Monday, October 27, 2014

BookPastor >> "Organic Mentoring" (Sue Edwards and Barbara Neumann)

Mentoring is a popular word in Christian circles nowadays. While many people use it freely and liberally, not many really understand what it mean. That is also why many mentoring ventures begin with a heightened wow only to fall hard down to earth with a thud. This book helps us appreciate what mentoring is and offers great examples and how-tos for women. Men need not be left out, as there are many lessons to take home too. After all, learning is gender neutral.


TITLE: Organic Mentoring: A Mentor's Guide to Relationships with Next Generation Women
AUTHOR: Sue Edwards and Barbara Neumann
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2014, (224 pages).

Imagine a community without women. Society would be impoverished. From non-profits to charitable organizations; from churches to various religious institutions; women form a sizeable portion of the community of care and help. Imagine further what an empowered community of women can do to change the world. That would be awesome indeed. Since the days of Jesus and the Early Church, women have played a critical role in society, both at home as well as in society. They have created an immense impact in many places. Yet, like so many things, past successes are no guarantee of the future. If women of the next generation can be mentored and discipled, society gains as a whole. This book is an effort to mentor and cultivate mentoring culture for the next generation.

The authors have a mentor-mentee relationship via a supervisor-student relationship where Barbara was a doctoral student and Sue her supervisor. Both had similar passions: to help bridge the modern and postmodern women through appropriate mentoring. Before introducing new ways, they point out the differences and the reasons why the outdated models and paradigms need to be changed. Based on their research about women and mentoring in a postmodern era, Edwards an Neumann make a compelling case for change, for adaptation, and for hope.

Part One is about why change is necessary. They first list out the "New Problem," reasons why the old (modern period) methods fail. Despite the best efforts to stay committed, to sign a covenant, to assign an experienced mentor to a young mentee, many mentoring efforts flounder not for lack of effort but for lack of a meaningful connection. The generational gaps are not just age-related. They are culturally different. For instance, older women tend to value "programs, structure, and organization" while younger ones prefer "organic, flexible approaches." Older women treat authority with much respect while younger women will only trust those who have been proven themselves to be trustworthy. Older women "embrace contractual commitments" while the younger women tend to depend more on whether the relationship is worthwhile experientially in the first place. Younger women too are more comfortable with the use of technology. These and many more are carefully described for readers to understand that in order for mentoring strategies and programs to work, such "generational tendencies" must be understood and appropriated by all. Secondly, they list out the "New Generation" about how the postmodern generation values relationships, being the most educated generation, having a high level of tolerance to differences, desiring flexibility, a desire to make a difference, authentic, and many more. Mentors of such a generation need to be aware of the different perspectives with regards to authority, busy scheduling, high anxiety, morally lax, and other unique challenges of the postmodern woman. Thirdly, the "New Challenge" comes across as a chapter for the postmodern woman to understand the older "modern generation" (1920s to 1980s). The authors list out some of the uniqueness of such a generation, of how they treasure individualism, structures, processes, power of knowledge, role modeling, commitment, etc. In order to connect, recognize that this generation can be perceived to be inflexible, perfectionistic, insecure, and even divorced.

Part Two works on a new approach on how to help both generations relate to each other. A "compulsory click" or chemistry is needed between a mentor and mentee. Learn the different ways in which the modern and postmodern person establish trust. Attraction will assist trust.  Life change is more important than information dumping. Learn to dance along. Multiple mentors or group mentoring may be needed too. Any "New Commitment" needs to be natural and organic. Thus, from scheduling to term limits, from personal needs to teachable moments, the whole mentoring process needs to be as flexible as possible and as available as possible. The Moderns must learn not to view the flexibility as a drop in commitment. The Postmoderns need to learn to accept that Moderns have a particular way to get things done. The important thing is that all, both mentors and mentees can see a common future together in  being transformed by God through each other.

This is a particularly helpful book for all, not just women folk. There are three reasons why. First, the generational divide is irrespective of gender. Both men and women do experience the differences in the same way though the extent may vary. The snapshot of differences in chapter 1 is certainly worth the price of the book. Second, the book is based on real life examples. The theory and ideas in the book grow out of objective research and personal interviews. This will give readers a certain sense of assurance that the snapshot of differences are backed by individual lives that the authors had personal encountered. Third, while the authors give us a lot of differences between the moderns and postmoderns, they write from both perspectives, the moderns and the postmoderns, in such a way that readers will not only learn to see from both perspectives and the challenges facing both. For example, chapter two is mainly for the moderns to understand the postmoderns. Chapter 3 is primarily for the postmoderns to understand the moderns. The way both chapters are written can be educational and illuminating for both. Readers, regardless of their generations will definitely have something to learn from both chapters.

For a book on mentoring, this book can also double up as a bridge between two generations. For that, it is more than a guide. It unites.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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