I have come to realize that if we want to make a life changing, life-giving impact in mentor relationships, we need to practice 4 things regardless of our context.
Discipleship: 4 Keys to a Life Changing Mentor Relationship
College students are often hungry. Some campuses have fantastic food options, others not so much. But either way, a home cooked meal is a refreshment to the soul of most college students partly because of the food but primarily because of the home atmosphere. It was around this concept that the mentor relationship that impacted me most in my college career was born.
The Inspiration for this List
During my freshman year of college, a group of Bible studies for women started on campus. I signed up for one that several of my friends were going to and nervously entered the home of a woman who would change my entire concept of ministry and discipleship.
This particular woman lived on campus because her husband worked for the school. They had a tiny apartment in one of the dorms into which she welcomed as many girls as were interested. We squished in next to each other, came super early if we wanted a seat on the couch, skipped dinner so we could eat as much of her delicious food as possible, and loved every minute of it.
I remember entering her apartment to the smell of steaming food on the table and being amazed at the variety. She planned all week long and gave us a spread I will always remember with a smile. We would load up plates and crawl over other girls seated on the floor to an empty spot.
We would pour out our classwork and relationship woes and be met with a smile and the Gospel’s application to our situation. At one point so many girls came that they poured down the hallway and into the common area of the dorm straining to hear what was said.
This sweet mentor taught us verse by verse through many books of the Bible. She studied hard for those Bible studies. We would fill the pages of our little homemade study guides with her amazing, often hysterical quotes.
Every evening we were sad to see it end. We would stick around just a little longer, escaping the reality of our homework for a few more minutes, feeling at home in her little space.
From start to finish those Tuesday nights screamed “WELCOME!” They showed us what was important to her and what should be important to us.
Her home was filled with love. She decorated it all with intention and warmth. She could dress up anything and make it beautiful. But I think what really made me look beyond the tiny space the less than perfect surroundings was the welcome in her spirit. She was happy we were there. She loved us.
It was this that brought us back every week. It was this that made us crave being with her. We would decorate cookies in her apartment, ask her to be our ministry coach, and watch TV with her even if we didn’t love the show, just because we wanted to be near someone like that.
And her husband was a completely different personality and yet equally as welcoming. Together they formed a team that showed us how to love others and open our homes.
I still think about her house when I make decorating decisions. I still have a list of 20 things she wished she knew when she was 20 hanging on my refrigerator.
She helped me scrapbook my wedding guestbook. She took my engagement pictures. She was a part of my life.
And this is what discipleship looks like. There was a time when we were in the Word together, digging in. She taught me about the Scriptures. And then she lived them out before my eyes.
It is a beautiful thing to have been on the receiving end of that kind of faithfulness and attention to detail.
And now I am faced with the question of how do I encourage others in this? How can I do that in my church home? For the women who surround me?
Sometimes it may look like elaborate meals but often it won’t. That isn’t what kept me coming back (though it didn’t hurt!). Sometimes it may look like a formal Bible study but often it won’t. That was a great way to be intentional but not the only way. For a few of the tips and tricks I learned from this sweet mentor click here.
As I’ve meditated on her story and how it impacted me, I have come to realize that ultimately if we want to make the kind of life changing, life-giving, impact my college mentor made, we need to practice 4 things regardless of our context.
A Spirit of Welcome
If we had entered a cold, sterile environment with a host that was stern and showed no interest in our lives or hearts we would not have continually filled her apartment. With her food, her warmth, her careful decoration, her relaxed nature, and her interest she showed us that we were welcome with her. She showed us Christ by welcoming us the way He does. Christ is right now preparing a place for us (John 14:3) so the fact that she readily prepared for us mirrored His character. Christ cares deeply about the affairs of our lives (1 Peter 5:7) so the fact that she cared about our relatively minor situations, revealed His character.
If we look at the ministry of Christ, he taught His disciples and others in formal ways often but most of the time He just lived life with the disciples. He ate with them and travelled with them and showed them what a holy life looked like.
This is what my college mentor did too. She taught us from the Word regularly but she mostly just shared her life with us. She opened her door and her heart to us and let us see what it was like to walk with Christ faithfully. She gave us pointers on décor and cooking but mostly she just showed us how to live in Christ by living in front of us.
I was getting married and moving away. My husband, the incredible person he is, had already made a big impression with my mentor and her husband so they were excited for me. She was literally the only person I had ever seen be successful at scrapbooking so I asked her to help me scrapbook what would become my photo guestbook. We got together, with some of my bridesmaids, and scrapbooked the whole thing over several weeks. I knew she was busy but I never felt like she didn’t have time for me.
If we want to be good disciplers, we need to give time. It doesn’t have to be a tremendous amount added to our schedule because often we just bring others along with what we are already doing, however, all relationships take time. We need to embrace this and use the resource of our time in a way that glorifies God and welcomes others.
We must share the Scriptures if we want to make a permanent, lasting, life-giving impact on others. We must love the Scriptures and be growing in our love for them. Scripture says that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45) so we must store an abundance of Scripture up so that our mouths overflow with its application and beauty.
Whether we teach a formal Bible study, work through a Christian book, or just regularly share life with others, if we want to be genuinely discipling, we MUST share the Scriptures. There is no other firm foundation for relationship.
Discipleship, relationships, and mentoring are all beautiful overflows of what Titus 2 tells us:
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”
This kind of ministry will cost you something but it will be beautiful, messy, and worthwhile.
Have you been impacted by this kind of intentional welcome? Are you trying to welcome others this way? I would love to hear your stories!
Check out this post and other great resources at the Counting My Blessings Link Party!