whether or not Your lips move

You speak to me

our intergenerational mentoring prayer group January 11, 2011

For the past several months at work, I’ve been helping to coordinate a group of exquisitely awesome women in group settings in hopes that we each would find a prayer partner mentor/mentee. (Not manatee. Mentee is the best word I have found, but would love a better one if there is one!) The women involved are aged anywhere from their early 20’s through their 60’s. It has been really incredible to see how God has worked.

MAKING THE CONNECTION
I’ve been asked how to pair people up in mentoring relationships. And truly I don’t think a relationship of this sort can be “made.” It can be helped along and facilitated. But it has to happen naturally or it won’t be effective. (I’m talking about mentoring relationships that are personal in nature; for a career type mentoring relationship, assigned pairs might work if the manager really knows his/her people well.) My feeling is, people who follow Jesus know how to listen for His voice. They know when He’s tugging at their heart to talk to this person… to go to this place… to do this thing. Even if it has been a relatively short time that they’ve been in relationship with God, they heard Him calling to them to begin with. So I really feel that given the freedom and opportunity, most women know when God is drawing them into a friendship with another woman.

To be fair, I have seen assigned personal mentoring work, but it was because the “assigner” had such an intimate knowledge of all the people involved and could really discern who would fit best with whom. But as a general observation, those who naturally  feel connected with their mentor or mentee are much more likely to stay engaged and vulnerable over the course of the relationship. And it is also important that this feeling is mutual.

CREATING THE ENVIRONMENT
I like keeping things simple. For our large group times, we haven’t done any decorating or catered any food. Everyone knows to bring their lunch and join us. (We did do a Thanksgiving/Christmas potluck-style lunch, and it was a huge hit.) We start at 11:30 and end at 12:30 (unless individuals want to stay on longer to keep praying or move to another part of the building to talk). We might have some music playing in the background. The environment doesn’t need to be flashy; it just needs to be comfortable.

With our group at work, we have some really spectacular girls involved who are gifted at creating activities that help break the ice. They’ve put together some amazing group activities for us to do that we call– wait for it– ice breakers. Anything from a bingo game to a spin on the speed dating concept. Everything centers around getting women face to face with something to talk about that helps them get to know each other. The questions have ranged from “What department do you work in” to “What is your favorite childhood memory.” The questions are balanced in that they are disarming and comfortable, yet also open the door for much deeper conversation.

One thing that has been great to hear in our feedback is that even those who are more introverted have felt very comfortable with the ice breaker conversation times.

PRAYING TOGETHER
So, we’ve taken these ice breaker activities and done them with our group of ladies. At the end of the ice breaker activity (usually about 20 minutes or so), I then have asked them all to follow the Spirit’s lead and get into a small group to pray. The first gathering we broke into small groups of 3 or 4. The gathering after that, groups of 2 or 3. It brings such joy to my heart to see the “older” women taking such an intentional interest in the “younger” women. It brings tears to my eyes to see how earnestly the “younger” women are seeking out the “older” women. Many times at our gatherings I’ve had the privilege of standing back and watching the pairs praying together, praying over all of them… seeing some lifting their faces to the Father in joy… seeing some wiping away tears… all communing with God together in His presence.

MENTORING PRAYER PARTNERS
So far, of our 30-40 women who have been to a large group time, we’ve had about 8 pairs commit to each other. The logistics of each pair’s mentoring relationship outside our big group gatherings is unique. How each pair prays together, how often they get together, what they do together– all of that is up to that pair of women. Chances are by now they know they’ve got some things in common, and since they’re convinced the Holy Spirit brought them together for this purpose they feel the freedom to let Him continue guiding their friendship. If they want to get together every morning for breakfast and prayer, they will. If coffee once a month and lots of emails and texts in between is what works for their schedules, they go for it. I don’t know of any doing Bible studies together yet, but obviously that would be a possibility if they wanted. And we all continue getting together in our prayer partner lunches for more ice breakers and prayer time together as a group. Those who have already paired up are welcome to continue on their own if they want to, but so far the majority have really enjoyed still getting together in the large group.

