How to Be Mentored Without a Mentor

Some time ago, a young woman asked who had mentored me. She was surprised when I replied I’d never been mentored. I had in mind, of course, the idea that mentoring involves a formal, weekly or biweekly meeting with a wise older woman—doing a Bible or book study together and learning how to live as a Christian woman. I have never experienced this specific kind of mentoring.

But I’ve been mentored. And a chief tool has been reading good books. Early in my years as a wife and mom, I avidly pored over every Elisabeth Elliot book I could find. Her writing shaped my soul in countless ways. Even today I can recall many wise thoughts from her pen. In more recent years, I’ve worked my way through Puritan and Reformed writings, finding much nourishment for my soul from John Owen, J. C. Ryle, John Murray, and a host of others. During the last decade, I’ve discovered and been so helped by Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF) writers (e.g., David Powlison, Paul Tripp, Ed Welch, Elyse Fitzpatrick, and so on) who’ve shown me how to apply God’s sufficient Word to the circumstances of life. And of course, reading contemporary theologians (e.g., J. I. Packer, John Piper, Don Carson) provides a steady diet of truth about God. I frequently thank the Lord for the wealth of resources available to us, and I want to be faithful to share these resources with those who have far less.

I’ve also been mentored by observing others. At a school where my husband previously taught, the dean’s wife invited us faculty wives to gather monthly for lunch and prayer for the students. I learned much from watching how she ensured the time devoted to sharing prayer requests was kept brief so that we could actually spend our time praying. What a helpful example! Another older faculty wife I particularly respected mentored me unknowingly as she discussed ways she practiced hospitality and served students. I want to be like Jean when I grow up, I often thought.

I’m continually mentored by the godly women with whom I’m blessed to spend time. I learn much about loving my husband from the ways my friends love their husbands through challenging times. I learn home management tips by observing those extra-organized sisters of mine. And I’m fully aware “mentoring” is not necessarily age-oriented. I frequently learn from and am challenged by comments from the youngest woman in our small group. I view all of these opportunities as informal mentoring.

Becoming a Faithful Older Woman

As a seminary professor’s wife, a lot of my time is spent with younger women—often student wives who have questions about their roles as wife and mom. There are far more young women than there are older women to meet with them. Though I cannot fulfill all the requests I receive to meet with them, this is how I attempt to be a faithful older woman.

1. If someone asks to meet, I try to get together at least once, if possible. I endeavor to learn some of her story, discern current struggles, give some advice and suggested resources, and ask how I can pray. I keep lists of women with whom I’ve met, pray for them regularly, and seek to follow up when I see them.

2. I give priority to young women who are members of my church. We’re in a covenant relationship together; therefore, I have a special commitment to them. It’s also more natural to have relationships with those whom you see regularly in the course of worship and service. I seek to meet with a number of women monthly or bimonthly. There are certainly cases of greater urgency, however, when I meet regularly with a woman in need.

3. Our seminary has an institute of classes for student wives, and I’m involved in teaching some of those classes. Though this isn’t one-on-one mentoring, I do see it as a way of fulfilling God’s Titus 2 calling on my life (Titus 2:3-5).

4. I’m grateful for the use of technology to influence and bless others. I frequently read or hear something I can pass on to someone I think it might benefit. I’m grateful for the opportunities to continue relationships via email with women who have moved away—throughout the country and the world—to ministry positions. I fear we underestimate the encouragement a Scripture text, an inquiry about a prayer request, or a “safe” listening ear can offer.

These guidelines help me safeguard my first priorities (being a wife, mother, and grandmother) while seeking to influence a variety of women to grow in knowing, loving, and trusting the Lord, in loving and submitting to their husbands, and in caring for children and homes.

Bow Your Head and Open Your Eyes

You may be longing for a formal mentor, someone who can sit down and speak into your life each week. Pray and ask God for that tremendous gift. He may grant it. But if he doesn’t, or until he does, seek out resources already available to you in order to be mentored—even at a distance—by other Christians. I often challenge young, busy moms to read one chapter of a good book each day. You can work your way through a number of books that way. And you’re giving your soul something nourishing.

Look for opportunities to be around the women in your church. If you can join a women’s Bible study or prayer group, make that a priority. If nothing fits your schedule, ask if a different time slot could be considered. And look for opportunities to serve alongside other women: volunteering in music ministry, working in the kitchen or nursery, organizing an outreach event or an evening for women’s ministry—all of these outlets and more help you learn from the women in your church family, both older and younger.

