Modern Mentorship

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My cell phone buzzes while I fix my kids lunch:

"omg my prof is telling us bout why Christians are judgmentl and there are many paths to God should I say something?? pls pray for me to b bold"

This is a text message I received from one of my favorite people: a bright-eyed, skinny-jean-wearing college senior named Jes. I think of her as my babysitter. I recently learned through a friend that she thinks of me as her "number one mentor."

This is modern mentorship?

I met Jessica 18 months ago while volunteering at a youth event. Her spunky personality and natural affection for teenagers reminded me of myself at her age. We small-talked and joked around. We programmed numbers into each other's phones. She needed some extra cash, she told me, and loves kids.

The next week, she started babysitting for me. I began to notice something a little different about Jes. She always came early and stayed late. We lingered over cups of tea and cookies she bakes with the kids, talking about marriage, ministry, and what hair cuts work with our face shapes.

Jes walks in the door without knocking now. We talk sometimes for an entire hour, while the kids play around us or I start dinner. We talk theology and boyfriends. We talk about family, and faith, and the future. I give her books. She sends me texts.

This is modern mentorship.

Dictionary.com tells me that a mentor is a "wise and trusted teacher." At 32, describing myself as ‘wise and trusted' seems as appropriate as the girls' dresses on the Bachelor. But maybe that's OK. Maybe it's OK that I don't think of myself as particularly wise, but I do think of myself as just a few steps further down the road than Jessica. Someone who can relate, but isn't in the trenches with her. Someone who knows that one woman believing in me is priceless. I want to pass that on.

I recently conducted a very (un)official Facebook survey. Young women in their twenties overwhelming voted that a mentor in their life is someone "who offers consistent encouragement." Spiritual Direction was a close second, with career direction a distant third. Interestingly enough, young women ranked the need for "face-to-face" interaction as relatively unimportant, saying email, texts, and Skype were good substitutes. Surely not a reliable study, but the results caught my attention.

Perhaps mentorship has to move beyond structured systems and canned questions. What might modern mentorship look like? Maybe it springs out of natural relationships. It's not very organized but it's real. To use a Christian-y catch phrase, maybe modern mentorship truly is "life-on-life discipleship."

January20, 2010 at 5:15 PM

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