Thursday, November 8, 2018

Mentorship is building relationships

Part 2 of an interview with Rhonda Stoppe,
Author of The Marriage Mentor

To attain any goal, it is helpful to have a support system to offer encouragement in the tough times, wisdom based on personal experience, and an example to aspire to. Having a mentor can make all the difference in the world. The same is true when it comes to marriage. Every couple needs a more experienced couple to come alongside them, dedicated to helping build the marriage they’ve always dreamed of. In The Marriage Mentor: Becoming the Couple You Long to Be (Harvest House Publishers), Steve and Rhonda Stoppe are that couple.

After three decades of doing life together, raising four children, and helping other couples build no-regrets marriages, the Stoppes have compiled their success secrets into an easy-to-read, fun, and interactive book. Every page feels like a candid conversation with a friend. Readers will laugh and learn from a biblical perspective the secrets to enjoying a marriage that lasts a lifetime.


Recognizing most books are bought by women, and most men don’t love to read, The Marriage Mentor is broken down into small sections with separate sections for the husband and wife to read. Each chapter includes:

·         Man to Man: A short section printed in gray so men can’t miss it, written by Steve talking specifically to husbands.
·         From a Husband’s Perspective: A segment written from Steve to wives to offer insight to the male point of view.
·         From a Wife’s Perspective: Rhonda jumps in to give husband’s an explanation of how a woman thinks.
·         Thinking it Through and Living it Out: Discussion questions that will prompt healthy conversations.
·         Marriage Mentor Videos: Fun and lighthearted online videos of Steve and Rhonda discussing each chapter

Q: Why is it important for young married couples to have older couples in their lives as mentors?

As a young bride, I knew I was not the wife I had hoped I would be. I would buy books about being a better wife, but I soon learned the books did not have the power to change me. My husband and I were in youth ministry, so I looked to the marriages of the parents of the teens for help. The Bible calls the older women to teach the younger how to love their husbands and their children, so I asked women with marriages I wanted to emulate to be my Titus 2 mentors. What I learned from these women transformed my marriage and my parenting.


In answer to God’s mandate to be a Titus 2 mentor, I now write and speak to help women build “no-regrets lives.” Imagine if you had your own personal marriage mentor. In The Marriage Mentor, I pass on the biblical principles toward a happy marriage I learned from these Titus 2 women.
               
Make friends with couples who have their hearts set on eternity and learn from their example. In one of the chapters, readers will find a list of eight insights to a happy marriage that I learned from these godly mentors.

Q: What does it mean to mentor? How do you and Steve mentor young married couples?

Mentoring is not a program. Rather, mentorship is building relationships with people, so you can do life together. The way Jesus taught the disciples while they walked, camped and fished together is the perfect example.

With transparency, share with those you mentor what you’ve learned from your own successes and failures. When people believe you empathize with their struggles you earn the right to speak truth into their lives.

With every wedding ceremony that Steve agrees to perform, we spend 6 weeks in premarital counseling with the couple. We don’t think anyone should get married without having this type of focused interaction with a seasoned couple. Not only do the sessions open conversations to teach them how to manage carefully conflicts down the road, it also builds a relationship between us and the couple. So, after they are wed, they’re more likely to reach out to us when they have questions or struggles. Again, it’s not a program, but rather relationship building that knits our hearts together.


Q: Should every Christian couple either have a marriage mentor or be a mentor?

In a perfect world? Yes! How great would it be if every older couple was spiritually mature enough to pour into a younger couple what they’ve learned about building a no regrets marriage? But the truth is, too many couples in the church today put on a pretense of having a good marriage, when in reality, they’re hanging on by a thread or simply co-existing.

Often couples who need mentors will refuse help because they are concerned about their reputation. So, inviting them to join your small group or Bible Study is a great place to start. For me, the women I looked to as mentors invited me to their weekly study of Philippians. I was like, “Hey ladies, I don’t need another Bible Study, I need help to be a better wife!”

The ladies smiled knowingly, while encouraging me to attend their class. And do you know what I found? A wealth of insight poured out of these women as they told what they were learning from their study. They openly shared their past regrets, and transparently told how God’s grace had transformed their hearts, lives and marriages.

