Coming Alongside – 5 Helpful Hints to Successful Mentoring

She lived in a basement suite not far from campus. We chatted in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil and I took my time choosing tea from a basket overflowing with options. A candle burned in the living room as we settled under cozy blankets and began talking.

Sue was the Director of Student Ministries at my university and I was undoubtedly nervous to be alone with her for the first time. I’d watched her from a distance my entire Freshman year and admired her faith, relational prowess, confidence, and strength. She was the woman we all wanted to be around – To learn from and laugh with. I secretly longed to know her and for her to know me.

And not just the me everyone else saw, but the me hidden under layers of hurt and secrets. I wanted her to pray for me, love me, and cover me with truth. I wanted to trust her, and for her to trust me.

Invitations for conversation over tea would become more of a norm over the next few years, as would chats in her office and walks around campus. She asked me hard questions and seemed genuinely interested in the answers. We kept in touch as she moved from singleness to married life and transitioned out of vocational ministry when pregnant with her son.

The life lessons Sue taught by simply allowing me to come alongside her were invaluable, as were the things I’ve learned and gained from other mentors in each season of change. There were teachers who invited me to babysit and stay for dinner during tumultuous and broken teenage years, Bible Study leaders who patiently answered my many questions in an effort to draw me closer to the Lord, and a pastor turned sister who has mentored me for over a decade. My life has been blessed by more experienced women coaching, instructing, listening, and challenging me along the way.

This is why I believe so deeply in the power of mentoring relationships and why I seek to come alongside others in their journey to Christ-centered wholeness.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in the process:

1. Be brave 

Mentorship begins with boldness. See someone in your church community, Bible study or school social circle you’d like to meet with and learn from? Ask them! It might feel scary, but the worst that can happen is they say no or not now. Just think of the fruit that may come if they say YES!  I think it’s worth the risk.

And to those of you being asked, please don’t shy away from the opportunity and responsibility. Women are longing for your wisdom. Share it. Let them watch you and learn from you.

Do you know the Word well? Teach it! Read scripture together and model your study strategies.

Do you have the steadfast patience of Job in difficult circumstances? Allow someone going through a rough season to see how you do it. Tell them about your journey to deep, sustaining faith and let them be a firsthand witness to the Lord’s strength in you.

Have you raised children? Great! Share what you’ve learned and experienced with a mom of little ones who’s still knee-deep in the trenches, or one who is battling the teenage years.

I understand the fear and trepidation that comes with trying to fit one more thing into an already full schedule (really, I do), or the anxiety associated with believing you have little to give (yup, major hold-up here). Just know this: There is no prescribed method and you can create a relationship with expectations that work for both of you.

2. Be flexible and creative

When I was a young mom I often chatted with my mentor Vicky when she was driving. I’d put the phone on speaker mode and make lunch, wash dishes, or fold laundry while we talked. Before our relationship evolved into a more natural one, we had monthly scheduled meetings that included legitimate homework and tools to help hone my leadership and ministry skills.

During what I refer to as my striving season, Kim and I laid on the couch and listened to worship music or read scripture out loud because she knew it was just what I needed. She’d check-in throughout the week to make sure I hadn’t added more to my already overflowing plate, and came over to help me make chili and cornbread as we puttered around my messy kitchen reflecting on how best to balance (or get rid of) the expectations I’d placed on myself.

Fast-forward a few years and I’ve found myself in more of a mentoring role. I may visit a young mom and sit on her living room floor to chat and pray while her babies play and crawl around us. Sometimes we just text – unable to find a time that works, but unwilling to lose touch.

Morning walks or coffee dates are my current go-to for engaging with young women – The added bonus is that they know the BEST quaint cafes and have introduced me to some of the cutest spots in the city. My current role in women’s ministry allows opportunities for valuable time with sweet millennials, even if just for a quick one-time meeting at my counter, over coffee, or for a quick lunch.  They have SO much to offer, and I always leave more enriched and filled than when I came.

There doesn’t always have to be a schedule or process – Just a willingness to engage, grow, and be used. Go ahead and get creative!  The possibilities for getting together and learning from one another are truly endless.

