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Bridging generations: The essential role of mentorship in the church

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Recently, I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s conference where the diversity of attendees spanned generations. Across the table, I found myself in conversation with two women at different life stages: one fresh out of college and single, the other recently widowed. Despite their disparate circumstances, they shared a common struggle—navigating the challenges of finding an apartment, living alone, and facing the uncertainties of the future.

In every church I’ve served, there has been a recurring desire to establish a mentorship program. However, the term “mentorship” can often evoke feelings of uncertainty as we grapple with questions like, “Am I old enough to be a mentor?” “What if I have never been formally mentored?” “What if I don’t know the answer?” “Why would someone want to learn from me?”

Some prefer to label it as mentoring, others as discipleship, and still others as multi-generational ministry. Yet, the reality is that it encompasses elements of all these concepts. If we fail to intentionally create spaces where women of all ages can connect, learn from each other, and serve alongside one another, we miss out on a significant aspect of God’s design for the Church.

Understanding the Essence of Mentorship

At its core, mentorship is not merely the exchange of information; it embodies the essence of empathy, understanding, and shared experience. Rather than a one-way street of knowledge transfer, mentorship thrives on mutual respect and genuine connection, where mentors and mentees alike find solace, strength, and inspiration in each other’s stories and struggles.

The Importance of Authentic Connections

One common trap in mentorship is the inclination to force connections that lack natural compatibility or chemistry. In my early twenties, I participated in a mentorship program at a church, but truth be told, it left me feeling more frustrated and isolated than empowered. Our conflicting schedules often led to missed meetings, and the conversations felt strained and awkward. It became evident that we simply weren’t a good match. However, I firmly believe that everyone has something valuable to offer, albeit in different ways. Yet, when it comes to mentorship, there’s a unique opportunity to delve deeper into our thought processes and decision-making. This depth is only achieved when we are willing to be vulnerable and honest with our mentor. True mentorship thrives in an environment of authenticity and mutual trust, where individuals can open up, share vulnerabilities, and discover common ground despite differences in age or background.

Wisdom vs. Knowledge: Embracing the Difference

Contrary to popular belief, mentorship is not solely about imparting knowledge but about sharing wisdom gleaned from lived experiences. It’s about listening attentively, asking good and probing questions, and offering guidance rooted in personal insight and wisdom through lived seasons with God. In essence, mentorship transcends the student and teacher relationship and becomes the life on life, shoulder to shoulder relationship. If I am noticing anything right now in our churches, it’s that we have struggling students and young mothers who desperately need to be told stories of how God will be with them and walk alongside them through the hard and unknown. From cancer scares to wayward children, the stories of older women who have been there and learned the hard lessons need to be repeated.

The Beauty of Mutual Encouragement

In the dynamic interplay of mentorship, both mentors and mentees find renewal and inspiration. Seasoned leaders draw vitality from the enthusiasm and fresh perspectives of the younger generation, while mentees benefit from the sage advice and seasoned wisdom of their mentors. It’s a symbiotic relationship where each person contributes to the growth and development of the other. The young women in my life that I have had the privilege of pouring into constantly push me to think outside the box and to think through how I say things and what I see. They also encourage me on my bad and hard days when I’m honest about wrestling out my faith or where I need to choose obedience instead of comfort.

Psalm 145 says: “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” What woman is ahead of you that you see Jesus in? She isn’t perfect but she has faithfully showed up, served, and given her life to the mission of God? What woman can you look behind and share how God has worked and moved in your marriage, or job decision, or in the tapestry of women’s ministry leadership? Mentorship emerges as a vital thread, weaving together the past, present, and future of our shared journey. Let us embrace the transformative power of mentorship, cultivating authentic connections that engage and value other generations, as we encourage and cheer on one another in new and exciting ways.

    About the Author

  • Jacki C. King

    Jacki C. King is a respected and popular Bible teacher, conference speaker, and ministry leader. She has a passion for seeing women fall in love with Jesus and His Word while challenging them to be on mission in their homes, workplaces, and communities. Jacki is a native Texan who now lives in Central Arkansas with her husband Josh, who is a Lead Pastor, along with their three boys. Jacki holds a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies and Ministry to Women from Criswell College and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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