“Never has a generation been more open to mentoring and never has the need for mentors been greater than it is now.”
(Organic Mentoring by Sue Edwards and Barbara Newmann)
I’ve been blessed to participate in Ruth Knutson’s Sunday School class this spring on Mentoring. We’ve been exploring the differences in values and expectations of older and younger women, discussing how we can become better listeners, and praying about how to invest in generational relationships. One Sunday, Ruth invited a panel of three millennial women (born between 1980 and 2000) for a Q&A time. They all shared that authenticity is a high value to them, and they are skeptical of pat answers.
“We want to see someone who has wrestled and is still walking with Jesus.”
“We want to know that the Gospel is still what works.”
A common trend among millennials is to have felt “burned” by the church, with the resulting desire to find spiritual connection outside of the church walls. They hope to find a heart connection with an imperfect mentor who is still in progress.
There’s a heartfelt longing among the younger generation to be on the receiving end of what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8)
Sue Edwards and Barbara Newmann discovered that up to 80% of young women abandon traditional (church) mentoring programs in the first six months of participation, and so they wrote Organic Mentoring to help women discover how to make mentoring relationships succeed. “We don’t realize that most young women today are not looking for a Bible-answer-woman. Instead, they want an honest woman with whom they can process life.” (OM)
“Longing for genuine community and relationships is one of the strengths of the postmodern generation. They remind us that God created us to live in community and be part of one another’s lives. Instead of sliding into the back row to remain anonymous, these women want to immerse themselves in a real community that will nourish their souls and help them flourish.” (OM)
At Pulpit Rock’s IF:Gathering a few weeks ago, a handful of babies in attendance pushed the total number over 200. I loved seeing older women at the tables cuddling these babies for the young moms. It was a blessing to see the rich community created through the generations present at each table. The IF team intentionally chose to assign tables this way, because they said that “mixing our backgrounds, ages, life stages etc will bring a level of richness to the weekend, as we center on Jesus and see him connect our stories and His glory.”
“In mentoring relationships, telling stories is a great way to build bridges across the generational divide. When a mentor listens intently to a young woman’s story, the young woman feels validated, supported, and encouraged. When she hears an older woman’s story, she considers new possibilities that generate hope.” (OM)
This year’s IF:Gathering was based on the book of Acts, and focused on the theme Go Small.
Look at the relationships God has put in your life. Who has invested in your life? Whose life could you invest in?
“Younger women learn from mentors who are honest about their failures, hurts, and struggles. They are suspicious of women who seem too perfect and believe it is more important to be yourself than to make a good impression. This movement toward authenticity has encouraged many women regardless of age, to admit their needs and share their journey of spiritual transformation with others. If you are a mentor, younger women yearn to help you through your life struggles, just as you assist them through theirs.” (OM)
From a variety of women I talked with after the conference, Jill Briscoe was one of the most influential speakers. At 82 years old, she said, “I can tell you it’s all true.” There’s something unique and life-giving to hear from someone who’s traveled so much of life’s road and is committed to carrying her cross all the way to the end. She was greatly influenced by C.S. Lewis who said, “Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital, who having been admitted a little earlier, could give some advice.”
In addition to hearing speakers like Jill Briscoe through simulcast, we also had the opportunity to hear from local women. Pam Johnston gave a powerful testimony, as well as two panels of women: in different life stages (encouraging us to own our story) and in IF:Tables (sharing their experiences). Diane Stermer shared that this conference was the culmination of all that she has desired to pass on in Women’s Ministry at Pulpit Rock.
Discipleship. Going deep in the Word. Life on life.
We ended the conference by writing on tiles. Names of those who have helped us to love Jesus better. And names of the ones we want to help in the same way.
I encourage you to check out options for joining an IF:Table or Women’s Bible Study group to get connected with other women at Pulpit Rock. And seek out relationships with women who are older and younger, both inside and outside our church walls.
IF we cross the generational divide we will all be richer.
Written by Jodie Pine