It’s spring!! The trees are budding, the grass is greening, flowers are bursting forth with color, and allergies are afflicting those who are sensitive to pollen. Several years ago, as a new Texas resident, I experienced allergies for the first time. I did not care for them but I do love spring and summer! However, each season has its beauty and challenges just as the seasons of mentoring possess unique qualities. Last month I shared with you the biblical mentoring strategies outlined in Titus 2:3-5 and encouraged you to view your home as your primary venue. The Titus passage provides the biblical foundation for understanding the mentoring relationship. The book of Ruth presents us with a real life example of how mentoring should work.This week I am excited to share with you the seasons of mentoring.
Season is defined “as a period of the year marked off by prevalent climatic conditions.”[i] In Hebrew or Greek no particular word designates season, but several words are used for a specific period of time described by such things as weather, agricultural cycles, and annual festivals, such as the time of rain (Deut. 11:14), heat of summer (Ps. 32:4), threshing and sowing (Lev. 26:5), blossoming of the fig tree (Matt. 24:32), the Feast of Unleavened Bread or Passover (Exod. 23:15; Luke 2:41, 22:1). As Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 depicts the seasons and times appointed by God, so mentoring will flow from one season to another. Committed mentors and mentorees possess a willingness to remain faithful to the relationship as it proceeds through the “Seasons Cycle.”
The Season of Acquaintance
The Season of Acquaintance is first characterized by discussing the expectations of the relationship. It is not to be a dependent relationship but simply a growing friendship that emerges as time is spent with a woman who possesses the character, knowledge, skills, expertise, and experience the younger woman (either chronologically, spiritually, or both) desires to assimilate into her life.Our wise heavenly Father brings a variety of temperaments together to sharpen one another in the mentoring relationship (Prov. 27:17). Sometimes the mentor and mentoree will be very similar; other times they will be very different. Regardless of the temperaments of the younger and older women, the Season of Acquaintance begins with respect for the older woman and a desire to learn from her life experiences.
I began my current mentoring cycle when two young women embarked on their internship at Horner Homemaking House where I am the Director of Homemaking Programs. Since I did not know them previously we were definitely in the season of acquaintance. As well, our temperaments are very different. Their teachable spirits and desire to learn from me allowed our relationship to proceed through the seasons of mentoring this year.
The Season of Tutoring or Coaching
The Season of Tutoring or Coaching suggests that the younger and older woman know one another, their individual interests, their future goals as well as their previous experiences. The younger woman’s struggles and victories with sin, the joys and difficulties of career and relationships, and the need for spiritual maturity provide the catalyst for her to probe the depths of the older woman’s treasure chest of wisdom (Prov. 16:31). As my mentorees and I worked and prayed together in the fall we experienced a myriad of tutoring experiences including hostessing multiple hospitality events. Each activity provided the foundation for us to learn and hone our skills as well as to share blessings and challenges.
The Season of Tutoring or Coaching transitions to the Season of Counseling and Guidance as the relationship matures. As with each of the seasons, it is impossible to place a period on this season or to assume that the “Season Cycle” will continue.
The Season of Counseling and Guidance
The older woman is to be open, vulnerable, and modeling behavior that reflects her spiritual age. Her goal is to become so filled with God that He will make her a woman of great spiritual power (Prov. 31:26). It is not an option on the older woman's part to be willing, for, as Titus 2:3-5 teaches, Scripture commands it.
Several words describe the behavior of the younger and older woman during the Season of Counseling and Guidance—the younger woman is teachable, as the older woman is discerning. Essentially, the younger woman desires to absorb the wisdom of the older woman and allow her to teach her. Proverbs is filled with counsel to acquire wisdom (Prov. 3:13, 4:5, 7, 16:16, 19:18)! and Proverbs 24:7 is a reminder to the younger woman that “wisdom is too lofty for a fool.” The older woman is quick to discern whether her response will be active or passive. She offers counsel when she is asked and possesses the discernment to either offer or withhold assistance when she is not. The older woman prayerfully offers spiritual nourishment through encouragement, admonition, and reproof.
Encourage is derived from the Greek word protrepo, meaning to urge forward or to persuade.The older woman must look for ways to intentionally encourage on a regular basis so that when admonition or reproof is needed the younger woman is pliable rather than hardened by having consistently received harsh words.
Admonition is the Greek word nouthesia meaning “training by word,” whether of encouragement, or, if necessary, by reproof or remonstrance. Colossians 3:16 instructs believers “to let the word of Christ dwell rightly in them, so that they might be able to teach and admonish one another and to abound in the praises of God.”[ii] The older woman will be careful to use the Word of God as a source for any admonition.
Elegmos, the Greek word for reproof, refers to conviction or rebuke.2 Tim. 3:16-17 provides the biblical pattern for reproof –“all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Often the mentoring relationship remains at the Season of Counseling and Guidance. [iii]
The Season of Friendship
Should the mentoring relationship continue, one day the Season of Counseling and Guidance gently fades into the Season of Friendship. Just as the difference between the final day of winter and the first day of spring is subtle, so is the transition that marks the disappearance of intergenerational boundaries when the relationship turns to friendship.
Characteristic of the Season of Friendship is the willingness on the part of women to share intimately. The older woman should be willing to share at the same level of disclosure that the younger woman is sharing and both exercise caution as they move slowly into intimate sharing. Vulnerability is evidenced as convictions, joys and disappointments, weaknesses, failures and fears, victories and successes are shared.
The Season of Spiritual Replication
The Season of Spiritual Replication introduces spiritual children into the mentoring relationship. As a new younger woman desires to be mentored, the existing younger woman becomes the mature woman or spiritual mother while the older woman transitions to the role of spiritual grandmother. The truth of 1 John 1:4 is evident in the lives of both the now-mature and older woman as the “Seasons Cycle” replicates itself. The roles of the mature and older woman reverse in the Season of Spiritual Replication—the mature woman charts the direction and the older woman supports her. When asked, the older woman merges into the intergenerational relationship; when she is not, she receives pleasure in viewing it from a distance. Using care not to usurp the mature woman’s position, the older woman shares the joys and sorrows of her spiritual mentoree. As she “rejoices with them that do rejoice, and weeps with them that weep” (Rom. 12:15), the spiritual legacy of the older woman mirrors the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 1:3-5.
The daily mentoring relationship began in the fall is drawing to a close. One of the young women will spend a semester on the mission field next year and the other is moving on to a new professional position. We are rapidly approaching the season of friendship. It is my prayer that our gracious heavenly Father will allow to our relationship to continue that so I have the privilege of saying of them, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).
Come back for week to capture some ideas of how to speak love in your home.
[i] Word study for encouragement, admonition, and reproof conducted through LOGOS BIBLE
[ii]Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, s.v. “admonition.”
[iii]The New Bible Dictionary, s.v. “season.”