Engage

Why Mentoring Programs Fail

Go to a women's ministry conference, and you're likely to hear at least one breakout session on mentoring. Today's young Christian women yearn for relationships with older women. On the other end, many mature Christian women have so much to offer younger women. So why does the win-win setup so often end in a big fail?

Go to a women's ministry conference, and you're likely to hear at least one breakout session on mentoring. Today's young Christian women yearn for relationships with older women. On the other end, many mature Christian women have so much to offer younger women. So why does the win-win setup so often end in a big fail?

I believe most mentoring programs don't work because they're programs. The average mentoring program's launched when someone is inspired by the second chapter of Titus, and a desire within them. They design sign up sheets, drum up participants, and go through a matching process somewhere between totally random and eHarmony.

Women are paired up and given a curriculum to go through. Some pairs clash right from the start and give up quickly; others limp along ambivalently through the provided workbook. The few that actually bond are celebrated as proof of the success of the program.

Now, let's look back throughout most of Christian history. People lived in small communities, working, worshipping, and doing life next to the same people. Often they were born and died in the same town, surrounded by generations of relatives and neighbors. Wisdom was passed down alongside skills and stories as older women showed younger women the way to live. No matching, no curriculum, just relationship.

Fast-forward to the women of today. Many of the women in your church grew up elsewhere. They may not have much (or any) extended family in the area. Some, regardless of age, have a desire to have intergenerational relationships, to give or get wisdom, to talk about the struggles, to share their perspective.

Of course, in most bigger churches today, we prevent these natural relationship. Classes, small groups, and activities are so focused by age and affinity that we have many sub-churches within any congregation. Children's church, youth service, college ministry, singles, young marrieds, young families, families with teens, empty nesters, 50+, retirees, widows. We put up walls between the generations, and when they crave interaction, we try to put them in a program.

What if we looked to the past on this one? Perhaps frequent contact between generations would naturally produce cross-generational friendships. Maybe while serving side by side, a young woman could share her dilemma with her older friend. Perhaps a casual conversation at a church dinner could lead to coffee and conversation. Tear down some of the programmed boundaries and let your church get to know one another. Then, you might just see that a mentoring "program" becomes obsolete, replaced by authentic Titus 2 relationships.

0
Laura Singleton

Laura Singleton’s passion is the transformation that happens when women get access to God’s Word and God’s Word gets access to women. She was twenty-five when her life was turned upside down by an encounter with Jesus Christ. With an insatiable thirst for scripture and theology, she soon headed to Dallas Theological Seminary to learn more about Jesus, and left with a Th.M. with an emphasis in Media Arts. She, along with two friends from DTS, travel the nation filming the independent documentary Looking for God in America. She loves speaking and teaching and is the author of Insight for Living Ministry’s Meeting God in Familiar Places and hundreds of ads, which pay the bills. Her big strong hubby Paul is a former combat medic, which is handy since Laura’s almost died twice already. She loves photography, travel and her two pugs.

4 Comments

  • Avatar

    SonShine

    If ever there was a blog that screamed YES YES YES
    Laura
    You hit the nail on the head; the church today has lost its way just because they have chosen the isolation way…grouping us by age and generation rather than just allowing us to find our way and our groups on our own. One of my biggest gripes today is the age centered SS classes. It is not only out of character it is, forgive me, not biblically sound or accurate! Being in a new church I can totally relate. Thanks Laura!

    0
  • Avatar

    David Austin

    yes yes yes

    Its not just woman but mens mentoring also.. your comment "Classes, small groups, and activities are so focused by age and affinity that we have many sub-churches within any congregation." is so so true…

    . Why cant we do some A/B testing and do an experiment that compares the results?

    Any of you pastors or women's leaders willing to accept the challenge and report what you find out? we will post the results here on bible.org for all to see and grow.

    0
  • Sandra Glahn

    Sandra Glahn

    Amen!

    i completely. agree. I'm in my first inter-generational Sunday school class and loving it! Just as you say, these natural relationships are forming. 

    0