These women’s stories and insights filled me with so much hope! I thought, “If God can change them, He can change me too!”

You see, that’s how mentoring works. When we take the time to be real and share how Christ in us is our only hope, God uses it to draw others to learn from what we share.


Q: Should a young couple seek out an older couple or is it ok, for example, for the young wife to seek out a mentor on her own?

Any couple who wants to gain wisdom for building a better marriage should seek out an older couple as a mentor. For some, this could be their parents who have displayed a godly example. For many that may be too close to home causing weird in-law dynamics. So, looking for godly couples whom you’d like to emulate is a great place to start.

And just be really honest with them. Say something like, “Hey, we love the way you love each other, and we want to learn your secrets to a happy marriage. Can we just hang out with you and glean from your wisdom?”

For me, as a young wife, I didn’t wait for Steve to ask couples to mentor us. I knew I needed help becoming the wife I longed to be, and I knew the women I had been observing held the secrets I needed to know. As I spent time in Bible study with these ladies, our study time often lingered into long conversations after the class. And as my friendship with these women grew, Steve and I naturally gravitated toward fellowshipping with them. We watched them interact with each other and with their children. We listened and learned as we did life alongside of these faithful servants of Christ.

Q: Do you have to be intentional in starting a mentoring relationship or is it something that can be more be more organic and simply grown into a mentorship?

For me, I was intentional in seeking out marriage mentors—because I kind of scared myself one day as a young bride when I flipped out on Steve for leaving peanut butter toast crumbs on the kitchen counter. (You can hear the whole story in this Family Life Today interview.)

The kind of wife I meant to be was so far from the kind of wife I was becoming. I didn’t grow up with great examples, so I had no idea how to change. But seeing women in our church who loved well their husbands and families gave me hope, and the courage to ask them to help me learn and grow. I felt a little vulnerable as I approached them for help, but I was desperate.

Q: How much older does the couple need to be? Should they be 20, 30, 40 years older or do they just need to be a phase or two ahead?

I don’t think I can assign a specific age to finding a mentor. Sometimes they’ll be the same age, or even younger than you. I think it’s more about spiritual maturity. When the Apostle Paul trained Timothy for ministry he said, “let no one despise your youth.”

Wherever you find yourself in life, you can know that God wants you to equip yourself to mentor someone who is a few steps on the path behind you. If we think we have to wait until we’ve got it all together, we will never feel ready to mentor. Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” If you make it your life’s goal to pursue loving Christ with all of your heart, you can be confident that His love for others will spill out of you, and He will entrust you with people He wants to mentor through you.

Q: When a couple mentors a couple, can the older man offer advice to the younger woman (and can the older woman to the younger man) or should conversations be directed to be man-to-man and woman-to-woman?

That’s a very good question. It is important to ask God to give you wisdom as you interact with a couple you are mentoring. The Bible says we should not give Satan even a foothold to cause us to stumble. When offering advice to a person of the opposite sex, you must be cautious. As a rule, we meet with the couple and chat together. In the final chapter of The Marriage Mentor you can get the feel of what it would be like to interact with Steve and I as a couple, as he and I banter back and forth throughout the chapter.

In 37 years of marriage, Steve and I have made it a policy not to mentor alone a person of the opposite sex. I remember when my kids were younger, and Steve was a pastor. If a woman walked into Steve’s office to talk and I wasn’t there, our child would sit outside Steve’s opened door until I arrived. Often one of our kids would send the other to bring me back while they awaited my arrival. I chuckle now as I remember the scenario. But our kids understood our commitment to be above reproach in how we interacted with the opposite sex—and they were always ready to help us out in a pinch! (You may think this is overkill, but in the many years Steve and I have mentored ministry couples we’ve observed how carelessness in this area can jeopardize marriages and ministries.)


Learn more about The Marriage Mentor at Rhonda Stoppe’s website www.NoRegretsWoman.com. She is also active on YouTube (Rhonda Stoppe No Regrets Woman), Facebook (RhondaStoppeNoRegretsWoman) and on Twitter (@RhondaStoppe).



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