Mentoring for All Seasons: An Interview with Janet Thompson

Janet Thompson is a woman of God with a desire to bring women to God. I asked her to share some thoughts about mentoring—a ministry dear to her heart.

Why is mentoring important in the life of today's church?

God told us to mentor throughout the Bible, in the Old and New Testament, when He said one generation is to teach and train the Christian life to the next generation. 

Psalm 145:4 is just one of many verses: One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” Not to pass down how to do church, but the purpose of church: worshiping God. To share with the next generation the wonders of God and how to live the Christian life in an ever-changing world.

Do you find mentoring is more difficult with the generation gaps so prevalent in congregations?

Generation gaps in the church was never God’s plan, but in many churches today, the gap between generations is so wide the only thing passed between the two is mistrust and misunderstanding—all in the name of Jesus. Mentoring brings the generations together. The younger generation is the future of the church and many are longing for a mentor.

Why is mentoring not an "old" concept—rather than "coaching"—or are they really the same thing, just different terminology?

No, I don’t think they are the same thing, and as we see in the Bible, mentoring is a timeless concept. Mentoring is a two-way relationship where both grow in their faith. It can be as simple as the mentor sharing how God helped her through her experiences, and He will be there for the mentee too and so will the mentor. Together they pray and search the Scriptures for answers to the mentees life issues. 

Mentors aren’t experts in the Bible, they’re simply women who love the Lord and want to help a spiritually younger woman, or someone going through a life season she has experienced.

Janet, how do you define modern-day “coaching”? And how does it differ from mentoring?

Coaching is usually goal oriented with the “coach” as an expert trained to have a specific agenda.

Mentoring is more informal with the mentor and mentee deciding what they want to do together and the mentor is simply leading the mentee to the Book with all the answers—the Bible, and the “Life Coach” for both of them, Jesus Christ.

And it’s for ALL generations: Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NLT).

Is mentoring an outgrowth of Titus 2? If so, why aren't more women following the biblical mandate today?

Yes, mentoring is an application of Titus2:3-5, among numerous other verses. Mentoring is such an important aspect of the Christian life: it’s the job description for every Christian. Focusing on the Titus 2 verses, I explain them as spiritually older women investing in the spiritually younger women, not necessarily chronological age.

When I teach on these verses and ask the question of why more women don’t mentor today, I receive answers like: lack of time, fear, and not feeling qualified. When they say it aloud, they realize none of those reasons is from God, who tells us in Scripture to just do it!

Mentors don’t have all the answers, but God does. That’s why my new book, Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God's Faithfulness, is a hot-to practical book for both mentors
and mentees, with tips and helps in how to find and be a mentor or mentee. There are also Scriptures provided for discussion of God's perspective on issues in all seasons of a woman's life, from tweens to twilight years.

Why do you talk about mentoring in relation to seasons of life? Why do we need to distinguish the seasons? Why isn't mentoring the same for everyone?

The foundational principles of mentoring are the same. But a woman in a seeker or new believer season is going to need more discipling than a woman who is a mature Christian but is in a life season she’s never experienced—like being newly married, a new mom, or maybe experiencing a tragedy or health issue.

Other times, women have made life choices that have caused pain to themselves or others, and their mentoring relationship will have a different focus than a parenting or caregiving season. A tween or teen season mentoring relationship will look different than midlife or twilight years.

Over the twenty years I’ve led the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting women in all seasons of life. I noticed so many haven't realized how beneficial a mentor would be in a changing or difficult life season, or how they could bless other women with mentoring them through a life season they’ve experienced.

How can shared life experiences help us point our mentees to God's lovingkindness and faithfulness? 

We’re always leaving a life season where we could mentor someone just coming into that life season, as we go into a new season where we need a mentor.

My tagline for Woman to Woman Mentoring is “Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness,” which is also the subtitle for Mentoring for All Seasons

Mentoring is that simple, and sometimes we make it too hard. We can be a caring, praying friend to someone God puts into our path who is going through a season we’ve experienced. We can share with her how God helped us through, and He will be there for her too. We can pray and walk beside her. 

That’s mentoring.

Amazing things happen when two women walk side by side with Christ in the center.

But what if a woman is in a season we haven’t yet experienced?

We can mentor women in a season we haven't experienced, because the basis for any mentoring relationship is always helping your mentee grow in her faith and depend on God and His Word, not on you. Mentoring for All Seasons is a reference to help a mentor understand and guide a mentee in an experience she hasn’t had.

What is the desired result of mentoring?

I always tell mentors, “Mentoring is not about you.” They may never see the results of a change in their mentee; they may simply plant a seed others will water along the way.

When a mentor tells me she feels like a failure as she tries to meet a goal or make a change in her mentee, it becomes more about the mentor’s accomplishments and her mentoring skills than about letting God do His work through her.

I have a great example of a nightmare mentee whose mentor probably never knew she—the mentee—went on to become a public speaker on the topic of mentoring and the pastor’s wife. Of course, it’s always wonderful when the mentee becomes a mentor and shares with the next generation what she's been taught, because that’s how the church and the family of God continues through the generations.

