I met my mentor at the opening ceremony: Amy, a smiling schoolteacher who was obviously excited to mentor me. Once a week, I’d visit with her in her apartment. We would talk as I waited for my tea to cool. There, in the comfort of her home, I would rabbit-trail into the events of my life. In my unique position as a missionary kid, half a world and two years away from my family, I needed someone I didn’t have to be an example to or worry about worrying. I needed somebody to listen to me and pray for me.
That’s part of the role of the Women’s Ministries Mentoring Program at Grace College, which connects young women studying at Grace with volunteers from Grace College and area churches, including Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church (Bruce Barlow, lead pastor), Community Grace in Warsaw (Roy Chapin, lead pastor), and Leesburg Grace Brethren Church (Tim Sprankle, lead pastor).
This past year, the program had 45 mentors and 67 mentees. This is an increase from the program’s revival in 2012, when Sina Locke, coordinator of women’s ministries and assistant to the vice president for academic and student services at Grace, along with Kim Kroll, a student affairs employee, answered the request of female students with prayer and the support of the school.
“It is filling a need in female students’ lives on campus through connecting with older women with the purpose of growing in our relationship with Christ,” Locke says. “We emphasize being in the Word, prayer, and coming alongside our sisters.”
The mentoring program is meant to maximize this learning time. It is overseen by the Women’s Ministries Council, composed of women – mostly Grace employees and women from the community – who volunteer their time and gifts to assist in facilitating the ministry.
The process begins in September when both the mentors and the mentees fill out an application. Then, with much prayer, the matches are made. Most of the women are paired in a one-on-one mentoring relationship and several mentors with more than one mentee. In the last two years mentoring small groups were added as an option for the students as well. Led by a single mentor, the group setting has proved to be very effective.
After meeting at the October kick-off event, the women continue to meet, one-on-one, weekly or biweekly, for the rest of the year. In addition, Women’s Ministries coordinates about six events throughout the year, two of which are solely for encouraging the mentors. Often they invite the female chapel speakers to give a special message. This year they held a women’s worship night. Mentors and mentees join together in April for “Reflect,” an end-of-the-year celebration. Pairings are encouraged to communicate about whether they wish to continue meeting through the official program when school resumes or decide to remain friends but not continue meeting as mentor/mentee.
Locke says that she loves it when mentors and mentees continue meeting for their second, third, and fourth years because that is when the most fruit is evident. Several mentees have graduated, stayed in the area, and become mentors themselves. Mentors often comment about how they are encouraged and challenged in their faith through their mentee, not just the other way around.
As the ministry looks to this next school year, there is excitement about what God is going to do in the women’s lives through mentoring. Locke expressed the continual need for additional mentors and urged women to pray about getting involved by coming alongside young women to help them grow in their walk with Christ. —by Adriana Maxwell
Adriana Maxwell hails from southwest Michigan and worked as an intern at Grace Connect during her time at Grace College. She graduated this past May.
Check out the women’s mentoring Facebook page here. If you are interested in becoming a mentor or wish to send a letter of encouragement to those involved, contact Sine Locke at email@example.com.
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information from congregations in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.