Mentoring Young Christians Should Be Seen as an Honor, Not a Burden

THEVELVETBIRD / FLICKR
THEVELVETBIRD / FLICKR

“No, I can’t mentor you.”

That was the blunt answer I gave to a wide-eyed young woman four years ago. She came up to me at church with a plan that included meeting at Starbucks every Monday morning.

I added “sorry,” but it didn’t help. Her expression caved. She wanted, needed, longed for attention. Lots of it.

I’ve been to mentoring workshops. I’ve taken on and taken in many young women over the years. I’ve followed the steps in articles I’ve read on mentoring, and here’s my conclusion: I am a terrible mentor.

After serving alongside my husband for 25 years in youth ministry and then as a lay leader for the last decade, I’ve come to understand my strengths and weaknesses quite well. Spending hours listening to people’s problems is not my gift. I’m kind of afraid of needy, self-absorbed women. I’ve been hurt by such women before. I’ve been drained to the last drop and then asked to give more.

Surely I would disappoint this young woman because I wouldn’t be able to show up every week. I wouldn’t have three hours to linger over coffee the way she could since she only worked part time and lived at home. It wasn’t in my heart to try to fulfill her expectations for a mentor/mother/counselor.

Better to say no on the front end, I thought. Avoid the messy stuff.

So why did my “no” bother me so much?

My blunt “no” bristled up against my core belief that we’re called to hospitality in all its various forms. As an “older woman,” I agree with Paul’s admonition in Titus 2:3-5 that I am “to teach what is good, and so train the young women.” But I didn’t want to. As an “older woman” I also feel like I have less energy and fewer hours in the day.

I asked a few of my friends what they thought. Each had a story about being burned in a mentoring relationship. But each of them also had wonderful experiences that made them smile and get teary-eyed. I live in Hawaii, and one of my friends said, “You have to view these young women as your extended ohana (family). Family members drive you crazy, too, you know.”

Another friend softly said, “These young women we spend time with are the future generation of Believers. They are our kuleana.” Her use of the Hawaiian word for “responsibility” went deep. My spirit softened. I knew what she saying.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Robin Jones Gunn

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