October 7, 2013

Siri: Find Me a Mentor

photo: Flickr/reticulating
Recently, a friend of mine invited a younger woman for a meal. After she accepted, my friend offered to either draw her a map or to write down turn-by-turn directions to the house. The younger woman smiled and told my friend: “Just text me your address, I’ll look it up.”

My friend later laughed about her own technological backwardness, and I’m sure her young friend meant only to spare her the inconvenience of impromptu cartography, but in that moment, the two of them lost an opportunity for mentoring.

Now, I love my GPS as much as the next girl. In fact, my husband jokes that he's been replaced by a four-inch screen on my dashboard--I no longer call him, lost in my own city and asking for navigational help.

But abandoning our human connection of need and assistance is not always good, and I watch it happen all the time.

In Bible studies and fellowship times, the younger women discuss the details of their lives—and the older women sit silent. Increasingly, I am part of conversations where younger women discuss the expert advice of Pinterest but never once consult the older woman on the chair beside them.

We younger women (and I’m there, friends) love solutions that are instant and perfect. Older women are neither.

The advice an older woman gives you won’t be ideal. Her recipe is not going to be the current top-rated dish, painstakingly tested with organic ingredients. And it might take her a few minutes to find it in her cluttered file box. Her child-raising advice won’t always line up with latest protocols from the Academy of Pediatrics. Probably, too, the driving directions she gives you to her house will be idiosyncratic, peppered with landmarks and the names of long-gone friends. And so, younger women look elsewhere.

Sadly, the foundation of spiritual mothering—the little moments of sharing recipes and book recommendations and driving directions—the tasks that almost any older woman can do with confidence have already been delegated. We younger women, in our quest for immediate answers to our questions, have taken what could be the start of a mentoring relationship and found our solutions online instead.

Child with a fever? Ask Web MD. Need a date night restaurant suggestion? Urban Spoon. What about a great paint color for the living room? Pinterest every time.

Click by click, we younger women have cut the older women out of our lives. We’ve taken away the simple questions, the places where most older women feel useful. And we are denying ourselves a mentor in the process.

We don’t think of it like that. We’re just trying to do life—by the seat of our pants—and not bug other people in the process. We younger women tend to think Mentoring is something Big and Meaningful, a formal relationship with an older woman that we’ll develop when we’ve got a spare month. We think mentoring has nothing to do with the queries we Google every day.

But we’ve got it wrong.

To say this about spiritual mothering is like saying that biological mothering is separate from making peanut butter sandwiches and wiping drippy noses. Of course, mothering is not merely sandwiches and snot, but true mothering happens through and alongside—and almost never apart from—those mundane things.

Women's ministry director Melissa Kruger recently praised this informal mentoring, writing: "a large percentage of mentoring happens incidentally as we go about our days.”

The mentoring of Titus 2:3-5 “[older women are] to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children” ordinarily happens over the normal stuff, the easy questions, the daily bread. It happens through the older woman’s cleaning tips and coupon-sharing and, yes, directions to her house. And little by little, a younger woman will discover a holy life philosophy her spiritual mother probably didn’t even know she had.

So I’d like to challenge younger women to do something radical: Get rid of Siri. Turn off your GPS. Log out of Pinterest and Yelp and BabyCenter. Stop reading this blog. Then, pull out your old-fashioned telephone and call—don’t text—an older woman instead.

Because it is in the ordinary moments of life, in the slow, real-time connection of two imperfect women, that women of this generation will find a mentor.

This is the second post in our series on mentoring. "How Old is an Older Woman?" was the first.


  1. This gives good insight into some things that could potentially divide the generations. Thanks for showing us how we can move forward, together.

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  3. Excellent thoughts Megan! I went to a Women in the Church conference several years ago and heard a talk about how our different generations of women were missing one another and that was before smart phones. I have made the mistake of using facebook illustrations to a room full of older ladies. I realized quickly it was the wrong illustration. We have so much to gain from older godly women and must make them feel important and needed. At the age of 39, I can be the younger women and the older one. I long to be an older woman in ladies lives that tries to also understand them and bring truth to their lives. I strongly believe in spiritually mothering and appreciate your thoughts and advice. Thank you!

    1. Jen, Maybe I'm sensitive to this because, like you, I feel myself on the cusp of both "older" and "younger" The women who are younger than me often seem so quick with their resources that I feel expendable, but then I realize I do the same thing to the women who ought to be my spiritual mothers. I'm praying that the church can be a place for all generations.

  4. The topic of mentoring came up tonight at a Bible study I was able to attend, and I shared this article! Thanks for writing about this Megan!


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