Gender is Irrelevant to Mentoring

When I graduated law school my mentor at the firm I worked at was a woman. When I got on the bench and had been a judge for a while, I mentored a woman who joined the court. Gender qualifications were meaningless both times.

Gavin Peacock at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood argues differently.

In the 1980s as a young Christian and professional footballer (that’s soccer to the uninformed!) I saw older players mentoring younger ones. One experienced star player took an interest in me. He encouraged and corrected my game, and he developed my character.

One of the great needs in the church today is for men to mentor other men in the things of God—a distinctly masculine mentoring in the face of a culture that does not value manhood. God designs the church to grow under the protection and provision of biblical men. But they will not simply appear. Men of God must cultivate men of God.

(The Desperate Need for the Mandate of Masculine Mentoring)*

Mr. Peacock’s call for mentoring is fine. His call for masculine mentoring is hogwash. It’s apparent in the aspects of mentoring he argues are essential:

  1. Presence
  2. Teaching and Testing
  3. Character and Example
  4. Wisdom and Patience

None of these are specifically masculine. The Bible shows women and men both being present in people’s lives, teaching, giving good examples, as well as being wise and patient.

Mr. Peacock then specifies two goals of mentoring: maturity and holiness. He insists that these are required in men so that the church does not suffer:

The need for masculine mentorship is desperate because a dearth of men is the death of a local church and the family. Men were made to take initiative and cultivate life and godliness in those under their care.

True manhood is cruciform loving leadership, like the true man, Jesus: who took initiative for God’s glory, and despite the shame, overcame sin, Satan, and death on the cross, rising again to give life and redeem masculinity itself.

This conclusion is the most troubling. He speaks of true manhood as being an emulation of Christ. Where does this leave women? It apparently leaves them not needing to grow in Christ’s likeness in those areas Mr. Peacock identifies as specifically pertaining to “redeemed masculinity”.

This leads to the astonishing conclusion (astonishing to anyone who has read the Bible) that there are supposedly aspects of Christ’s life that are thus irrelevant to women because only men are to emulate Jesus in these “masculine” endeavors. I imagine CBMW would deny this by saying all of Jesus’ life is relevant to women, just not directly. They’d say the relevance reaches women but only through men.

The problem with that assertion is that the Bible nowhere says “Jesus died so that men can do this and women can do that.” It does say that Jesus sets everyone free from the limitations that came by sin. (Hebrews 9:15.)

Everyone means everyone, women and men. Free means free, so that none of us are bound by sin’s limitations.

So where did Mr. Peacock get the idea he can place limitations on what it means to grow in Christ?

I think it’s his lack of experience. He was in a profession made up exclusively of men in his sports career, and he is now in a ministry where women are never allowed to lead men. Mr. Peacock has a narrow understanding of the Bible because his experience in life has been narrow as well.

There’s a way to fix that.

He needs a woman to mentor him.


*My thanks to Kathi Bonham for bringing Mr. Peackock’s post to my attention.


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48 Responses to Gender is Irrelevant to Mentoring

  1. Bev Murrill says:

    Oh you’re funny, Tim. Yes, he does need a mentor, and wouldn’t it be awesome if it was a woman. IN fact, he’s probably had some women mentoring him over the period of years, but he would probably call them wise and valued counsellors, or words to that effect…

    I wrote an article on this recently for Mutuality CBE’s magazine. You may be interested.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for the link, Bev. I’ll read the article later today.

      I think you’re right about women in his life too.


  2. Adam Shields says:

    Some study that I read about top level women in the business world said that the vast majority of those women had male mentors. And the vast majority of the male mentors had daughters (I think it was 90% but I am not positive.)

    That has stuck with me because it seems to me that men often need examples in their own lives of why they need to reach out to women. Women do not need the same examples because they have experienced the discrimination.

    • Tim says:

      Interesting point about men who have daughters, Adam. Perhaps it opens their eyes to the need to work with women.


    • govpappy says:

      Perhaps a lot of us don’t know what it means to be a woman until we’re forced to deal with it, as it were, by something like having a daughter. You’d think marriage would be enough, but often it isn’t, sadly, even in my own case.

      “You always fear what you don’t understand”. How can you mentor anyone under those circumstances? You need to know what they’re up against.

      The missus and I are trying to reshape our thinking, both of us coming from a Complementarian background – her to feel comfortable using her voice to teach, me to use to it ask questions to learn of her. The wonderful thing about marriage is that with a proper loving mindset, you can both learn how to mentor and be mentored by someone of the opposite gender. Maybe Mr Gavin could join us all in trying to use what God has set up, instead of further intellectually dividing the sexes.

