Mentoring is biblical mandate, Saddleback women's leader says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Spiritually mature Christian women serving as mentors to others are merely carrying out the biblical mandate that one generation is to teach the next, Janet Thompson told participants in the Women's Enrichment Ministry Leadership Forum, Nov. 14-16 at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"Mentoring is simply teaching what somebody already has taught you so you can train the next generation," said Thompson, director of the Woman to Woman mentoring ministry of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif. She also is author of "Woman to Woman: How to Start, Grow and Maintain a Mentoring Ministry," published in November by LifeWay.

Thompson started the ministry at Saddleback in 1995 and, to date, 700 women have been matched in six-month mentoring relationships. Many who originally were mentored have gone on to become mentors.

In addition, through Saddleback conferences and published resources, women's ministry leaders in more than 500 churches in the United States and other countries have received mentoring training.

"The younger generation is hungry and crying for us to be involved in their lives," Thompson said.

Through mentoring relationships where women commit to meet weekly with each other for six months, "We literally have seen marriages saved. We have seen husbands coming to the Lord and children coming home. I never stop being in awe of what God does when women get involved with each other," she said.

The leader of a women's ministry program at church doesn't have to be the one who heads the mentoring ministry, Thompson emphasized.

"Go back and start talking about mentoring in your church. Begin to see who the Lord brings to your mind. The Lord will bring the workers to the harvest," she said.

Before starting a mentoring ministry, Thompson said research needs to be conducted to determine the chronological and spiritual age ranges of the women in the church. Names, addresses and phone numbers of potential women to serve as mentors and those to be mentored need to be identified.

After developing a ministry plan, Thompson urged testing it for three months with a group of women and "then modify and customize any changes you need to make."

Thompson suggests holding periodic orientation coffees in homes to bring together persons interested in mentoring and being mentored. Women are then matched by the leadership group through a focused prayer effort the next day. One week later, a kickoff meeting is held and training provided for mentors and also for those to be mentored.

Former participants in the ministry serve as prayer warriors, encouragers, hostesses for coffees, coordinators for special events or a newsletter or Internet site.

"You start small and begin to add things that give flavor and fun to the ministry," Thompson said.

"We did not try to be all things to all women at Saddleback," she said. "Everything we do is focused on bringing women together in a mentoring relationship."

Approximately 300 women attended the three-day forum in Nashville, Tenn.


(BP) photo posted in the BP photo library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: MENTORING.

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