The Bible has many stories of successful mentoring relationships. Some of the most popular are Naomi and Ruth; Moses and Joshua; and Paul and Timothy. These stories remind us of the value of mentorship in our spiritual journey — but many women have difficulty finding a suitable mentor.
Dr. Alice Rogers, Assistant Professor in the Practice of Congregational Leadership at Emory University, spoke with CALLED Magazine and provided guidance on what to look for in a mentor, and how to establish a mentoring relationship.
CALLED MAGAZINE: Is it necessary to have a mentor?
Dr. Alice Rogers: Yes. Mentors are necessary in whatever you are doing. Whether you are a teacher, pastor, doctor, parent, or anything else — mentors play an important role in your life. You need people who model what you are trying to accomplish. Everyone should have someone who invests in the call on her life. This person should be someone who can be trusted. It must be someone whom you respect, and who respects you. Everyone needs someone to help them navigate through life.
CM: How does a mentoring relationship begin?
DAR: Mentees choose their mentors. The mentee chooses someone who models what she senses she is called to become. In my mentors, I saw what God was calling me to do. They were people of integrity who had the gifts and graces for their calling. However, there must be mutuality. Whomever you choose must also choose you. In a mentor, you find a model — and in turn, the mentor recognizes the call of God on your life, and invests in it.
Mentorship can’t take place without a genuine relationship. My connection with my mentor evolved. She fulfilled the role without it being named. We never used the word "mentoring." I saw in her what I desired to be, and took steps to initiate a relationship. We began having conversations, and our relationship developed. Someone once walked up to me and said, "You are going to be my mentor." I did not know her. My initial thought was, "First, let’s build a relationship. I don’t know you." Mentoring is a two-way relationship. It is a dual dynamic.
CM: Does a mentor need to live in proximity to the mentee?
DAR: It’s not essential, but I strongly recommend that mentees choose a mentor in their geographical circle. Mentoring requires accessibility. You should spend time together. That’s when mentoring is at its best!
CM: What are some of the attributes of a good mentor?
DAR: Mentors help you listen to the voice of God. They do not tell you what to do. My mentor helped me to stop, look, and listen to God’s voice. A good mentor does not tell you who you are — they allow God to do that. With the guidance of your mentor, the call on your life should begin to make sense. A mentor should not say, "This is what you should do," assume God’s role, or become a dictating voice. The presence of a mentor puts other voices on hold. Sometimes there are too many voices telling us who we should be. This can be quite confusing. Having a mentor helps you silence the confusing voices, and hear from God.
Mentors also help you recognize your calling and gifts. They assist you in seeing possibilities. They put you in a position to make things happen. They give you opportunities to experience and explore different ways of doing ministry.
Most importantly, a mentor tells you the truth. It is important to have someone who evaluates you, and provides honest feedback. A true mentor is not someone who formally evaluates you, such as a supervisor or professor. A mentor evaluates and speaks truth, but does not write an evaluation. That creates a different paradigm and power dynamic. A mentor walks with you in mutual openness and honesty.