Mentoring . . . Discipleship . . . Spiritual Mothering.
We have many words to describe what many of us long for: an example to follow—someone to embody the truths of the gospel so we can learn from their faithful living. We want someone who will speak truth, share godly wisdom, and be a listening ear when we feel at a loss of where to turn or what to do.
To help us catch a vision for the importance of spiritual mentoring, I’ve asked a variety of women a few questions about mentoring and over the next couple of months, I’ll share our interviews. Today, we’ll hear who mentored Courtney Doctor and learn that sometimes you find a mentor when you didn’t even know how much you needed one.
Today, we’ll hear who mentored Courtney Doctor and learn that sometimes you find a mentor when you didn’t even know how much you needed one.
Here’s my interview with Courtney Doctor.
Who spiritually mentored you in the faith?
My first spiritual mentor was a dear woman who babysat my children. I was in my 20s, had two small children, and decided to go back to school. We put an ad in the paper for a babysitter and proceeded to interview applicants.
The minute Jean walked in the door, my husband and I knew she was the one we should hire. We could tell she would be nurturing, instructive, patient, and wise with our boys. What we didn’t know was that she would speak gospel truth to all of us and call me to a deeper faith and closer walk with the Lord.
Jean would regularly stay and talk with me even after her time watching my children was over. Her conversations were intensely purposeful as she asked me about my day and then proceeded to point me to certain Scriptures (which were new to me). She would explain how they spoke into my challenges and questions. She showed me that the Scriptures were truth and life for me.
Jean regularly prayed for me and would frequently come back the next day with a long letter she had written to me addressing some of the things I had shared. The letters were full of Scripture. They were a display of her love for me and her desire that I know God more.
I never asked Jean to mentor me. I didn’t even know what that was. But God knew I needed an older woman in my life who could teach me the Word of God in practical ways, point me to Jesus, and give me a vision for what a faithful woman of God looks like. God used the fact that I needed a babysitter to bring me that woman.
God knew I needed an older woman in my life who could teach me the Word of God in practical ways, point me to Jesus, and give me a vision for what a faithful woman of God looks like.
What did you learn from her life and example?
Jean modeled an intense love for Jesus and his Word as well as what it looks like to speak bold, gospel truth to someone. Her willingness to challenge me in different areas of my life ended up being one of the most powerful tools of God’s grace for me.
She had no interest in nominal or lukewarm faith, and her example spurred me on to want what she had. Jean’s love for Jesus was so evident, and I wanted my love for him to be like hers. I learned what it looks like to pray immediately about everything and anything.
I watched her care more about my walk with the Lord than her own needs. She had to be tired after watching my two children, yet she would stay and talk. She surely would have preferred to have her evenings to herself, yet she would invest time and energy into writing me letters.
The fact that she was technically working “for” me never hindered her from calling me out and challenging me. She modeled a life consumed with love for her Savior and the desire to see others know him too.
If a younger woman desires a mentoring relationship with an older woman, how would you advise her to find a mentor?
First and foremost, look for a woman who displays godliness in her life! Look for a woman who loves Jesus, knows his Word, and pursues holiness in her speech, conduct, relationships, and service to others.
First and foremost, look for a woman who displays godliness in her life!
Look for a woman who is easy to talk with, who you enjoy spending time with, and who you are willing to share your struggles with. Look for a woman who will invite you into real relationship and is willing to open her life to you. And always look for a woman who knows God’s Word and is not afraid to speak gospel truth to you.
As you begin to prayerfully identify a woman you would like to have as a spiritual mentor, you’ll most likely need to ask her if she’s willing. It’s helpful to be clear and specific in your request.
For example, are you asking her to meet with you once a month, once a week, or on an as-needed basis? Do you want to work your way through a book of the Bible, learn to pray, or create a space to just talk about aspects of your life (i.e. career and calling, marriage, ministry, parenting, and so on)? Are you hoping she will come to your house, invite you to hers, or meet somewhere else? These are good to spell out in the beginning so that you are on the same page and minimize the possibility of misunderstanding and hurt feelings.
