All too often people lose sight of how important mentorship or spiritual parenting is for the maturity of people. We get so caught up in our own worlds, programs and ministries that we forget we have an obligation to those around us to help them reach their fullest potential. It is my hope in writing this article not to call anyone out, but to help others desire to want to help others. When a baby is born in the natural one wouldn’t think of just abandoning it to the elements. We understand that babies need people to help it. At first they need a lot of attention, and then the need changes. Babies become teenagers who deal with their own set of issues. They aren’t quite adults and aren’t infants anymore. Teens can be a challenge. Then those teenagers become adults but still need wise mentors and council in their lives. They need to learn from those who have traveled certain roads before them. It is no different in the things of the spiritual. When people get born again they need ones who are more mature than them to teach them and train them up. They need spiritual parents. Often these people are pastors in your life, but sometimes they can be business associates, or friends. As individuals become teenagers and aren’t babies anymore they still need guidance though sometimes they think they don’t. As mature and spiritual adults people still need those in their lives that have been pioneers to mentor them and give them prayer and guidance. The Bible illustrates this in various places. Titus 2 is the more common place but the concept of spiritual mentorship or spiritual parenting is all throughout the Bible. Elijah was a mentor to Elisha. The disciples were mentored by Jesus. Timothy by Paul, and the list goes on.
Today I am in my late 30’s, and I have experienced first-hand what a difference spiritual parenting and mentorship has made in my life. I have had some mentors that were closer to me than others. However their fingerprint on my life is very much apparent. Yet, I find myself somewhere in the middle of this journey and I feel there is a Word bubbling up out of me for both sides of these groups of people. It seems like many in the Bible have forgotten how important this concept really is to spiritually mature ones. The church as a whole is lacking in this area.
To the younger ones in the Lord:
- Prayerfully ask God place you strategically in the lives of the right mentors for you. 1 Corinthians 12:18 talks about God placing people in the body the way He sees it should operate. Just like you don’t pick your earthly parents, God knows who are those people that need to impact your life, and if you will listen He place you in their path. You may not always like those mentors at first, but maybe there is something in them that God knows you need. Ask God to make His will clear for you about this, and trust that God sees something you don’t.
- Allow yourself to be mentored by these people. It’s so often that pride gets in the way of new believers from seeing that a person can really teach them anything. Be teachable and correctable.
- Do not allow people to mentor you who are wolves, way off in areas, or just not called to be your mentors. I’ve had several people over the years see the call of God on my life, and want to attach themselves to me just so that they can be seen. Ask the Lord before you accept people as mentors or spiritual parents. If they aren’t God sent, smile and strategically don’t allow them in your inner circle.
- Let your walls down. If you are so guarded then these people can’t help you much. Parenting is messy. It can involve ‘poo’ and all sorts of things. You have be open and vulnerable. You have to all it all to air out so that God can use these people to grow you up in the things of the Kingdom.
- Don’t be too clingy or needy. Be respectful of their time. Understand that as leaders they have so many people looking to them. Be thankful for anytime you get. I’m not saying act like a dog with their crumbs, but understand if you’re not on their speed dial and don’t take it personally.
- Be slow to be offended, and seek what God would have with these relationships. Know that if this person is genuine then they want the best for you, and like any parent they may see faults in you that may affect you in the years to come. Let them parent you.
- Honor these people in your life. 1 Thess 5:12 talks about how you need to honor your spiritual leaders. Parenting both physically and spiritually is hard. You need to value these people. They need to know how much you care for them and value their time and prayer. The disciples knew this first hand. They only had 3 years with Jesus. Jesus was so much a part of their lives and then he was crucified and ascended. This didn’t mean his impact was gone. They now had the Holy Spirit. I know first-hand what it means to walk through a situation when suddenly you lose a mentor. It was like ripping out a part of you. However that mentors impact on my life will forever be a part of me. I often joke that one day when I get to heaven I’ll not only have to give an account for my walk to God but to this mentor that went on before me. I know they are both up there in heaven cheering me onward.
- I remember on time in my walk that for a long time I knew one particular mentor was called to help spiritual parent me and I was frustrated because it seemed like that relationship wasn’t there. I remember weeping before the Lord about this on numerous occasions. However about 5 years after this, that relationship did happen. This person’s impact was critical to my walk and what God has called me too. It just needed time to develop. Understand that you don’t just walk into a church and pastors roll out the red carpet and have you in their office handing you their cell phone number in a week. Relationships take time.
To the spiritual parents and mentors:
- The younger generation needs you. They need to hear your stories even if you’ve said them a thousand times, and they need to know that you genuinely care for them. They need to know that you’re willing to get messy and involved in helping them succeed.
Teenagers will push away their parents, say they don’t need them, but the opposite is true. There were times in my walk where I appeared to be unteachable, but inside I was crying out for someone to see past all the pain. God placed a mentor in my life to see past all of that, and I’m forever grateful for the impact he made on my life. There were meetings, there were tears, there were words exchanged but he didn’t give up on me. I am who I am today because of God and some very key people in my life. Some of those people are in heaven and some on their earth, but the younger generation needs you not to give up on them. Even if sometimes the time seems like a sacrifice, be who God called you to be in their life. Leaving a legacy is important.
- Like physical parents genuinely want your children to go past you. It’s not a threat to you or your ministry if these children become more well known then you. We are not competing here. It’s not a contest as to who has more time in the pulpit, mission field, or book sales. If you helped someone reach their potential then God sees that. You were a part of that. Don’t belittle yourself or the role you’ve played.
- Don’t be an island. So many times leaders just don’t have the time to be reachable to people. I don’t condemn people like this at all, I get it. There is only so much time in the day. But in the small bits of time you may have to mentor ones, be genuine. Be authentic. So many needs to learn from you, and by all means learn to make the best of your time, but remember there is a generation looking at the Jesus in you.
- Don’t be afraid to keep trying. I know that spiritual parenting can be messy, and not everyone wants to be mentored. But don’t give up on people. I’m not suggesting you become a people pleaser but I heard once that a pastor had said some of ‘the most wildest of horses can be taught to be obedient and if you can work on those renegades they can turn into some of your most loyal sheep.” That statement is true. For the pastor I mentioned before that saw past my less than lovable moments in a time where I was in a lot of pain. I may not still be under his ministry but it was because God moved us somewhere else. Without question I’d jump in front of a bullet for him. You have to see past the teenager attitudes.
- Jesus mentored the disciples. It was only 12 of them. There were of course others around them, but those 12 he focused on. They were in his inner circle. Realize that not everyone belongs in that inner circle. However, seek God as to your role is in other people’s lives. Just because people haven’t been with you from the beginning doesn’t mean they don’t have a place in your world now. Let God show you who needs mentorship and parenting.
- Judas’ will happen. This is not a reflection of your leadership skills. Jesus was a perfect leader and even he had Judas. If you’ve been burnt, as hard as it is to have a ‘spiritual child’ walk out of your life and betray you, don’t quit mentoring. There were 11 of Jesus’ disciples who took what He gave them and as a result helped change the world.
Becoming a mature son and daughter of God requires help from God, and help from the parents and mentors that God has placed around you. May we all inspire to encourage each other in the Lord. May we all be each other’s cheerleaders, and refuse to give up on people. May we all help each other shine brightly for the Lord, so in unity the light of Jesus Christ is seen in this dark world.
Anna M. Aquino is a published author, guest minister and prophetic voice. Her books: Cursing the Church or Helping It? Exposing the spirit of Balaam, Confessions of a Ninja Mom, An Ember In Time and A Marriage In Time are available wherever books are sold. Please feel free to check out her website at annamaquino.com