In Search of Heroes — Where Are The Female Mentors?

This comment yesterday by Stephanie grabbed my heart…

“I also wanted to express my sincere yearning for mentors. I do feel like there is a gender void (as you pointed out in your response to Michelle). Where are the female mentors? I often have questions about business/writing/blogging/life…and I wish I had someone older/wiser to consult.”

Mentors of the male gender are not in strong supply either, but there is a disconcerting and disproportionate dearth of female mentors. In fact, I don’t know one (non-professional) female mentor.

As one of my daughters observed me each Tuesday for the past eleven years leave our home early (when this artist type goes anywhere early—she knows it is a big deal) to meet with and mentor young males, she naively assumed it would be easy to find a female mentor during the formative time in her life between high school and college.

When she asked for my advice, I suggested asking a few ladies that we both knew and respected if they would temporarily serve as a mentor. I listened in disbelief as she related that each one told her no.

Even though all the ladies were certainly busy and some felt they were not qualified, it was hard at that time in her life not to take it as a personal rejection.

Seeing her tenacity and thirst for a mentor (this girl does not give up easily), together we eventually found a professional female life coach who graciously mentored her for this very significant time in her life. I might add we paid this coach her hourly rate and it was worth ten—if not a hundred—times the amount.

Over eight years later, I continue to hear my daughter recount quotes from this female mentor and it is evident this short time of care and concern by another older female who was not family influenced her life forever.

Needless to say, that life coach is a hero to me and when she asked for a bit of consulting, I was happy to do it—at a discounted rate!

I must also admit this experience gave me a time of bitter pause, “Why would my daughter have such a difficult time finding a female mentor, when I’ve given such a huge amount of my time and effort to be a mentor to so many men?”

Why is there a gender void in this area?

Is it because we have taught females (especially in church) that they are not qualified to serve as advisers? (See my post “Homogenized Religion—Where Are The Women?“)

Is it because the dynamic of close relationships between females is different than that of males?

Is it because of feelings of inadequacy?

Is it because as a culture we have not practiced sexual equality, and so the Boomer generation (my age) of females have no female mentors from the Builder generation (my parents age) to emulate?

Is it because of a lack of trust—in themselves, in others, and ultimately in God?

What I DO know is:

It is NOT because of a lack of time—every person (male and female) that gains the respect of the mentoring request is already too busy. Taking the time to mentor is simply a matter of priorities. Those of us who mentor regularly (Michael Hyatt comes to mind) are extremely busy with our careers and yet somehow (hmmm-maybe this is primarily a man thing?) we realize the importance of a legacy.

We also realize the reciprocal benefit that comes through the mentoring process.

A mentor does not have to DO anything special, they simply have to BE themselves and LISTEN and answer questions honestly. That is enough!

Where are our female heroes?

Why do you think we have a dearth of female mentors?

What can we do about this?

I value your thoughts.

154 thoughts on “In Search of Heroes — Where Are The Female Mentors?

  1. I’m logging on here without time to read through all the comments, intrigued by even the numbers. Obviously, there’s a need among us going unfilled. I’m praying; I’ll be back. Bless you.

  2. So many good questions. This coming weekend at Synergy2011 300 women (and a few men) will be challenged and encouraged as they follow God’s call on their lives. And I am sure there will be many mentoring connections made.

  3. As a woman, even a human being, it can be hard to free up time to be able to do something like this.

    I mean today, there’s a million and one things that can be on our plate. And it can feel daunting, Your talking about a commitment over a good period of time.

    And no one feels like they really have the right stuff to do it. You always feel like your trying to play catch up with your nieghbor to be good enough.

    I think one thing that has made it a little easier for me to think about doing this is, that Ive been in 12 step groups where mentoring and sponsoring is no big thing. Your not a superstar, y our broken and growing like everyone else, you’ve just been working things a while and know how it works.

    I might not mega but I have been living life a while and know how the basics work. And if Im not all I could be in an area, I don’t take it hard. Im not super woman. Its mostly just being there for another and having others there for me that helps. That they listen and I listen back.

    I’ve had a counselor who used to be leader in women’s ministry and she said that women came up to her all the time asking how to get friends. A lot of women don’t feel like they can really connect and are running on empty and probably mentoring feels like one more drain, with a low battery.

    I’ve really looked at this and it can be difficult to connect with other women. Because we are differnt from men. So connecting is differint. You are escentally forming a friendship with another women, that’s the way God made us, and that’s good. That’s the way He wants it. But it makes it harder to connect.

    Also most women that I have had to try to connect to in church are interested in family, friends, clothes and makign a home. Not because they are limited, but its naturally what women are interested. To find someone to help, I have had to go to where what I’m interested in is happening. IE theology, studing harder and deeper than just Sundays. So I had to find people who were interested in that and then look for other women there. Thats how I connected to other women.

    Also, esepcially in american, people tend to be more segmented into groups. Older, mature christian women tend to be in traditional churches like presbyterian or methodist. Younger women in younger churches. So they will be seperated. The younger women need to go to the more traditional churches to find the older women. You dont have to go forever or leave your church. Just to connect. And the older women need to go to the newer churches to find the younger women, so they can connect with them.

    Also alot of people have segrigated neighborhoods. Many older women live in senior only parks or apartment buildings. And younger in the burbs or the city. So you tend not to find them in your nieghborhood like you used to. You have to go where the senior citizens hang out like homes or events ect to connect. They are there, its a bit of scouting and such to find it.

    You have to be willing to join into the fabric of another woman’s life to connect. Especially if your single and she has a family and kids. Its harder for her to connect.

    And we women tend to be harder on the girls than than the guys so we can be perfectionistic with one another. We have to ease up on one another to conect more and be willing to forgive the “mean girls” from the past so we can love each other as a family.

  4. Yeah, this is a great topic and one have been thinking on for a long long time.

    I got to say, that part of the reason there’s a gap is because of our selfishness and sin nature. Women sin just as much as guys but thier sins look differnt.

    I know I m a woman and I struggle with the same issues women struggle with.

    When it comes to mentoring the younger women as Titus 2 tells us to do, we get jealous and competative.

    We rember old scars from the past other women gave us, in competition for alot of stuff. mainly the affections of guys.

    We tend to be selfish and want things our own way. And when it comes to doing duties, sometimes we just plain duck them and do other busy work we like, that looks acceptable.

  5. Some of my most meaningful mentoring relationships have been with godly women who have taught me a lot about life. And I don’t just mean in a motherly way.

    One such mentor was a distinctly southern woman who ran the camp that I counseled at for two summers. She was old enough to be my grandmother. But she was a firecracker and far tougher on me (in a good way) than any of the male leadership ever was.

    I’ve learned some valuable lessons from female mentors and believe that women have a lot left to contribute to our society, especially within the four walls of the church.

  6. i’m a female seminary student, and recently I’ve come to the realization that I likely won’t have a formal mentoring relationship in this season. Instead, I’m gaining from collective mentoring–a female professor at my seminary, a female pastor at my church, and a dear friend who is also in seminary add richness, guidance, and perspective to my life. All speak into my life, but not in a formal, let’s meet twice-a-month format. I also benefit from conversations with male pastors and professors who have perspectives that encourage and grow me in different ways.

    To fuel my part-time writing business, I’ve recently gained a few “Skype” and “phone” mentors. These are reciprocal relationships where women are freely sharing their advice. I’m probably gaining more than they are, but I look for ways to encourage their growth, too.

    Finally, the mentoring dearth in our churches has hit home to me in the last week especially. Because I sometimes teach at church and blog about sensitive issues, women that don’t fit the normal church demographic have been reaching out to me for friendship. I am only one person, and I can’t teach or mentor everyone. What I can do is try to help connect them, to try to promote collective mentoring, to try to get them connected in a world where connection is rare.

    To be frank, much of what I have to give mentoring-wise is poured out right now in a Bible study I facilitate for women in drug and alcohol recovery. This is the flesh-and-blood, life-on-life energy I’ve been called to give at present. I pray for wisdom to invest well, and faithfully, as the Holy Spirit leads–and to be open to new forms of mentoring when my season of life changes in the future.

  7. My earliest mentor was my 5th grade teacher then my 8th and 10th grade English teachers, then a long fallow period when I took my mentorship from popular culture. It wasn’t until my 4th year of legal practice that I found a male mentor, which worked great until the day he told me we couldn’t spend so much time together because people thought there was “something going on between us.” When I protested that there was nothing going on, he said, “that’s the point. If there WAS something going on it would be worth the gossip but given that there’s not, not.” I was devastated. I thought we were friends. Then another long long stretch of time with no mentors. Once again I relied upon literature and culture to sustain me. In my early legal career (first 10 to 15 years, most women acted as blockades; there was no chance they would help you; you were lucky if they didn’t hurt you). Then I returned to the community of creative writers – something I’d abandoned during law school and found spiritual support among them, which allowed me to lead a more balanced work life. Even though they didn’t strictly career-mentor me, I take to heart the advice of William Carlos Williams that “you can’t get the news in a poem/yet men die miserably every day for lack/of what is found there. When I quite practice after 25 years and began a mediation career, I found mentors aplenty and a changed environment where women were not only willing to guide me, but to help me make contacts in the community, i.e., they put their political “juice” on the line for me which is what women in the corporate world are now calling “sponsorship.” Throughout all of these years, I have mentored both men and women, primarily lawyers in my firm. I continue to mentor people who come to me for advice through social networking channels and as a result of “on the ground” networking in the legal and professional women’s communities. It’s getting better all the time. There’s a skill to be developed, by the way, in finding and securing mentorship/sponsorship. They do not show up at your door offering their services. You MUST reach out to someone you respect, ask them to lunch, and talk to them about the mutual benefit of a sponsor-sponsee relationship.