3. Get real 

When beginning a mentoring relationship, be honest about your fear, time limitations, and even expectations. In a more organic relationship these conversations may come about more naturally, but they’re essential to sustaining ones that are more systematic and planned.

Once a rhythm and trust is established, I’ve found that the deepest growth comes when both people in the mentoring relationship are open and aware of their weaknesses. All of my mentors have been beautiful fruit-bearers whose lives testify to their faith and walk with the Lord, but they don’t pretend to be perfect. I love and admire that about them. My greatest lessons were learned when they shared dark moments, sad times, “not-knowing,” and even personal struggles – All the while believing God would give them the strength to overcome. The best mentors are aware of their inability and serve out of a deep-assurance that Jesus really is their everything.

4. Pray (out loud)

No, really. Do it. I didn’t understand or value the power of praying out loud for people until I was mentored. When Sue asked how she could pray for me, she actually DID IT. Immediately after I answered.

Vicky always ended our Wednesday afternoon calls with heartfelt prayer for me – Right there over the phone while I paced back and forth across the hardwood floor with open hands accepting her intercession.

It was and continues to be the most powerful part of our relationship – Inviting God into the mess or praising Him for provision. So now I do it, too. Anywhere and at anytime. Because that’s what they modeled, and my greatest hope is that the women I love and mentor will benefit from laying everything at His feet the same way they taught me to.

5. It’s OK to end it 

Not even the best things last forever, and some (likely most) mentorships involve a season. When Kim agreed to meet with me, we knew I needed her skill and gift for a time – That when I had grown, changed, and developed the necessary skills to be more patient with my children and stop the unnecessary striving (spoiler alert – It’s all about a relationship with Jesus and staying in the Word), she would begin the necessary process with someone else. It’s not that we stopped loving or liking each other – She will always remain a cherished part of my life and I’m forever grateful for her influence – But her call was to mentor many women in the ways of Christ. It would have been selfish for me to hold on to her for longer than necessary.

The same is true for Sue. Her role on campus ensured she had dozens of mentees, and she continues to mentor women in her role as a counselor and lay-minister even today. I was blessed to have her for a time, and while I still love seeing her and count it a joy to talk on the phone or touch base online, Sue has other women to attend to. Her role was to guide me in my college years and I’m so very thankful she did.

Sometimes, mentor partnerships just don’t work out. You may have had different expectations, values, or learn that you don’t connect the way you thought you would. It’s ok. Really it is. Love each other anyway, appreciate the lessons you learned, grow from the experience, and find someone else.

Because here’s the thing, I’m a living testimony to the transformation that occurs through mentoring relationship. They work, friends. Really they do, and I want you to benefit from them as much as I have.

Fast-Forward

It’s been 24 years since I first met with Sue in her cozy basement suite. We talked on the phone the night I was writing this article and she prayed for me (out loud) and offered the sweetest encouragement (along with some much-needed guidance).  We don’t get to see each other much anymore, but I’m forever grateful for the influence she’s had over me.

And If you ever find yourself at my house for an impromptu or scheduled chat, I’ll likely offer a tea basket filled with a myriad of options, light a candle, and make sure there are plenty of blankets by the sofa.

For His glory –

Lisa

 

About the Author: Lisa DaSilva is a wife, mom of two teenagers, and advocate for women to love God with their heart, soul and mind as they engage in responsible study of His Word.  

Lisa is a teacher by trade and passion, voice for the marginalized, recovering striver, and lover of simplicity, authenticity, and all things pretty. She enjoys thrift store shopping and often has to convince people she’s an introvert.  Just a loud one.

Lisa loves the local church and is proud to call Summit View Community Church in Vancouver, WA home.

Loving Jesus and making Him known really is her everything.  

 

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Comments

  1. Sweet Lisa…there are tears in my eyes as I write this! Your words humble me and fill my heart with deep gratitude for the privilege that Jesus gave me to “hang out” with you. You were (and are) an amazing woman. Another joy of mentoring is that the Mentor also receives so much from those they meet with. God has used YOU to encourage me! I’m so thrilled to see God use you and your gifts to honour Him! That’s what life is about eh?!
    Big Blessings to you and your team as you come alongside women cheering them on to love Jesus with open and whole hearts!
    I love you sweet friend,
    Sue

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