Mentoring as a way of life
Our church has had a mentoring program for a number of years now. When the young people reach a certain age they are paired up, if they wish, with an older adult who spends time with them and helps them through some of the rough spots most teens encounter while growing up.
Our conference also has a mentoring program. Dubbed “Ministry Quest,” it is designed to help young people discern their leadership and ministry gifts. Young people who feel the Lord may be calling them into ministry are invited to meet with a mentor (either a pastor or another adult in the church) on a weekly basis to study Scripture and other materials together to facilitate the growth of spiritual disciplines. The youth spend time at MB Biblical Seminary, Fresno, meeting the faculty and getting a taste of seminary life. The second half of the program also incorporates a summer short-term ministry assignment.
Biblical examples of mentoring abound. Paul mentored Timothy, calling him “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2); Samuel “ministered before the Lord under Eli the priest” (1 Samuel 2:11). Elijah anointed Elisha to follow him as prophet and “[Elisha] set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant” (1 Kings 19:21). Paul instructs older women “to be reverent in the way they live… Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children… “(Titus 2:3-4). And Jesus, of course, mentored and taught His disciples for three years.
This past Christmas I noticed that Mary, the mother of Jesus, also had a mentor. After the Annunciation by Gabriel, Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth, too, was pregnant unexpectedly, and when she heard Mary’s greeting, “the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!.. . Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!’“ (Luke 1:42-45). Scripture continues, saying, “Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home” (Luke 1:56).
One cannot help but think that during this time the two women, one young, engaged to be married and pregnant, and the other too old to be having children, but also pregnant, will have spent a lot of time talking about what had happened to them, and what would happen to them. Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron, “upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly” (Luke 1:6). Because of her qualifications and lineage, she will have been able to teach Mary things about the Law and prophecies which, as a poor peasant girl, she would likely not have known and about what this change in her life would mean. Later in Luke it states, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (2:19) and again “His mother treasured all these things in her heart” (2:51).
Mary had learned to accept what was happening to her, and was able to assimilate this into her life. Elizabeth was willing to be used as a mentor. She accepted that challenge.
Mentors are important. By example and by teaching they can help others, usually younger people, learn what the Scriptures say, and how this can be integrated into their lives.
Mentoring relationships are needed. Sometimes they can be informal arrangements; other times they can be arranged with specific people for specific times. Sometimes people ask to be mentored. Other times an older person may see the need for mentoring and offer to do it.
Mentoring leads to relationships and any way that relationships in a church can be strengthened should be explored and used.