    1. @Vickie Pynchon, Vickie, powerful words. Thank you.

      Your quote has much wisdom: “There’s a skill to be developed, by the way, in finding and securing mentorship/sponsorship. They do not show up at your door offering their services. You MUST reach out to someone you respect, ask them to lunch, and talk to them about the mutual benefit of a sponsor-sponsee relationship.”

  8. Randy, I love this post and I love the heart you have to see women grow and mature in their relationships with God, each other, and the Church.

    Like, Annie, I’m 30 and single, and it’s hard to find my place in the church. Most of my friends, and even a lot of the kids I had in youth group, are now married. A female mentor would really help me along this spiritual path.

    And I don’t know where to find one, but thanks for bringing up the issue that seems to resonate with so many of us.

  9. This is definitely a much needed conversation! For me, I have felt somewhat an outsider in the church world. I definitely don’t fit into anyone’s mold. Thank goodness! :) but I think I am the odd one out being 33 and single. Most of my friends from the church I grew up in have teenagers! It’s quit frightening to me actually. Maybe it’s a southern thing that all girls should grow up to be happy housewives. I wasn’t raised that way. My parents, who are both strong and encouraged us to be who God called us to be, have always supported me. Especially when my grandmother tells me to find a good man to take care of me! That is the mindset that keeps me from seeking a mentor. I trust my mother wholeheartedly and look to her for a lot of advice and counsel (along with anyone who meets her.) but in looking for a Christian woman I have found it difficult.

    Maybe it is competitiveness or a lack of confidence. But I hope that more women will find their voices. I know that we (as women) have a lot of wisdom to share and we can’t let the next generation look to the world for
    answers. I hope that God will use this lack in our lives to spur us toward a remedy.

  10. i’ve pondered the subject of mentorship in my own life countless times. i’ve explored it many ways. perhaps i have more questions than answers still. so, rather than post my response to my experiences… i’m more curious about the questions that remain.

    – is the way we receive mentorship changing in our ever-evolving socially connected world?
    – a mentor by definition is one who provides counsel and teaching. do we not now have almost unlimited resources at our disposal for receiving counsel and instruction that previous generations could not even dream of?
    – is there a greater, or perhaps just a different benefit to receiving our counsel and instruction from one or a select few individuals rather than relying on our new found confluence of ideas an discussions?
    – should this conversation be more about finding women in our lives to help hold us accountable?
    – is accountability different from mentorship?

    sorry to ask so many questions so late in the discussion. it took me while to process all the amazing comments here. what a discussion!

    1. @carolynmejia, Great questions, Carolyn. some I can only hope we find an answer for, but from my years of mentoring, accountability is definitely NOT mentoring.

      In the accountability groups I have been a part of, I usually feel anxious, no matter how loving the leader, because my sins have “let him down” once again.

      But in the mentoring relationship, there is no such anxiety. The agenda is for loving counsel, and many times is reciprocal.

      They are two totally different environments.

      Mentoring is not Bible Study, it is not accountability, it is not a small group.

      It is simply and profoundly mentoring.

      And I believe that nothing can take the place of the one-on-one or one-with-a-few visceral presence.

      This is a great start: great questions lead to great answers!

  11. Randy,
    Thank you for opening this discussion. There is definitely a lack of women who are willing to be mentors. I experienced this from the earliest days of my career. The women around me weren’t interested in pouring into me – sometimes it was territorialism and many times it was simply that they felt inadequate. And both of those reasons are related to the fact that women, whether in business and especially in ministry leadership, are still forging new ground. The opportunities are still so new that even those that are a few steps ahead don’t feel qualified to give counsel or encouragement.

    I know that’s not an excuse to not pour our lives into others, but since many of us didn’t see it modeled we are stumbling along trying to find our way.

    The good news is that I’m seeing a generation of my peers who are willing to turn this tide. Who are finding more confidence in who they are in Christ and the overflow of that is that we have a heart to love and serve others.

    I’m passionate about helping to lead the way in this!

    1. @Jenni Catron, Thanks so much, Jenni. You have exemplified a desire to do something about this more than anyone I know.

      From your personal desire to be mentored, to the Cultivate Her (sp?) events that you have created.

      Thanks for your honest comment.

      Again, your comment, “I know that’s not an excuse to not pour our lives into others, but since many of us didn’t see it modeled we are stumbling along trying to find our way” rings so true.

      What can we do?

  12. Randy, I have sat here after reading your article and the outpouring of heartfelt comments that follow, my heart is overwhelmed with so many emotions. I am hopeful yet discouraged….trying to reconcile both. This articles penetrates deep into my soul as this has been a lifelong yearning and struggle for me. I recognize that women at least my circles are often void of authentic relationships that truly invest in their lives. I know this as I have opened my home to women in Bible Studies, etc and as I have had the privilege to speak to groups of women. I see after a few weeks these women open up and express that same yearning that I have….to have someone who wants to absorb us, who wants to understand the shape and structure of our lives, who will listen for more than our words, and invest their time and energy in providing a real mentoring relationship. It is the same exact desire that I have had all my life but yet to this day have not been privileged enjoy.

    And looking back over my life, I recognize that even as early as a teenager I knew this deep longing. I even asked one of my Sunday School teachers at the time to fill this role. She certainly cared about me but was never able to be what I needed. As I went to college, I struggled to find that female relationship at a time that was so formative in my life. Interestingly enough, it was my male college professor who recognized areas of life that could benefit from mentoring. And for 3 years, he did invest as much as a male college professor can do without risking inappropriateness. And now after many many years of being a wife and mother and serving within the church, I still find that women have just not stepped up to the plate. I am a very driven type A strong woman that is very passionate. In my own experiences, I have yet to find another woman willing to come along side me. Interestingly, I have had men in various areas of my life who often step in with nurturing, accountability and direction but as a Christian woman I must be very careful in these relationships maintaining appropriate boundaries. Are the women intimidated by me? I have often asked this to myself.

    Oh how I long for women to come beside me where I have the freedom to explore myself and the relationship at a richer depth. Interestingly, I have the privilege to know women personally that invest their life in women’s ministry professionally yet when I approach them even asking specifically for us to explore a mentoring relationship, I have been rejected. The only source of significant female mentoring that I have been able to get has been from paid Life Coaches/Counselors. And while I have benefited greatly from these seasons of life, what I would do for someone to come beside whom I did not have to pay.

    I don’t know what the solution is. I am hopeful but then at times I think perhaps there are yearnings that just won’t be fulfilled on this side of eternity. One thing I do know as I continue to grow my ministry to women and as God opens doors for me to pour my life in others, I am much more sensitive to the need in other lives and much more willing to step into the role of mentoring younger women!!

    Thank you for stepping up to address what we all feel here is a under-discussed subject matter!! Prayerfully, a seed has been planted in all of us that will now grow to produce fruit that we can plant into others!!!

    1. @Richelle Lambert, Richelle, Thanks for baring your heart in such an articulate way. As I read these myriad comments, your seems to sum them all up most accurately.

      This conversation has raised all sorts of emotion in me as I know it has in so many.

      What is the next step?

  13. Randy, this is quite an interesting topic. I find that, in circles where women are not allowed to do pulpit ministry, very few women are raised up as teachers. This, in turn, limits their exposure to younger women desiring mentors.

    Where women are accepted, there still is, to a certain extent, a novelty in being a female preacher. (I say this as someone who has been ordained since 1983.) This situation can cause some women to become very territorial, as only a limited amount of females are competing for the novelty female preaching assignments.

    I love to mentor women–in fact, my ministry revolves around this practice. Ephesians 4 says that we are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry–and I try to do my part with the female believers.

    Thanks for starting this discussion. May the Lord bless you and your family richly.

    Lisa :)

  14. I remember specifically praying for God to put a mentor in my life. I needed someone to walk beside me, as I was depressed and loosing the feeling of having a purpose.

    A few months later @jenniferowhite met me in church, and we’ve been inseparable since.

    She has mentored me for almost three years, and during the course of those three years I have walked closer with Christ because of her. She encourages me, equips me, nurtures me, speaks truth to me, holds me accountable, and more.

    I want to be more like her, because she strives to be more like Christ. I hope to encourage others on my journey through life, just as she has done for me.

    1. @Sundi Jo, Our female mentors are where they’ve always been: in our families, in our churches, and in our charitable institutions. Look at the women around you at your next family meal. Glance at the ladies in the pews on Sunday morning. Look around you at the volunteers at your local soup kitchen or “good cause” meeting. I think you’ll see a plethora of Godly, mature, creative women to walk with you on the journey. We’re surrounded by a tapestry of life wisdom and insights woven each day by the women in our lives. Mentors called mothers and sisters and friends. No payment to life coaches needed. If you think you need one….work at a soup kitchen.