I’m excited to see where God takes us all next. I’m excited to hear the stories of answered prayers and of burdens shared (and I really didn’t mean for that to rhyme). We’ll weep together and we’ll rejoice together. We’ll be the church. And eventually, the women who are ‘mentees’ will be in the role of mentor for other women, as they continue to learn from those who have gone ahead of them. And it will continue to multiply. And isn’t that discipleship?

How about you? What have you seen work when it comes to helping people form mentoring relationships? What have you experienced that hasn’t worked?

Related:
The Biblical Model of Mentoring

The Need for Mentoring in Today’s Church: An Appeal to the Older Generations

 

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Grandma’s Bible August 19, 2010

Last night my mom gave me a gem of a keepsake: my grandmother’s Bible.

You can just barely read her name down there in the righthand corner: Ruth Kees.

Immediately I noticed my grandmother and I had something in common when it comes to our Bibles–we like to write in them. Pages were falling out in several places from wear, with theological notes like “Christophany here” and personal notes like “always trust.” The first several pages have what seem to be signatures from people with verse references; we think maybe these were friends or professors from Bible school.

"The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you."

On these pages, in addition to the signatures, she wrote several meaningful statements and a poem.

She wrote, “The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you,” and “Adversity tests the value of a friend.”

I can’t find the original writer of the poem she has here, but it reads:

Were all the earth a parchment made
And every man a scribe by trade,
Could we with ink the ocean fill
Were every blade of grass a quill,
To write the love of God
Would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky.

"The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed"

These must have been from her days in Bible college. (Grandma had an invitation to be an opera singer at the Metropolitan Opera in New York but decided to go to Moody Bible College instead; this is where she met Grandpa.) One inscription on this page gives the date of Grandma’s commitment to follow Jesus: July 1932. She would have been 10.

"To get the far away vision is the only cure for the creeping blindness."

On this page Grandma wrote,

A task without a vision makes a drudge.
A vision without a task makes a visionary.
A task and a vision makes a missionary.

This must have been around the time she realized she was going to be a missionary. She and Grandpa served in Costa Rica shortly after they were enrolled at Moody. A statement similar to this is found in a few different layman’s missionary guides and partially attributed to a “President Mullins” at the National Congress of Missions in Chicago in 1910.

I can’t find a source for the other statement, “To get the far away vision is the only cure for the creeping blindness.” Grandma was a poet, lyricist, and songwriter, so she may have written this herself. Will probably have to write a blog post on this soon.

Another inscription tells us how and when she got the Bible– her mother gave it to her on her 16th birthday in 1938.

I can’t wait to go through it more to see the notes she wrote in the margins and which verses she underlined. These may give me even more clues and glimpses into her spiritual life.

I have a very similar Bible that I can’t wait to have passed on to my kids and grandkids. I hope it will tell them a little about me and my walk with God.

 

Mentoring: Practical Ideas for Getting Started January 27, 2010

Filed under: mentoring,relationship with God — Ash @ 3:42 pm
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Mentoring doesn’t have to be a big, scary time commitment or even just going through a Bible study (though obviously there is nothing wrong with time commitments and Bible studies!). Mentoring is life on life. Think about how Jesus mentored: He spent several years in close contact, took opportunity of “teachable moments,” accepted people’s flaws while also challenging them, and most of all, loved. I know Jesus is our example and model and He was perfect. But thankfully ANYONE can mentor. You were made to invest yourself in others. You can do it!

