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After last week’s discussion, albeit a one way one, I wanted to make some comments regarding what the spiritual mother or mentor is to do.  Since not many of us have been in this sort of relationship, we aren’t sure what a spiritual mentor is.  The best way I can describe it is an intentional friendship.

Intentional friendships are a little like dating

Yes, it does sound a bit artificial…and may feel that way for a bit.  But dating was that way too wasn’t it?  You decided you wanted to get to know each other better.  Back in my day, the guy had to ask, but there were plenty of things the girl could do to encourage him…or help him know that he would get a positive response if he did.

Relationships are intentional

Of course, this isn’t exactly dating, but there are some parallels.  There is an intentionality to it.  Someone has to ask for it.  Time must be set aside for it.  While the younger woman is asking for the older woman’s wisdom, it is rarely a one way learning experience.

This is important for the older woman to realize for this to end in a good friendship. This is not a place for pontificating, presenting my perfect face, remembering only my successes, and monopolizing the conversation.  It is a place for making the time to get to know this younger woman…asking her questions about herself.  Allowing her to talk about herself so you can get to know her heart.  Of course, it is unnatural.  If you’re anything like me, the person you’d love to talk about is yourself!  But that must be put aside for now.

Often uncomfortable at first

Another parallel to dating is that it may feel uncomfortable at first.  Asking questions about interests and life history will help open up areas you want to pursue in getting to know the other person better.  They will open up places where you will find interests in common.

It’s not that you are going to make her feel like she is being interrogated.  It is just that as the conversation moves along, one thing leads to another and the next logical question may feel a little too intrusive for her.  No big deal.  She is always free to not answer…or delay answering to another time…or just say that it is a topic she isn’t comfortable discussing for now.  A mature older woman will understand this.  It certainly isn’t personal.

It is a mutually respectful relationship

At this point I need to remind both women that this is a mutual relationship…also like dating!  Yes, I know the one person is mentor and the other has asked the mentor to teach them.  But I think that any mentor who comes into a relationship like this thinking that she will be teaching/leading and the other person will be learning/following will lose out a lot!  I have always learned from everyone that I have “mentored.”  Everyone.

As I get to know a person, I get clues as to what makes her so unique…so special.  I learn more about the areas where she has been hurt in her lifetime.  All of this information gives me clues about who she is as a person.

We all have our own styles.  The way you will mentor someone will probably be different from the way I do it.  And the way I do it with person A will be a little different than with person B.  Often, mentoring is done with personal conversations...sometimes over coffee or a meal once a week or once a month.  Whatever works for both of you is what is best.

I often ask open-ended questions, those that can’t be answered with a yes/no and give the person space to answer as little or as much as they care to. I recommend not overspiritualizing the discussion or any possible solutions.  Use regular terms as opposed to churchy terms.  Just because a person has heard the word justification 1000 times, doesn’t mean they understand it.

So don’t use the churchy words and assume another person understands the words.  Talk in regular English as if you were talking to someone who doesn’t speak/understand the lingo.

If they use lingo but live as if they might not understand it, probe a little and ask them for definitions of their terms.  You might be surprised.  Every group has their lingo, especially churches.  Break it down so you are sure the person you are talking to has the same understanding of the words that you have.  Most important, that you both have a Biblical understanding of the words!

Close your time together in prayer

A good practice is to close your visit in prayer…preferably by both of you.  You can each pray for some of the issues that were raised in the conversation.  Don’t get bogged down praying for health issues of a lot of friends.  Pray more specifically for each other and for your marriages and other issues that came up in the conversation. Each time you meet, you can follow up on some of the specifics that came up for prayer as well as how things are going.  And please, KEEP IT SIMPLE!  Honesty, openness and child-like simplicity are best in prayer.  Don’t make it complicated.

Encourage your mentee by speaking truth with honor and repect in the context of a relationship

Specifically, a spiritual mentor is there to encourage in the Biblical sense which also carries with it the idea of speaking truth in love, if needed.  But the context is a relationship so I don’t do a lot of correcting when I barely know the person.  It would be very unlikely in fact.  Don’t forget the purpose of our time together found in Titus 2:3-5.

Each of us needs to honor and respect the other person and her boundaries.  These days, there are so many extremely broken people around that we can’t underestimate how important this is.  Learning to speak correction in kind, respectful ways takes wisdom and humility.  I don’t pretend to have an abundance of these traits, but GOD has developed a bit of them in me over time by a variety of ways…most of them painful!

Have you thought of someone you would like to mentor/have mentor you?  

Have you thought about why you need her help?  

Why not ask her today to join you for mentoring/being mentored?