I sat down in my chair that Sunday morning feeling like I had just run a marathon. I was weary to my very bones. I was struggling hard to balance life with a 6-month-old and a toddler, a full-time ministry, and all the other responsibilities of life. Just getting out the door to go to church that day felt like an epic battle. In fact, every day I had to fight to make it to bedtime without having an emotional breakdown.
The struggle I was feeling inside must have been evident because, at the end of worship, a lady named Pam approached me. “You look like you need to talk. Come with me.” She gently helped me out of my chair and walked me to a quiet room with comfortable couches. I gratefully slumped into one of them as tears began to spring from my eyes. Pam handed me a box of tissue and lovingly asked me what was wrong.
The words all came tumbling out, “I don’t know how other moms do this, but I am struggling to give everyone the attention they need, clean the house, and keep up on the laundry. How did you do it?”
Pam looked me square in the eyes and said, “When I was in your situation, I had grandparents that lived nearby. They helped me clean. They helped me take care of the kids during worship. They would take the kids to give me a break. Amanda, the reason why you are struggling, is because you have too many unrealistic expectations of yourself. You need to ask for help.”
Pam was the lead pastor’s wife. She was the same age as my parents. I was drawn to Pam because she had already lived the life that I was living. She had done campus ministry with her husband when they were younger. She knew what it was like to raise a family while dealing with the expectations that are a part of being a pastor’s wife. After 30 years of ministry, she had grown to become a woman sold out to God and confident in who she was. She was a simple and straightforward person. She didn’t try to wow people with fancy food, eloquent words, or perfect makeup. Not because she thought those things were wrong, they just weren’t who she was. It was in this simple woman, that I found one of my greatest mentors.
While Pam and I didn’t spend a ton of time together, she was always there to talk when I needed to. And she always had words of straightforward, honest wisdom for me, whether she knew that was what she was giving me or not. She was a perfect example of an older woman, loving and caring for a younger woman, speaking God’s word into my life.
In Titus 2:3-5, Paul tells Titus to encourage the older women of the church to help train the younger women to know what is good. To teach them how to love their children and their husbands well. How to be kind and devoted to the Lord. Throughout the Bible, we see this example of the older mentoring the younger: Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Timothy.
The church becomes most effective in passing on the faith when different generations are involved. A group of researchers at Effective Ministry did a literature review of studies related to intergenerational relationships within the church. They discovered that youth were less likely to leave the church when they were able to interact with adults during regular church times, AND outside of church meeting times. In other words, the faith of the next generation has a better chance of being passed on, when the older take the time to be a part of the younger’s faith development. Paul was on to something when he told Titus to encourage these types of mentoring relationships within the church. Discipling and mentoring relationships are designed to be a part of the DNA of the church.
And we don’t have to wait until we are retired to be a mentor! Anyone at almost any age can pour into and help train those younger. My boys are a perfect example of this.
When my older two kids were in elementary school, there were middle school and high school-age boys in the church that took them under their wing. They helped show my boys how to act in church and how to appropriately have fun. They set an example for my boys of how to pour into those younger than they were.
Now that my older kids are in middle and high school, they naturally have decided to care for the younger boys in our church. They show them how to behave during church and how to follow directions. They teach them how to boldly use their gifts for the glory of God.
The influence of their relationship came into full view one Sunday when one of the 3rd-grade boys at church (we’ll call him Kyle) was asked to read scripture during the church service for the first time. He was very nervous and almost didn’t do it. My husband tried to encourage Kyle, but he just stood there, frozen in fear. Finally, my oldest son walked up to encourage him. He calmly pointed to the words in the Bible and told Kyle he had confidence that he could do it. Bolstered by the encouragement of his friend, Kyle began to read! And once he got started, he did a wonderful job! He did it because he knew his high school buddy believed in him. My son was passing on the courage and love God had given him, to the generation below him as he followed in the footsteps of those high schoolers who had poured into him.
I have heard many people say, they could never be a mentor to someone else. They wouldn’t know what to do. They weren’t smart enough or didn’t know enough to pour wisdom into another person. Is this really true, or do we need to rethink what it means to be a mentor?
If I had asked Pam what it takes to be a mentor, she probably would have told me she didn’t know. Even though I could give lots of examples of people Pam had mentored over the years, she would not have given herself that title. She would have simply said, “I’m not your mentor. I’m your friend.” And she would be right. She gave me valuable insight and spoke God’s word to me. Not because she thought she was smarter than me, but because she saw I had a need, and she loved me. The same with my sons and the younger kids at church. They would consider themselves friends to the younger boys in our church, not their mentors.
Really all it takes to be a mentor and to help pass on the faith to the next generation is a willingness to be a friend to someone younger. To be available to listen and share your life and lessons with them. To tell the story of how God has walked with you.
You don’t have to have all the answers, but through relationships, you can model what a godly life can look like. When we choose to befriend women of different ages in the church, the results can be life-changing and soul-saving.
As Effective Ministry uncovered, when we take the time to build godly relationships within the church, faith is handed down to the next generation, and souls that might have drifted away, find an anchor within the church family.
Look around the groups you are a part of. Look in your church, the moms’ group you are a part of, or the book club you attend. Who do you know that you could begin to befriend that is older than you? How could you make some time to listen to their story? Who do you know who is younger than you that you could bless by befriending? By being in relationship with these people, your own faith will be shaped and you’ll pass on life-giving faith to the next generation.