The Privileged Life: Marks of a Good Mentor, Part 1 (Spiritual Leadership)

“The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. (Titus 2:3-5)

I’d love to go hang gliding someday. You know…where you’re suspended from a wing-shaped airframe that lets you soar on lofty wind currents for a bird’s-eye view of the landscape. 

But it means jumping off a cliff with nothing below you for several stories. That’s a bit inhibiting.

Um, I think I’ll ride along with an expert, someone who’s done this before…someone I can trust to keep me airborne and help me land safely. That’s the normal way to get started with this sport.

Hang gliding is an apt analogy for mentoring—a special friendship with someone who supports you through tough seasons or guides you forward in your faith or career. Mentors are the people you can count on for solid advice and encouragement, folks who have “been there, done that.” 

We definitely need more mentoring in an era when anxiety levels are unusually high. I’ve been a mentee with several mentors, and they have left a lasting impression on my life, despite the decades and distance since our times together.

What makes a mentor effective? What qualities or commitments stand out as most important? 

As we explore this subject, we’ll start with spiritual growth and the “Titus 2 principle” in the church. In Paul’s letter to Titus, he teaches the people of Crete how to have a healthy fellowship, urging the older women to be good examples and teachers to the younger women. 

Let me tell you about a mentor who encouraged me tremendously during a pivotal time in my younger days.

Marie Hickman Yancey was my sweet friend in Memphis at Second Presbyterian, a church with about 4,000 members at that time. I would never have singled her out to befriend her, but she and I were teamed together through Evangelism Explosion (EE), a training program for sharing faith. (I’ll bet she groaned when she realized she was stuck with me as my trainer, but she never let on.)

Marie was a widow with a sweet, cheerful, peaceful spirit who became one of the foundational stones upon which the Holy Spirit built my faith. Here are some of the attributes she brought to our friendship as she “loved on me” in the name of Jesus Christ:

My friend Marie
  • A strong faith, consistent walk, and good knowledge of the Gospel/Bible—Marie was grounded in God’s word, and she walked the talk. She might not have been a complete expert on the Bible, but she firmly believed the basics of doctrine and trained me in them—never wishy-washy in her convictions. I was inspired by the depth of her faith and her love for Jesus. 
  • A genuine interest in what was going on with me—She focused her time and conversations on what I was doing and how she could help me. She was truly selfless in our encounters. 
  • A willingness to teach…so patient with me!—The EE program required me to memorize Scriptures and learn how to present Jesus Christ to people who didn’t understand about His grace in His offer of eternal life. I didn’t fully understand it myself! But Marie was so loving and patient—I imagine she saw through my ineptitude and yet still trusted me at times to share the Gospel message for our team. 
  • A commitment to availability and prayer—Marie allowed me to interrupt her life. I knew that, when I called on her, I could trust her to pray for me…and keep my requests confidential.
  • A special kindness and generosity, without asking for anything in return—When my husband and I were engaged, Marie asked to do something for me. I suggested that she host an evening with my bridesmaids/attendants, to make lace bags with birdseed (instead of rice) for our guests to toss on us after the reception. Can you imagine the mess she allowed us to make in her house?? But it was a memorable evening, and I was so glad she wanted to be part of our celebration. 

Marie remarried a few years after our wedding. I stayed in touch with her through Christmas cards, and she and her new husband would occasionally send us a note to say they had prayed for us. Eventually, her husband sent us a letter that she had passed away, entering into the loving arms of Jesus.

Marie exemplified several characteristics of the “Proverbs 31 woman,” but this verse seems most applicable to her mentorship role: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.” (Proverbs 31:26)

I am forever grateful to Marie for her dedication and loving example to me. She truly lived out the Titus 2 principle in our friendship. And, like a hang-gliding expert, she helped me soar.

Look for more thoughts on mentorship in the next blog. In the meantime, examine your own life to see if you need a mentor…or could become a mentor to someone else. Happy mentoring! 

Holy Spirit, our Guide and Strength, I come to You with adoration that You are the source of all wisdom, direction, and discernment. I confess that I have too seldom sought Your guidance in my life, but I thank You for preserving my pathway in spite of this. Please send me a mentor who follows Jesus, who would exemplify His love for me here on earth. And train me up to be a mentor to others who need to hear Your good news in their lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Nancy C. Williams is a Christian wife/mom with a writing career spanning more than 40 years in business and journalism. Williams is the author of the novel To Love a Falcon and the devotional book A Crocus in the Desert: Devotions, Stories, and Prayers for Women Experiencing Infertility. Her weekly blogs are featured on To follow Nancy’s posts and news, go to her home page at and subscribe at the bottom. 

© Copyright 2024 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative (text and photography…photo credit for Marie Hickman Yancey: dignity Unless otherwise noted, Scripture verses are taken from the New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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