What to do When You Can’t Find a Mentor

It’s been good this week, hasn’t it? To hear about women willing to mentor, about what we can do to be a good mentee, being reminded we are not alone and better yet, we don’t have to figure this hot mess called life out on our own.

It’s been good this week, hasn’t it?

Yes, but …

The but might be hanging in the air for some.

But what can you do if you can’t find a mentor? Does that mean you can’t be mentored and are a hopeless case? No. While mentoring is often associated with live, human input, it’s not the only form of mentoring. Since I host the book club, you might think I’ve been a reader my whole life. Not true. It was living overseas that turned me into a reader. I had a teammate who was a voracious reader (as in, be willing to stay up all night for a book. Even I’m not that dedicated!). With only two of us and not many other foreigners around and her nose stuck in a book I found myself with a lot more time on my hands than I had had with a teammate who liked to play games.

What to do in my free time? What to do?

Enter a book stage right. In that same season of life I decided to start writing down every book I read and to help me retain some of what I was learning. Unintentionally that was the beginning of finding mentors in books. These notebooks have become some of my most precious possessions, recording every book I’ve read from 1998 to now.

Book of books


When I travel back and forth across the ocean they are in my carry-on luggage and I would rather lose my passport than them. Leafing through them with an eye for which of my “friends” has mentored me, I came up with a list of 33 :)! And that was after I kept saying, “Amy, mentored, not taught, not entertained, not beautifully written, MENTORED. Stay focused!”

33 is NOT too many )

While I am a firm believer in being mentored by live people, I also know one person isn’t going to be able to offer everything I need. It will be the same for you. We need to be mentored and have life breathed into different parts of our being. So, for this post, I thought about different categories and forced myself in a Sophie’s Choice sort of way to choose only ONE book (and no cheating, I could not sneak in others, I gave myself a very stern talking to. I think I learned that from a book. Maybe not.). Here are nine ways I have been mentored as a person by mentors who have no idea the impact they have had on me.

Overall as a person: The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim ($1.99 on Kindle!). This book has given me the gift of remembering to stay awake as a person, the importance of sharing my journey with others, and the power of calling forth (in their case happiness) God given attributes in others. When I think of who I want to BE as a person, the main character comes to mind. I too want to see, call forth, and create space for the best in those around me.

Professionally: Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission  by Robynn Bliss and Sue Eenigenburg. This was a hard category because like many of you, I’ve had more than one job. This will be a future book club book so I won’t say more here.

Spiritually: A Work of Heart by Reggie McNeal. I have used this book more than any other in training folks in some form of leadership on the field. While skills are necessary and we all want/need to keep growing, if we do not give equal, or more, time to our hearts, we are building on sand.

Historically: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Can I tell you how much I feel restricted by only sharing one book? I believe it is important to read history (or be aware of it in some form). Context, context, context! Of the countries we come from, the countries we live in, the world that has been interacting long before the internet (do not get me going on how globalization is just now happening. Amy, focus!). You can read about how this book impacted me by clicking here.

Cross cultural work: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadima. The title give you a good idea of the content of this book and the importance of varying interpretations of an event.

Spiritual Practices: Invitations from God by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. We have a special post next week about this book :)! So, I won’t say more here other than this book changed how I see just about everything.

Communication: Made to Stick: why some ideas stick and other die. by Dan and Chip Heath.  One aspect of life overseas I had not anticipated needing to become so well versed in was communication! Communicating with folks back home, people from other parts of my own country (How can they view the world so differently?), and of utmost importance to my heart, my local friends. If you’re familiar with The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, this book fleshes our his second point of making a message sticky.

Emotionally: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. I bought this book because I was intrigued by the title. Was this going to be a way out there spiritual fru-fru book? Or smack me between the eyes? Since I’m recommending it, I think you can guess which it was! Scazzero’s thesis is we can only be as spiritually mature as we are emotionally healthy and he breaks down five areas. I have found this a helpful road map and annual check-list all in one.

Mininstry: Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle. At some point this will be a book club book! This book makes my Top 5 books of all time.Father Boyle works with gangs in LA and his chapter on what success and failure look like in ministry should be read by every single person. Not just those in ministry. No, every single person. Small warning, every now and then the language is touch, shall we say, salty. As you might expect. But not overly! And I promise, you will laugh out loud at some point in this book (I’d dare say multiple time.).

There you have it. I could add more categories, but that’s enough to give you a sense of how books have mentored me.

Guess what’s coming on September 17th? That’s the day we open up registration for our fall Connection Groups! We’ve been working behind the scenes to get ready and now we’re just counting the days until you can sign up and connect (maybe even find a mentor?)!

Share a book that has mentored you. Can’t wait to add to my “to read” list!


Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc


  1. Dee Sutton September 3, 2014


    I totally agree! I have been an avid reader since I was a teen. Its the one good thing that I learnt from my mum, as she loves to read too.

    In the last few years, in my Christian walk, there have been things I have wondered about, or wanted to learn about, that I have then found a book about. In the journey we are on now, a journey of were to next God, I have read so many books that leave me crying, stretched, and seeking more of Jesus. Thats what its all about right? Getting closer to him, a more intimate relationship with him?