Things to remember:

  • Be real, open, honest, authentic, transparent, and genuine in your interactions.
  • Don’t be overwhelmed with the number of people who need a mentor. Pray, watch, and ask just one younger person to hang out now and then (ideas below).
  • Pay attention to your heart. If a young person’s situation or life story really tugs at you or you have a shared experience or interest, this may be the Holy Spirit telling you that he/she is the one to approach.
  • Whenever possible, try to see each other face-to-face within your natural settings. Be open to and utilize other forms of communication but try to actually spend time together.
  • It might take some time for you to reach a level of relationship in which the younger person feels comfortable to share his/her struggles. Others may start sharing from the very beginning. Be flexible and seek the Holy Spirit’s leading.
  • Know when it’s time to refer someone for professional help.
  • You will have to accept the fact that you might be rejected. Please, please don’t give up. God has certain individuals who need YOU to invest in them.
  • Be loving. Love, love, and love some more.

 

Ideas for those 65 and up

  • Find a church in the area that seems to be geared mainly toward young people and attend frequently. They need your presence there more than they might realize.
  • Recent surveys are showing that the younger generations (those under 30 specifically) are very open to your generation’s genuine involvement in their lives.
  • If there are things about technology that you have questions about, ask a young person. Chances are he/she will be more than happy to spend time with you to show you how to use something.
  • Have a young person over for dinner. Nothing beats a home-cooked meal.
  • Share your stories. You’ve lived through things younger people have only read about in history books. Give them your thoughts and memories on these events and how they affected your life.
  • Share your hobbies and offer to teach young people how to do them. The younger generations are also extremely open to learning things like how to change the oil in a car, how to make clothes, and so on.
  • Some young people will seem resistant to communication on the phone and will want to communicate via email, Facebook, or text. Try not to take it personally; what they are really looking for is time face-to-face.
  • Do one activity or go one place that is out of the norm for you, but is familiar for the young person. Then do something together that is out of his/her norm.
  • Send a handwritten note or card. Young people hardly ever get these.
  • Pray together.

 

Ideas for those 50-64

  • Find a church in your area that seems to be attracting mostly younger people (if yours isn’t already). Look for needs among young parents, for instance, and offer to help.
  • Talk about music. Seriously. Recent surveys have found that you probably have more similar musical tastes with the younger generations than you might have thought.
  • Recent surveys are showing that the younger generations (those under 30 specifically) are very open to your generation’s genuine involvement in their lives.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your life stories. Young people want to hear them—especially the ones that might not always be “neat and tidy.” Share your mistakes and how you learned from them.
  • Share your hobbies and offer to teach young people how to do them. The younger generations are also extremely open to learning things like how to cook, how to change the oil in a car, and so on.
  • Nothing beats a good cup of coffee, so offer to have a younger person over to your home or to meet up at a coffee shop.
  • Some young people will seem resistant to communication on the phone and will want to communicate via email, Facebook, or text. Try not to take it personally; what they are really looking for is time face-to-face.
  • Do one activity or go one place that is out of the norm for you, but is familiar for the young person. Then do something together that is out of his/her norm.
  • Do some service projects together.
  • Pray together.

 

Ideas for those 30-49

  • Talk about music. Thanks to trends like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, those younger than you may totally dig the bands you grew up with.
  • Seek out newlyweds, new parents, or any other young persons who are in some sort of transition period. Find out what their practical needs are and meet them.
  • Find common interests and have a blast hanging out together. This can be anything from riding roller coasters to crocheting to shooting at the range to walking around the mall.
  • Talk about what your life was like growing up. Share stories and don’t leave out your mistakes; younger people will be very open to learning from your mistakes.
  • Spend time with each other’s families if you can. Let the younger person see how you interact with your family on a day-to-day basis and take opportunities to include him/her in your normal schedule. For instance, invite him/her to ride with you while you take your kids to gymnastics or swim lessons.
  • Do some service projects together.
  • Pray together.

 

Younger generations: Add to the conversation! What are some things you would like to do with a mentor at first?

Older generations: Help us out! What are some things that have worked (or not worked) for you as you seek to mentor?

