the shape of leadership

Mentoring Across Gender Lines

Why called men and women are better together

Our mentoring relationship is somewhat unusual.

I am a 42-year-old mom and pastor of Erie First Assembly of God in Erie, Pennsylvania. My mentor, Rod, is a 58-year-old grandfather who pastors First NLR (AG) in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Rod and I met while serving together on a Network of Women Ministers training team. We are different genders, live in different parts of the country, and are at different life stages.

Despite these differences, we are in a life-giving, mentoring, and coaching relationship.

Rod and I regularly email, text and call. We also meet monthly on Zoom. Several times each year, we meet in person at events or conferences. We know and care for each other’s spouse, children, grandchildren and staff members.

The Assemblies of God credentials female ministers, who are eligible to serve in any ministry role. Although many denominations forbid women from holding pastoral positions, 655 women serve as lead pastors of AG churches, and thousands of others are staff pastors.

If we want to see more women leading across our Fellowship, we must be committed to mentoring and coaching them.

Unfortunately, tradition, fear, discomfort, and misunderstandings often keep women from accessing the same mentoring opportunities as men. That should not be.

Rod and I didn’t start our relationship with the goal of setting an example, but we believe men and women working together should be the norm.

Mentoring can and should transcend gender. We don’t spend time talking about gender differences because the same principles of leadership and ministry apply to both of us. The same truths from God’s Word guide us. The same Holy Spirit empowers us.

Avoiding or ignoring the need for mentoring across genders has consequences. Women are overlooked for leadership, speaking opportunities, and open churches.

There is Kingdom work to be done. People need the gospel. We can’t let gender barriers slow down ministry. We must work together to reach the lost and build the Church.

Jesus knew it would take all of us to fulfill His mandate when He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20).

Over several years of serving, praying, and leading together, Rod and I have forged a relationship that is not only workable, but worthwhile. When others ask how we do it, we point to 10 keys for any successful mentoring relationship.

1. Be wise. Avoid conversations and settings that cross boundaries of acceptable behavior.

Rod and I are always intentional about remaining professional and morally above reproach.

2. Be available. For me, church board meetings are among the most difficult parts of lead pastoring.

During one meeting, I called for a break several hours into discussing a complex problem. Retreating to my office, I called Rod for advice.

Rod immediately picked up the phone and gave me just the nugget of wisdom I needed, along with a bit of encouragement.

His availability to me in that moment was a game changer. I walked back into the meeting and settled the conflict swiftly.

Of course, such availability should work both ways. I try to be flexible and understanding of Rod’s schedule. We normally meet at times that work best for him.

Tradition, fear, discomfort, and misunderstandings often keep women
from accessing the same mentoring opportunities as men. That should not be.

3. Be vulnerable. Mentoring only works in an atmosphere of honesty and vulnerability. Unless you are fully transparent about your weaknesses, thoughts and fears, a mentor can’t provide personalized advice.

In the same way, the mentor must be willing to share hard truths.

During one conversation, Rod told me, “No more excuses. Time to step up and be the leader.”

That was a challenge I needed to hear.

4. Be humble. Humility is an essential trait for mentors and mentees alike.

Philippians 2:3–4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

The mentee must confess a need for wisdom, insight and advice. The mentor should acknowledge he or she doesn’t have all the answers, even while sharing helpful principles.

5. Be collaborative, not competitive. Root for the other’s success.

Rod told me early on, “When you have your biggest attendance day, call me. When you take up a huge offering, call me. I will celebrate with you and never tell you how many people we had or the size of our offering.”

If I am winning, Rod is winning.

6. Be clear about expectations. Are you looking for a mentor or a new best friend? Do you want and need weekly meetings?

Mentoring relationships fail when those involved have different expectations about the process. In our case, we agreed on monthly scheduled meetings and extra calls when needed.

7. Be prayerful. When one of us is sick, the other calls and prays. We also pray for each other’s church and ministry.

One week, I sent my sermon outline for Rod to look through and offer suggestions.

Rod called and said, “As I was praying through your message, I had the strong sense there is going to be someone in your room this Sunday who is considering suicide. Seek God about it, but I think you should end this message by calling for special prayer for those people.”

After prayerful consideration, I followed Rod’s counsel. That Sunday, seven people responded to the altar call for those considering suicide.

Don’t neglect the spiritual component of a mentoring relationship.

8. Be generous. Rod shares freely, without any sense of competition or holding back — whether it is sermons, ideas, gifts or resources.

Most importantly, Rod invites me to be at the table during key meetings and leadership groups.

Rod benefits from our collaboration as well. A sermon I preached sparked the idea for his recent Easter message.

9. Be grateful. I recognize Rod’s time and attention are gifts I shouldn’t take for granted.

I express my gratitude as often as I can. I also follow up on previous advice by reporting the results. Positive feedback makes mentoring more rewarding.

10. Be realistic. It’s not necessary to do everything a mentor suggests, but listening to advice is one way to stay humble and teachable.

Mentors don’t have the answer to every problem or situation. In fact, a good mentor is willing to say, “I don’t know, but I can point you to someone who does.”

We are proof men and women can work together in mentoring relationships.

Men, invest in a female minister’s professional development. Have a meeting. Encourage and pray for her. Treat her as your ministry equal and co-laborer for Christ.

Women, don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. Make the phone call. Write the email. If a leader turns you down, ask another one. Find godly mentors who will help you grow in ministry.

Rod and I certainly don’t agree on everything. We argue, joke, laugh and learn from each other.

But we both agree on this: We are better together. What began as a coaching relationship has become a deep, life-giving friendship.

We are unusual, but we shouldn’t be.


This article appears in the Spring 2024 issue of Influence magazine.

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