“She is probably too busy.” … “She is too important, and I am not important enough.” … Or, much to my shame now, “What could I possibly learn from her?”
A much younger me had a growing desire to be nurtured by older Christian women. I wanted to talk to someone who would be eager to read the Bible with me, to talk deeply about what it means to be a Christian woman in today’s world. But as I looked around, all I saw were my own excuses.
If I could offer younger me advice today, I’d tell her, “It’s okay—be brave!” I would encourage her to reach out to an older woman; to be flexible (and humble) enough not to expect it to be picture perfect. And I would tell her to start by reading a book like Growing Together.
Picturing a Mentoring Relationship
In the first chapter of Growing Together: Taking Mentoring Beyond Small Talk and Prayer Requests, author Melissa B. Kruger shares a poignant story of watching her father tether a young tree, that is suffering the damaging effects of a storm, to a sturdy, older tree. She says:
This image comes to mind whenever I think about discipleship. …The mentoring relationship is one in which a younger woman is tethered to a more mature believer for a season so that she might grow firm in her faith and be equipped for ministry. Just as the older tree doesn’t make the younger tree grow (the water and the sun do that), the mentor isn’t responsible for the spiritual growth of the mentee (God does that). She is simply standing beside the younger woman, offering the strength she’s gained as God has grown her through the years. (19)
Growing Together: Taking Mentoring beyond Small Talk and Prayer Requests
Melissa B Kruger
We need one another. Yet we don’t always know how to develop relationships that help us grow in the Christian life. Spiritual mentoring offers a way for younger believers and more mature Christians to grow together through intentional discipleship and accountability. If you’re looking for a place to start, Melissa Kruger presents a guide for discipleship conversations that span a variety of topics for spiritual growth. Each lesson encourages both mentor and mentee to focus on the hope of the gospel as they learn together from the truth of God’s word.
Growing a Mentoring Relationship
This beautiful image deeply resonates with me. It follows the pattern set out in Titus, where older women “are to teach what is good, and so train the young women” (Tit 2:3-5).
But Kruger does not merely provide an image of one-to-one discipleship—she equips women to fertilise and water each other’s spiritual soil so that mentor and mentee can be “Growing Together”. Her book is a helpful structure for catching up. It produces invaluable time in the Scriptures, and, as the subtitle says, enables readers to move beyond small talk and prayer requests.
Kruger …equips women to fertilise and water each other’s spiritual soil so that mentor and mentee can be “Growing Together”.
Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of living the Christian life. They range from reading the Word, serving in a church community, sharing the gospel, and praying, to dealing with temptations and difficult relationships, cultivating contentment, and learning to be discerning.
While some reviewers have been disappointed by the “Christianity 101” approach to each chapter, I appreciated Kruger’s focus on the basics of Christian thought and living because it makes the book accessible to the new or young Christian as well as the Christian who is older or more mature. There is more than enough material to discuss in whatever degree of depth suits the women in question. Growing Together’s content, together with the thoughtful and gently probing questions at the end of each chapter, allows for that gradual depth of knowing and caring for the other person that makes mentoring relationships so valuable.
Starting a Mentoring Relationship
Nowadays, I find myself more in the role of the ‘older’ woman. In this phase of life, I’ve come to realise many older women find the notion of being a mentor daunting. They feel they have nothing to offer. Some find younger women intimidating in their confidence and knowledge. Others feel they would not know where they would begin, or how to ask good questions or say helpful things.
To those women I would like to say: you have so much more to offer than you believe. I would challenge you to pick up this book and prayerfully consider approaching a younger woman to read it with you so you can invest in them. I suspect you may be delighted to learn your life experience will afford you many opportunities to guide a younger woman whilst also learning a few new things yourself.
You have so much more to offer than you believe. …pick up this book and prayerfully consider approaching a younger woman
One of the beauties of using a book like this one to facilitate a new one-to-one or small group mentoring friendship with other women is it does not have to be a lifelong commitment. It’s only for the duration of the book. As it comes to a natural end, it’s easy enough to call it quits or consider continuing by reading the Bible together.
For some, the idea of initiating a mentoring relationship may seem too daunting, but the desire to be in relationship is still there. To those women, I would suggest approaching the ministry team at your church and asking for their help. It could lead to matching you up with someone who has had a similar request. It could even mean the opportunity for staff to start a fresh ministry with a mentoring focus!
Though my initial attitude towards mentoring was one of eagerness yet excuses, I went on to read many wonderful books on mentoring through my twenties, and eventually established meaningful relationships with Christian women of all ages. But I still wish I had been better equipped. For not only the younger me, but all women who need help in starting and growing in mentoring relationships, I commend Growing Together.
For more about Growing Together: Taking Mentoring Beyond Small Talk and Prayer Requests, listen to this recent podcast episode of The Lydia Project: Conversations with Christian Women, hosted by Taryn Hayes and Tori Walker.
 In those cases where another book is a logical next step, I would recommend Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. It provides excellent tools for reading and unpacking any Bible passage alone or together with others.