As the students filed out of the classroom, one stayed behind to talk.
“Mrs. Penner”, she began. “Can you help me with the speech I am preparing to give at the Police Academy next Saturday?”
Did I hear her right? The Police Academy? My thoughts raced as I looked at this student who seemed to struggle some academically, and whom I considered a bit quiet and unassuming in nature. And, how was it possible that this was not the first class in which she had been my student, and I had had no clue as to her occupation?
Of course I was eager to help, and was able to make a few suggestions and offer a few additional verses for the written notes she showed me.
· Every student has a story
· It takes time and commitment to cultivate relationships with people
· Our goal at ICBM is “to present every man perfect in Christ” (Col 1:28)
· Students need to see lecturers and administrators, and even other students modelling a life committed to Paul’s motto: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).
These highlights of the first two parts of this mentoring musings article would have been helpful as I reflected on my conversation with this police officer in civilian clothing. Why had she come to me for advice? Now that she had come, how should my attitude change toward her and other women whose backgrounds I did not know? What have I learned since that time about developing a caring heart, a listening ear and a willingness to become more proactive in recognizing opportunities to mentor women? Since then I have spent time investigating the possibilities of women as mentors in the Bible College setting, including encouraging women students to mentor each other.
The Titus 2 Mandate
While much of the Bible appears to be addressed to men, it is refreshing and encouraging for us women to see those sections which highlight the importance of women in God’s instructions to the Christian community. Through Paul’s counsel and admonition to Titus, elder in the church of Crete, we see a unique and indispensable aspect of women building up women.
Interestingly, Titus was not commanded to instruct women. He was exhorted to engage mature women to do the task. The few short verses that outline the responsibility of older women are very instructive for the women of ICBM who have the heart of a mentor, or for those who would greatly benefit from the presence of an “older” woman in their lives.
This challenge presented to women in Titus 2 could be called Spiritual Mothering, or Women Mentoring Women. I have chosen “The Titus 2 Mandate” because Paul doesn’t leave much of a choice! He begins the chapter, “…speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine….” The book of Titus affirms the responsibility of Titus to ensure that correct doctrine and behaviour were taught to every person in the church. The woman giving the devotional at the Police Academy and the woman lecturer with her class of students both need to make the connection between passing on good doctrine and applying that doctrine to all aspects of life.
Hear their story; cultivate relationships; present every person perfect in Christ; model Christ. How is this mentoring process to be accomplished? We could ask, what was my responsibility to the police woman, and what was her responsibility to those women who would be listening to her speak the Word to them? In Titus 2, Paul shows the way when he admonishes Titus to speak sound doctrine which will result in sound character.
Each of the individuals to be instructed by Titus, whether old or young, man or woman, master or bondservant is to “adorn the doctrine” (demonstrate doctrine by one’s character), enabled by the grace of God. It is God’s grace, Paul reminds us, which teaches what that godly character looks like. It is God’s grace as well which provides hope and perspective as we continue “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit2:10-13).
But I’m Not Old!
To “older women”(Tit 2:3) are designated the tasks of…. But before we list the duties, I am already anticipating the murmurings of some of us women – “how old is old?” “I don’t consider myself ‘older’ and I certainly don’t think I have that much to offer.” Let me assure you, friend, that if you are a believer in Christ Jesus and have any knowledge of Scripture and are working on your walk with the Lord– you are older than someone else! So “older” is a matter of perspective.
In her book “Spiritual Mothering”, Susan Hunt explains that the relationship is more important than one’s age in the case where one woman is willing to mentor another. It is a fact that no matter the age, everyone has something to pass onto someone else, and everyone can learn from another person. Every woman, insists Gail MacDonald, needs at least three other women with whom she relates, someone older who walks ahead, peers who walk with them, and younger women that the older woman chooses to walk alongside (from the book Mentoring: Woman to Woman).
Who is the “Older Woman”?
