My husband and I were chatting about this subject over dinner the other night, and he commented that women are more naturally inclined to enter into mentoring relationships than men. He is right, but we also agreed that women too can come up with plenty of reasons why they can't get involved. Older woman may feel inadequate to train younger women; "I don't have theological training" we may argue. However, the relationships Paul is discussing with Titus are not "journal clubs", erudite discussions of complex theological issues. Instead, he describes older women practically exemplifying how we are called to glorify God in our specific callings as women. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, we should all aim to know our bibles well and live our lives by what we find there, but we will never have "all the answers".
On the other hand, as younger women, we may also feel inadequate to be involved in a relationship with a "spiritual mother". We can find it difficult to admit we need help and guidance in some areas, particularly when it comes to sensitive issues such as our identities as women. Sometimes we may find it difficult to identify an older women to pair up with. Can I encourage you to look around your church, find a godly woman and just ask her! Older women, can you think about how you can make yourself available to younger women, and maybe approach someone you know suggesting you meet up. It is made much easier if your church has a formal mentoring programme you can plug into, but failing that why not approach your pastor's wife for advice?
Several pitfalls may be encountered in these types of relationships. In her book One-to-one, Sophie Peace discusses a number of dangers we should be on the look out for:
- Control - "Unless we watch ourselves, a relationship in which we are supposed to serve a younger Christian can all too easily become one where we lord it over them, or even manipulate and control them, for the sake of our own egos."
- Legalism - "Concern for personal godliness can easily spill over into rules and regulations being imposed on the younger Christian, usually unintentionally...The older Christian must be very aware of this danger and keep pointing to Jesus in all things, being open about the failures in their own life and their thankfulness for forgiveness."
- Over-dependence - "This can happen where one person is less mature or secure either spiritually or emotionally or on both fronts, and looks to the stronger one for direction, strength and confidence where they should be looking to God for all these things."
- Pride - "We must remember that it is God's work to change people. Remembering this will also prevent us from becoming burdened with worry or guilt when we don't see the fruit we long for in our one-to-one partner or when they are demanding much more out of the friendship than we are able to give."
These dangers can, to a large extent, be avoided when we are aware of them and are cautious, prayerful and accountable in our ministry.So we should bring these issues before God in prayer and ensure that we are accountable to our church for the mentoring we are involved in. If your church has a women's ministry then this is more straightforward, but if not, you could perhaps arrange to meet regularly with another women who is also involved in mentoring to ensure you both stay on track. As my husband has said to me many times, "Remember you are trying to help someone become more like Christ, not more like you!"