You’ve heard about the importance of mentoring younger couples, and you’re even willing to give it a try, but you’re scared. Perhaps you’ve had problems in your own marriage that need to be solved. You’ve messed up in the past, and you’re not sure if you’re worthy to teach others how to do things “the right way.”

It’s true that mentoring is not for everyone—there are some couples who have serious problems that need to be worked out. But if you are in a growing, working marriage, you may be the perfect candidate to mentor younger couples in your church…especially if you’ve messed up in the past.

Mentoring isn’t about having a perfect marriage. No one’s marriage is perfect because none of us is perfect. But there is a difference in a marriage that is growing and one that is not.

Jerry and Naoma McCartney of Little Rock, Ark., have mentored dozens of couples in the past five years through newlywed small groups, marriage preparation classes, and friendships with young people that they meet through their children and church activities. They suggest asking yourself, “Is Ephesians 5:22-33 teaching me on a daily basis? Am I applying everything I teach others to my own marriage?”

The McCartneys are referring to the passage that says:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Having a growing marriage does not mean that you live out these principles perfectly, but that you strive to keep them as a standard. A couple that is ready to mentor others will be using these biblical standards as a guide in their own lives, not just teaching others, and they will have a passion to see others have healthy marriages.

David and Michelle Ready of El Cajon, Calif., have also been involved in a mentoring ministry at their church. The Readys have been officially mentoring young couples for more than 3 years and unofficially for more than 10. They describe a healthy marriage as one where the couple is “praying together, going to church together regularly, and are unified in areas of big decisions in life.”

Signs that you may not be ready to mentor

Although you may have the heart to mentor young couples eventually, if you are in a struggling marriage, you may need to work on your own relationship before helping others.

Some symptoms of unhealthy marriages include disunity, constant bickering and fighting, and frequent miscommunications. If you considered receiving counseling to settle your differences or can’t find a way to agree on large decisions, then at this time, it may be more important to find a mentor than to be one.

Also, if you are struggling with issues like abuse, pornography, workaholism, or other areas of sin, then you need to work on seeking help for your own marriage.

If you have the heart to find healing for your marriage and the humility to seek help, God will restore your marriage and may even use the lessons you learned during these times of struggle to help you one day mentor others.

Other requirements for mentoring

Mentoring requires more than just a healthy marriage. It requires the right heart and a lot of hard work. If you are interested in mentoring, ask yourself if these three requirements match your desires.

First, you must have a heart for people. Mentoring requires relationship. Anyone can teach principles, but only a mentor is willing to make an investment in peoples’ lives. This often requires time, money, and emotional pain.

“One young lady who was studying to be a family counselor signed up to be a mentor at our church,” David says, “and we turned her away. She wanted to use our program to get credits for her degree, but she had no interest in the success of the couples. She saw it more as a position, instead of a ministry.”

Jerry and Naoma agree. “You have to want to see people succeed,” Jerry says. “Your heart should want to see them change and accomplish things.”

Second, you must be willing to share your failures and your successes. The Skyline Church in Southern California has a very successful mentoring program. They pair mentorees with mentors who have gone through similar struggles. For example, those couples who are nearing divorce are paired with a mentor couple who also threatened divorce but received healing.

The shared experiences help struggling couples realize that there is hope, but none of this would work if the mentors weren’t willing to open up and share the hard, personal things in their lives.

“Mentoring is like discipleship,” David says. “We want couples who live out what scripture says and who can be an encouragement to others by saying, ‘We got through this, you can, too!'”

Third, you must be willing to listen. The purpose of being a mentor is not necessarily to teach but to guide, and oftentimes, a couple can work out their own problems if you just facilitate enough communication. “Many times a spouse just needs to use you as a sounding board,” David says. “They are talking to you, but they really want their spouse to hear what is being said.”

A listening ear can often be more helpful than a mouth full of advice. “Remember, you’re not trying to fix their problems,” Naoma says. “You are not God and you are not their mom and dad. Only God can work out their problems. You are just there as a guide to point them in the right direction.”

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, and you feel that you meet the criteria: a healthy marriage, a heart for people, and a willingness to share and listen, then you have everything to offer young couples. Won’t you consider being a mentor?

Copyright © 2005 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.