      1. @Judy, I would agree with you for the most part. However, my family didn’t provide very good mentors. Some of the things that happened in my family was the reason I so desperately wanted a mentor.

        When I met my mentor at church, she kept reaching out to me. Every time I would try to push her away, she would fight harder to help me understand her love for me.

        I love that, “Work at a soup kitchen.” I think you’re onto something there.

        1. @Sundi Jo, I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with Judy. To do so would be to ignore the myriad comments already made.

          You would be very, very lucky to find a mentor at a soup kitchen. Most of the people there are sold out and dedicated to that ministry-the ministry of the homeless. I’ve been there. They are not where we need to seek mentors. Role models yes. Mentors no.

          I wish the answer was as easy as Judy makes it, but I just don’t believe it is.

          1. @Randy, Hmm.. That makes sense. They are devoted to that ministry, because most likely, that’s where God has called them. I didn’t think of it that way. Thank you for the insight.

            If my friend and mentor, who God so richly blessed me with, was devoted to the soup kitchen, she probably wouldn’t have found the time to reach out to me.

            God puts us all where we need to be. My mentor was designed by God to encourage and reach out to others by loving with kind words, deep communication, quality time, and more.

            I guess we all “serve soup” in our own way. Thank you for the insight.

  15. This is a very complex question and I know that any response I give will be an oversimplifications. I believe there are a number of reasons why female mentorship is difficult to come by.

    1. I do believe that women themselves tend to denigrate and devalue the wisdom they possess. Christendom does place men in positions of authority and their contributions are heralded in the Bible and in ministry positions. Because of this, I strongly believe that women are less apt to believe that they have wisdom to share….or potentially less ego than men in exercising their voices, platforms and authority to speak into another woman’s life. I also don’t think there is enough encouragement to share what they have learned as wives, mothers, and women of God.

    2. Lack of cross generational churches- In my adult life (I am 30), I have tended to go to churches that are full of young people, which is a bit of a “blind leading the blind” type of situation. I long for the wisdom of an older woman but there really aren’t a ton of them at the churches I have attended, and I am not sure how you access them if there are.

    3. Life Station- often times women assume a great deal of responsibility for child rearing and keeping up the home. There just doesn’t seem to be time to pour into the life of someone who may be in a completely different life station and phase of life when you are pouring everything you have into your children and husbands and other responsibilities. Females are notorious for feeling guilty. Time spent investing in another, however wonderful, takes time away from one’s familh

    4. As a 30 year old Christian female attorney, there are not a bumper crop of women who I run into who have navigated the path I am walking on. Having lived in D.C., I think that is true for a lot of women who I knew.

    I could likely name many more reasons. I truly believe if we started celebrating the contributions of women more, and particularly letting older women know how vital they are to our growth as young women trying to live as women of God, there would be some amelioration in this issue.

    1. @Lindsey, Lindsey,

      Powerful reasons. And thought provoking, and I hope Conversation starters.

      Your last paragraph rings so true…

      “I truly believe if we started celebrating the contributions of women more, and particularly letting older women know how vital they are to our growth as young women trying to live as women of God, there would be some amelioration in this issue.

  16. FamilyLife has developed an online mentoring program called eMentoring that allows people to sign up to become mentors or for people to get help from a mentor. Potential mentors go through a little training process online and the mentoring happens entirely anonymously online. You can find out more at

    1. @Kenny, Kenny,

      Thanks. While i love the idea of an online resource for mentoring training,I honestly don’t know what to think about an e-mentoring anonymous program.


  17. I, too, came across this post yesterday and have taken some time to mull over what’s been said. As a college student, the “mentor-hunt” is something that comes up frequently over coffee with friends–and clearly, there is so much to be said.

    I count myself blessed to have been surrounded by a network of wise women throughout high school. That said, my “mentorship” rarely took the form of pre-determined/ regular meetings. What worked for me in that time was a willingness to be flexible. Some days it meant coming to school early or staying late to catch a teacher in a free moment. Other days it meant hanging out with a busy mom in the late afternoon and offering an extra set of hands when it came to dinner prep or wrangling in the kids. I’ve had as many pivotal conversations sitting in a coffee shop as I have while drying dishes in someone else’s kitchen after bedtime. Women pass wisdom both in action and in word.

    Moving out of state for college and away from that network has posed an interesting challenge, though, and I feel like there is a such need to de-mystify mentorship. What I most desire in a mentor is someone who is just willing to be. My generation has no lack of access to information–podcasts, blogs, online publications, etc. are everywhere. (And I for one spend enough time sorting through all of it.) What I hope for is relationship, and I am hopeful!

    1. @nina coyle, Thanks so much, Nina.

      What you have to say is powerful:

      “I’ve had as many pivotal conversations sitting in a coffee shop as I have while drying dishes in someone else’s kitchen after bedtime. Women pass wisdom both in action and in word.”

      “What I most desire in a mentor is someone who is just willing to be. My generation has no lack of access to information–podcasts, blogs, online publications, etc. are everywhere. (And I for one spend enough time sorting through all of it.) What I hope for is relationship, and I am hopeful!”

  18. This is not the reply I would like to give at this moment. I need to leave, but I am so drawn into what you have written and what these folks have contributed.

    Let me start by saying there is a growing group in Franklin that is focusing on mentoring women. I would be glad to introduce you to them.

    I will think about this and get back with you. My email is above too for followup about this other group. I am interested to talk some more about this.

    Thanks for bringing it up.

  19. True mentoring isn’t about fixing a weakness – it’s about walking with. I think if people view mentoring as asking for help they may be missing the point. They are different things though not entirely mutually exclusive.

  20. I read this post yesterday and really have been pondering over it the last 24 hours. Can I just say…you are right. I love to mentor other women (for free!). I am grateful that God allows me and puts me in places that I can help those that need encouragement and seeking guidance. I find the bigger your ministry wings expand, the lonelier it becomes. It seems as though the “momma bears” come out and territorial lines are drawn. I see these lines based on denominations, appearance and platform status. It saddens me that as women we cannot see past these and hear the message given.

  21. Randy…such a great post and great discussion! Being a fellow Nashvillian, I am with you on there being a lack of female mentors here. Maybe there are some out there, but it’s hard to find. When I moved to town in my early 20’s, I met with a woman and we even discussed her being a mentor to me…never discussed it again. I, like your daughter, felt rejection and still find it hard to find women older than me willing to be authentic and genuinely care enough to invest in my life on a regular basis. I don’t know if it’s as much a competition thing between women or women just being so wrapped up in our their world and own family that there isn’t time for anything else. I find it hard myself having 3 small children and a husband on the road constantly finding time to invest in a young womans life…part of that being that I am never around that age group. But, I would welcome the opportunity to be a “mentor” and avoid someone feeling the rejection that I felt and still feel today by the lack of mentors willing to dig in and being authentic with other
    women that need it! I’m so thankful for a group of friends that I can do that with, but having that older influence and being that older influence in someone elses life is a void I have right now!

  22. As someone who has two young sisters who I think can possibly change the world with their passion, love and life I wonder the same thing.
    I am very appreciative of having a mother who is in fact a mentor to a lot of women and a great mom to my sisters (and myself) but know that my sisters continually need guidance from other Godly women who are interested in investing in them.
    Maybe its because I am their big brother but I am always looking for people to invest in my sisters and have had a hard time finding them.

    I will say that Alece (aka @gritandglory) has done wonders for my younger sister Kamrie. Though they have never met, Alece has mentored Kamrie from afar and I am grateful for that.

  23. Randy,

    What a great post. You list a lot of very good reasons why we women hesitate to be mentors. I have fought God on it for the last three or four years because I didn’t feel I was worthy or had a strong enough foundation with God to be a mentor. I have, however, realized how wrong I have been so I have started getting my Ministry established, getting the legal paperwork in order so it can be a non-profit and offer free mentoring among other things for girls and women, with the main focus on girls coming out of high school. I am also trying to finish my book on rejection based on my life and that of countless others I have spoke with.

    I am planning on posting details on my blog within the next few weeks about the ministry.

    Have a great weekend!

    1. @Danaye Taylor, Awesome, Danaye. i have been mentoring young men every week for the past eleven years, and i STILL feel inadequate. I don’t think that ever goes away.

      We just have to offer ourselves.


  24. I think part of the difficulty in women finding mentors is that in the faith world we’ve relegated that to mom’s groups at church, or young married studies, or a Beth Moore or Kay Arthur class.

    I love what Hillsong is doing with their Sisterhood movement — it embraces women who are at many stages of life — and who have chosen different paths. Some are in the home full time. Some have corporate careers and are influential executives. Some work in human rights. Some are ministers. Some are students. Rather than a Bible study or mentoring group exclusively about being a “keeper at home” they help women navigate the many aspects of womanhood and the many passions individual women have. Most importantly, it gives women access to one another.