    And although I have the blessing of a wonderful friend/mentor, she is also a reader….who this week has given me two books to read, both relating to areas I find myself struggling through.

    Sometimes when I cant find a book on a subject, I get a little frustrated……then someone I follow rights a post thats right what I was looking for!

    I honestly dont know that I could pick 9 books. I read way more than that a year. Thanks for your post.


    1. Amy Young September 3, 2014

      Choosing nine books out of those three notebooks and more than 15 years of recording books … what HARD. But it was also good for me to sit back and not just say, “OH I love that one!” But to ask, why and what has this book offered to me. What’s one or two of the books you’ve read this year that will move forward with you on your journey?

      1. Dee Sutton September 6, 2014

        I actually read the first one about 3 years ago, when I started my Bible College journey, and have re-read it, as there is so much good stuff in there The Supernatural Life By Cindy Jacobs, The other one I have loved is Who you are when no one’s looking by Bill Hybels. I am currently reading Hinds feet on high places by Hannah Hurnard. I am half way in 2 days, and cant put it down.

        I also thought I would share a great book on Mentoring for those who are interested.

        Mentoring: to develop disciples & leaders by John Mallison.

        I noticed also that When helping hurts has been suggested. I have quoted from that book in Uni in the last 3 years. And I have suggested it to so many people. Its a great book to understand how we need to do things.

        Great posts!

  2. Jan September 3, 2014

    I have a question… we have had several people over the last decade ask us to be their mentors. I’m afraid that we have failed them because although we try, we are unsure what that really means. Our generation (40 somethings) weren’t mentored, so it’s difficult to know what to do. Any suggestions? What does a mentor relationship look like?

    1. Amy Young September 3, 2014

      Jan, great question! I’ll be the first one to answer it, but others, PLEASE chime in too :). I think you hit on a key part of mentoring in your observation — the very word “mentoring” can have a range of meanings. If someone asks you or you approach someone, spend some time teasing out terms. I think mentoring can look like a lot of different things! I find most people who use the word mentoring are really saying, “Are you willing to walk with me for this leg of the journey. I see something in you and I’m drawn to you and I think there could be something we have to offer each other.” (Someone who will listen to me, IS offering something to me too :))

      I think this article (http://shelovesmagazine.com/2014/secret-mentoring-give/) has some helpful tips on being mentored and being a mentor.


    2. Heather September 4, 2014

      I agree with Amy that mentoring looks like a lot of different things!  Speaking from the side of one who is mentored, I think that some of the greatest things that mentors can do are show interest in their mentee, live a genuine life (openly humble about their own shortcomings!), and direct the mentee back to Jesus over and over again.  I appreciate that my mentors over the past 8 years have valued me as a person and affirmed who I am in Christ, while reminding me that they are not meant to be put on a pedestal.  I have had to remind myself that they are not magical and that being able to say “I have a mentor” does not solve all my problems or take away any of my insecurities.  It does, however, provide a support, a foundation, and a “home base,” especially as a single woman.  It is an enormous blessing to be welcomed in my mentor’s family, to share deep conversations with another woman who loves Jesus, and to feel like I am actually known in this home-away-from-home.

      I live in southwestern Germany, where there is a large expat community because of the international Christian school here.  I am working with a group of ladies to brainstorm ways to facilitate connection among women, specifically organic mentoring relationships.  I love the wording that Amy used in her reply: “Are you willing to walk with me for this leg of the journey?  I’ve seen something in you…”  This comes from the the woman who desires to be mentored, intentionally inviting another woman to speak into her life.  It is powerful when, for a season, that woman responds with a “yes,” allowing God to transform them both as they walk together in pursuit of a deeper intimacy with Christ.

      1. Amy Young September 4, 2014

        The gift of showing interest in someone is. so. powerful!

  3. Beth Everett September 4, 2014

    I was wondering if today’s post would talk about books as mentors! Glad to see that it does. I agree very much that books have a played a significant role in my own growth, and have often thought of them (or the authors rather) as mentors of sorts …

    Here are just a few …

    Currently reading: Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey

    On Marriage: What did you expect? by Paul David Tripp

    On Parenting: Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas

    On Understanding my relationship with God: With.Reimagining the way you relate to God by Skye Jethani

    On Understanding Others: Relationships: A Mess Worth making by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp

    On Relationships/Peer Pressure: When People are Big and God is Small by Edward Welch

    On Living with Contentment: A Quest for More by Paul David Tripp

    1. Amy Young September 4, 2014

      Beth, so many good books here! Yancey never ceases to touch me with his writing and Tripp is so good about rooting his lessons in reality! Thanks for this list … there are several I need to read 🙂

  4. Karin September 4, 2014

    Thanks for your post!  I too have had so many books “mentor” me through the years.  I put some of yours on my reading list!

    Return of Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen is at the top of my list overall.  Thoughtfully written and insightful I was challenged and encouraged by his meditation on the Rembrandt’s painting.


