Mentoring Women…Looking For a Few Good Men

Effective mentoring for ministry is going to entail personal relationship that includes both encouragement and challenge, opportunities to see how ministry happens, and opportunities to step out in ministry in safe spaces Here are some possibilities of how we can overcome obstacles and make that happen across gender lines.



Pretty simple. The vast majority of senior leaders in the ecclesiastical world are men. Effective mentorship for ministry happens when someone who is operating in a gifting and/or role that you are called to is willing to invest in you.

Without this kind of mentoring, it is very difficult to cultivate the kind of competencies that you will need to do Kingdom work in full time vocational ministry.

Mentoring is also, clearly, the Biblical model for raising someone up into leadership in the church…Jesus invested in his disciples both men and women, Barnabus invested in Paul, Paul invested in Timothy, Pricilla invested in Apollos, etc…  

You can not be mentored in ministry by someone who is married to the person who is operating in the gifting and roles you are called to. Med students don’t do their residencies with the husbands of doctors, they do their residencies with doctors. Now, you would learn an awful lot about a doctor’s life from hanging out with their spouse and would undoubtedly pick up some needful wisdom for the road ahead…it would be a great idea to include this in a residency, but you would still need to work under the doctor to learn your calling.

We need spiritual fathers and brothers who are willing to mentor spiritual daughters and sisters.



So let’s just tackle this now.

We have created a church culture, where we view every woman as a potential affair and men in ministry have become increasingly isolated from spiritual mothers and spiritual sisters and spiritual daughters. This is such a loss for both men and women and, far from protecting pastors from extra marital affairs, has created an isolation and rootlessness that is an ideal petri dish for sexual addiction to grow and infidelity to occur.

The more deep, meaningful relationships that you have with women, the more that all women are humanized and not sexualized.

Affairs happen because we share inappropriate intimacy.  This can happen in a room full of people…that moment where somebody else sees something obscure the way that you do, gets the joke that nobody else gets, has a spiritual breakthrough that you facilitated. That sense that you’ve just shared with someone else something that is part of you to the core…it may be just a glimpse, but intimacy was shared.   You really saw me.

That’s great.  The problem is that, if you are married,  you just can’t share that one-on-one intimacy with someone that you are not married to…ever. You have to widen that circle. You widen that circle by bringing a husband or wife in on the joke. Call in your secretary or put your wife on speaker phone to share the spiritual breakthrough that just happened for that person while they are still with you.
Intimacy that bears good fruit will always flow through righteous boundaries.



Investing in more than one person can solve many of problems that present themselves when you are initially inviting women into mentoring space. Since deep, meaningful relationships with spiritual daughters and sisters and mothers are not the source of extra marital affairs, but, instead, boundariless intimacy is, having a mentoring space with three or more people of mixed gender can solve a multitude of problems.

Who you invest in beyond that, is probably dictated more by your circumstances than anything else. Investing in people who you attend church with is the easiest scenario. If, however, you are someone who oversees many churches (ie. District Superintendent), you may want to pull from gifted young people that you have encountered from the area that you oversee. Believe me, they will drive to where you are for this kind of investment.



How to Have a Conversation
Our culture has forgotten how to have a conversation.

Create some Kingdom ground rules.

This is especially important when you are mentoring cross gender. We are surrounded by a conversational culture of constant offense (particularly when it comes to race and gender). We have to agree to throw off that culture of offense, it inhibits any truly honest conversation.

Also, give people permission to speak up and educate when someone may stick their foot in their mouths without knowing it.

Grace. Grace. Grace.

If you are constantly aware of possibly saying the wrong thing, you will never be able to develop a deep, meaningful relationship with the person that you are walking on eggshells around.

Where Will this Happen?
Where will this life investment happen? What will it look like? I want to suggest from the git go that starting with fear (what will others think about x?) will not produce anything that looks like the Kingdom on the back end. Instead could our starting point just be asking Jesus for vision about what this should look like for you and then build out from there to conversations about what He shows you with your wife (if you are married) and/or staff and/or the person(s) that you feel lead to invest in?

Since meaningful mentorship starts with relationship, maybe this investment takes place in your home, where your loved ones are ever present.



Could it look like dinner followed by conversation over coffee once or twice a month to start with?

Maybe you start with something that you’ve developed or something preprepared that is both information and relationship based like Mike Breen’s, Building a Discipling Culture.

Once you’ve begun to establish relationship and had a chance to talk through some aspects of ministry, would it be possible for the person(s) to come with you, like an Aaron to a Moses, for some ministry engagements (college campus chapels, District Council Services in other states, camp meeting services where you are ministering)?

As they begin to flow with your culture of ministry, identify a point where they could step in. Maybe they can take a 3-5 minute window in some speaking engagements just to talk about Jesus or something in particular that the Father is working into them. This will give space for their competency as communicators to flourish with the safety of limited time and honest feedback. Even if the person that you are mentoring has opportunities to stretch their preaching/teaching gifting at their local church, opportunities that you can afford will be broader and will stretch them.

It may look like this for you…it may look entirely different.
The point is to invest yourself in such a way so that the character and competencies of Christ in ministry are breed into someone else through relationship with you. What is the Father speaking to you?
 What does it look like for you to invest yourself in someone?
 Are their ways that you feel inadequate for the challenge of being a spiritual father or brother to people who will be near enough to really see you?

Praying for the Father to make us all brave, so that we can Empty the Bench…the harvest is great!


Help us think better about these things by joining the conversation below.
What will this look like for you? What did we miss?
What is another perspective that you have on this issue of cross gender mentoring?

  1. Very thoughtful post. I really like the idea of breaking down the fear of women as only potential affairs. However, I was struck that this post didn’t also mention the opportunity and need for women to mentor men (an even bigger leap for some men in Evangelical circles). The emphasis on men mentoring women in some ways furthers the idea that women are in need of men’s guidance. I think it would be a more helpful framework to encourage bi-directional, cross-generational, gender inclusive mentorship that challenges harmful internalization of cultural values about differences (where women are lesser). All of this is said in love and I would rather be sitting down for coffee with one of you to discuss this as internet comments don’t allow for the back and forth needed. :) I appreciate this blog and the opportunity to think about these things. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

    1. Brenda,

      Thanks for your comments.

      I could not agree more that mentoring needs to happen across gender lines, and practice that in the church that I pastor…point well taken.

      For me, the scope of this blog is narrower.

      The fact is that the vast majority of senior leaders in the evangelical world are men, even in denominations that, in theory, support women at every level. We have to address the barriers that keep these men from mentoring women. From my vantage point, it is the single greatest obstacle to women in ministry both for the practical ministry experience missed and for the networking that occurs in a mentoring relationship that is withheld, as that also denies opportunities that typically open the first doors into full time vocational ministry.

      So, yes, we need a blog on mentoring across gender lines, but this one was a little more specific.

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