Our leadership team has learned a few lessons after one year of prayer, preparation, and leadership training; a successful launch of a women's mentoring ministry at our church; and one year of mentoring through small groups. I'd like to share these lessons with you:
1. Trust God. Establishing and sustaining any ministry is a consistent exercise in faith and reliability on the Lord. It is a process. We give ourselves room to fail and grace to try again. We encourage each other on the journey.
2. Less is more. Some of our groups have eight mentees, but we are starting to believe that six is a more manageable number if the mentor truly wants to build relationships with the mentees, intercede in prayer, and serve them well. In his book Mentor Like Jesus, Regi Campbell suggests that if Jesus discipled only 12 and one of them was a bad egg, we certainly should be discipling no more than that at any one time.
3. Mentoring is not for everybody. Establishing a ministry in this manner could be a culture shock for you and others in your church. Pray a lot. Seek the counsel and support of your church leaders. Educate and train your leaders. Equip them with the right information. Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more. Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but you can never over-communicate when starting something new and radical.
After you have sought the Lord and presented the opportunity, some women will embrace it and others will not. If women are not ready to commit, it is better that they not join a group. Those who fully commit have testimonies, like this one from a woman in the first year of our mentoring ministry: "The women in my group have begun to develop a sense of unity in Christ. We are sharing our hurts and our triumphs in a Christian environment that feels safe and supportive. I believe we are drawing on Christ's strength and love through one another. It is a joy to have a place to offer support and be supported as well."
However, mentoring and discipleship are for everybody. I have no doubt about that. At the same time, the way that I have outlined is not the only way to do it. Therefore, don't pressure women to commit if they simply are not ready, and be sensitive to where they are on their spiritual journey. When they are ready, welcome them with open arms.
4. Radical mentoring means women start to develop a biblical Christian worldview. We don't tell them that initially. It sounds a bit academic (too seminary-like) and in the opinions of some, therefore of no earthly good. The bottom line: in today's culture, women need a biblical Christian worldview like never before. There are too many lies masquerading as the truth, yet it is not enough for women (or men for that matter) to simply know the Word and quote Scriptures. They also must be able to apply the truth of Scripture to their daily lives. Theology requires both head and heart knowledge, being both hearers and doers of God's Word. Once we learn this truth, our eyes are opened forever.