    1. Amy Young September 4, 2014

      KARIN (I have to use all caps to show my deep emotion :)). Return of the Prodigal Son is also in my top five books of all time! I’d like reread it annually, but it has been a few years. Maybe I need to pull it out again … 🙂

  5. Kim September 4, 2014

    Any book by Bill Johnson!! His books have helped in soo much in my personal growth and what it means to serve in the Kingdom!

    1. Amy Young September 4, 2014

      I haven’t heard of him! So many good books … and now more to add to my lists :)! Thanks Kim.

  6. Morielle September 4, 2014

    I just finished “Abandoned to God” (a biography of Oswald Chambers). The timing of that book coming into my life was perfect. Young Oswald (twenties, like me) was a man with a big heart and big mind and big faith and BIG DREAMS of all the big things he was going to do for his big God.

    God tore those dreams down and Oswald had to learn the hard way what he expresses in his famous quote, “It takes me a while to realize that God has no respect for anything I bring him. All he wants from me is unconditional surrender.” It took years and years.

    This was so meaningful to me, because God has been tearing down my big dreams for years now, and He’s still at it.

    1. Amy Young September 4, 2014

      Morielle, isn’t it a rich gift when a book enters our lives at just the right time for us to get the most out of it? I”m so thankful this book was so timely for you!! (Ah, and those tearing down lessons are important but not easy!)

  7. Melissa Toews September 4, 2014

    Thank you for this encouragement!  I love to read and do a lot of it, but I like the idea of journaling what I read.  I am always saying, “Now which book was that . . . it was so good, too, I wish I could remember . . .” 🙂  Thank you also for this list of titles to add to my wish-list!

    My recent favorite is “Healing for Damaged Emotions” by David Seamands.  I picked it up to preview it before giving it to someone who really “needed” it.  Little did I know that I was the one who really needed it and it would help me work through some issues in my life that I didn’t even know were issues!!

    1. Amy Young September 4, 2014

      Funny how that sometimes works, isn’t it Melissa :). How we end up being the one who “needs” a lesson or book. So glad that God is creative about getting us what we need for our own journeys!

  8. Alex King September 4, 2014

    Love how books can be mentors! I have read so much this past year on the field but I think the most memorable in regards to ministry were Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend and When Helping Hurts. 

    can’t wait for connection groups sign up!

    1. Amy Young September 6, 2014

      OH!! Those are both “must” reads for folks in our line of work, aren’t they :)! I think the boundaries book would be a good one for teams to read and sort through where boundaries may lie for each team (the type of work will obviously really impact this) and tease out what’s our HOME culture influences, HOST culture influences, and BIBLICAL culture (and ones we want to nurture regardless of home/host). Thanks for the suggestions!

    2. Annalisa September 6, 2014

      I already bought When Helping Hurts, but it has yet to be read.  Another similar book that I would definitely suggest is Toxic Charity by Robert D. Lupton

  9. JulieB September 4, 2014

    What a great topic mentoring has been this week!  I appreciate your post, Amy, about being mentored through books!  Also appreciated several book recommendations in the comments here- writing them in my journal.  I have just read an old but wonderful book entitled, Trusting God (Even when Life Hurts) by Jerry Bridges.  Oh….so much good food for my soul at this time in that book.   That one is my recommendation!

    I love mentoring relationships because I also learn so much from the gals I have been privileged to mentor.  I also love the idea of being a cheerleader for “younger”(chronologically or spiritually) women.  My mom was my greatest cheerleader and when she went home to heaven 12 years ago I was devastated when I realized that I had lost my cheerleader.  But I also realized that God has given me the opportunity to be a cheerleader/encourager not only to my own children and grandchildren, but also to other women He brings into my life.  “Walking along together on this leg of the journey” as you said so well Amy,….what a great opportunity and privilege!

    1. Amy Young September 6, 2014

      Julie, from all the ways you have enriched VA, I can only imagine how great for folks who get to dip their toes in your life experiences! It really is a privilege when people invite us into their stories or when we make room for people at our “table of life.” :)!!

  10. Annalisa September 6, 2014

    I’ll have to add to this in the morning, but one book which I read as a teen was “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.  (I know…popular book.)  At the time, that was the only Five Love Language book he had published; so, despite being a single, young person who had never even had a serious relationship (as in “considering marriage”) yet, I read a book intended for married couples.  It impacted me a lot…or at least enough to pick up “The Five Love Languages: Singles Edition” sometime after it came out.  That book changed me as a person.  It did deal with dating relationships, but it also dealt with a lot of other non-romantic relationships making and expanding on connections that I had already started making with the first book; it went into how to love your family members and your co-workers.  I now own two copies of the book in Spanish and one in English.  I recommend it–and loan it–to lots of people, even married people.  Just because a person gets married doesn’t mean they no longer have to deal with co-workers or family members!

    Anyway, I’ll probably add to this more tomorrow.  The power is out on the first level of the house (foreign country problems?) and that’s where I keep my books.

    1. Amy Young September 6, 2014

      Annalisa, YES!! The five love languages is another one that’s so helpful for understanding ourselves, loved ones, and our teammates. I can remember a few lightbulbs that have gone off for me over the years :). SO helpful!! Thanks for the shout-out to this book!!

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