Tether to a Tree: Finding a Mentor to Guide Your Parenting

I became a mom when I was 23 years old. In the months leading up to my daughter’s birth, my husband and I conversed about all the parenting things. We were confident about all the parenting things, and we worried very little because we had all the parenting things figured out. 

It took me exactly two days of being a mom to realize that I knew none of the parenting things. I thought I did. I thought I was well-prepared, but when all my best laid plans for feeding, swaddling, and carrying on with life did not pan out, I realized I was going to need help. So, I quickly sought guidance from other moms. 

I’ve had varying mentors over the last twenty-three years, and God has used them in my parenting as tangible extensions of his care, his love, his wisdom, and his grace.  

If you are desiring mentorship in your parenting, understand that this longing is natural and good. God made us to live and thrive in community. If you’re discouraged because you can’t find mentors, or if you just honestly don’t see the point, it may be that you have misunderstood what mentorship is really is all about. 

The Purpose of Mentorship

Author and Bible teacher Melissa Kruger illustrates mentorship like this: 

“Consider for a moment a young tree. It easily bends and sways, thrashing about in a storm. In contrast, an old oak stands strong amidst the changing seasons. One method to secure and stabilize a young tree is to tether it to an older, more mature tree. In a similar way, the mentoring relationship is one where a younger believer is tethered to a more mature believer for a season so that she might grow firm in her faith and be equipped for ministry.”

There is a misunderstanding that having a mentor is a sign of weakness. But, in fact, it’s really a sign of wisdom. Leaning into a strong tree when you are wavering and unsure is nothing but sensible. 

There is also a false assumption that being a mentor means you must have it all together. In this illustration, the tree is not perfect; it’s just a tree that has naturally become strong because it has weathered the storms through the years. Because of this, and not because of some life-altering reason, the older tree provides life-giving stability. 

The passages that address these types of relationships in the Bible, such as Titus 2:3-5 and Ephesians 4:11-14, provide principles for mentor relationship which include teaching, loving, admonishing, and setting an example. Notice that none of this instruction teaches us to glorify another person. All of it is for the purpose of pointing another person to Christ. 

The end goal of leaning into someone for strength and guidance is not to “do parenting just like them.” You can’t. You’re not them, and their kids are not yours. If that’s your goal, you will quickly feel like a failure

The goal of mentorship is ultimately to know Jesus more deeply through another believer in Christ. If this is your aim, you will quickly feel encouraged and will find grace upon grace in the hard days of parenting, wisdom beyond comprehension as you make decisions for your children, and love that never fails in your shortcomings as a parent. 

A Weak Platform for Mentorship

Today, with the advancement of social media, we have new and inventive ways that provide “sneak peaks” into the lives of other moms without the need for face-to-face interaction. Followers can literally watch the hourly life of a mom unfold as she seeks to live out the gospel in her area of calling. Once a young mom told me that she is “mentored” by these online influencers. 

That’s not mentorship; it’s really closer to entertainment. While the host is not necessarily to blame, it’s just too easy to observe someone else’s parenting and become jealous, disheartened, or doubtful about your own God-given situation and abilities. 

One of the most important aspects of mentorship is mutual friendship, and in that friendship, we learn from another through the joys, but also through the hardship. Some of the most important lessons I learned about parenting came from mentors who allowed me to walk alongside them through some heartbreaking situations. Shared tears deepened our mutual friendship. Seeing how their faith impacted their struggle strengthened my own relationship with Jesus. You just won’t see these kind of real life, hard situations on Instagram. 

Following a popular Christian or a well-known influencer is not the best place to find a stable mentor who can listen to you and deepen your relationship with Jesus. 

A God-Given Place with Mentors 

The church was instituted by Christ for a purpose. It exists because of God, and it is exists for God. Pastor and author Mark Dever summarizes the purpose of the church by explaining that each local congregation exists for “the worship of God, the edification of the church, and the evangelization of the world.” 

That second aspect, the edification of God’s people, occurs through our investment in a church’s community. In doing so you will naturally form relationships with those younger and older than you. Your local church is overflowing with people who will sharpen your walk with Christ if you are willing to invest in it

And this kind of involvement goes beyond a Sunday morning where your conversations may be limited to “good to see you.” Devoting yourself to a group of people involves additional commitment outside of Sunday morning worship, and commitment usually involves sacrifice. But it will always be worth it. While it may take time, within your local church you can discover what it is to love and to be loved, to teach and to learn, and to serve and be poured into. 

The Process of Finding a Mentor

Some take a direct approach and simply ask to be mentored. For many, however, this tactic is intimidating. I never asked anyone to formally mentor me, but I was proactive. As I got to know and admire women in a Bible study or a small group, I would call and ask them out for lunch. We would keep meeting every few weeks, and before long, I was involved in an organic mentor relationship. 

Some of these mentors helped me through tough seasons of parenting, and I’m grateful for the ways God worked through them as they ministered to me. All of them pointed me to Jesus as they shared their own stories of how he carried them through the trials of child-rearing. 

If you are willing to point another to the only one who can keep us rooted through the storms of parenting and the trials in life, then you can be a mentor. Jesus will work in you, and he will equip you as you share stories of the ways you’ve experienced God’s grace and never-ending love. 

If you desire to learn more about what it means to parent in the grace that Jesus has so abundantly given us, then prayerfully seek a mentor to tether to. Over time, God will use that relationship to strengthen your faith as you parent the children he has given you. 

Join us for Rooted 2024 in Dallas, TX October 24-26.

Katie is a writer, teacher, and speaker. She is married to Chris, a PCA pastor at Trinity church in St. Louis, MO, and is a mother to three wonderful kids. Katie works as the Director of Music Ministries and Special Events at Trinity and writes for several Christian ministries and organizations. She received her Master of Arts in Theology from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. More information can be found on her website at www.katiepolski.com

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