Women in Leadership II: A Mentee’s Perspective

Last month, I received a reply to my earlier post on Women in Leadership.

Among many important points she raised, this blogger identified that a core problem for professional female ministers

is the fact that there are so few available mentors for young women who desire to enter ministry. It is proven that even in the secular professional world that the availability of mentors has a significant impact of the advancement of a woman’s career.

Coincidentally, I received this reply while travelling with two female, ministry-professional colleagues. The reply naturally prompted much of our discussion for the remainder of the trip.

I have more to say on this topic, especially in light of the current popularity of “Young, Restless, Reformed” speakers and teachers, subtly advancing their complimentarian agenda into our ostensibly egalitarian churches.

yrr ct cover

(In August 2015, The Assemblies of God adopted a position paper rejecting New Calvinism and its complimentarian stance. See on p. 6 of the paper here.)

I’ll offer further thoughts on this in a future post.

Meanwhile, I’ve invited Carmen Kampman, a female colleague, fellow blogger, and mentee, to offer her perspective on being a female in mentored relationship with a male (me). Enjoy.

He Said, She Said: A Mentee’s Perspective

I’ll never forget the day I got an email from one of my professors saying something along these lines, “Carmen, can you please come to my office and see me? Before returning your most recent paper, I want to talk with you about it.”

This request, and the conversation that followed mark the early beginnings of one of my most influential mentor/mentee relationships to date. And to be clear, I’m the mentee.

When the above-mentioned request came, I have to confess I was utterly freaked out.

I was a mature student (39) being “called to the office” by her teacher! And not just any teacher – my very first teacher, in my very first class, in a new and unfamiliar Bible college environment!

There were also other interesting dynamics:

  • He was male; I was female
  • He was younger than me; I was older
  • He was a teacher; I was a student
  • He was in a position of influence; I was vulnerable and unsure of what I was doing
  • He was intentionally willing to invest; I was cautiously open to receiving.

Although I don’t remember how the conversation started that day, I do remember the following:

  • I didn’t feel shamed.
  • I got the sense from him that my success mattered.
  • I felt respected.
  • He coached me on how I could improve the quality of my writing.

I don’t think that conversation for my teacher was easy, but it was a necessary conversation between someone who could demonstrate a better way (mentor) and one who needed to learn (mentee).

And good mentorship is about others; it’s about investing in another’s life and helping them to become.

A good mentor has healthy boundaries, models a way of life, shares resources, doesn’t shy away from the hard conversations, asks good questions, is generous with encouragement, celebrates successes, and helps process failures. And as the journey continues, they create space for mutual learning.

Over time, the mentor/mentee relationship has changed. As I began to grow as a person, a student, and a leader, it became evident (and perhaps my mentor sensed that early on!) that there was more in store for me. That professor would eventually go on to become my boss.

The conversations changed, opportunities emerged, respect and trust grew. And in an organic way, the relationship took on a new dynamic of mutual learning, something I would label as “He Said, She Said.”

Whereas once I sat more listening, I began to now challenge, ask questions, own my choices (and the consequences too), and grow in my confidence.

And then one day something remarkable happened: my knowledge of a particular subject surpassed that of my mentor, and he celebrated my achievement. It felt great! I felt smart! (I still occasionally rub it in!)

Because I have been in a mentoring relationship for several years, I’m able to track some distinct phases that the mentor/mentee relationship has gone through.

For example, there was a time when I felt dependent on the guidance I was receiving, but during summer of 2015, I felt myself pulling back and no longer needing as much guidance. The conversations changed. And where once I had been observing my mentor lead, I was now being entrusted with opportunities to lead.

Over the course of my life, there have been others that have mentored me. Some have been intentional relationships; others have not.

I’m not sure there is an exact method to mentoring, but there is one thing I know for sure: people are worth investing in because they are image-bearers of a holy God. And if that value drives you, you will find creative, God-honouring, people-honouring ways to sow into the life of another.