Updated: Sep 26, 2018
I saw her out of the corner of my eye- a petite blond comet, shooting across the room. I watched in amazement as she laid hands on people and prayed with fiery boldness. Who was this lady? I was slightly unnerved and, to be honest, just a little intimidated. I hadn't expected anyone else to be ministering alongside Alejandro and I that Sunday morning. We were speaking at a friend's church in Perth, Western Australia. "Oh, that's Tracy," Alejandro said. "She and her husband are ministers. They came along today and I felt led to ask them to help us pray for people during the altar call."
When I had the opportunity to meet Tracy after the service, I was instantly struck by how easy it was to talk to her. I enjoyed hearing her vibrant South African accent and her infectious laugh. After a couple of minutes of pleasant conversation, I suddenly realized she was prophesying over me. Tracy had "switched gears" so imperceptibly that I couldn't tell where our "regular talk" ended and the prophetic word began. The word she gave me was encouraging, challenging and astonishingly accurate. For three years now, I have had the privilege of calling Tracy a dear friend and mentor. She has been like a spiritual mother to me (albeit a youthful, trendy one— more like a big sister!)
The world needs more "Tracys." Many are crying out for spiritual mothers (see "Where are the Spiritual Mothers?"). We hear from time to time about the great need for spiritual fathers, but women also desperately need the spiritual mentorship of other women who will champion them in their calling. It's not about age, either. No matter whether you are a grandmother or a young woman, you can nourish and bless other women.
...Many are crying out for spiritual mothers. Women desperately need the spiritual mentorship of other women who will champion them in their calling.
Before we look at these qualities, a word of warning: it is unwise to install yourself as a mentor in someone's life. In general, I have found that mentor/mentee relationships work best when they are initiated by the person being mentored. Unfortunately, many have been wounded in the past by someone who has tried to mentor them with the wrong motives. We should never seek to build others up in order to grow our own ministries, or lord it over them, for example.
Mentorship should arise naturally, out of a genuine concern for someone and the sincere desire to enrich their life. It is a role you step into, often unofficially, when that person comes to trust you and seek your guidance. Above all, ensure that the mentorship is divinely appointed— that God is in it. In saying that, if you feel the call to spiritual motherhood, you can make yourself available for God to use by starting to reaching out to others.
So what exactly is a spiritual mother and what is the job description?
1) Are available.
Perhaps the reason so many miss out on having a spiritual mother is because we live in a culture of extreme busyness. We need to make ourselves emotionally available, willing to carve out the time to build deep relationships if we are to have a hope of making a difference in people's lives. Jesus was all about people. He still is. In modern life, it is possible to be surrounded by people and only know shallow relationships. That's why mentorship is so important and why it requires so much intentionality.
2) Are authentic and approachable.
My spiritual mums (yes, I am blessed with more than one) are refreshing because they are authentic. They don't put themselves on a pedestal, no do they seek to be. In fact, their ability to be humorously self-deprecating at times puts me at ease, helping me to open up about my own failures and weaknesses.
Pedestals create walls, but humility builds trust.
In other words, if the person you are mentoring feels like they are on equal footing to you, they will be more open to your counsel. The key to this is humility. One of the most freeing things a mentor ever said to me was, "Oh yeah. I've done that too." That small phrase said so much more, it said— "You're not alone. You're not an awful person. There is grace available for you too." Of course, we should be wise about what we share, but there is power in being relatable.
3) Stay in touch.
It is important that you reach out periodically to check in with your spiritual son or daughter to see how they are doing— especially in times of hardship or major life events. Be sensitive also to God's timing. You may not know that they are going through a rough patch, but the Holy Spirit will put them on your heart. A word of advice here: a Facebook message is okay, but nothing beats a handwritten note or an actual phone call!
4) Rejoice in the success of others.
It is an increasingly rare quality in our self-absorbed society to want to nurture success in others and to enjoy seeing them succeed. If we are honest, we all long for somebody to celebrate our achievements with us— and there's nothing wrong with that. But we should also be able to give out. When you rejoice with another woman over her victories, you are giving her a priceless gift. We all need a "safe space" to share our triumphs— without the fear of being misconstrued or inciting jealousy.
5) Are encouragers.
Once I said to Tracy; "If I could bottle you up and sell you as medicine, I would make millions." Why? Because just being around Tracy can make you feel good. Not only because of her effervescent personality, but because she is an encourager. People walk away from Tracy feeling like they have been given a check for a million dollars. Their confidence in themselves and God's ability to come through for them has been given a boost, and they walk away holding their heads a little higher.
An effective spiritual mother can inject courage into the discouraged.
6) Are unselfish communicators.
Recently my husband had lunch for the first time with a minister he was getting to know. For the first fifteen minutes of the meeting, the man proceeded to give Alejandro an extensive list of his credentials and achievements. Over the next forty minutes, he shared his life story. Finally, he asked what God was doing in Alejandro's life and ministry. As Alejandro attempted to answer the question, the minister suddenly stood up, saying apologetically that he had another meeting to attend. He asked if they could catch up another time as he rushed out the door.
Unfortunately, this kind of incident isn't isolated. These types of exchanges happen every day, to a wide variety of people— not just to those in ministry. The end result is shallow, one-sided relationships. If you have the ability to be an unselfish communicator, you can be an effective mentor.
Conversation is a gracious art, not a competitive sport.
A good spiritual mother is a good listener. She has the ability to listen and to ask the right questions— without passing judgement. She doesn't change the way she treats you, even when she knows the "good, the bad and the ugly" about you. She won't walk eggshells around you though— a good spiritual mother will always tell you the truth in love.
7) Make others smile.
You don't have to be a comedian to be a good spiritual mother, but having a sense of humor certainly helps. Sometimes, right in the middle of an angst-ridden reverie, Tracy will interject with a hilarious quip, causing me to burst out laughing in spite of myself. My other spiritual mum, Jean, has the ability to see something positive in even the direst of circumstances. Humor helps us bear one another's burdens and makes them seem lighter.
If your personality leans more towards the serious, that's okay too. A quiet sense of joy can bring great comfort and encouragement to your mentee.
8) Have a deep personal relationship with the Lord.
The depth of wisdom that a woman is able to impart to her spiritual children depends largely on the depth of her relationship with God. That's why it is important to seek the Holy Spirit's counsel for the person you mentor. For me, this simply means asking, "God what would you have me share with this person?" before opening my mouth.
To give counsel without godly discernment is really just giving an opinion.
9) Know how to pray.
Just as it is vital that natural parents pray for their children, spiritual parents should also be faithful in this area. Both of my spiritual mums are prayer warriors. I know that I can call them any time of night or day and they will pray for me over the phone. I greatly appreciate the occasions that they have even fasted for me (nothing says love to me like someone being willing to give up food for my sake!!)
Lastly, don't despair if you feel like you don't possess all these qualities— simply ask God to grow you in the areas you could improve in. Whether you feel ready or not, the most important thing is that you obey the Lord's leading. If He is calling you to offer the shelter of your wing to someone, don't be afraid to do so— make that phone call today, arrange that catchup— don't wait!