    Mentoring used to happen organically as women sat around the quilt together, Or canned produce. Life isn’t as simple and access to women who share your values and faith is harder to come by.

    1. @@pennyhunter, Penny, More powerful words…

      “I think part of the difficulty in women finding mentors is that in the faith world we’ve relegated that to mom’s groups at church, or young married studies, or a Beth Moore or Kay Arthur class.”

      “Mentoring used to happen organically as women sat around the quilt together, Or canned produce. Life isn’t as simple and access to women who share your values and faith is harder to come by.”

  25. I tweeted the link with a ps of my own yesterday. The following is the conversation thread it generated.

    In Search of Heroes — Where Are The Female Mentors? (I’m accepting 4 new mentees this spring)
    23 hours ago via Twitter · · Like · Comment · @Lana_Vaughan on Twitter

    SW – The article was good. But I think it missed out on a lot of reasons why they are difficult to find. One I think that is vital is that so many women think that to ask for help (i.e. look for a mentor) admits a failure on their part. That they can’t do it by themselves and they need another person to “teach” them. Second, depending on who they get for a mentor, the mentor may make the mentee even feel worse than they did before. (kind of like when people push the Proverbs 31 woman as realistic and doable and then fault them when they can’t meet up to that expectation)

    We had a program at one church we went to that had women fill out a survey and then the lead women prayed over each mentor and mentee and tried to come up with a good match based on what they felt/saw. Some pairs worked really well while others failed. I had two young children at the time and was matched with a woman who never had children. She could not relate to me at all on that point, She gave great advice in other areas, though, so for me it was good. But I had friends that felt much worse about themselves, because they compared themselves to the mentor and felt that they came up short.

    It is risky to open oneself up to others, and sometimes the benefits are not worth it. Sometimes they are. But I think that the unknown holds back both the mentor and the mentee,

    Even your wording, Lana, might make someone feel bad. “I’m accepting 4 new mentees this Spring”. So if they do not get picked, then they might feel unacceptable to you. and that can lead to them feeling like everyone, including God, does not find them acceptable. just my thoughts.
    22 hours ago · Like

    Lana Vaughan – I guess I’m coming at it from a different perspective. There is an old adage that says “When the student is ready the teacher will appear”.

    I don’t have a problem with the Proverbs 31 woman. I personally know 5.

    As for acceptance. It’s not about picking. It’s about being open and letting women know that I am. I have committed to make time in my life to invest in their hearts and their lives.
    22 hours ago · Like · 2 people

    SW – Then Lana, what if 5 or 6 or 8 ladies want you to mentor them at the same time, but you have room for 4? what will you tell the others? I am just trying to show you that it is not always as easy as it looks. I have known several women deeply hurt by rejection from a “godly mentor” as well as many that had Proverbs 31 shoved down their throats so hard that they feel they can never recover. We need more mentors that truly have the gift and desire for mentoring, like you, instead of women that feel they must do it because “someone has to”.
    I was looking for a mentor a couple of years ago. Prayed very hard over it. Thought of each woman I knew that I felt was a good possibility. Finally felt like one person was the best option. I approached her, kind of like the girl in the article. She said she would pray about it. 4 months later I timidly asked her again. She had forgotten all about it. She then agreed, reluctantly. After two or three meetings, she never met with me again. No reason why, nothing.

    I truly hope a great godly woman would appear each time someone wanted one. I wish you could be cloned so that more women could be taught by you. But the reality is that is not happening.

    21 hours ago · Like

    Lana Vaughan – If God entrusts me with more I will trust Him for the grace and wisdom to mentor each one.

    I understand about not always finding a good fit. One of my early mentors “fired” me. I promptly found a new mentor and we were together for years.
    20 hours ago · Like

    1. @Lana Vaughan, Thanks so much for providing this stream.

      Very revealing to me.

      One of the most revealing paragraphs in this entire conversation seems to be here:

      “One I think that is vital is that so many women think that to ask for help (i.e. look for a mentor) admits a failure on their part. That they can’t do it by themselves and they need another person to “teach” them. Second, depending on who they get for a mentor, the mentor may make the mentee even feel worse than they did before. (kind of like when people push the Proverbs 31 woman as realistic and doable and then fault them when they can’t meet up to that expectation)”

      How do you guys respond to this?

      1. @Randy,

        I agree with her on that point. Unless someone comes to the place where they realize they need someone to help them get perspective or teach them a different way of living, it’s pretty useless trying to mentor them.

        I also agree that, while there is great power for good in mentoring, it can also have the potential for great harm.

  26. Hi Randy,
    I’m with @GinaParris on this. I would argue that there is not a void of volunteer female mentors – perhaps it is simply a matter of refocusing your lens to a different “type” of woman. Everyone of my friends, myself included, would be honored to be asked to be a mentor and would jump at the chance. My circle of strong, abundant women is large – Gina being one of them. While most of us are professionals, that does not mean we don’t have a heart for working with girls outside of our work. In fact, I don’t know one of these women who doesn’t give their time to a charity, cause, or person simply because that’s just the type of woman she is. What they all have in common is an abundance mentality – a gift for lifting others up and the desire to see others soar, most especially girls and young women. They are also self-starters, family-oriented, faith-based, and model personal responsibility and leadership. Most are conservatives. All of them are superb role models. I even suspect that, outside of Big Sisters, they have often wondered how to find a mentee. Perhaps we’re on to something here…

    1. @Ann Vertel, Yes, I understand your point, but as I read all these posts, where is the disconnect?

      If there truly are more women like you and Gina,

      why are all these women having such a tough time finding someone?


  27. @pennyhunter Now the world knows why The Garmons were so sad to lose you as neighbors here in Lilburn, GA. Thank you so much for these insightful comments. I’m looking forward to anything you publish on this topic. You’ve navigated these waters beautifully. {And, by the way, thank you from the depths of my mother’s heart for the investment that you’ve made in my sons by living life well and letting them walk in your world.}

    1. @Betsy Cañas Garmon, Wow, Betsy. That is just powerful!

      {And, by the way, thank you from the depths of my mother’s heart for the investment that you’ve made in my sons by living life well and letting them walk in your world.}


  28. i’m really passionate about mentorship–being a mentor and a mentee! :) i have campus crusade for christ to thank in large part for teaching me the model–to be poured into and to also pour out.

    1. @chels, That is great, chels! Do they have a written program? A cirriculum book, etc. about initiating and developing the mentoring process?

      1. @Randy, they don’t have a written program per se.

        let me first say that this is all drawn from my personal experience at the university of toledo, in ohio. campus crusade for christ (ccc) can look different on every campus. anyways, ccc is very intentional about evangelism, but they don’t want to leave people there, as converts. they want to make people in to disciples of christ. that being said, again, it can look wildly different depending on the two people involved in the relationship. it can be very formal, or more of a “hang out” thing. they do have lots of great resources to help.

        some of them might look a little corny or something from the outward appearance, but you know the old saying–don’t judge a book by it’s cover. i have especially used the materials called “follow-up” with a variety of girls, some who have just accepted christ, and some who have been christians for a long time.

        i’m only 24, but mentorship is something very dear to my heart. there are four girls that i am in a sort of mentoring relationship with. one is much more intentional than the other three, but i view all of those ladies as my younger sisters in christ and i value our time together, whatever it may look like. sometimes mentorship is doing a bible study together. sometimes it might be just hanging out, sharing life, taking a younger woman alongside to see how you live your life, how you walk your faith out in the stage of life that you are currently in. that can be as powerful or more powerful than anything you ever say! i don’t think it can be too formulaic because in my experience relationships don’t do well when you try to push them into a grid. you have to tailor it to the needs of the specific woman.

        for women who are seeking out to be mentored and to mentor, pray about it! ask the Lord to bring women into mind who you can seek out in a more intentional way. he definitely wants to use us in this way, so i think he will answer this prayer with a resounding YES. also know that it takes you stepping out. like with the four girls i’m mentoring now, more often than not, i have to be the one that initiates, and i’m okay with that, because i want to be available for God to use me in their lives.

        wow, i’ll get off my soapbox now. but i just think mentoring is so powerful and important. i’m so thankful for the mentors God has put into my life, and i LOVE being able to pour into younger women, too.

  29. I hesitate to comment because I don’t want to sound self-righteous. But I have found myself in a rather organic place of mentoring… as in no one has “officially” asked me for this role… but it has happened nonetheless. I host what is lovingly referred to as “porch therapy”. There are about 1/2 a dozen girls, at least 10 years my junior, that regularly request “porch time” with me. That basically consists of a fire in the chiminea, a good glass of wine (or two) and deep discussions and mulling over this thing called life. I love this part of my world. I even had a young guy call me recently and ask, “what’s this I hear about porch time and how do I get some?” We had a great hour on the porch and I was instantly struck by the deep need for men AND women to walk these tricky paths of life with the younger generation.

    But, and that’s a big BUT…. I lack that person in MY life. I’ve searched high and low. For years. And though I know some pretty amazing women, most of their influence is from afar. I lack that mentor who is IN my life, who sees me regularly enough to KNOW me. That’s really the only way she can call me on my stuff and advise me appropriately. Like these young women I meet with… I can bring up situations from their lives because I am IN there lives. I have actual examples and observations… not generic scenarios.

