Where Mentoring Goes Wrong, Why do good discipling relationships derail?

Most young people today hunger for mentoring. Leadership consultant Michael Hyatt remarks, "If there's one thing I have learned, it's that young men and women are desperate for mentors who will build into their lives." Never has a generation been more open to mentoring and never has the need for mentors been greater than it is now. One 25-year-old recently confessed, "I desperately want mentors. I stalk older women to mentor me. My friends and I are all dry sponges in need of encouragement, help, love, and listening ears."

Unfortunately, today many mentoring partnerships don't work. Research reveals that up to 80 percent of young women abandon traditional mentoring programs in the first six months of participation. While the younger generation wistfully longs for mentors, perplexed older women pray the next recruiting campaign will bring them in. What's happening here?

"My church has a mentoring program, but I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole."
– Alisa, age 34

The Christian community has long valued mentoring as a means to pass the faith from one generation to the next. Christian women in particular seek to carry out the mandate of Titus 2:2-3 and mentor to teach and train younger women. Faithful women take this responsibility seriously. If young women search for mentors and older woman stand ready, what is the disconnect? The disconnect is largely cultural. Those born after about 1965, which includes most of the women who seek mentors, grew up in a culture remarkably different from their parents. During this time major advancements in technology changed the ways people experienced virtually every aspect of life. As a result they see, understand, and engage the world differently than previous generations. They are the product of a culture dominated by the Internet, global connections, high-speed communication, and endless information. Ideas and methods preferred by their parents and grandparents appear cumbersome and even strange to this group. They want mentors but have completely different expectations for how that relationship will look.

Understanding the values and preferences of each generation is a good place to start:

•    Older women value programs, structure, and organization. Younger women value organic, flexible approaches.
•    Older women believe you must be a positive role model. Younger women believe you must be yourself.
•    Older women prefer to teach or impart wisdom. Younger women want to process life and learn from real experiences.
•    Older women prefer to learn through instruction. Younger women prefer to learn through stories, experiences, and lived-out truth.
•    Older women value privacy. Younger women value transparency.
•    Older women see distinct standards for how one should live as a woman. Younger women believe there is no one right way to be a woman.
•    Older women see one mentor for each mentee. Younger women prefer to learn from multiple mentors.
•    Older women prefer scheduled terms that start and stop. Younger women want an ongoing relationship and are content to build it over time.
•    Older women embrace contractual commitments. Younger women continue only if the experience is valuable.
A quick scan of this list verifies what many of us already know—the generations often have a substantially different outlook on life. Locating the fine line between natural and overly structured is enough to make many older mentors a little crazy.

If you were mentored in the traditional method, you probably scheduled a weekly meeting and showed up on time. Both of you believed regularly scheduled meetings were necessary if you were to benefit from the relationship. But, the constant refrain we hear from Postmoderns is that regular mentoring schedules don't work for them. An up-front commitment to a year-long program that involves weekly contact is enough to send many young women packing. In their eyes, this seems like rigid micromanagement, and mentoring feels more like a forced task than a relationship. They say things like, "I don't want something that requires a huge time commitment. I want something laid back that fits my busy schedule."

Those who embrace an organic way of life prefer a mentoring experience that feeds and grows them naturally, instead of according to a timetable. "I want my mentoring relationship to have a family feel. I want to connect with my mentor at important times or when I have something to talk about," explained Emma, age 25. Is it possible an organic approach is strong enough to get the job done? We believe effective mentoring can be both intentional and organic, but intentional no longer means yearlong commitments and weekly schedules. An organic approach lays the calendar aside and focuses on developing quality relationships. Commitment is still a part of the process, but we can relax and let it unfold naturally. Rather than checking off a weekly meeting, we need to think big picture. How is the relationship developing? Are we there for one another when needs arise? What is the quality of the time we spend together? We can be quite intentional about creating a quality organic experience, and discover, to our surprise, that an organic approach works.

For over three decades, we've mentored women and led ministries with women. During recent years, we've observed that demand for mentors is higher than ever but traditional endeavors sit idle due to lack of young participants. And when young women do participate, far too many leave unfulfilled and disappointed. We grieve when mentoring relationships fail unnecessarily. Parties limp away wounded and the church suffers.

It is incumbent on mature women of God to break through the impasse and provide the vital mentoring relationships young women long for. We must find ways to retain one of the most valuable tools for spiritual growth. Both generations have much to contribute to the other, and when we walk through life together, both of us experience a fuller life.

For the full article, go to:
(http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2014/january-online-only/where-mentoring-goes-wrong.html)  Taken from "Organic Mentoring, A Mentor's Guide to Relationships with Next Generation Women" by Sue Edwards and Barbara Neumann, scheduled for release July 1, 2014 by Kregel Publications.

Dr. Edwards is Assistant Professor of Christian Education (Specialization: Women's Studies) at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds degrees from Trinity University, DTS, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is the author of New Doors in Ministry to Women, A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field and Women's Retreats, A Creative Planning Guide. She has 30 years experience in Bible teaching, directing women's ministry, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, and writing curriculum. Married to David for 34 years, she especially enjoys extended family gatherings and romping with her four grandchildren.