      Thanks for the mind food, Tim.

      • Tim says:

        The way you are working through this in your marriage sounds a lot more based on Scripture than the idea that men need ot pursue something called “masculine mentoring”. Where on earth is that found in the Bible?


        • govpappy says:

          Doesn’t this mindset in part stem from the command to “flee fornication”? Not that there’s anything wrong with fleeing fornication, but I wonder how many babies are thrown out with those bathwaters.

        • Tim says:

          I’ve wondered the same. “Men and women mentoring each other? They’ll all end up having sex with each other!”


  3. janehinrichs says:

    I don’t disagree with you at all Tim, but I do think there are times men need men and women need women. I don’t see it as a limiting thing whatsoever — that being said sometimes the best mentor happens to be a person of the opposite sex. I think we need to be open to whoever God brings into our lives. We can learn from anyone (especially children — though I guess they wouldn’t be mentors exactly but God has used children to teach me profound things about life).

    • Tim says:

      I think you’ve hit on what’s really important, Jane. Seeking wise council and guidance from people whether they are of the same gender as us or not. I agree that there are times when women should mentor women and men should mentor men, but that article’s take on it is not on the same page.


  4. maygrrl says:

    I agree with janehindrichs. I’ve had some fabulous male mentors, but there are also times (like now) when I need a woman mentor. I need to be around women who know how to be simultaneously a mother and a wife while being a full time female minister. I can’t learn that from a man because no man has those experiences. I think it goes both ways too. I think in terms of fatherhood and husbandhood especially, it is reasonable for a man to look for another man simply because only another man knows what it is to be a dad and husband. That doesn’t bother me a bit.

    Now when you only will be mentored by a man in your career or in ministry… that is a different thing.

    • Tim says:

      That is a much wiser take on it than the way CBMW looks at it. You avoid all that nonsense about “masculine” mentoring and instead focus on task and skill and life mentoring.


  5. govpappy says:

    “Men and women mentoring each other? They’ll all end up having sex with each other!”

    I just have to wonder why that isn’t the title of the post. The only explanation is that it’s too much humor for a Monday morning.

  6. Jeannie says:

    Very interesting post and comments as always. Peacock’s idea that Jesus rose from the dead to “give life and redeem masculinity itself” seems really strange to me, considering it says in Galatians that we are all one in Christ, neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, etc. Not that I think Jesus died to erase all differences between men and women — but to suggest that there’s a special way that Jesus redeems masculinity that women don’t have access to doesn’t seem to have any basis.

    • Tim says:

      Precisely, Jeannie. He’s essentially saying “Jesus’ death and resurrection are for everyone, but especially for men.”

  7. Kathi says:

    Great thoughts, Tim. Thanks for tackling this.

    I remember this line from when I first read the article: ” I usually pray for certain men. Then I ask if they have considered being mentored. If they don’t take up the offer after the third attempt, I back off but still pray. Then I’ll commit myself to be with them regularly.”

    Honestly, it made me laugh! It almost sounds like he wants to date the guy. If no one wants to take you up on your offer, back off and leave the guy alone.

    And the words “Desperate Need” in the title…sounds so… desperate. The need for masculine mentoring is at crisis level!

    • Tim says:

      He’s trying to recapture a church culture that is just that: cultural, not scriptural. And he really does sound desperate to accomplish this. Perhaps it’s due to his job at CBMW. He has to promote this cultural rather than Biblical pursuit in order to keep the organization viable.

      • Kathi says:

        Cultural, yes. I had time in the car this morning, thus, more time to think about this.

        I can understand some of the points here about women being mentored by women on things such as mothering and men being mentored by men on things such as fathering. However, when it comes down to it, that is really about parenting. There is no reason why a good male counselor cannot help a woman on issues regarding parenting. Likewise, as a woman, there is no reason why I should not seek medical advise from a male ob/gyn. So, there really is no good reason for why a man cannot mentor a woman and a woman cannot mentor a man when it comes to issues of the Christian faith.

        Now, if it comes down to a person’s preference, that is a different issue. If a woman wants to be mentored by a woman because she feels like another woman would understand her better, then that is her preference. Same goes for men.

    • Julie Anne says:

      And the words “Desperate Need” in the title…sounds so… desperate. The need for masculine mentoring is at crisis level!

