What Happens When You Don’t Serve Fluff on a Platter
Lessons learned from the first year of a women’s mentoring ministry
Our leadership team has learned a few lessons after one year of prayer, preparation, and leadership training; a successful launch of a women’s mentoring ministry at our church; and one year of mentoring through small groups. I’d like to share these lessons with you:
1. Trust God. Establishing and sustaining any ministry is a consistent exercise in faith and reliability on the Lord. It is a process. We give ourselves room to fail and grace to try again. We encourage each other on the journey.
2. Less is more. Some of our groups have eight mentees, but we are starting to believe that six is a more manageable number if the mentor truly wants to build relationships with the mentees, intercede in prayer, and serve them well. In his book Mentor Like Jesus, Regi Campbell suggests that if Jesus discipled only 12 and one of them was a bad egg, we certainly should be discipling no more than that at any one time.
3. Mentoring is not for everybody. Establishing a ministry in this manner could be a culture shock for you and others in your church. Pray a lot. Seek the counsel and support of your church leaders. Educate and train your leaders. Equip them with the right information. Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more. Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but you can never over-communicate when starting something new and radical.
After you have sought the Lord and presented the opportunity, some women will embrace it and others will not. If women are not ready to commit, it is better that they not join a group. Those who fully commit have testimonies, like this one from a woman in the first year of our mentoring ministry: “The women in my group have begun to develop a sense of unity in Christ. We are sharing our hurts and our triumphs in a Christian environment that feels safe and supportive. I believe we are drawing on Christ's strength and love through one another. It is a joy to have a place to offer support and be supported as well.”
However, mentoring and discipleship are for everybody. I have no doubt about that. At the same time, the way that I have outlined is not the only way to do it. Therefore, don’t pressure women to commit if they simply are not ready, and be sensitive to where they are on their spiritual journey. When they are ready, welcome them with open arms.
4. Radical mentoring means women start to develop a biblical Christian worldview. We don’t tell them that initially. It sounds a bit academic (too seminary-like) and in the opinions of some, therefore of no earthly good. The bottom line: in today’s culture, women need a biblical Christian worldview like never before. There are too many lies masquerading as the truth, yet it is not enough for women (or men for that matter) to simply know the Word and quote Scriptures. They also must be able to apply the truth of Scripture to their daily lives. Theology requires both head and heart knowledge, being both hearers and doers of God’s Word. Once we learn this truth, our eyes are opened forever.
We don’t tell the women what to think; rather, we challenge them to ask why. We ask a lot of questions and provide them with the resources to find their way. If they seek guidance and counsel, we gently nudge them in the right direction. If they are headed down the wrong path, like a good shepherd, we bring them back. It has been interesting for me to see women discover that the pursuit of God can be a challenge and that is okay (better than okay actually).
As one mentee said, “From the start of my group, there was a sense of bonding, being real, and soul searching. We immediately begin to bare our hearts by praying for each other. Even after the first group gathering, there was excitement to hear how God was working to answer prayers in each person’s life.”
When women approach me and tell me they are struggling through the reading, I often smile and say, “Good.” Then I remind them that Jacob received his blessing after he wrestled with the angel of the Lord all night long (Genesis 32:22-32). Much of what we find in the Bible and in life is quite difficult, and sometimes we need to wrestle with God.
5. When you don’t serve fluff on a platter, women start to discover who they are in Christ Jesus. They start to depend less on their emotions and stand on the Word of God, believe what God says about who they are, and see themselves as God sees them. When I questioned women concerning feedback from one of the reading resources, I started hearing responses like “I am a theologian! I didn’t know that before.” They have also discovered that they are God’s image bearers (Genesis 1:26-27), a reflection of God’s glory on earth, and they have a responsibility to actively take care of all the earth and its inhabitants by partnering with our brothers. Not only that, they have discovered that we are ezer-warriors (Genesis 2:18), the Greek word for strong “helpers”—God’s answer to the problem of man’s aloneness and an agent of change to advance his kingdom forward.
They start to see themselves as friends of God (John 15:15), daughters of the King of the universe, and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:15-17a). Knowing and believing the truth changes everything! It is my hope that as a result of this ministry, women will no longer be suppressed by who the world says we are, who the church sometimes traditionally says we have to be, or how we measure up against another sister or brother. Imparting women with the truth of God’s Word has provided love, freedom, and validation because of the work that Christ has already done on our account!
Women are starting to see themselves as spiritual warriors in God’s military. They start to win spiritual battles in their minds, through the truth of God’s Word and by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the words of one mentee, “Through this ministry, God was preparing me for the battle but I just didn’t know it. I chose to believe the testimony that God is good and on the throne; otherwise, I wouldn’t have made it.”
6. When we mentor like Jesus, women start to value the diversity within the community of believers and seek to build up the church and community as a whole. We have opportunities to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Mentors and mentees learn from each other, and peer-to-peer mentoring also takes place. The breadth of experiences and God’s hand at work in our individual lives enhance the body, encourage our testimonies, and strengthen our faith (1 Corinthians 12–13). Most important, the women are learning the truth of James 5:16: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (NIV). Intercessory prayer is an invaluable part of the mentoring group’s time together, and women are experiencing freedom, healing, and strength at the mighty hand of the Lord.
What are some lessons you have learned concerning mentoring and discipleship?
Natasha Sistrunk Robinson serves as co-director (along with Nikki Kober) of the Women’s Mentoring Ministry at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is the founder, writer, and speaker for His Glory on Earth Ministries, a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, and a full-time student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Connect with Natasha through her blog, Twitter, or Facebook.