    That said… mentoring is beautiful art within relationships. One that should not just be sought, but given.

    1. @Deb Barnett, Oh, Deb. I feel exactly the same way as you.


      Thanks for providing “porch-time.”

      Maybe we will need to find ours in peers that are just a few years older, because I have repeatedly tried the older generation to me , but have had no success.

  30. I’ve been on the receiving and giving sides of mentoring. I’m beginning to realize the mentoring offered to me straight out of college ten years ago was a huge exception to the rule… Unfortunately, I haven’t had a female mentor in about 4 years — and my life has been emptier for it.

    I love the fact that this is on your radar right now! And I can’t wait to see what fruit comes from this thought process and dialogue–with your influence, maybe you can raise up some more mentors for the ladies!

    1. @mandythompson, Thanks, Mandy, I hope this conversation will help. I must admit the need is far greater than I imagined.

      My mind is spinning and wrestling for the next step here…

  31. I love your words, @sheila – “being a safe place where they get to show up as they are and nothing is ‘off-limits’ in the conversation”.

    This is what we need as women of any age, I think, but we also need that person to be willing to let us throw up verbally, then help us process what’s there — and call us back from the edge when needed.

    1. @Faye, Absolutely Faye, I have been there ‘on the edge’ and unfortunately I couldn’t find a woman mentor-my distress and questions were too much. It was a dear male friend who called me back to life again.

  32. My heart has been screaming for this post for awhile. As a 21 year old woman, i live these questions every day. What i would give to be able to be mentored by a strong woman, to share my concerns with her, to have her pour into me. My mom is awesome, but she’s not super strong in her faith and has never been called to the same things i have been called to, full time ministry being the big thing.

    I sit confused, hoping to find someone. I have actually considered finding an older female counselor to mentor me.

    There are strong women around me, i know their answer will be no.

    1. @jenny, Okay, Jenny.

      Your quote is so powerful: “What i would give to be able to be mentored by a strong woman, to share my concerns with her, to have her pour into me.”

      But I honestly wonder, why are you so sure there answer would be no?

  33. The book, TRANSFORMING TOGETHER by Moody Press is ALL ABOUT authentic spiritual mentoring between women. There is an “underground” spiritual movement where younger women are walking up to older women that they’ve observed and say, “I want what you have!” Jesus will not be reduced to a program! HE is alive and well between women who are seeking HIM…together!!! They meet not necessarily in church buildings but in Starbucks, in homes, across tables, around pools….wherever the WORD OF GOD can be opened, digested and applied. Yes, indeed, there are women spiritual mentors! We are alive and well and growing in depth and numbers!!

    1. @Ele, Ele,
      I guess i would just ask as i read these comments that maybe you did not get opportunity to read, WHERE?

      Please read these heart-breaking comments. How can we dismiss them?

      I do thank you for the resource. I will buy that and read it.

  34. I stumbled on your post today about female mentors. I am with you. I do have the privilege of walking beside about 20 young women and several young men – five of them now very consistently and deliberately as a mentor. Most are in the entertainment/creative world. Some are also pursuing their places in ministry and in corporate leadership. Some have transitioned into a stage of nurturing children and bringing out God’s best in them but trying to figure out how to hold onto other dreams and pursue them simultaneously – if that’s even possible. I learn much from them — and it is a high honor to invest in their lives.

    I have been encouraging my friends who head up some of the largest conferences in the faith space that they need to more deliberately provide a space for young women to connect with seasoned women. I have been working on a piece “Having it All – Just Not All at Once” that addresses some of these issues and the great conflict young women face. We have told them “you can be whatever you want to be” when they are young. Only to wink at this idea when they’re in their 20s asking if they’ve met anyone yet and when they’ll be having children. We also tell them to be compassion justice-seekers, great friends with other women, creative, good in bed and the kitchen, smart and politically savvy – have children and earn a living. It’s exhausting and impossible to be good at all of these things all at once. And, it breeds great discontent.

    Most of the young(er) people in my lives have come to me – either directly or through a friend. I’m a marketing consultant (read your post on why it costs to pick your brain – a hearty AMEN to that) and used to be the VP of Comm for a large non profit. I’m the mom of two sons and wife of the same man for 27 years. And while time is money this time developing the next generation is an investment of the heart. It requires flexibility and some boundaries. It also requires a willingness to “get messy” since a mentee may approach you thinking they want to be mentored in their career and as your relationship develops you begin to mentor in other areas as well – areas that often open up discussions that are not easy.

    There is a shortage of women in their 40s-60s who have walked this road and balanced it well (career, family, creative pursuits, relationships.) It has been a time of pioneering. Having worked mostly in a “man’s world” but also loving being a woman I have felt the tension.

    For those of us who have walked a little different and more diverse path, it has been a bit of a lonely one and most of us have a desire to help others navigate it better than we did.

    A couple of quotes related to these thoughts:

    “I may be justifying my pockets of chaos, but I will always choose people over perfection and the heart over task and tidy.” – Betsy Garmon (see her post above)

    “Another lesson I have learned is not to allow my dreams to become derailed by ‘reasons.’ In the end, “it’s too hard” or “the timing is wrong” are simply excuses created to protect one’s ego from failure. It is essential to have purpose in life and in everything you do to strive for excellence.” Horst Schulze

  35. I agree with your post, female mentors are difficult to find. I tried unsuccessfully a few times at my church, which has a mentor program. I am a professional single woman and there was no one for me. I wanted to discuss leadership in the work place, careers, navigating up (with a christian mindset) etc., and this support did not exist. I actually started going to a weekly men’s breakfast with hopes to receive some of the mentoring or even encouragement that I sought so desperately (cause they got the concept). I finally gave up and hired a personal life coach. Best decision I ever made. It is not faith based but continues to meet my needs and helps me navigate a professional work life. The church was seriously was unprepared for a woman who had these concerns or desires and still is.

      1. @Randy,

        Today was a great example of how I feel like women can be over looked or not understood. I went for my yearly mammogram. The waiting room had Sports Illustrated magazines. That’s all they had, nothing else, 25 to 30 of them. How could they have missed understanding who their customer is? This is the same way i feel about the church, how could they have missed me? Single professional, happy but seeking to connect.

  36. Randy,

    There is a ginormous need for female mentors, not just for young women but for women at all stages of life. I have several young women who “hang out” at my house that I mentor. It’s not a formal arrangement, but rather this is their second home. I personally love this as I am the mother of four sons, three of which are now in college. These young ladies come here as often as they want to and when I haven’t seen them in a while I call them to check up on them. I have been another “mom” to these young ladies for a number of years. I have had a need in my life at many stages for a mentor as well though. At times I have been able to find one, others I have not. I am at a stage right now where I desperately need a mentor. I am 47 and I have been a widow for 15 month. Most days I think I’m doing better, but others I’m still floundering in a sea of unfamiliar emotional territory. My friends haven’t been through this so they have no idea what to “do” with me. I’m not sure why women feel that they are too busy to be more than a friend.


      1. @Randy, Oh wow. My heart hurts as I read Shelley’s question. It is one that I’ve asked as well…”I’m not sure why women feel that they are too busy to be more than a friend.”
        God helps us!

  37. I am really thankful for this article. I have often wanted a mentor and
    asked alot of women and was told no for various reasons. I was glad to
    know I wasn’t the only one struggling with this.

  38. I keep coming back to read the comments because there is a fascinating discussion taking place here.

    One question I have, is how do you define a mentor? Some have mentioned that they have tried to mentor, only to be used as a dumping ground for others problems, thus being more of a therapist than a mentor. Others have said that it is someone to walk along side you through life, which to me sounds more like a friend than a mentor. For me personally, I would like to find someone who can teach me and help me in pursuing a dream and act as a sounding board for that dream, from an artistic standpoint, which I think is what you do Randy with the guys you regularly meet with.

    So I’m wondering, does the definition change the conversation?

    (And the definition I’m looking at is “serve as a teacher or trusted counselor; “The famous professor mentored him during his years in graduate school”; “She is a fine lecturer but she doesn’t like mentoring” and a wise and trusted guide and advisor)

    1. @Michelle, A pivotal question and observation, Michelle.


      To me, as I reflect on your comments and those above, my working definition would be:

      “A trusted advisor who strives to remain objective who meets with mentee on a regular pre-determined basis, whose main job is careful and purposeful listening and being present, and is also available 24 hours a day should the need arise.”

      Hmmm. How is that for a start?

      I promise to work and take more time to flesh that out.

      Looks a lot different than most of what I’ve seen so far.

      Would the definition be different for females?

      1. @Randy, I don’t think the definition needs to be different for women. What I think is different is the area in which a mentor is needed. From what I’m reading in the comments, most of the women are looking for life mentors to help them in their overall lives or to be life mentors to the next generation. But in the initial comment on your previous post that prompted this one Stephanie touched on the areas of business, blogging, and writing in addition to the life questions. Which brings me to the question that needs to be asked, in what area of your life are you looking to be mentored? Is it personal, professional, creative, health…?