      Exactly, Kathi! The sky is falling!

  8. Pastor Bob says:

    The absolute of this strikes me as not what you might want to posit. If you are referring more to the work force, the position has merit. Some roles in the church are also neutral, but there are times when gender specific is essential. The young lady might not want to talk about some crucial issue with the older male. Same with the young man and female life-coach. Some issues ARE gender specific.

    Titus 2:3-4 suggests gender specific mentoring. Having said this, many more topics are open to cross-gender mentoring. Case in point, the protege was 19, the mentor was about 40. She was learning some important things, and traveled the business circuit together. He was the mentor, he was a leader in his church, and some people started talking.

    Fortunately her training concluded about the time he found out about the rumors. Boundaries are clear, but someone with incomplete information may start a problem. In the church we draw very tight boundaries, again “avoiding the appearance of evil.”

    I will stress that the position of this post needs some clarification, for not all all situations fit what you describe.

    • Tim says:

      You’ve clarified them quote well, PB, thanks!

    • VelvetVoice (Susan Donroe) says:

      The problem I have with this is that many men use it to not step up to the plate. A single woman in my former church had a leaky toilet, and was in need of someone to fix it. No one would go over there to fix it without their wives. Sounds to me like crossing on the other side of the road in order to avoid an unpleasant task. Also, in my former church, my pastor wouldn’t even speak to me face to face even in church, or respond to my emails. It’s ridiculous for a shepherd not to speak with half of the sheep. Sheesh!

      • Tim says:

        Right, Susan. It’s one thing to try to avoid the appearance of impropriety. It’s another to allow those efforts to lead you to avoid carrying out your responsibility to serve others in the family of God. Jesus showed us that loving others is more important than accommodating those who will jump to the wrong conclusions.

  9. Hester says:

    Yeah, seconding GovPappy that part of the reason they don’t believe in cross-sex mentoring is because of the idea that if you throw any random man and any random woman together, then add any degree of relational intimacy and closeness (even non-romantic / platonic / friendship intimacy), sex MUST happen. It’s the same reason men/boys and women/girls can’t be friends after puberty.

    Of course, what this is really teaching is that the only way men and women can interact is sexually. Which is actually an extremely depressing way to look at life, and sounds to me like a recipe for miserable loneliness. Basically my brain hears the following when I read stuff about profound sex differences and gender roles:

    “I want more relationship and connection in my life, so I’ll preemptively decide that half the human race is so different that I couldn’t possibly relate to them in any whatsoever. Except through sex. Because the best route ever to a meaningful, satisfying sexual relationship is to make sure that neither party thinks they can connect emotionally or understand each other except during sex.”

    • govpappy says:

      To this day I still struggle with that. Partly I’m just introverted and don’t interact with people well in general, but it’s been incredibly hard to shake that nagging thought at the back of my mind that I’m somehow committing an impropriety just by talking with a woman other than the missus. It’s a vicious cycle – you don’t understand that women aren’t just marriage sex partners, so to “flee fornication” you severely limit your interactions with them. You understand them less, it colors your worldview & your doctrine, and finally you pass it on to your sons who don’t see by your example or teaching how to see women in the proper light. “Flee fornication” ends up meaning dividing the human race.

    • Tim says:

      Miserable loneliness is right, Hester. Well put.


  10. Hayley Hills says:

    Good article! I get what Mr Peacock is trying to say and yes, there are some scenarios where it may be helpful for teaching/counselling to be done by someone of your own gender (ex: the issue is highly personal to the mentee)….but his article is THICK with desperation and paranoia… exposing insecurity and a need for control. I completely agree with you Tim – these aspects of mentoring are not reserved for ‘masculinity’ only. Jesus encourages us ALL towards a maturity of faith and to participate in a building-up (edifying) the body. And your quote ”the Bible nowhere says, ‘Jesus died so that men can do this and women can do that’” was spot on. Thank you Jesus 🙂

    • Tim says:

      That’s it, Hayley. It’s not that he says there are times when a man or woman should seek mentoring from someone of the same sex. It’s that when he says men should pursue masculine mentoring he then goes on to describe mentoring mentoring as if it were manly and not something women do, and then claims this is taught in the Bible when it’s not.

  11. I find it interesting that there is so much talk about masculinity and femininity when the Bible never mentions them, but the Greeks did, and the Romans even more so. It’s not so hard to be a Christian – follow the example of Christ and you’re good to go.

