ministry matters-2

One of the ministry questions I get asked the most is: “How do you all do mentoring in your church?” I spent the first three years in my job tossing this question around in my mind. I’ve experienced firsthand the blessings of mentoring relationships—both as the one being discipled and also as the one discipling others. I wanted these life-giving relationships to flourish within our church.

My goal was for discipleship relationships to happen naturally, but it seemed to be a struggle for both older and younger women. Older women asked me, “What am I supposed to do as a mentor?” and younger women asked me, “How do I find someone to disciple me?”

After mulling it over and considering multiple options, I started a relatively simple mentoring program for our women. Rather than arranging one-on-one mentoring relationships, we’ve put together mentoring groups that consist of one mentor to three or four younger women. The next semester our men’s ministry put a similar system into place. We’re in our fifth year of these groups, and while they’re by no means perfect, they’ve helped our members catch a vision for investing in one another with the hope of building up the body of Christ.

And, as more and more people in our church gain a vision for mentoring, more of these groups are happening organically. The mentoring “program” is just a tool to help bring people together. And both the older disciple and younger disciple are learning and growing in the process. It’s a win-win for spiritual growth.

Here’s how we set up the groups, along with the general timeline we use:

1. Find Mentors and Topics (March—May)

Our women’s ministry team begins the process by considering women in our church who could serve as mentors, as well as the topics we think are important to study.  Mentoring groups allow us opportunities to be more specific in our topics than we would for Bible study or Sunday school classes.

We’ve had group studies on a variety of topics: evangelism, prayer, parenting, singleness, systematic theology, marriage, work, and contentment. After we sort through ideas, we contact women in the church and ask them if they’d be willing to serve as a mentor for a year and the topic we think they’d be gifted to lead. We also invite them to tell us a topic they would enjoy leading. We trust the Spirit is at work, guiding us to just the right teachers and the best topics they should lead.

2. Offer Mentor Training (May)

In the first couple of years of our mentoring program, we offered a training evening to help cast a vision for what we hoped to accomplish in these groups. Our general definition of discipleship comes from Ephesians 4:7, 11-13

“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift . . . and he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (emphasis added).

Our hope in these groups is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” During our training time, we discuss what it looks like for a group to meet and how to build community and accountability. Now that these groups have been going for a few years, we do less training because most of the leaders are comfortable in leading.

3. Leaders Write Descriptions of Their Group (June)

In June the leaders work on crafting a short blurb about what their mentoring group will be about and what day/time they prefer to meet. We try to organize this so that mentoring groups are happening at multiple times and multiple locations around the city.

4. Send Email Describing the Groups (End of July/Early August)

lightstock_254358_small_tgcWe send the following email to help explain mentoring groups, as well as tell about the various groups for that particular year. Each year, the first page description remains the same, but we have different topics. We do not list the mentor groups by mentors, but by topics. We didn’t want the groups to be about “Who do I want to be my mentor?” but “How do I need to grow spiritually?” This helps in multiple ways.  If one group isn’t signed up for, we can assume it’s about the time or topic, rather than a mentor having to wonder if no one wanted to be in her group.

The email also explains the details of how the groups work throughout the year. Here it is:

Dear Uptown Ladies,

I am writing to let you know about the new set of mentoring groups beginning this fall at Uptown. Please read the descriptions and consider if mentoring might be a means for the Lord to grow you in the upcoming year. We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity!

What is the hope of mentoring?

The hope of these groups is that women would enter into relationship with other women, with the hope of knowing God more and glorify Him in the process. Mentoring is essentially “to prepare God’s people for works of service”(see Eph. 4:11-13). Susan Hunt describes mentoring in the following way: “When a woman possessing faith and spiritual maturity enters into a nurturing relationship with a younger woman in order to encourage and equip her to live for God’s glory . . . giving birth biologically or being of a certain chronological age are not prerequisites for spiritual mothering.”

What will these groups look like?

Each of these groups will consist of one mentor and three or four other ladies meeting once a month over the course of nine months to grow in a particular topic. We will offer study options for evening times and a few during the day. See below for a description of the different topics, as well as information about meeting day, time, place, and if there is a particular target age or stage for the group.

How do I register for a group?

Read below to look at the different groups offered. We are purposefully not including the names of the ladies who are leading each group. We want your desire for a mentor to be centered on an area of spiritual growth, not the particular mentor. Choose two groups that are on times/days that you can meet and rank them according to your preference. Please email your preferences in order.

These requests will be sorted in the order they are received, so the earlier you send Lauren your preference, the more likely you are to receive your first choice. If we do not have enough slots for all the women who would like to be in mentoring relationships this fall, we hope to continue to add new groups and will inform you when they begin. Please sign up by Tuesday, August 16 if you are interested.

What am I committing to if I sign up?

By signing up for one of these groups, you are committing to coming each month. Please consider carefully if you have the time in the upcoming year to commit to a mentoring relationship. Also, please consider this with a communal mindset. If you sign up for a group you cannot truly commit to, you may take someone else’s spot who would have benefited from mentoring. Each of these mentors is committing their time to you, and it is important that you consider carefully your own availability. Obviously, unforeseen emergencies arise, but in general, if you join a group, you are committing to it for the year.

Why should I join a group?

We all need to grow in our walk with the Lord. If you long to walk with an “older” woman in the faith and experience the benefits of having someone pray for you, encourage you and dig into the Word with you, then this is your opportunity! I highly recommend you consider taking the time to be mentored. If you have never been in a formal mentoring relationship, this may serve as a model for you so you will be able to mentor others. We hope that as more and more women are mentored, they will be faithful to pass on what they have learned to others. Essentially, we hope you will grow yourself, as well as be built up to pass on what you have learned to others.

When do the groups begin?

You will hear from your mentor sometime in early September to set up a meeting.

The remainder of the email lists the different topics, general locations, and time of the discipleship groups. 


5. Mentoring Groups Begin (September)

Our groups officially meet from September through June. While they commit to getting together once a month, many groups also meet for social times together throughout the year. The year commitment allows all the people in the group the option to reevaluate at the end of the year. Some groups continue to meet and study another topic. Other women decide to take a break for a year.

It does take time to organize these group. However, year after year, deeper relationships are blooming. People are learning together and fellowshipping with one another in more intimate community than is available in a small group ministry. If you’re hoping to increase life on life discipleship in your church, I encourage you, it’s worth the effort!

Ministry Matters is a series of articles dealing with practical ideas for ministry. The hope is to help generate ideas that serve to build up the church. For other ideas, see here or here.