        In my experience it is not hard to find a professional (business not artistic) mentor. And there I don’t think the gender of the mentor is as big of a problem as it would be in perhaps the personal or health areas. The creative is a different area all together. And that’s what I didn’t see a lot of in the comments were the ladies looking for the artistic mentor. I don’t know, but I think that’s what a lot of the ladies from recreate are looking for. At least that is what I am looking for. And that seems to be hard to find.

        I know that in the music industry (and other creative fields), unless you are someone like Madonna, Dolly Parton, or another very strong force to be reckoned with, you will most likely be treated like a second class citizen. I say this based on personal experience as well as that of others I have talked with. You may be able to speak your mind, but then will be patted on the head, and decisions will be made even to the contrary of what you’ve said. I’m sure there are other strong women in the industry that I am not aware of. But in my experience they are few and far between. And that’s where the challenge is for someone like me to find a mentor that can share, impart, teach and advise me on how to navigate the particular field that I am wanting to enter into.

        I think you have a good start to the definition and I think it”s a conversation that will continue for some time. It’s certainly given me a lot to think about.

  39. Hey Randy,

    I’ve served as a mentor to a couple of younger women, and will continue to do so. But I have to disagree with your assumption that “it’s not about time” because all the male mentors you know are already extremely busy WITH THEIR CAREERS yet they make time for mentoring.

    Here’s what it looks like from my perspective. I’m a literary agent and there is one other agent in our agency. He’s a guy, a bit older than me and so his children are grown. He doesn’t have to care for children, drive them to daily sports and other activities, and make sure their homework gets done every night. He does not have to cook his meals (unless he wants to). He doesn’t have to grocery shop for a family, he doesn’t have to see that that house stays clean and the laundry gets done.

    I do.

    So basically we do the same job as agents, but in addition to that, I have another full time job caring for a family. To me, it looks as if your definition of “busy” is different than mine. Most CEO’s, being male and older, have MUCH more discretionary time than the average 40-something professional woman. (Who may have not only children but older parents to take care of.)

    Perhaps things will look different to me in about seven years when my youngest is off to college. But right now, I’d say if you compared your discretionary time with mine, Randy, you’d win by a LONG shot.

    1. @Rachelle Gardner, Ah, Rachelle. Your point is well-taken.

      And after reading your comment, I certainly do have more discretionary time than you at this point.

      Unfortunately, being the ravenous entrepreneur I am, my time is filled with my seven business’ and their everyday continuous call on my time. I also mix that with continuing responsibilities of my family (somehow that never seems to decrease-even when they are older-it just looks different), and yes, I suppose I do have more discretionary time, I just fill it up with work, and so at least to me, I seem unbelievably busy all the time.

      Maybe its just me.

      But I sure am tired a lot from all the discretionary work I do. :)

  40. Melissa your thoughts were mine for a long time. I reached out for some peer counseling through my church. Did all the leg work. Met with my assigned woman and that was that. It was to be a weekly meeting. It didn’t work. I have found that ‘mentor/relationship’ is more what I needed. Women who were not just assigned to me but truly cared for me. They are there when needed though we do not have a set schedule. I have found women in business are very competitive and often women bosses have been the worst.

    I wish I had some sound advice but the first place to start is always prayer. Also I may be far away but if you want someone to be there I am here.

  41. I’m going to post my comment before reading others so I don’t taint my thoughts with that of others. I personally have stepped up and mentored young girls and women who are younger. However, I would say that in my own life I never had a single mentor who met on a regular basis. What I did and do have now is a group of women who pray for me daily. Who pick up the phone and call me or send me gifts in the mail. They walk through this life with me by my side, every step of the way. We don’t just talk about scriptures but we live them in each others life. I’m not sure you could call them mentors because we mentor each other. I would say we are more like the church of Acts.

    It hurts my heart that your daughter did not have a mentor at this time. I would think the Franklin Campus is much like what my group of women are to me.

    I’ll go back and read those other comments now.

  42. @Randy Elrod, The book and workbooks were not published, they were created by a team of women at our small church and just copied and passed around. This was before the days of self-publishing and internet sharing. It’s a shame too, because the one workbook called “New Creation” was really wonderful. Maybe I should encourage them to publish it.

  43. I’m not sure how to offer myself as a mentor to women. A few years ago I was part of a formal program that provided volunteer mentorship. The young women I got, only wanted to whine, complain and dump their problems, they didn’t want to ever listen or implement any suggestion I might have managed to squeeze in. (they need counseling) Then the flip side, refers to your post the other day, people that just want to pick my brain about writing, but don’t really want a relationship or life advice, they are out hunting and gathering anything they can for free. I think we are very short on female mentors. When I write, I try to mentor through my experiences and contribute to what women need.

    1. @Audra Krell, Yes, thanks, Audra. Knowing you, you have much to offer as a mentor when you do find someone who truly wants a mentor-not a counselor or free writing teacher.

      There is a huge difference.

      I stress all the time that our group is a mentoring group. It is not an accountability group, not a Bible Study, not a “small group.” it is a mentoring group. There is a huge difference!

  44. Really great post – really has folks talking – AWESOME. A group of women, including myself, at my church are just now in the process of creating an atmosphere conducive too and a plan of action (on an individual level – this won’t be a “program”) for mentoring other women in our lives. It’s a daunting task, but an important undertaking. I definitely feel inadequate, but just stay prayerful about it – and slowly but surely, I feel that God is showing me where my journey has given me strengths and wisdom that I can share with others. I agree with a commentor above who described like doing life together. I can’t point to one single woman who has been my mentor – but I have a group of women – not even all necessarily connected to each other, but each to me in some way – who I have been shored up by, encouraged by, and who have each with their own strengths and wisdom have watered and fertilized the soil of my life to help me grow.

    1. @Melissa, I love your statement, Melissa, that your church has a plan for action, not a program. That is really significant. Thanks for joining this extraordinary conversation.

  45. Great post Randy. I wonder if many women mentor but are pretty quiet about it? Over the last several years I have mentored, and continue to mentor 4 women. Some of the time we meet face to face but we chat daily through text messages and the occasional phone call when our schedules allow. One of the relationships began with a woman I met who asked me if I would be willing to be a place where she could verbally throw-up. Knowing a little of what she was dealing with that seemed very appropriate and I said yes:)
    I think sometimes the title ‘mentor’ can be intimidating-one more demand to live up to. I see my role as being a safe place where they get to show up as they are and nothing is ‘off-limmitts’ in the conversation. More than mentor, I see myself walking beside these women and loving them through the difficult days, the ridiculous and glorious ones and all the stuff in-between. i think it is a sacred gift.

    1. @Sheila Walsh, Thanks, Sheila. Your point is well-taken.

      May your tribe increase!!

      Yes, I know that the term can be intimidating. But oh my goodness, as I’m sure you have found, what rewards.

  46. You’ve raised a really important question and I think a piece of the answer is in the intentionality of a mentoring relationship. I’ve spent the last 25 in youth ministry in some form or fashion and through those years have had the opportunity to both be mentored and be a mentor. But most of my experiences didn’t start formally with the question “will you mentor me?”.

    All but one of my mentoring relationships have sprung out of an existing relationship–something I think is often key in how women interact. For most women, we engage in relationships with our whole heart and because to be nurturing is innate, a mentoring relationship can easily be seen as something that is consuming. It’s been my observation that men who mentor are often more easily able to compartmentalize the mentoring relationship than women are. For this reason, figuring out how to mentor another woman often needs to be something that fits naturally into the fabric of the mentor’s life.

    And often, the experience of mentoring for many women has not been formal. I can point to a favorite aunt in particular who has served as a mentor in my life–but we’ve never termed our relationship in that way–she’s my favorite auntie. In the same way, I’ve had several amazing women as my boss. One simply saw in me an ability to do and be more than I was settling for at that point in my life. She took the time, invested in our relationship, and set higher bars for me while encouraging me and teaching me. Both of these women are still in my life and ones I turn to when I need input and wisdom. And both of these mentoring relationships were informal and born out of existing relationships.

    I think because so much of many women is this mentoring that happens somewhat informally in the context of a friendship, family or work relationship, it makes some of us reluctant to say “Yes, I’m a mentor.” And we need to not be.

    As a youth worker, and as someone who works for an organization that trains youth workers, I try to prayerfully pay attention to both the teens and younger women youth workers around me, and notice where God might be calling me to walk alongside someone for a season. Occasionally, there is a formal mentoring relationship that happens. More often, it happens in the context of a growing friendship.

    1. @Mindi Godfrey, I think this is a really good point. I would say I’ve had a lot of great mentors in my life but I never called them that. I did spend a lot of time with them, ask them the questions I had, watched, a lot, how they did things. I learned through relationship with them because that’s how women think, relationally.

      I have on several occasions “mentored” younger women, but we didn’t call it that. They jsut came over to my house or met up for coffee and talked.

    2. @Mindi Godfrey, Thanks, Mindi, your statements here are powerful to me, a man:

      “For most women, we engage in relationships with our whole heart and because to be nurturing is innate, a mentoring relationship can easily be seen as something that is consuming. It’s been my observation that men who mentor are often more easily able to compartmentalize the mentoring relationship than women are. For this reason, figuring out how to mentor another woman often needs to be something that fits naturally into the fabric of the mentor’s life.”