Most importantly, maintain a vital relationship with the Lord through his Word, which sanctifies us (John 17:17). If we truly believe that, we will seek with regularity, with intentionally, with priority, to place ourselves under the influence of his Word, which teaches, encourages, convicts, and grows us all into Christlikeness. What a blessing to know that God equips us for all he calls us to do (Heb. 13:20-21).

  • Leon Merrell

    I am not a wife, or mother or even a female. I am a man in Christ learning and growing in the faith. I desire to help other men learn and grow in the faith too. I can see taking some of the ideas you listed and using them with the men in my Mens Group.


  • Jessalyn Hutto

    Really great advice Jodi! Reading has been one of the ways women from all ages have been able to make a huge impact on my life and I am so thankful for their testimony through the written word. Also I have been privileged to observe godly women-like you when we were members of Clifton!-in natural settings. What a blessing the body of Christ is! I think it is easy to get caught up in thinking we need to have a structured mentor relationship, which is obviously helpful and a huge blessing, but not absolutely imperative. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us!

  • Beth Holmes

    A beautiful word by a beautiful woman! Thank you for your influence on my life!

  • Ruth@GraceLaced

    This is my story as well…and through the same influences! When my husband served as a teaching pastor, he often said that well-known phrase, that he “stood on the shoulders of giants.” The men who’s writings and messages he gleaned from mentored his pastoral ministry when pastor friends in real life were not available or like-minded. I’m so thankful for the work Christ does in our lives through these wonderful resources!

  • Courtney Groover

    Sweet Jodi – I really appreciate your wisdom! I miss you very much! Love to you!

  • Ashley Wells

    Oh Mrs. Ware!!! What a blessing you are. Not only to those who know you in real life, as I am blessed to be included in, but now to those who will read this online.

    You offer such sound advice! It is honor to have been encouraged by you today, through this blog post, and in the past on many occasions!

    Thank you!

  • Mary St. Cloud

    Your thinking, in my mind, is representative of the need for community. You are so smart to use your resources and encourage the rest of us to do the same. We are not in this alone! That is not how it was designed. Thank you for the reminder.

  • Erika Dawson

    The title of your post caught my eye, and I shook my head in agreement the whole way through. This, too, has been my experience, and I so appreciate the encouragement. What a pleasant surprise to see a familiar name as the author of the post! It has been years since CLCBC days, and though you didn’t know me well, you knew my family quite well.

    Thanks again for these words–ones I will certainly share with others!
    Erika {Sweeting} Dawson

  • Sarah B

    Jodi, I shared this post with my readers. This week we’ve been talking about different kinds of friendships and especially mentoring. I planned to share my story with them, this week, which is just like your story, so instead I will point them to this piece. I think it’s important to realize that whether we have a mentor or not, God means it for good. I know that by not having a mentor, I was clinging to Him for dear life, which was good for me. The books you named are all among my fav’s. (Welch, Tripp, Powlison, Fitzpatrick) and I learned so much from Elizabeth George. They are all like heros to me. Thank you.

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  • Michael Snow

    But I’ve been mentored. And a chief tool has been reading good books. – See more at:

    Elton Trueblood used to say, “we can all walk with the great” with reference to books.

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  • Keri Seavey

    Jodi, you simply exude the love and grace of Christ as you naturally mentor in relationships! I consider it a privilege and blessing to have been a recipient of the genuine warmth, care, guidance and love that you offer to so many. Thank you for writing such a helpful article and for being such an example of what you write about.

    Love and blessings to you,
    Keri (from Portland, OR)

  • Bo Salisbury

    Thanks, Jodi. I got serious with my faith at the same time our first child was born and we worked opposite shifts, in order to take care of our son without paying for care. So, it was books… good books that made up the bulk of my “mentorship.” I’ll be sharing your post!

    “In my library I have profitably dwelt among the shining lights, with which the learned, wise, and holy men of all ages have illuminated the world.”

    “To live among such excellent helps as our libraries afford, to have so many silent wise companions whenever we please – all these, and many other similar privileges of the ministry, bespeak our unwearied diligence in the work.”

    “When I die I must depart not only from several delights, but from the more manly pleasures of my studies, knowledge and converse with many wise and godly men, and from all my pleasure in reading, hearing, public and private exercises of religion, etc. I must leave my library and turn over those pleasant books no more”

    Richard Baxter

  • Sharon

    This is my story too…I really think more women need to understand that we can be richly mentored/discipled through books and being aware/watching those around us.

    Thank you! Sharing this!

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