Other students described their parents as having mentored them, while some cited the “mentorship” of books and DVD’s. These non-traditional forms of mentoring reveal the changing face of mentorship. It may not fit our ideal, but it’s also not surprising. Female leaders are frequently trailblazers, which means these “first women” have to think outside the box.
In a recent issue of Propel magazine, Liberty University professor Karen Swallow Prior reflected on this new model of mentorship, and what it means for women today. She highlighted the benefits of observing colleagues, volunteering to help your role models, and fostering intentional relationships.
To that list, I would add the value of “piecemeal mentorship.” This term refers to the “piecing together” of mentorship through the expertise of multiple people. The woman I described above—my “ideal” mentor—may not live close by, but I have encountered pieces of her in women (and men) throughout my life. Some have encouraged me spiritually, while others have guided my writing. I might not be able to sit down with my ideal mentor each month, but God has met many of my desires through the diversity of his people.
And what about male-female mentorships? A handful of the women I interviewed had been mentored by men, and they benefited from the guidance tremendously. Many leaders are uncomfortable with male-female mentoring, however, and prefer to avoid them. In the face of this obstacle for women, the “new mentoring” can also adapt.
For starters, one student was mentored by a married couple. This arrangement does not always make sense, but it’s certainly an option. Ed Stetzer, the Executive Director of LifeWay Research, models another great alternative. Stetzer regularly meets with a group of female LifeWay employees to help them be “better connected, more informed, and better leaders.” This set-up allows Stetzer to share his expertise in an environment that remains above reproach.
Encouragement and Challenge
One of the things I most appreciate about Stetzer is his willingness to leverage his own influence for others. This is the heart of mentorship, so to all you “first women” out there, I encourage you to start mentoring, if you’re not doing so already. We all have a lot on our plates, but mentoring is an important part of being the body of Christ. It’s how we steward the gifts of our sisters, and it is, quite literally, how Jesus gave birth to the church.