 

The Need for Mentoring in Today’s Church: An Appeal to the Older Generations June 25, 2009

Filed under: mentoring — Ash @ 2:03 pm
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(NOTE: this is from a paper with my own research that I wrote for my mentoring and coaching class at the Oxford Graduate School. I hope to publish some variations of it in a couple of magazines.)

I’d been in similar situations many times before. This time, I was sitting in an ice cream shop with several coworkers when the topic of mentoring came up. I was the youngest one at the table (and also the only female) and seized the opportunity to encourage the others that the younger generations actually are quite open to the idea of being mentored by older adults. “This must be an ‘in-your-twenties’ trendy thing,” one of them said. “My daughter is always going on about the same thing.” I used that to support my case but assured him it isn’t just another fad. Another of them stated wryly, “Well, I really don’t think anyone in their right mind would want me to mentor them.” I tried to reason with him that as long as he was being real with a mentee, he would appreciate any time and effort he had to invest.

These are some of the varying reactions that I’ve received from more mature adults when I tell them people under 35 are very interested in being mentored. Perhaps I am too idealistic, but I’ve been quite surprised at the incredulity some have expressed. It has been difficult to not interpret this as unwillingness and to instead see that possibly some older adults, for whatever reasons, simply lack the self-confidence to view themselves as mentors. I also believe that perhaps the fierce independence of a small percentage of the younger generations (as in, those young, rich, and famous) has overshadowed the majority thread running through us—the desire for community and relationship.

While there is a dire need for mentoring in every area of society in this day and age, this paper will focus on the immediate need for developing mentoring relationships within the Church. As Christ’s ambassadors to the world and as one body with many members, we should be setting the standard for mentoring and life-investment. Other social arenas should be able to look at the Church and say, “Wow. What they are doing is working. How do we get what they have?” Sadly, this is not the case in the majority of today’s American churches.

What exactly do I mean when I use the term “mentoring”? For the purposes of this paper, I will define mentoring as a committed, growing discipleship relationship between two persons for the purposes of both parties’ spiritual and personal maturation, with a focus on the mentee’s needs as primary and the goal being the mentee’s preparation for mentoring others who will mentor others. In many contexts the mentoring relationship may come to a close eventually. However, the mentor may always be involved in the mentee’s life in some form or fashion, as the mentee becomes a mentor him/herself.

Is mentoring in the church really necessary? Absolutely. If I may be so bold, I would like to propose that mentoring in its purest form is disciple-making, and as followers of Christ we are called to be and make disciples. Jesus had a group of twelve disciples, from whom He drew three as special companions. Paul had a special “father-child” relationship with Timothy. Peter had a close friendship with Mark. Each of the early disciples must have passed on Christ’s teaching and lifestyle in intentional yet organic ways. Otherwise, could the essence of Christ-following have been lost to history? Thankfully that isn’t a question to which we need to give much time or thought. The first disciples made other disciples—they mentored, and here we are today. But the church today doesn’t really look like it did back then… or does it?

What are young adults today looking for in a mentoring relationship? It’s pretty simple. We are looking for those who have gone before us in some aspect of life, who have made some mistakes and are willing to be honest about them so we can learn from them. We are drawn to those who are authentic, and we can see through “fake” in a nanosecond. Young adults want to be wanted and wouldn’t mind if you might need us to teach you a thing or two (most would love to show you how to use an iPod and get you a Facebook account if you want one!). A young adult does not need someone who wants to make decisions for her, but instead someone who will take the time to teach her how to make the best decisions possible in everyday life.