      That is a powerful thought. And one that bears reflection as we try to solve this problem.

  47. Great question! When I was newly married my small church had a discipleship program called Daughters of Sarah that I went through with two different women, one just a bit older than I and one a full generation older. Both were wonderful experiences that got cut short when one or the other of us moved. Since then I have definitely felt a lack of this influence in my life, and have looked around but I can honestly say it’s hard for me to find a female hero. In the Christian church culture the women who believe in mentoring along the lines of Titus 2 are usually women who believe firmly that mothers must not have careers outside of mothering, which I do and therefore even if I didn’t feel judged by them (which I usually do) I certainly can’t relate to them.

    Additionally when I do see women I respect who I would be interested in having mentor me, I have no idea how to ask… specifically what the expectations would be. When I had it before there was a curriculum of sorts we followed that just made the conversations come naturally. So in that way maybe it is more natural for men.

    I do have some great women in my life, especially on Twitter, that I learn and share a lot with, but I would consider them peers rather than mentors.

    1. @Sarah Hubbell, I’m with you. How do you ask? And so many of the women I have met, are usually somewhere else in the country because I’ve met them at a conference, or on line (twitter usually) and recently because we’ve moved, I haven’t had the opportunity to meet anyone local. It’s a challenge finding those places to meet someone when you are in a new area, not knowing where to look.

    2. @Sarah Hubbell, Thanks, Sarah. I love the idea of “Daughters of Sarah.” Multi-generational mentoring. Is that curriculum still around?

      And I’ve heard similar complaints about the mothers should only be at home mentors at churches. Sigh.

  48. Great post! I had a mentor when I was in seminary. It was such a sweet time in my life. I would love to find an older woman to mentor me now. It is also a great reminder that I need to be mentoring women younger than me. My husband is a youth pastor, so the opportunity is wide open! Thank you.

  49. When I was young(er), in the environment I was in, if I’d ask for a mentor, it would have been understood that I was asking for someone to teach me how to be a good wife and mother, to learn how to run a home and cook and budget efficiently. It would NOT have been seen as mentoring me in the area of ministry.

    So here I am, old(er) and hopefully wiser. I have served in “professional” ministry for 7 of the last 10 years of my life, and it was only in the last 3 months that I finally found a mentor who would help me navigate the ins and outs of being a woman in ministry – not JUST a wife and mother – but those are included in our conversations, of course.

    It was around that same time that I was approached by a younger, newly married woman who asked me to serve in that capacity, and I was admittedly a bit fearful of being inadequate. I realized, however, that I can share what I have learned, listen, guide and pray for her. We talk about all manner of things, not just “housewifey” stuff, and I must say that I learn from her along the way as well!

    All of this is to say that I wish I could have experienced this earlier in life. I hope to keep that from happening to someone else.

  50. I think you and the commenters so far have brought to light some real issues. Especially the competitiveness of women between each other. This is something I have never understood and have tried not to be a part of. We all have different talents & traits that we bring to the table, why can’t we share them, instead of feeling like we have to keep them so closely guarded. And I have found this in both the business world as well as the church world too.

    In years past I have been in the business world as a manager of a team of software developers. Thankfully I had a boss who did not buy into the sexual stereotype that women can’t be leaders. He took the time to mentor me, and taught those of us willing to learn, how to be a good leader. On that team we had both men and women, older than me and younger than me. And during that time, I tried to mentor the women as much as I could, to help them succeed. I didn’t exclude the men, but as you pointed out they had it easier finding mentors that could pour into them at work and outside of work.

    Now I’m at a point in my life where I am a mom who is trying to mentor her daughter. But I know that she will need other mentors besides me in the years to come. Hopefully by the time she gets to that age it will be easier for her.

    But because I am in the mom role now, people assume that I no longer have dreams or goals. That is so far from the truth though. And find myself in a position where I could use a mentor now too. Which brings me back to the challenge of finding one. It’s a vicious cycle that I’m hoping can be broken.

    1. @Michelle, Yes, Michelle, a few thoughts occur to me as I read your post.

      One, now that you are in the mom role, it may afford you the flexibility in time (as opposed to set work hours) to mentor another young lady who is not your family member.

      Two, your daughters will need your mentorship, but a non-family member’s mentorship will also be invaluable.

      Three, I have also found it almost impossible to find an older mentor i.e. my Dad’s age. The huge majority of these men (now in their 70’s) were not taught the value of mentorship at all.

      Thanks for your honest and insightful comments and for making me think even further on this very important subject.

    2. @Michelle, This is a good point, in the business world I have a male mentor as well. He hired me and poured into me not only all kinds of sales and business training, but also lots of personal values around ethics, integrity and just how to treat people. He is in large part why I have been so successful in my career. But I miss the female perspective, especially the Christian female perspective. The one that understand the delicate balance of career and home and ministry.

  51. i’ve wondered some of these same things for years. and i seem to end up with more questions than answers every single time.

  52. Great post — and it’s really got me thinking (ha – sometimes a scary thing).

    I’ve encountered many female mentors/advisors for business through the years. What’s interesting — and here comes a big generalization that makes me a little skittish to say — I find that they are generally in the self-realization, find-your-voice “empowerment” role. That’s not necessarily what I’m looking for in a biz mentor. When I was younger I had the privilege of working with Billie Jean King. One of her messages to me was: don’t just network w/women, network with men because they are the ones who have the power. So, while that was true for the 1980s, I think it’s changed a bit today. Or has it? For me, I’ve not found a woman who can mentor me because I haven’t found one with the experience that is important for that role. So, I’ve turned to men. For business purposes gender didn’t really matter to me.

    I think there’s other “stuff” going on regarding women and how they relate and maybe even “compete.” I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one though…. for another day.

    1. @Sharlene, Yes, Sharlene, and if you as a female are still trying to wrap your head around that, As a man, I can’t even begin to do so.

      Thanks for your very insightful observations.

  53. I’m glad there’s been good feedback here, since I can barely concentrate on other stuff since reading it. The thing is, my heart aches for these relationships again. My paradigms are full time youth ministry where I served in a several different cities, and now professional coaching (which I can’t fathom charging teenagers for.)
    Obviously my error is in understanding and communicating how to do this “mentoring thing” at this point. My church’s answer would be to take one of the small groups, but they’re all taken (2 leaders stay with the girls all 4 years of HS and meet every Wed night – when I am at the karate dojo, with adults and kids I adore, as we kill eachother.)
    My pal who leads Young Life is convinced I need to join the YL staff and add weekly staff meetings, club meetings, cafeteria visits and private solo time with teenagers to my full weeks. Yikes! It finally occured to me that I have lots of teenagers in my cell phone, on my facebook and in my life. I just have not set up any kind of understanding of what I’d like to offer in their life. My daughter feels the young life leaders “try too hard,” to be meaningful to them.
    Where do you find kids that raise their hand to say, “Hey yeah, I want you in MY space, so I can grow with you.” Kids DO that??
    Its also cool that you have this niche to mentor artists. I am seriously open to what you can teach me here. I’m tired of the heartache from only raising my own amazing teenagers right now.

  54. I’ve had a hard time finding someone who can mentor me in my field…I have dear friends who have walked with me through spiritual and relational issues, but I do long for someone to pour wisdom over and offer insight and discernment into my ministry and art. It is so important for women to be spoken into by other women–Paul advises it in Titus 2! I’m always on the lookout for younger ladies that I can walk with and encourage. You’re right, it takes prioritizing and simply being yourself and answering questions honestly. Thanks for addressing this issue!

    1. @Emory Colvin, Thanks, Emory. I can’t imagine an older lady being thrilled to be asked by you for mentoring. It seems unfathomable to me that you and so many other female artists I talk to cannot find someone.

      I wonder if it is a “Nashville” thing or did you find this true other places as well?

      1. @Randy Elrod, As far as my profession and ministry goes I have yet to find a woman who has truly been available to mentor and encourage, regardless of location. I think someone touched on the point of competitiveness earlier and I think that may play into it a bit as acting can be quite competitive. A more likely argument is that rarity of women who artists and have enough experience to mentor. I know of only one other woman who does something similar to my ministry and she is in California. If you know of enough of us ladies to get a group started I’d surely be interested!

        1. @Emory Colvin,
          I encourage you to read “Transforming Together.” If, after that read,the Spirit prompts you, I would be open to walking alongside of you, being a jr. Partner to Who the Spirit is being in your life. I’m just an email away.
          An older women on her walk w/Jesus,
          Ele Parrott
          author of “Transforming Together”
          Servant of the Most High

  55. Dude. I was with you until the part about legacy {maybe?} being a male thing. Uh… Not. As an artist {and a woman & mother} I am keenly aware of legacy. Every time I approach a page with pen or paint, I think about legacy. And make no mistake, when I chose life at home with 5 children instead of a power career, I was thinking of legacy. Maybe, it’s that my legacy has softer edges. My sons knew my breasts for nurture before they encountered them in magazines for sex. And my daughter has, via example, learned of the power in hospitality, a cup of coffee & a handwritten note. Maybe it’s that women don’t always call it “mentoring” per se. We call it friendship, teaching and motherhood.