It’s extremely helpful to identify an end date so that it isn’t awkward when it comes time for the relationship to move from a formal mentoring relationship to an informal friendship. For instance, you might say, “Would you be willing to meet with me for this school year, twice a month from 1–2:30 p.m. at my house, to pray with me and read the book of Ephesians together?”
And let me encourage you. In my 30s, I asked two different women—women I admire greatly—to mentor me. They both said they would pray about it (which they did), and then came back and told me they didn’t feel called to do what I had asked.
Admittedly, I was sad, a bit discouraged, and even a bit embarrassed. But God showed me that I could still glean from their godly examples by watching them. I did, and what I saw were women who poured themselves out in exceptional ways to others.
One was a Bible teacher, and I observed how diligently she studied and prepared. The other was a woman who, with her husband, walked away from an extremely successful corporate career to minister to “the least of these.” I benefited greatly from their lives, ministries, and examples. And I learned it’s okay if God leads the women we ask to tell us, “No,” or, “Not right now.”
Why is discipleship in the local church context so important for spiritual growth?
Real discipleship has to occur in the context of real relationship. If I’m discipling someone, she needs to be able to observe how I respond when I’m tired, when I’m cut off in traffic (not my best moments), and when my dog comes in the house with mud all over his feet.
Real discipleship has to occur in the context of real relationship.
She needs to be able to watch how I talk to my husband, my children, and guests in my home. We all need to be able to observe if someone’s life matches their doctrine—if how they live validates what they profess to believe. No one will do this perfectly, but knowing and being known by each other is a vital aspect of mentoring.
We’re unable to have this with the women we only “follow” on social media. Wisdom can still be gained and biblical truth can still go forth, but that is not the same thing as a discipleship relationship.
There are many women with large social media platforms who live lives that match what they profess to believe. Many of these godly women love Jesus, love his Word, and seek to faithfully live out the ramifications of their faith. But if you aren’t able to sit in their kitchens, ride in their cars, or share their pews, then they are not your spiritual mentors. Find women with whom you can share daily life.
What particular piece of wisdom or advice do you hope to pass on to younger women in your life?
I want my younger sisters to know that time in God’s Word is vital. Both career and children require early mornings, but making the time to read, study, and apply God’s Word is one of the most essential parts of your life in Christ.
I want my younger sisters to know that time in God’s Word is vital.
We often tell younger women not to worry about finishing their Bible study homework or not to be legalistic about their time in the Word. While these are both well-intentioned pieces of advice, I think it’s more important to ask our younger sisters, “How can I help you spend time in the Word?”
Can an older woman watch your children for a few hours a week, or can you trade afternoons with another mom so that you each can have some solid time to study God’s Word? Can you carve time out over your lunch break at work?
Ask others to pray that you will creatively and intentionally make the time to read, study, and apply God’s Word. It really is your very life (Deut. 32:47).
Courtney Doctor is a Bible teacher, conference and retreat speaker, author, wife, mother, mother-in-law, and “CC” to four darling grandsons. In 2013, she received a master of divinity degree from Covenant Seminary, where she now serves as a visiting instructor in communications. She is the author of From Garden to Glory: A Bible Study on the Bible’s Story and Steadfast: A Devotional Bible Study on the Book of James. She currently serves as the coordinator of women’s initiatives for The Gospel Coalition.
I have a new book, Growing Together: Taking Mentoring beyond Small Talk and Prayer Requests that releases on June 9. It’s not primarily a book about mentoring, but a book that two women can use in a discipleship relationship to help discuss a variety of topics. It’s meant to be one way to get the conversation started, but by no means is it the only way to mentor. If you’re looking for a place to begin, I hope it will be a helpful resource.
Other posts in this series:
- My New Book: Growing Together
- Growing Together: Who Mentored Hunter Beless?
- Growing Together: Who Mentored Karen Hodge?
- Growing Together: Who Mentored Trillia Newbell?
- Growing Together: Who Mentored Christine Hoover?
- Growing Together: Who Mentored Emily Jensen?
- Growing Together: Who Mentored Shar Walker?
- Growing Together: Who Mentored Megan Hill?
- Growing Together: Who Mentored Laura Wifler?