Young adults love getting to know other people, really getting to know them, hearing their stories, finding things we have in common, enjoying differences, and learning from one another. The hard part for members of the older generations is getting past the younger generations’ “hard candy shell”. You see, many of us came from broken homes and don’t really know what it means to have a healthy marriage, let alone a healthy dating life or how to have truly healthy relationships. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re a bit scared that we’ll mess up our kids, if we ever have any. Many of us grew up in Sunday school but got sick of the hypocrisy of “church people” and swore we’d never become like that. (Some of us took that a bit too far and decided we can do without church at all.) We can be a bit jaded and a bit suspicious of those who want to tell us what to do and how to live our lives. However, if you find yourself being particularly drawn to one of us for some reason or another, we would really love it if you were brave and just started talking with us. Ask us to go to lunch, dinner, or coffee. If we shoot you down the first time, pray about it, and try again if you’re led. Basically, don’t give up on us. We’re used to people giving up on us, so if you don’t, that will really speak volumes to us. And honestly, we need someone to model to us what a true, loving commitment is. You just might be that person.

I created an online survey to see if I could get some feedback on different sorts of things people 35 and younger are looking for in a mentor. I collected responses entirely online via e-mail and Facebook and got a total of 335 responses. When asked to choose what sorts of things they would like to do with a mentor, the top three responses were: 90.3% “Have casual conversation;” 81% “Self-evaluation and improvement;” and 74% “Hold me accountable.” The remaining responses (ranked in descending order) were “Pray,” “Study the Bible,” “Career and job coaching,” and “Service projects.” Several wrote in that they would like mentoring in the area of marriage and parenting, making academic choices, and just life in general. I think this shows that a mentoring relationship with a younger adult is not as intimidating as it might seem.

Of the 335 surveyed, 175 said they have had a mentor at some point in their lives. However, 52% of these 175 currently do not have a mentor at all. Those surveyed also had an opportunity to tell me how they would feel about someone older than them asking them to be their mentor, and 298 responded to the question. 92% said they would be open to someone 10 years older than them asking to be their mentor. 87% said they would be open to someone 20 years older than them asking to be their mentor.

It wasn’t a question on the survey, but I only had one person write in that he or she would rather be the one to initiate a mentoring relationship. I think this shows a great openness on the part of younger people to mentoring, but may put a lot of responsibility on you as an older adult that you didn’t realize you had (and that you may not even want right now!).

Many Christ-following adults in the older generations may find themselves in a challenging situation when it comes to finding younger adults to mentor. Recent LifeWay Research studies reveal that about 70% of church-attending teenagers will leave the church by age 23, and 34% of those surveyed had not returned at all by age 30 (Grossman, 2007). Ideally, the mentoring relationship begins organically, with the older adult and the younger adult being mutually drawn to each other by things such as common interests or spending time in the same locations. But with fewer young adults in traditional churches, older adults may not have as many natural opportunities to reach out to younger adults and may have to be a little more creative in their pursuits. In many larger cities, there will be “younger” communities of faith such as church plants or “emergent” churches that are mainly made up of adults under the age of 40 (or in some cases, even younger). While an older adult may feel extremely out of place in a group like this, these are precisely the people who will need him or her the most. Other mentoring opportunities may present themselves in campus ministries, outreach to international students, mother’s day out programs, and even the local coffee shop.

As for my own experience with mentoring, my life would have taken a drastically different path if not for the godly women in my life who were determined to pass on a passion for mentoring and disciple-making. My mentors have lovingly served me as spiritual parents, confidants, counselors, career coaches, and friends. None of them have had any special training in mentoring; they have simply been themselves. They have been honest with me even when it hurts, have admonished me, have encouraged me, and have believed in me.

I hope some of this paper has helped readers realize that mentoring doesn’t have to be a programmatic, stuffy experience, but instead can be a natural progression of an intentional relationship. I know I am asking a lot of you. But I hope that you can see the eternal value of mentoring the younger generations. I don’t think you need any convincing that we’re getting to a critical point in American history when it comes to family, relationships, faith, and community. If mentoring is discipleship, you have been mandated by Christ to be an active participant. I hope you answer the call.

References

Grossman, C. L. (2007, August 6). Young adults aren’t sticking with church. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2007-08-06-church-dropouts_N.htm.