    In my teens and twenties, I struggled like your daughter to find mentors. The couple of women that were in my life, dropped me pretty quickly when my personal life got messy, so it took lots of years to navigate rejection and consequences. I did it mostly alone, with the mentors that I found in the pages of books. {It never occurred to me to ask for mentors; in that season, I wanted to be found.}

    Yes, I believe female relationships are more complex. I believe that women find it harder to lay out clear expectations for relationships and especially in the Southern United States church culture, feel an obligation to politeness and perfection. Mentoring requires navigating the gritty part of authenticity. Personally, I believe that from childhood forward, men have more permission to get dirty and figure things out the hard way.

    I eventually found a “paid counselor/coach” that has made all the difference in the world. There has been no one in my life that has functioned in a mentor role for free. {But then again, I’ve never asked anyone…} I do have some very powerful peer relationships that help keep my life balanced and truthful. I am closer to 50 than 40 and I have poured into the lives of young women for at least a decade. Before that I didn’t really think I had much to say. Now after teaching, painting, raising & balancing, I know that I have much to say. I have a track record. {Maybe you’re right on the inadequacy front. I’ve had a platform for longer than I realized…}

    Thanks, as usual, for making me think.

      1. @Randy Elrod, I think the making-each-other-think part is gender-neutral. {But I do appreciate having a forum where being female doesn’t exclude me from the making-you-think crowd.} Not all men can handle it. {Oh, did I say that out loud?}

        And, after thinking a little more on this topic, I can see that I was mentored by men in the areas of leadership, business, discipleship & creativity. All safe topics for interaction between genders. But in the places where the voice of an older woman would have been a treasure… {home, heart, womb} not so much.

        thanks again for the topic. It lead to some lively conversation under our roof.

  56. I am a non-profit mentor..I have been for the last (let me think) 10+ years…I have the privilege of living on a 200+ acre farm that is the perfect backdrop for mentoring/healing/teaching…It is rightfully named “Eden Valley”…

    I fortunately had wonderful mentors growing up (some of who are kinda famous, too), but my grandmother was my biggest influence..She even wrote and published a book on her life…She lived to be 99, btw..

    Like you, I saw the need in my own daughters…After great yearning, hearts desire and tons of prayer, girls started coming into my life from all over my community..Two girls, in particular, stand out to me…One was struggling with drugs, mother who had breast cancer and her parents divorce…The other was also from a broken home and she was simply naive…Both those girls I brought into my home, into my family…Countless meals, counts tears, countless hugs, countless laughs and countless hours of “teaching”…Oh, and lots of hard farm work, too…Hard, honest labor can break the selfishness in anyone, while healing the soul…Plus I think working with animals can bring healing and growing, too..

    Happy to say that both girls are now wonderful, lovely women who are both getting married to wonderful young men…I still speak with them daily…One has moved to Florida, but we still talk every day…

    I continue to have girls brought into my life…I love every minute of it and would never consider any profit to it…In fact, I lose money, but God repays me tenfold…I do not want any praise or recognition…It is purely in wanting to do God’s will, whatever that my be…

    So, women mentors do exist, but I think you are correct in saying there aren’t enough…Hopefully in sharing my story others will follow my lead…I pray that to be true..Thank you for, also, bringing this to light…Your blog reaches many and thank you for putting it to good use as well as good discussion.

      1. @Randy Elrod, Thank you, Randy…After reading some other comments I feel the need to address this more..

        First off~ I do not seek out anyone…Anyone, teens mostly, have been brought into my life…No, they do not raise their hands or say with words “I need your help, Julie”…Heavens no…It is a spiritual connection…It is an open-hearted connection that sees a need…And generally, in the beginning, it starts as just a casual friendship, with them scoffing at any wisdom I might have to offer…And I’m ok with that

        Also, there is no perfection on anyone’s part, especially mine…It is all by grace…I make no apologizes that my concern is based on my faith (my saving faith) in Christ…Only Jesus is the example of perfection…It is out of my own suffering and imperfection that I wish to grow and to grow others, in Christ…God’s son not only gave me mercy, but He also gave me grace…Through that, those who are in Christ, have the ability to extend that same mercy and grace to others…So it is far from perfection, it IS dirty, it IS hard, but it IS out of LOVE

          1. @Randy Elrod, Read through all the comments again today..I can’t even begin to put words to my thoughts..I see life so differently than most do..All I can think of is my “Crossroads Theory” that I have shared with you..My girls have a mentor and I never sought one out..It just happened..Their mentor is someone whom I never would have dreamed of..She is so out of my ‘circle’…Yet the chemistry between my girls and her is amazing…How can I put spiritual words to something without sounding like I’m a new-age nut?

            Wondering, also, if this is why women like me keep quiet?…Women like me who don’t want competition with other women or drama, they just want it to happen with the help of God’s hand?…Wow, I’m really letting the ‘dreamer’ side take over :)

  57. I LOVE this Randy – What a great question and one I have asked many times. Why does the word mentor immediately feel masculine? When I have looked before I have only found male’s who would take on the task. I asked a woman once and even met with her once – it was magical but then she has never followed through again. She could never give a clear answer as to why, in fact, she didn’t really answer my emails after that. ??? Why is it that a lot of women seem to be very competitive with each other- at least that is what I have observed especially in the industry I have been involved in. Why can’t we be supportive and help one another overall. I have been asked once and have tried to mentor this younger girl. I felt inadequate at first but now I realize as you stated that I just need to be myself and listen to her. I just need to walk out life WITH her. Although I am thankful for the male leadership and mentor’s in my life I still long for that female mentor. One thing I have realized of late is that we all need mentor’s – no matter how old we are or how long we’ve been in our profession, etc…I am still looking here. but hopeful :)

  58. I know the world isn’t totally absent of female mentors because I’ve benefitted from the commitment and investment of some GREAT ones (also I see myself as a woman who, in response, reaches out to mentor women younger than me. I hope other people see it that way too).

    I DO think women (specifically in more conservative Christian circles) need to be encouraged to have confidence, to have a voice. They need to believe that they have something important to share before they jump at the chance to be a coach or mentor.

      1. @Randy Elrod, Honestly, I’ve just asked – and sounds like your daughter did that too. I’m a part of a church where mentorship (for men and women both) is valued and prioritized and lived out on a daily basis. And I’ve met several of my mentors through leadership organizations (volunteer staff) or organized sports. I’m also on the opposite side of the country from you… not that that should matter but there could be a cultural difference…? I have no concrete evidence of that, just a thought.

        1. @Ally, Thanks, Ally, my dream is that more churches and companies will value and prioritize mentorship for both genders.

          I think that is a relatively rare thing. It certainly is in Nashville.

  59. Wow. Honestly, this post strikes me as bewildering. Really? There is a shortage of female mentors? A glance through my twitter lists and my uber-cool column, and my circles of (real) friends, my colleagues,and our listeners on, makes me wonder where she is looking. I know hundreds of gals who find it a privilege to mentor other women. Though it’s true that most of my private clients are seriously Type A males, I LOVE the young gals who know they can facebook me, text me and get on my calendar. I don’t even charge them.
    If you know how to hook me up with more young ladies, I am game.

    1. @Gina Parris, Gina, It was actually eight years ago for my daughter, but today I personally am unaware of ONE non-professional mentor in the Nashville area.

      Maybe I’m on the wrong Twitter lists. Could you help me rectify this?

      And I am wondering, you are doing this professionally, right?

      I’m talking about non-professional mentors who voluntarily meet regularly with females.

      Am I just missing it?

      I suppose it is equally bewildering to me, when young female artists from around the country are asking me for a female mentor.

      Please help me with volunteer female mentoring resources. I need them on a weekly basis.

      1. @Randy Elrod, Randy:
        I live in Spring Hill and have been asking myself the very same question since 1993. It is not just a problem for young women but for women, period. I see Bible studies, coffee groups, MOPS, etc. But I’ve yet to see mentoring outside the realm of “coaching.” And with “coaching” money is always involved. Or so that has been what I’ve observed living in this area.
        And I have keenly watched because, even though I mentor women of all ages through my local church, I’ve NEVER been able to find someone who would agree to mentor me. I’m not young but I’m not old, either. I’ve been praying and seeking for years. This year I specifically asked God for a mentor/accountability partner. I believe that we all need at least one mentor. Especially young women, yes. But every women can benefit from following in the footsteps of another seasoned by experience.
        I’m sure that inadequacy and other things play a part in this problem. Perhaps people need to be trained in mentoring? There are plenty of good books out there. I believe that it is also a spiritual problem. The church is not doing its job for many reasons. I won’t go into all of them in this comment but I do not believe that you are missing it.
        Perhaps the answer is to gather with people who have an interest in mentoring and launch something new in our area? I’m talking face to face. Not phone to phone, or tweet to tweet. Something in real life.
        I hope that many will read this post, comment, and think. And then I pray that God will give us the wisdom to act on what He shows us. This is a genuine need which is lacking. Thanks for shining a light on it.

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