My hands shook as I entered the kitchen at church. She was in there. After our usual effusive greeting, I said, “There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.” The next phrase tumbled out earnest and awkward instead of nonchalant: “I was wondering—would you be my Titus 2 woman?”
Tears filled her eyes. “I’d be honored,” she said. She knew what I was asking—I was asking for real commitment, a sort of adoption. She’d often told me about her relationship with an older lady she called her “Titus 2 woman,” so it was a term I’d come to associate with sweet stories of mentoring, friendship, Bible study, prayer, tears, and fun weekend visits.
“If you’re sure you want me,” she said. We hugged mistily next to the potluck spread.
We need one another. Yet we don’t always know how to develop relationships that help us grow in the Christian life. Spiritual mentoring offers a way for younger believers and more mature Christians to grow together through intentional discipleship and accountability. If you’re looking for a place to start, Melissa Kruger presents a guide for discipleship conversations that span a variety of topics for spiritual growth. Each lesson encourages both mentor and mentee to focus on the hope of the gospel as they learn together from the truth of God’s word.
Beginning the Intentional Mentoring Relationship
I realize many mentoring relationships begin with much less drama than I experienced in this little proposal scene. But I do suspect many women feel a bit anxious when they think about spiritually mentoring or being mentored by another woman.
Many women feel a bit anxious when they think about spiritually mentoring or being mentored by another woman.
The mentor wonders, Should we just study the Bible when we meet, or should we let conversation flow naturally? What kind of a commitment is required here—in time and emotional space? The mentee wonders, Do I have the right to ask for this woman’s time and emotional investment? What exactly should our relationship look like? She may wonder why she doesn’t feel close to her mentor, or conversely, why she feels close to her mentor, but doesn’t see a lot of direction or structure in the relationship.
Melissa Kruger’s new book, Growing Together: Taking Mentoring Beyond Small Talk and Prayer Requests, is a balanced and accessible guide to women seeking to get more and give more in the mentoring relationship.
In the first chapter, Kruger—director of women’s content at TGC—tells stories about women who mentored her early in Christian walk, and these appear to have been natural, unforced relationships arising from mutual affinity and love for the Lord. But she seems perfectly aware that many women long for a mentor and don’t know how to find one; and others are willing to mentor someone but wonder, What exactly does she want from me? (11). What Kruger wants to provide, she explains, is “the rope that will enable the older oak to be tethered to the younger tree. My intent isn’t to offer the only way to mentor but to help provide a path for two women to walk together while focusing on knowing the Lord and growing in his likeness.”
She jumps right to this task, giving tips for setting up expectations that I think are worth the price of the book. She tells a story about a mentoring relationship of her own that fizzled into “Hey, we should catch up sometime” after months of poor communication, irregular meetings, and frustration that the mentee wasn’t completing homework (30). Then she offers helpful advice directed to the mentor: your own spiritual maturity matters, and here’s what Titus 2 spells out (32); involve the mentee in your real life, laundry and all (33); be faithful to ask and pray about things the mentor shares with you (33); and set clear expectations for frequency and duration of your meetings (31). She then exhorts the mentee to be faithful, active, prayerful, and honest (34–35). Like every other chapter, this chapter ends with good questions to guide the sharing of personal histories and struggles.
Meat to Chew on Together
But only the beginning of this book focuses attention on the mentoring relationship itself. From there, Kruger offers fodder for the two of you to chew through. A real friendship, as C. S. Lewis has observed, isn’t focused on the friendship itself—true friendship is formed around a common exterior love. Kruger intuits this when she assumes that a mentor and mentee can’t endlessly meet over coffee to share their histories and struggles. So the rest of her chapters cover the basics of Christian living. These topical chapters are like the SparkNotes version of vast fields of Christian discipline and study.
A real friendship is not focused on the friendship itself—true friendship is formed around a common exterior love.
There’s a chapter on studying and loving God’s Word, with answered objections common to the young Christian who doesn’t feel she has the time. There are chapters on the church, personal evangelism, prayer, navigating relationships with family and friends, struggling with temptation, cultivating contentment, service, and discernment. The topics don’t feel arbitrarily chosen. And the questions accompanying each chapter ensure that meetings between a mentor and mentee will be straightforward.
Kruger is also careful to emphasize practice—she says that if the mentee isn’t practicing ministry while studying these things in the mentoring relationship, she will grow bored or weary. Like every other believer, the young Christian grows through real-life application of spiritual truth. The mentor should encourage her mentee to see the spiritual life as something best applied to her everyday moments.
The mentor should encourage her mentee to see the spiritual life as something best applied to her everyday moments.
Any of these topics could be picked up and pursued further, in dozens or hundreds of other good books, if the mentor relationship continues. Kruger’s book simply offers a handful of threads to the mentee, which will follow her and develop new meaning as her intimacy with Christ deepens.
How to Use This Book
I think this book will be a great opportunity for women to try out the mentor/mentee relationship for the first time, or to try again after past failures. It should take a lot of the guesswork out of the process, without offering to get anybody off the hook for what is still hard spiritual work.
Women who want to take up the mentoring challenge aren’t answering Kruger’s call; they’re answering Scripture’s call. And it’s not that Kruger’s book will make mentoring easy—mentoring never is. She simply offers tools—tools only a mature Christian woman can take full advantage of, someone prepared to give of herself to equip other saints. Even in these strange days of living through a pandemic, the church needs this kind of woman.
That woman can’t be produced to the tune of a few thousand copies. She is a precious resource to her church. She is a woman whom youngish Christians like myself dream of being in spiritual relationship with, the kind to whom we awkwardly propose: “Um, will you be my Titus 2 woman?”