share their lives with younger ones.  In a sense that’s mentoring.  It’s “implied” that the Christian woman who is further along on life’s journey would have a broader understanding of life.  (I go back to something a mentor told me when I was in my thirties, years ago, and I haven’t forgotten it – Living is learning and nothing else really takes its place.)

But Life-on-Life would be our attempt at “explicit” mentoring.  The mentoring would not be inferred or implied.  It would be intentional and very specific – one “more senior” woman meeting with a younger one for a certain amount of time, for a certain period of time, to discuss a certain curriculum.

Then we had to answer the “why.”  It had to be more than something we were feeling that needed to happen.  And, after all, this could be one of the messiest things we do!  We decided we’d take a swing at it because the Bible tells us implicitly and explicitly to do it.

First, the implicit:

  • to love one another (2 John 5)
  • to encourage one another and build one another up  (I Thessalonians 5:11)
  • to instruct one another, since we want to see everyone mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28)
  • to consider how to stir one another up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24, Ephesians 4:13, 14, Mark 12:30-31, Matthew 28:19-20)

Then, the very explicit:

Titus 2:3-5

“….teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can train the younger women ….”

Life-on-Life would be our response to Paul’s instruction to Timothy, known as “the Titus 2 Mandate.” Our goal would be to help women apply the study and application of God’s word to every area of life and to help them develop a biblical worldview with a clear understanding that we would tread very carefully in the areas of life and situations where the Bible does not speak (the schooling of children, politics, etc.)

Another reason we decided to implement the program was that Christ died for a people. His people. His church. And we are responsible for one another.  We are one body (1 Corinthians 12:12, Colossians 3:15.)

Then it came down to the brass tacks.

Who would qualify as a mentor?  Any Christian woman could qualify. She need not have any extraordinary gifts or circumstances, but a love for Jesus and a desire to live for him.

How old should mentors be?  A good combination might be found at any age, but a personal observation is that women in their fifties and beyond have a life perspective that is only possible from living through several life stages.  The mentor must be humble and vulnerable, someone willing to share the I should haves as much as the I dids.

Before beginning, a lovely group of women, identified by church leadership and feeling God’s call to serve as mentors, attended a training session.  Over six weeks they learned and discussed:

  • week 1- Fourth’s Vision and the Theology of Titus 2
  • week 2- The Method and Mechanics of Life-on-Life
  • week 3- Reading the Bible Together
  • week 4- Discussion of Susan Hunt’s book Spiritual Mothering
  • week 5- Potential Pitfalls
  • week 6- Healthy Boundaries (What Life-on-Life is. What Life-on-Life is not.)

After the training, the time commitment was made clear in order to protect both mentor and mentee: one hour a week plus transportation with one half  of the time spent reading the Bible together, the last half to talk. We asked the “pairing” to commit to pray during the week and briefly look over what they would be reading the following week. (This would not be a Bible study per se. Two sections of the Bible that we’ve used are twenty lessons using Mark’s gospel and nine lessons from Colossians).

This relationship would last for a season.  Hopefully not the friendship, but the relationship of mentor/mentee would have a shelf-life. Our first group of pairings lasted from January through May.  After that the mentor would move on to meet with another younger woman and the mentee would have the opportunity to be mentored by another godly woman.

And then we advertised for mentees: younger women who would be teachable, reliable, and members of Fourth (college and beyond). They would be women who would like to meet with a spiritual mentor one hour a week to read the Bible and talk.

To help keep the ladies on track, a bookmark was designed as a tool to be given to both mentors and mentees.  The bookmark served as a reminder that their time together was to remain one of mentoring- not counseling- keeping the prayer time focused directly on the women.

To view the bookmark, click here: https://epcthewellorg.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/bookmark-2.pdf

Since we began in January 2017 there have been a few changes regarding the amount of time spent together and the duration -of the program, however we have a good beginning and basis for this new mentoring ministry at Fourth. 

References:  Spiritual Mothering, Susan Hunt; Discipling, Mark Dever; One to One Bible Reading, David Helm; Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling Women, Patricia Miller;  Transformed Life-taker to Life-giver, Karen Hodge & Susan Hunt; http://resourcesthegospelcoalition.org/library/mentoring, Danielle Salade

IMG_4253Since 2012, Jean Bronson has served as Director of Women’s Ministries at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda MD.  Prior to that, she served in the same capacity at Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian in St. Louis and directed the Preschool Ministry at Park Cities Presbyterian in Dallas.  She’s a native of Baltimore, wife of forty-six years to Bill, mother of three grown children and enjoys six energetic grandchildren (all under the age of 9!).  Jean also directs the Cherub Church, ages 3 years to 3rd grade, each Sunday at Fourth (just for fun!).  Away from Fourth, some favorite pastimes are flowers, knitting, cooking and an occasional bike ride through the neighborhood.  If the Lord so chooses, Jean’s ambition is to complete and publish a series of  Bible stories/Curriculum for preschoolers-second grade that she began writing in the late 90s.

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