    Eph 5:1-2
    Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. NIV

  12. Ruth says:

    That example of the woman who couldn’t get help with the plumbing brings back a similar story. Our study Gruop was men, women, children, singles, married and divorcees. One divorced lady had promises from several male friends to help fix a manic kitchen tap….you could have showered under the spray! I told my husband, he was on his feet and out the door in no time, all good. Nicer still I was invited for a cuppa, and we chatted while he worked, then we sat and talked together. No worries from me that he would go and help with or without me.
    He checked various things around the house and went back to fix things, I didnt go….but next time we saw her, she presented us with a beautiful basket with tea cups, tea, biscuits etc she had bought for us. Why?? Because no one else would help, and she was so grateful for the friendship and trust between us all. Later on we went to her wedding to a wonderful man from our group….that’s how it should be. both victims of unfaithful ex partners, so a union made especially lovely for all of us to see.

    • Tim says:

      Your family ministered to her wonderfully, Ruth. It sounds like it was a blessing right back at you too,

      • Ruth says:

        So true Tim it was a mutual blessing and we remain close friends. I guess the point was that the others had ridiculous ‘going to a woman’s house’ oh, ah, without another female there type prejudice, but little did they know how few men she trusted or cared about in her pain after an awful divorce from an adulterous bully! The wives of these men could have helped by just going along if they were worried about appearances. I might add my hubby was the only handyman in our group with the needed expertise, or they would willingly have helped. I think we were egalitarian in a way I never knew was anything but the norm, so shocked by some of the things I read online.

  13. Anne Acker says:

    “True manhood is cruciform loving leadership, like the true man, Jesus: who took initiative for God’s glory, and despite the shame, overcame sin, Satan, and death on the cross, rising again to give life and redeem masculinity itself.”

    These kinds of comments reveal complementarianism for what it really is. Complementarians insist that their theology doesn’t make women less valuable or less significant than men, but that is exactly what a statement like this does. I was in my thirties and had left fundamentalism fifteen years behind before I realized how much I had internalized the idea that God considered me less valuable than men. I knew that such an idea was unbiblical, but it was an assumption so deeply ingrained in what I had been taught that it took a family crisis to bring the hidden messages to the surface where they could be confronted and answered. A statement like the one above is exactly the sort of ungodly teaching that gives girls a false sense of inferiority and boys a false sense of privilege, all while the pastor insists he never said any such thing. He never *said* that women matter less to God. No, he just said that there was something in the redemption of the cross that a woman has no share in.

    I hope I am doing him a disservice. Perhaps, he would say that the cross redeems femininity as well. The problem is that the way this is written, it sounds like Jesus’ death is an exercise in masculinity, so only the masculine can fully identify with the passion of Christ, which is salvation itself.

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  15. Don Johnson says:

    Many times CBMW is wrong because what they present is a half truth, but in this case, it is a quarter truth. A believing older man (or woman) should mentor a believing younger man (or woman). The 2 phrases in parentheses add what is the whole truth.

    • Tim says:

      Good points, Don. And older men and women can learn from younger women and men too. It’s experience and wisdom that count.

      • Don Johnson says:

        Yes, anyone can potentially learn from anyone else. One aspect of being a disciple is being a learner. But the mentoring relationship is from one that is more mature to one that is less mature. This is an implication of the word translated elder for a church leader. Age does not guarantee maturity, but age allows one to have experiences which can produce maturity when one lets the Holy Spirit refine oneself..

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  17. He had a mom, right? 🙂 Best female mentors ever, at least in my experience.

  18. Buzz English says:

    Kathi, I so agree. My girlfriend has been really pissed with me; I’ve been mentoring a young lady at work who just needs some guidance to improve her game. My girlfriend false accuses me of having ulterior motives, when I strongly deny it she suggests the mentee may have ulterior motives.
    Do you have any advice on how I can convince my girlfriend that nothing is happening. I too strongly believe gender shouldn’t be a factor in mentoring relationships.

    • Tim says:

      Buzz, the only thing I can think is perhaps to introduce the two of them? But other than that it seems like the best you can do is continue to reassure your girlfriend that you care for her.

  19. Deborah says:

    Tim, where do you come up with that women need to ‘grow into Christ likeness’? After all, according to CBMW – women are just like children and simply need to obey. 😦

    Seriously – this is exactly what most egal women truly want. To be valued for character – not characteristics. Men don’t value other men on physical appearance. Our value is in Christ, as a human being – not as an object. Case in point – we don’t even know what Christ looked like. But we know all about His character.

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