Mentoring a 20-Something
Meet Alissa. She is 24 years old, just out of college, and on fire for God. Alissa timidly walked up to me during a conference and mentioned that she loved my blog. My heart soared. Thrilled that I was meeting one of my blog readers in the flesh, I insisted that Alissa sit down with me for coffee. We bonded instantly over a shared love for anti-frizz hair products and smart phones. Because we had already bonded virtually over the internet, there was a wide open door to get past hair products and smart phones and talk about Jesus. Alissa poured out her heart to me over our coffee and sweet rolls. I instantly saw myself in her ten years ago. What a perfect opportunity to be her “big sister” and help her grow past her 20-something insecurities and be confident in the Lord.
After exchanging phone calls and promises to keep in touch via phone and email, I walked away from our time together building up the perfect Titus 2 relationship between Alissa and me, because I just knew she needed me and my ever-abounding wisdom as that “big sister.” We texted after the conference sharing daily happenings with her boyfriend drama and questions back and forth about biblical references for trust and doubt. Phone conversations consisted of encouraging Alissa through my own stories of dealing with arguments with parents and how to make it through heartbreak. Boy was I feeling great about the biblical mandate in Titus 2:3 “teaching what is good...”
As our relationship deepened a funny thing happened. While we shared life over the phone, I allowed myself to not only encourage Alissa, but to share my own life drama as well. She started to see my weaknesses, doubts, fears, and faults and, before I knew it, Alissa pressed into my heart, shook it around, and revealed truth straight into my life. At first this was weird. Wasn’t I supposed to be speaking truth to her? Wasn’t I supposed to teach and grow her? It should be the other way around, right?
I was so wrong to see this newfound mentoring relationship as one-sided. God blessed both of us with a window into each other’s hearts and an avenue for both of us to get real and grow spiritually. Some interesting Titus 2 lessons surfaced for me and helped me see that this next generation, the young adults in our church and community, offer a rich element to relationships. Their fresh, raw perspectives on the world, and their faith serve to inspire us and keep us on our toes spiritually.
Three life lessons that Alissa helped reveal to me have enriched my subsequent mentoring relationships with other young women.
1. This younger generation of Christians see God as a person to communicate and engage with in real, tangible ways. Alissa often talks about God as if she were conversing with Him from across the coffee table. She worships Him with unashamed passion. She talks about God in ways that make others want to know Him. This encourages me and challenges me to step it up in my own faith. It encourages me to get out of my comfort zone and communicate with God more passionately––and to not be afraid to jump into unabashed worship and communication with my Lord. Though some may see this generation as charismatic and surface level, we must take into account their need for engaging study and worship of Christ or we risk losing their attention.
2. Authenticity is mandatory in relating with young adults. If we are not real and raw about our own lives, they will tune us out immediately. I think the young adult women I mentor respect me more because of my imperfections. When we share our “life junk” they are more free to open up and share theirs. It’s only when we both get real that true life-changing transformation occurs. Alissa taught me to tear down some walls around my heart once we developed a mutual trust. I treasure this type of relationship––the type of back and forth that lacks judgment or condemnation. This generation faces tough stuff in the real world. I don’t think there’s anything that makes my young girlfriends blush. This is a good thing because through their sharing, I’ve learned not to make snap judgments when I hear a not-so-pretty story about someone’s struggles. Life can get ugly and authenticity opens the door to valuable ministry and sharing Christ.
3. Just because 20-somethings are young and less experienced in life, doesn’t mean they don’t have legitimate and valid opinions. When Alissa shares her thoughts with me, more often than not, she changes my opinion on the subject. We can’t discount these rich ideas and opinions coming from our young adults. Where we come in is to cultivate their ideas and help them pray through the grand plans they often concoct. I am grateful for those mentors of mine who have encouraged my ideas but also kept me from jumping in feet first. Our young adult women in the Church will bring a sense of fresh excitement to the table that will invigorate and renew our ministries if we make an effort to bring them in and raise them up as leaders. This starts with taking them under our wings through mentoring relationships.
The topic of cross-generational mentorship is a hot one in women’s ministry these days. I love the fact that women are interested in investing in our young adults. Many ministries are truly living out Hebrews 10:24-25 which says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (ESV).
I’ve deemed myself as the “slightly older sister” who desires to pour into her younger friends and I’ve realized that effort does, in fact, take time and work on my part––a true investment. Some days it’s difficult to line up schedules to make time for mentoring over coffee. Some days my family needs me and I’m not available to return texts or emails in a timely manner from friends like Alissa. But when we show our mentees that we love and care for them, we find a rich return on our time investment. For me that return in investment comes in a renewed passion for the Lord that I glean from her excitement to worship Him. I see a different view of the world through her younger eyes, and I open myself up to true friendship when I live out my life in an authentic fashion.
Mentoring young women in your church is an opportunity to grow in your faith and your views of God and the world. Older women have an abundance to offer younger women. I guarantee you that if you find an Alissa to pour your life into, you’ll find your heart blessed way beyond the investment you made!
Sarah Francis Martin has a passion to do life with 20-somethings and loves encouraging her younger girlfriends to LIVE OUT! the Kingship of Christ in everyday life. Sarah is a Texas girl at heart but loves her home in North Carolina. She is a wife and a mom of a rambunctious four year old. You can read more from Sarah in her upcoming book titled Stress Point: Thriving Through Your Twenties In A Decade Of Drama (Thomas Nelson, June 2012). She also blogs at www.liveitoutblog.com.