Be a listener
When you have managed to get together with this new friend, try this: Listen. Let her open up. Don’t feel compelled to dole out advice for every topic she might raise. Wait until she asks for your thoughts before offering them. Be trustworthy. The person you mentor must be able to trust you implicitly and know that nothing they tell you will ever be taken any further. It is a completely sacred relationship.

Be real
When it is time to do the talking, remember that honesty makes you vulnerable. We are all sinners saved by grace, continuing to be transformed into the image of Christ. And none of us is finished yet! So don’t be afraid to be genuine, to reveal your weakness. In Christian mentoring, the grace of God gets the job done through us (and sometimes in spite of us).

Be an example
“Do as I say, not as I do,” is as infamous in mentoring as it is in parenting. Mentors must show their trustworthiness, demonstrate their love for God, actually pray when they say they will. Words alone are empty. Let’s be like Paul, who encouraged the Corinthian church to do as he did: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you” (1 Corinthians 11:1-2).

Be a teacher
Certain mentoring situations call for teaching. My friend Sandi taught women’s Bible studies at church. I attended. Then she let me teach one session of a short study on Titus. Later, she stepped down from the official job but continued teaching while I prepared to move into the position. I adapted a study and created lectures for our group. It seems I was always asking for her input — what did she think about this or that? Finally, I began teaching without her input, completely on my own — a baby bird having been pushed out of the nest for good.

From the mentor’s perspective, the process seems something like this:

I do, you watch
I do, you help.
You do, I help.
You do, I watch.

It will look different in each relationship, but mentors must find ways to encourage and develop godliness in the younger women. Whatever purpose brought you together, challenge her in that area of life, encourage her to step out in faith and wisdom, gleaned from you and others, trusting the Lord for everything.

End well
A mentoring relationship should not be like nursery duty at many churches, or like the Supreme Court justices — appointed for life. Commit to a specific period of time. Perhaps you’ll agree to meet for six months or maybe a year, then evaluate at the end of that time. Both of you may want to continue. You may find that the purpose for which you were meeting has been accomplished, and it’s time to move on. The relationship will remain, but the regular meetings would end.

Kelley Mathews, Th.M. (Dallas Theological Seminary), married and blessed with three young children, spends her spare time freelancing as a writer and editor. She served several years as the Women’s Ministry Director at Rowlett Bible Fellowship. Her two coauthored books are  New Doors in Ministry to Women and  Women’s Retreats: A Creative Planning Guide (both from Kregel).