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Mentoring plays key role in reaching young women

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)??To impact today’s young adults, trade the “show and tell” style of teaching for an approach that says come and do, a number of Southern Baptist adult consultants recommend.
Don’t just show young adults pictures of mission fields; take them on a mission trip. Don’t simply tell young adults to trust the Lord in difficult situations; share life experiences that prove God’s faithfulness.
Most adults in their 20s and early 30s can access a wealth of information with a few strokes on a computer keyboard. They don’t need more knowledge, they need relationships, said Esther Burroughs, author and popular women’s conference speaker. Churches which foster relationships between mature adults and young people will find “another breath of God to make a difference,” she said.
“Younger women are asking for mentors,” said Laura Savage, adult consultant for Woman’s Missionary Union. “They’re saying, ‘Don’t talk to me about it, prove to me that your faith really does make a difference in your life.'”
WMU will focus on mentoring in the upcoming church year (October 1997 to September 1998) by using the theme, “Come Go With Me,” and printing a series of articles about mentoring in its Missions Mosaic magazine. In May, WMU released a book by Burroughs titled “A Garden Path to Mentoring, Planting Your Life in Another and Releasing the Fragrance of Christ.”
The book is not about how to be a mentor, Burroughs said. “It’s about friendship. With a good friend comes prayer, concern and laughter. Good friends are going to be honest. They’re going to reprimand you in the Lord when necessary.”
While mentoring is getting fresh attention, the concept is not new. Titus 2:3?5 calls for godly older women to train younger women in self?discipline and family issues so that “no one will malign the word of God” (NIV).
When families stayed in one geographic area for generations, such relationships occurred between aunts and nieces, grandmothers and granddaughters, said Chris Adams, women’s enrichment ministry specialist for the Baptist Sunday School Board. With today’s families frequently moving away from their ancestor’s roots and with many families not having healthy relationships, such mentoring has to be taught, Adams said.
The Sunday School Board published a book titled, “Mentoring,” last year by Bobb Biehl. The book made the “Worth Reading” list in the March 1997 George Barna report for offering practical ideas on how mentoring works and the difference between evangelism, discipleship and mentoring.
The Heart to Heart program at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, is an example of a church facilitating such relationships. Once a year profile sheets are distributed among interested women, asking them for basic information such as whether they are married or single, their age and hobbies. The profile sheet also asks women what they would like to have in their Heart to Heart relationship, said Sue Yowell, volunteer program director.
After gathering the profile sheets, “We pray for these ladies, that we will match them with the right person,” Yowell said.
In addition to hobbies, maturity and life experiences are considered when making matches, she said. Someone who has been married several years might be matched to a newlywed, for example, regardless of their age, so that the woman who has been married longer can share insight into subjects such as developing family traditions or getting along with in?laws.
Travis Avenue church hosts a meeting once a year for the women to meet their mentoring match, but after that there are no meetings. “They can do anything together. We encourage them to call each other every week and to get together every several weeks and to pray for each other every day. This is a ministry of friendship and encouragement,” Yowell explained.
The formal mentoring process works, Yowell said, because “women need women. It helps to have someone confirm you and be your sounding board.”
You can be a mentor even if your church does not have a formal mentoring process, Burroughs said. “To find a woman to mentor, just go by the nursery Sunday morning and notice the young mother with drooped shoulders.”
Having a mentor helps young people find hope and inspiration, Adams said. “God placed a mentor in my life and I saw how she was making it through some impossibly difficult situations. I saw her go through it with hope and trust.” When Adams experienced a similar family situation, she said she was comforted by knowing “somebody else has walked in my shoes and made it.”
Most places with organized mentoring programs find more young people seeking guidance than mature people willing to give it. Yowell said that is true at Travis Avenue where frequently an older woman is assigned two younger women to mentor.
Some older adults hesitate to be mentors because they don’t want to brag on themselves or appear to have all the answers, Savage said. Others don’t want to be mentors because they feel like they’ve already performed their share of service. “I tell them that God didn’t call Moses until he was in his 80s,” Savage said.
“It takes time, phone calls and being interested in others,” said Mary Foster of Asheboro, N.C. At age 75, Foster helped begin a mentoring process called the Agape Friends Group in her church last year. “Until some of these older ladies step out on faith, get out of their sheltered groups and desire to get the younger women involved, it just will not happen of its own volition.”

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  • Sarah Zimmerman