The Pew Foundation recently highlighted the need for mentoring, finding that 27% of minors live apart from their father, almost three times the percentage in 1960.
But the importance of mentoring is not only clear through today’s statistics; it’s evident through the Biblical example of the Apostle Paul.
The relationship between the elder Paul and young Timothy provides an example of biblical mentoring at its best. We first encounter Timothy in Acts 16:1, “Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek.”
Paul is a Christian man deeply involved in Timothy’s life, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5).
Before Paul writes two Epistles to Timothy, he has already identified him as a son in his first letter to the church in Corinth. Paul speaks of Timothy not only as a son, but also of the need for mentoring and the context in which mentoring is to occur: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:15-17).
God calls fathers to reflect His image to their children. As mentors, our goal is to make credible the reality of God as “the helper of the fatherless”( Psalm 10:14) and ultimately as “Father of the fatherless,” (Psalm 68:5). For children whose concept of “father” means alienation or abuse, we reflect God's character as described in Hosea 14:3, “In you the orphan finds mercy.” The love and mercy of God enters the lives of these children through a relationship much like the one Paul had with Timothy. With Christ's love as the foundation, children become receptive to helpful guidance from a mentor and ultimately benefit from a godly, responsible role model.