Meet My Mentor
Dannah became my mentor almost 15 years ago, when I was just 15 years old (I'll do the math for you, I am almost 30). At the time, Dannah and her husband, Bob, worked with the youth at my church. She helped me navigate the waters of dating, college searches, and the friend drama of the teen years. Later she helped me learn what it meant to be a new wife, a writer, and a "mature" Christian. Currently she is my sounding board as I seek to be a godly momma. Through many moves and changes, her consistent godly guidance has made a huge difference in my life. In fact, my relationship with her has been my primary inspiration to constantly seek to mentor others.
When I decided to blog about mentoring, I knew I had to pick Dannah's brain. So I interviewed her on our mentor/mentee relationship as well as the concept of mentoring in general. Check it out.
Erin: Help me remember, did I seek out a mentor relationship with you or did you seek out the relationship with me? If you sought me out, why did you do so?
Dannah: Don't remember. But I had been asking God to help me find women to mentor. I was thinking adult women. But He had other things in mind. It was like an itch I couldn't scratch, and I didn't know much more than that I desired to mentor. I realize now that God created us to be in community and that community should include advisors to our spiritual life pressing us further in and we should be advising. In the Scriptures it is called discipling.
Erin: What was your strategy for mentoring me (and other girls) during that season?
Dannah: I don't know that you need a strategy to get started either to be mentored or to mentor. You just need a willing heart. We are called to go into all the world and make disciples. It starts with a willing heart. I didn't have much more than that then. But if there is one thing that I think made our relationship work, it would be this—transparency. You were transparent with me about EVERYTHING going on in your life. Good, bad, indifferent. I was transparent with you about my life. I don't think mentoring works if the mentor thinks themselves above transparency. While there may be a level of what is appropriate and some wisdom is to be used by the mentor, over all there should be a flavor of their life being open to their disciple. A disciple learns as much from observation as from point blank words.
Erin: What are the benefits to the mentor and mentee of a one-on-one mentoring relationship as opposed to the group discipleship we get in church or youth group?
Dannah: You get much deeper. And you can confess things that you shouldn't in a group. For example, if you and a boyfriend are crossing boundaries, you should tell someone. If you and your mom are fighting a lot, you should tell someone. But these are things you might not want to share in a group. You and I got really close—much closer than with most of the other girls in our youth group at the time because we exposed ourselves to each other. (And you made me chocolate chip cheesecake, so that made me really like you!) I also believe a benefit of mentoring is healing. I think of James 5:16 which says, "Confess your sins one to another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed." I think the closer relationship of one-on-one mentoring allows for greater healing to take place because of the transparency. When someone REALLY knows your junk and they still love you, you heal. It is like a little dose of God's grace in your life.
Erin: I'm encouraging our readers to find a mentor and a mentee. What should they look for in a mentor? What should they look for in a mentee?
Dannah: In And the Bride Wore White, I wrote that a mentor should be M.O.R.E. M stands for "making right choices today." That does not mean she has lived a sinless, flawless life, but the flavor of her life today is righteous. O stands for "older and wiser." A lot of teens get into peer relationships and think that is a mentoring relationship. It's not. They need to be older so they cannot get caught up in the peer pressure. R stands for "readily accessible." You can't mentor by email and phone. It has to be a relationship that you bump into a lot! Finally, she should be E—"excited to mentor." That's probably the one you should look for first. Someone who is excited to spend time with you.
Erin: Any specific guidelines you would encourage readers to establish with their mentors?
Dannah: It depends on the level of mentoring and the need in your life. I remember, Erin, at times you and I met weekly and the relationships in your life were so crazy that we needed to do that. Then at other times we were more casual about it. The Lord will guide you in how often to get together. The other thing to consider is that you need to be willing to let your mentor ask you ANYTHING and answer it honestly. I loved that with you.
Erin: Do you have a mentor? What have been the benefits of that relationship?
Dannah: In my 20s and early 30s I had a mentor I met with every week. I also had a separate marriage mentor that I met with regularly. Then I moved. I have maintained relationships with them long-distance because our five to six years of meeting together got us so deeply connected that I can't find the same kind of intimacy with a mentor here in Pennsylvania. But I do put myself in other similar relationships. I have a pastor's wife I meet with monthly for about four or five hours. I can call her at anytime to confess stuff or unwrap life challenges.