What exactly was the older woman expected to do? A closer look at the Titus 2 Mandate shows that the woman is expected to be before she does anything. She is to be (1) reverent in behaviour, (2) not a slanderer,(3) not given to much wine, and (4) a teacher of good things. We could paraphrase that four-fold list as:
1. Disciplined in her actions –well behaved
2. Disciplined in her speech –honest and kind
3. Disciplined in her eating, drinking and other passions – in control of her desires
4. And therefore…she has good things to teach others!
What younger woman wouldn’t want to listen to someone who is disciplined (and kind – not accusatory!) in all of those areas? Many “younger women” would wistfully inquire: “How does she do it?” Not only does the older woman have a disciplined life; a closer look will show that she is self-controlled, she is kind, and she loves others. Now, doesn’t that sound like the Fruit of the Spirit? Trust is built on these qualities! Cultivating relationships is essential for mentoring to be effective, and relationships require trust.
Thus, the older woman must first be someone who loves others and is trustworthy. Then she is ready to teach the younger women, whether formally in a classroom or discipleship setting or in an informal relationship.
So what can the younger woman hope to learn, according to the Titus 2 Mandate?
Who is the “Younger Woman”?
We have already hinted at the fact that the younger woman can be any one of us, depending on the context and how far we still need to grow in the faith. However, there are certainly a number of ICBM students who look up to us “older” women who have been in the faith for some time. In fact, the same is true in the church and in other informal relationships where younger women need to know how to act as Christians in the ungodly world we live in.
Paul’s list of qualities needed by the younger woman include personal character development and skills for getting along in the home. Women at ICBM have struggled with male dominated cultures, false teachers in the church or teachers with a lack of biblical content who are leading the church, and a confusion about biblical roles of women. Values of a society in opposition to Scripture, as well as decades of the prevailing paradigm of feminism influence the worldview of many women who come to ICBM. Add to these issues the universal perplexities of getting along in the home, and how to navigate the waters of marriage and childrearing.
Younger women seeking to grow in their faith and walk with the Lord are eager for guidance. “Older women” mentors are needed!
Adorning the Doctrine – Becoming a Mentor
But I’m not old! And I can’t imagine what I have to offer! I still hesitate to label myself as a mentor. I’m not trained in counselling. I don’t know how to get a conversation started. I’m full of excuses!
It takes time. It takes energy, creativity, and much prayer to seriously accept the challenge to cultivate relationships and become involved in the process of influencing women toward becoming women who “adorn the doctrine”.
My attitude changed toward my student, who also happened to be a police officer, when she came tome for help. My willingness to get involved and to be available has been challenged and refined as I have opened myself up and allowed students and staff to approach me. There’s hope for even the most timid among us. I continually need to ask myself:
· Am I approachable?
· Am I a good listener?
· Am I modelling Christ?
· Are my words kind, even as I speak the truth?
The safe environment of a small group of friends; the intimate circle of students sharing prayer requests and praying for one another; one-on-one conversations over a cup of tea or coffee. A multitude of mentoring opportunities will present themselves to the one who has her eyes open to possibilities and her heart ready to receive a nudge in the right direction from the Lord.
For the men reading this article, does any of this apply to you? If you refer back to the book of Titus, many of the instructions given to women were also charged to the men. Qualifications were given in Titus 1 in the areas of marriage and family, character, and knowledge of the Word. The qualities of self-control, sober-mindedness and proper use of alcoholic beverages were given to young and old, male and female (1:7,8; 2:2, 3, 5 and 6). All believers are to live responsible and disciplined lives. All are to adorn the doctrine and to live responsibly as we anticipate Christ’s return (Titus 2).
Granted, men are not exhorted to teach younger women how to cook and how to be homemakers. By the same token, most of the exhortations regarding keeping order in the church(Titus 1) were addressed to men.
Undeniably, however, both men and women are to be role models of godliness and to cultivate relationships with others in order to guide and encourage them toward responsible living. That is the goal of mentoring! We believers in Christ Jesus are never too young to do some mentoring; never too old to need some mentoring from time to time.
I’m not old! But I can accept the challenge to be that older woman who has it as her ambition to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things”!
Part Four, the Conclusion of Musings on Mentoring, looks at the other side of mentoring: Who needs a mentor?