When I think back on the most influential people in my life and in my faith, a few key things come to mind: they were slightly ahead of me on the journey, they were open, they were honest, and they were available. None would claim to have everything figured out, and none had perfect lives, but all were willing to invite me into their lives in a way that was genuine and unfiltered, and it has shaped and changed me forever. They not only shared their successes and celebrations, but they shared their struggles too, and by doing so, showed me what it looked like to have faith through it all.
As I’ve grown older (even though I’m admittedly still young!), I’ve looked for more opportunities for me to be that same kind of open and encouraging mentor for the younger generation. I know how important it was for me to have older, wiser people pouring into my life, and I’ve wanted to in turn pour out to those coming behind me, too.
Kim Ransleben recently wrote on “How to Show Your Life to a Younger Believer” for The Gospel Coalition, and I love the advice she shares.
Here are her three suggestions:
- “Show your life.” For a while, I didn’t think I had anything special to offer women in the younger generation. I knew how to lead a small group or how to facilitate a Bible study, but it was honestly more intimidating to just hang out with a younger girl every few weeks. I didn’t know what to talk about, if we should use any resources, or how to really spend our time together. The first time we met, I brought it up with her, and she responded, “I just want to hang out and talk.” It’s that simple! Just spending time with her talking about the everyday things in life has brought such rich conversation and such a sweet connection. Ransleben shared Hebrews 13:7, and it’s a helpful verse in this conversation: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” I have done that with the mentors and disciplers ahead of me, and I know those coming behind me are doing the same. “Those who follow our lead need more than tips and techniques. They are watching our lives,” Ransleben says. “They want to see if we’ve ever faced what’s causing them frustration, or if we too got lost in the chaos of choices for our kids. They struggle with past shame and future fears. And though they have God’s Word as a testimony of those who’ve gone before, they’re wondering if they can believe it for themselves today.”
- “Show your struggles.” There’s always a temptation to try to act like we have everything together, especially when we’re in a role of mentorship or discipleship. “It’s a lot less risky to show others only the cleaned-up version of our families, to let them think we’ve found the magic formula for successful marriages and ministries who never cause us pain,” Ransleben writes. “But to do so would prevent them from obeying that simple command: imitate their faith. To do that, they have to see the places where faith is all we have.”
- “Show your Savior.” This is where the foundation of an open, honest, and authentic relationship becomes really rich-- when we share about our Lord and Savior and all that he has done in our lives. “Show the younger generation that by faith, there’s nothing to fear,” says Ransleben. “Show them how to crawl out of the boat to walk where it would seem foolish, or how to lie down by the Savior’s side and simply ride out the storm. ...As you march by faith toward that far better land, show them your life… all of your life… so they can imitate your faith.”
In our new Crosswalk podcast, Inside the Editors’ Room, we recently discussed mentoring and how influential it has been for our editors to both receive and give it. If you’ve felt like you can’t be a mentor because you don’t have time or you don’t know what it would look like, we share some ideas for more unconventional ways that mentorship can take shape in our busy lives, such as through gleaning wisdom from books and podcasts by wise Christian leaders. We would love for you to listen in and share your own thoughts about mentoring in the comments!
And, if you’re a parent looking to have more intentional discipleship time with your children, or you’re a mentor looking for more structure in your sessions, we created a helpful one-sheet guide to work through together when you meet.
In every mentorship or discipleship relationship, honesty and openness truly are key. Like Ransleben says, “Walking by faith is a daily reality, not a final destination.” The journey of a life of faith is so much better lived out with others alongside of us, and the more we share and show others what the Lord is doing in us, the more we both encourage and are encouraged. What a gift that is!
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/UberImages
Publication date: June 2, 2017
Rachel Dawson is the design editor for Crosswalk.com