Do you have any last words to share with us?

Yes, I would like to share with you the closing paragraph of a letter Tracy Steel shared in the Preface of Mentoring for All Seasons. Tracy wrote the letter to spiritually older women, which she referred to as “righteous oaks.”

“Older woman, I’m writing this letter to you because young women need an oak. My prayer is you’ll heed Psalm 78:1-8 and Titus 2:3-5Don’t allow fear, busyness or inferiority to stop you from letting me—a younger woman—learn from you. Nourish us simply with your presence and prayers.

"You aren’t here to warm a pew, precious oak, but to warm our hearts towards Jesus. The future of the church needs you. You are an oak. “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3b).

All my love, Tracy

Thank you for sharing that wonderful letter and your words of wisdom, Janet. The church truly needs mentors, and the Lord is using your excellent years of experience to arm us for the mentoring mission.

Are you a mentor yet? If not, can you make an intentional choice to ask the Lord to prepare you? 

And if you are a mentor, how do you feel about Janet’s words that mentoring is for “all generations”? Are you a mentee as well as a mentor?

Janet Thompson is an international speaker and award-winning author of 19 books. Her latest release is Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s FaithfulnessShe is also the author of Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has ForgottenFace-to-Face Bible study Series; and Woman to Woman Mentoring ResourcesJanet is the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. Visit Janet and sign up for her Monday Morning blog and online newsletter at womantowomanmentoring.com.


Dial Down the Distracting Noise

As I'm getting older, I'm noticing some hearing loss. It's not uncommon for me to say "What?" And when there is a lot of distracting "background noise," I can't seem to focus in on what someone is saying.

That's normal for a lot of old folks as well as for younger people who experienced a lot of loud noise think, rock concerts
when they were younger.

Noise in our world continues to escalate. Consider car horns, construction drilling, ambulances or police sirens, and other modern "noises." I read that New York City is now addressing "noise pollution" in its sprawling metropolis.

I wondered what "distracting noise" might be like in a spiritual sense. And does it have to be loud to qualify?

From personal experience, the most distracting "noise" I encounter is Satan's lies.  His lies are not always loud; most of the time they are subtle. But they qualify as "distracting noise" because they threaten to crowd out the guiding voices of truth in my life—the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Satan's strategies are always geared to detracting us from our identity in Christ.

Another "noisy" influence in my life is the culture and its crazy, anti-God philosophies. Whether I'm watching television or a movie, or engaging in conversations with those who don't know the Lord, the danger is I will not recognize the noisy and confusing philosophies that counter the voice of the Lord.

And then, there's a "noise" deep inside me, the cravings of my "flesh." The desires of my sinful flesh stand against the desires of the Holy Spirit. Endless self-improvement efforts and addiction to performance got me nowhere.

I've discovered I need another kind of noise to help me dial down distracting noise. 

I call it "spiritual white noise."

You've likely heart about white noise. Simply put, it's a special kind of sound used to mask background sounds—to drown out what might otherwise prevent us from sleeping, for instance. For an explanation of white noise (and a rainbow of other noise colors) from Popular Science, read here.

Scientists call white noise "BETTER noise."

What is my better noise spiritually? I believe it is the truth of God as found in the Word of God and worked into our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture is the "better noise" I need every moment of every day.
Whenever I must deal with the noise of Satan's lies, I can use scripture to combat those lies, just as Jesus did in Matthew 4:1-11.

When the culture creeps into my heart and shouts for attention, I can root it out, again, with the truth of the Word of God.

And when my sinful flesh rears up to draw me away from following and obeying the Spirit, I can counter my flesh with the truth that sets me free. 

Knowing and speaking scripture—counseling my heart with God's truthis a spiritual habit. It's turning on the "spiritual white noise" that can change my life. And some of the best of this better noise addresses who I am and what I have in Christ.

The Lord's "it is written" responses to Satan were like saying, "Be quiet, Satan!" And I too find spiritual success when I use the Word of God to counter Satan's lies, the culture's vain philosophies, and my wayward flesh.

Some examples:

When I face the noise of fear, my better noise is 2 Timothy 1:7. The truth is: God doesn't want me to fear, but to rely on His gifts of power, love and self-control.

When I struggle with the noise of my addiction to overeating, my spiritual white noise is Romans 12:21. The truth is: I don't have to be overcome by my flesh; I can overcome with good—by choosing to respond in wisdom and power in my new nature in Christ.

When I feel overwhelmed by the stresses of life screaming at me, my better noise is Matthew 11:28-30. The Truth is: In my weariness, I can run to Jesus for rest. His burden is light and He refreshes me.

Using scripture to dial down the distracting noise of Satan, the world and our sinful flesh is a key in effective spiritual warfare. We need to get better at using this powerful approach to attacks. 

We need to learn, memorize and meditate on the "spiritual white noise" that can help us in our times of greatest temptation.

Let God's Word be the loudest voice you hear!

What are some of your favorite "noise"-silencing scriptures?