Book Review by Michele Morin
by Sue Moore Donaldson
Joanne’s kitchen table was an uncontrollable force in her life, always covered with an assortment of books, mail, loaves of bread, and magazines. It became a joke between us that she was always in the process of clearing it.
Fortunately for me, another uncontrollable force in her life was the power of God. She had an ongoing relationship with Him that continually pushed her outside her comfort zone, and even though the word “mentor” wasn’t being thrown around back in the seventies, that’s certainly what she was to me. We pulled chairs up to that defiant horizontal surface, pushed the butter dish out of the way, and opened our Bibles together. Her whole-hearted pressing on to know the Lord marked me in ways that I’m still discovering nearly forty years later.
Table Mentoring is a matter of coming alongside another person, and Sue Moore Donaldson has Scriptural backing for her assertion:
“God comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” ~I Corinthians 1:3, 4
Our natural inclination when it comes to mentoring is to play the unqualified card. “Who, me? I’m too [fill in the blank]. Too young, too old, too inexperienced, too busy, too over-committed, too introverted, too tired, too ignorant . . .
Quietly, Sue pulls her chair up beside mine and shares these two objection-silencing considerations:
- God is the primary Mentor, and the first qualification for mentoring another is having first been mentored by God. It is not my own holy perfection or infallible wisdom that is being required. However, “as we experience God’s ‘alongsideness’ in our ups and downs, joys and sorrows, we can more naturally share His overflow with someone who is where we have been.” (8)
- The second qualification for mentoring another is a willingness to take on the risk of relationship. The vulnerable sharing of our own lives is an open door. Furthermore, the experiences God has custom-designed and the thin slice of knowledge I may possess may be exactly the gift someone else is waiting to receive.
Sue’s simple guide to coming alongside moves quickly from theory to practice. She has developed worksheets which can be implemented for structuring a mentor meeting time, for quiet time inspiration, prayer, and beginning Bible study. They can also be printed in 8 ½ by 11 size at her Welcome Heart website.
As I read, I found myself putting together an agenda for an imaginary future mentor meeting that looks something like this:
- Goal setting. Ask: “What would you like to get out of our time together?”
- Getting to know you. Ask questions about family, work, and current challenges.
- Strengthening one another’s walk with God. This is where fine-tuning becomes important. Will the mentoring relationship look like a Bible study? There is great benefit to be found in simply reading the Bible together and pooling questions and insights. Will you read a book together and discuss it in your meetings? Sue uses a Personal Growth Plan (available here) to discern the needs and concerns of her learner.
Chapter 5 of Table Mentoring quieted my racing heart with some very important details:
- Decide ahead of time how long you will meet and how frequently. Sue suggests twice a month for three months. This is very reasonable, and if a sunset is put in place at the beginning, no one will feel as if they are embarking upon a life sentence.
- Time limits are a reasonable concern. It may be best to go to someone’s home so that you can set the limit. (“Whoops! Looks like I’ll need to run!”)
- Both participants will demonstrate their commitment by putting the meetings on a calendar. My experience is that if I do not write it down, it does not happen.
Sue’s writing style is unique, and I continually found myself underlining encouraging statements. In keeping with the table theme, let’s call these Sue’s Mini-Muffins of Wisdom:
“Not feeling adequate shows that you are more ready than you think.”
“I don’t have anything worth passing on to another if I’m not regularly working on my personal relationship with God.”
“If you know one promise in God’s Word, you are ready to mentor that one promise. Ask God for someone to share it with today.”
“You and I are blessed to be a blessing.”
My reading of Table Mentoring felt like a specific invitation to move forward into this challenge. Therefore, I have begun praying for an open heart and for the right person at the right time. I am also praying to be BECOMING the right person to come alongside a sister who is looking for a welcoming heart, to offer the gift and the accountability of a side-by-side seeking after God.
Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 27 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. She blogs at Living Our Days because “the way we live our days will be, after all, the way we live our lives.”