Over my years serving in local church women’s ministry, I (Winfree) have heard a consistent desire from women of various ages, stages, and life situations—“I want an older woman to mentor me.” It’s a good desire and a model Paul commends in Titus 2:3–5. The difficulty tends to come in how these relationships practically work out.
As younger women, we tend to view mentoring as a one-way street. The older woman pours into me. I come to her with questions and burdens, and she responds with wisdom and prayer. If we’re honest, some of us approach older women like a godly, in-person Google search or an on-demand counselor. But this approach won’t only rob us of much of the beauty of sharing life with an older woman—it may also push her away.
Of course, it’s not bad to ask a mentor questions. When I have time with the older woman who has informally mentored me for years, you can be sure I take the opportunity to ask for advice. But I’ve learned as much (or more) over the years by asking her about her life as I have by asking her about mine. Mentoring relationships work best when we approach them as a shared responsibility—an opportunity to grow together.
How to Be a Mentee
That’s exactly how my mentor, Melissa Kruger, describes it in her book on the subject. If you’re a younger woman longing for this kind of relationship, a good place to start is considering how you can be a good mentee.
In the following excerpt from Growing Together: Taking Mentoring Beyond Small Talk and Prayer Requests, Melissa explains five ways a younger woman can actively participate in the mentoring relationship and honor the older woman who’s walking with her.
Mentoring relationships work best when we approach them as a shared responsibility—an opportunity to grow together.
1. Be faithful.
Whatever you’ve decided to study or read, be faithful to complete the assignments. Your mentor is offering you her time, energy, and care. You’ll only grow as much as you put into the relationship. Don’t skip the time with her because something more fun appears on your social calendar. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. As one of my mentors used to say, “You don’t drift toward holiness.” Choose to be faithful in this relationship, knowing it’s a blessing in your life. Be on time, show up, and be thankful.
2. Be active, not passive.
Be active, not passive, in the mentoring process. Don’t assume your mentor will always know exactly what you need. Think through what you’d like to ask her and bring questions to your time together. When you’re having a hard day, let her know and ask her to pray for you. When you’re faced with a difficult decision, ask her advice. Invite her into your life and listen to the wisdom she has to offer.
3. Be honest and humble.
You don’t have to hide your struggles from your mentor. Be honest. Confess when you’ve sinned and ask for help. When your mentor provides accountability and offers insight into sin patterns, listen with humility. It may be difficult to hear, but be willing to receive her advice and correction. Proverbs reminds us, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6). Her accountability is a kindness (even though it may be painful at times) and will help you grow together in godliness.
4. Be caring and understanding.
It’s important to find ways to care for and encourage the woman mentoring you. She’s facing struggles of her own. Even though her life may look orderly and together, she probably feels overwhelmed on many days. When you call to ask for help, make sure to ask her how she’s doing. When she’s having a difficult day, stop by with her favorite coffee or some flowers. Write her a note, letting her know how her words of advice have helped you. Be considerate and caring toward her, knowing she has her own defeats, struggles, insecurities, and hardships.
5. Be prayerful.
Your mentor needs your prayers just as you need hers. Each time you meet, ask her how you can pray for her. My intern asks me to share my rose, bud, and thorn from the past week or two. My rose is something good that’s happened, my bud is something I’m looking forward to, and my thorn is something difficult I’m facing. This simple activity has allowed me to share parts of my life with her that I might not have taken the time to share if she hadn’t asked. I’ve felt so cared for in our times together to know she’s praying for me in these areas.
When you call to ask for help, make sure to ask her how she’s doing.
As you meet with your mentor, I encourage you to continue to grow in every other way you can. You’ll be amazed at how the Lord will meet you as you hear the Word preached, share in communion, listen in Sunday school, spend time studying the Bible, and serve faithfully in your church. God will providentially arrange these various areas in surprising ways that will collectively help to grow your faith.