By Stacey Pardoe
My role as a mentor started on a cold Wednesday night with an eager group of eight teen girls. I was in my mid-twenties and sensed it was time to start deliberately investing in the lives of younger believers. I had high hopes for making an impact on their lives and helping them grow closer to Christ.
We gathered around a coffee table of snacks, and I cast my vision for growing in faith, walking in transparent relationships, and studying God’s Word together. When I opened the table for questions, one of the girls chimed in, “So did you ever try drugs or alcohol when you were in high school?” A stream of equally probing questions followed.
Our short question and answer session was an unexpected icebreaker. I stumbled through an awkward answer to most of the questions and somehow managed to redirect the conversation. The beauty behind this story is the fact that these girls have grown into women, and most of them are walking closely with the Lord. We’ve walked together through wedding ceremonies, funerals for parents and babies that left the world too soon, graduations, new careers, children, divorces, and all life has to offer. We’re now raising our children together, studying the Bible, and walking in authentic community. I often joke with the friend who asked that precarious question all those years ago. She’s grown in tactfulness and discretion, and I’ve learned not to be afraid of the questions of teen girls.
I’ve mentored more than 60 younger women over the past decade, and I’ve seen that influencing lives for eternity is purposeful and life-changing. Jesus tells us to go make disciples, which means taking his truth to the lost is important. It also means that we need to be intentional about teaching younger believers how to walk with the Lord. Many of my greatest moments of impact for the kingdom of God have come through mentoring relationships.
Everyone can be a mentor. A college student can mentor high school students, a seasoned parent can mentor younger parents, and an elderly person can mentor someone even just a few years younger.
Jesus was intentional in the way he ministered to the disciples. He patiently intervened in their trivial disputes over who would sit at his right hand, he didn’t give up on them when they lacked faith, and he invested in them tirelessly. We are called to do the same. On the heels of his description of what it means to abide in the Father’s love, he gave this command to his disciples: “Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12, 13). This is a command for us today as well. It’s a call to sacrifice our own comfort for the good of others.
Christ’s example of mentoring and discipling a small band of 12 men is our example and invitation to do the same. God is calling every believer to step into the role of mentoring younger believers. And God will not call you without equipping you. You might not sense his power until you step into the water, but he will show up, and he will provide.
Let’s examine four aspects of being a mentor. They are simple, concrete, and attainable for everyone.
A Mentor Lives Authentically
It’s not difficult to tell when someone is putting up a false front. But living authentically doesn’t mean you need to share every detail of your past and present struggles. It simply means you don’t intentionally live behind masks or try to be someone you’re not. Younger believers want to follow someone who is authentic.
Some of the most profound moments in my time as a mentor have been moments when I let my guard down and let the younger women in my life see my heart. Letting them see some of my struggles shows them that the Christian walk is a journey of victories and failures.
Jesus lived authentically with his disciples. He cried with them, ate with them, and didn’t hide it when he was exhausted. They saw him pray. They saw what broke his heart. They saw his humanness.
A Mentor Models a Sincere Relationship with God
Some people are intimidated by the idea of mentoring younger believers because they fear they don’t know the Bible well enough or aren’t in a class of spiritually elite Christians. There is good news! We don’t need to be Bible scholars to mentor younger believers. We don’t need to have every aspect of our lives in complete order. We simply need to model a sincere relationship with God—not a perfect relationship, but a sincere relationship.
I often best relate with the women I mentor when I’m honest about the reality of spiritual apathy and a sporadic lack of desire to practice spiritual disciplines. We find ourselves discussing ideas for growing in faith, reminding each other to pray, and encouraging each other to read the Bible. It is often through my own areas of weakness that I’m able to best mentor younger women.
A Mentor Listens Without Judgment
My past is spotted with mistakes and failures. This helps me when a younger woman tells me she was unfaithful to her husband or that she’s struggling with addiction. It’s important to maintain a calm expression when something shocking is unveiled. I remind myself that my past isn’t perfect either. I make sure I don’t emotionally overreact, and I remain calm and steady. Even if I’m burning up inside, I try to contain it and ask gentle questions to find out more information before taking the conversation further.
Part of mentoring is accepting the invitation into another person’s vulnerability and seeing that as a gift. Jesus saw the vulnerability of his disciples and willingly walked with them through their doubts and fears. We are called to do the same.
A Mentor Shepherds Hearts
Throughout my first two years of mentoring teens, I deeply struggled when the young women I mentored fell into sexual sin, drug and alcohol abuse, self-injury, and other destructive behaviors. I wanted nothing more than to change their behavior as quickly as possible. However, over time I learned that mentoring isn’t behavior modification; mentoring is the sacred role of shepherding hearts.
Jesus nurtured and guided the hearts of his disciples far more than he chided them for their sinful behavior. This is a mentor’s calling. Sinful and rebellious behavior flows from a heart that’s not right with God. The role of a mentor is to guide hearts back in line with the truth of God’s Word and his love. Then the behavior will follow. This delicate process happens as we listen, love, empathize, and encourage younger believers.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the high calling of mentoring. It can start with just one person. That person may sit in the cubicle next to you at work, live across the street, or volunteer in the same Sunday school class. Jesus spent most of his time with only twelve people. Don’t be afraid to reach out. You have valuable life experience to share with those who follow behind you.
Stacey Pardoe is a wife, mother of two, writer, mentor, and passionate follower of Christ.
Five Questions for Mentoring Meetings
Whether we’re casually meeting for coffee, taking a walk, or sitting in my living room, here are five questions I ask every time I meet with a person I mentor. Memorizing these questions and asking them every time keeps the meeting focused and opens the door for deeper conversation.
• How are your friendships these days?
• What’s causing you the most stress at work/school right now?
• How are your family dynamics lately?
• What would you like to change about your relationship with God right now?
• Is there anything else you want me to know?
While my mentoring meetings usually include the questions above, they always include more than just these questions. The objective of these meetings is to disciple people as they seek to follow Christ and lead them into deeper relationships with him. I ask serious questions, but I also ask fun questions about hobbies, passions, and anything they happen to mention. The goal of our time together isn’t about getting through a checklist of questions—it’s about building a safe relationship.