“Mentor” and “mentoring” have become pretty big buzz words over the last 15 years.But what is a mentor? The dictionary defines a mentor simply as a trusted advisor or a more experienced person who nurtures and develops the potential in a less experienced person.
When it comes to women in leadership it seems that mentors are a bit scarce. Truth be told, it’s only in recent years that I have established relationships with other women whom I consider to be mentors. I had read, followed, and admired these women from afar, but it never even occurred to me that I might one day have a personal relationship with them, yet they mentored me for years through their books and teaching series before we ever met in person.
By definition, a mentor must be a person who is ahead of you on the journey of life — someone who is living a life you aspire to lead, doing what you aspire to do, and doing it well. As a young pastor’s wife on the front line of the church-planting movement, my options were pretty slim because those were the days before mentoring was available to women in ministry and leadership through books, podcasts, blogs, virtual community groups, and conference settings.
Although information is becoming much more accessible via technology, personal relationships are still difficult to come by. The crucial aspect of modeling lies in the gap between gathering information and actually being able to watch a mentor do life day in and day out. In my opinion, this “modeling” component is best achieved organically within the context of the local church.
Hopefully, if you are a church planter, you transitioned into that role on very good terms and with the blessing of your senior pastor and his wife from your home church. Most definitely, I hope you are not planting your church in reaction to a hurtful situation at your previous church, as you will only carry that hurt with you into the new church you are planting. If you are in a healthy relationship with your former pastor’s wife, she is a valuable resource to you– so keep that relationship alive and strong!
Of course, there are those people that you look up to and want to learn from that may not be relationally available to you right now. Don’t let that discourage you! Look at their books, resources, and teaching series as a form of mentorship because, in fact, that is what they are! Take advantage of every resource available to you for connection and learning. If there is a learning environment you can participate in, take advantage of it. If you follow someone on twitter and they invite questions, ask! If someone you desire to learn from has a blog, post comments. If there is a speaker you really admire and resonate with, listen to everything they put out, notice how they handle introductions, connecting with their audience, transitions, and closings. Be an active observer and learner. Maybe this isn’t your ideal situation, but make the most of what you have and more doors will open for you.
As far as how I make time to be mentored and to mentor others, I don’t make it a formal thing. I do it when I have the time. If you turn mentoring into a task that must be done, it begins to lose its joy. If I need advice about something, I send a quick text or an email and keep it short out of respect for the time of my mentoring relationships. As far as mentoring others, I don’t do much one-to-one mentoring. When moments present themselves, I step into them, but I don’t commit myself to many mentoring relationships. However, I do make myself available through teaching a weekly Bible study and blogging. I try to answer questions that are asked.
The girls I mentor in the truest sense of the word are the ones on my staff. They are the ones who see me at my best and at my worst. They are the ones who see me navigate betrayal and disappointment. They are on my team and after many years of building a church together, I have come to trust them, and they have come to trust me. There is mutual respect there, but it has taken time.
So don’t give up on resourcing yourself in whatever way you can. Open your heart to God connections. Position yourself to learn from those ahead of you even when it is a less than ideal or a convenient scenario. Reach back to the girls in your world and sow the investment you want to reap. In the meantime, take advantage of everything ARC Women has to offer: this blog, website, VCGs, regional gatherings, and the All Access conferences. We are on your side and want to see you flourish in every way possible as you walk out the God’s dreams for your life!
-By Kerri Weems, Celebration Church, FL