I’ve been given the incredible opportunity to participate in the First Look blog tour for Heartfelt by Dr. Joneal Kirby, a book about her women’s mentor ministry. Today I wanted to write a little bit about what I like about this book, who should read it, and how it has changed my perspective on the importance of having a female support system.
I was initially drawn to this book because of the subtitle “A Woman’s Guide to Creating Meaningful Friendships.” As someone who has grown up with a lot of women in my life– from an all-girl household to being a leader in a sorority of 200 college women– I was interested in having a guide that would help me develop deeper relationships with them. I was surprised to find in Heartfelt a very simple answer: bring them home. Meet in small groups, share a meal, extend hospitality. It sounds too easy, right? As I was reading, I remember thinking, I would’ve done that ages ago if I had known that was the secret. But throughout the book, Kirby gives example after example of women whose mentoring experiences gave them the support and love they needed to thrive. The stories make you long to start one of these mentoring groups yourself so you can have the same kind of female network to grow you and catch you when you fall. Joneal Kirby herself is the kind of person you’d want to have in your life, too: her writing style is familiar and friendly. I feel like I’ve known her a long time, and I’ve taken to calling her “Jo.”
As I was reading, it was pretty obvious that I am right outside the age-range for the intended audience of this book, which appears to be young professionals/newlyweds/young mothers all the way to empty-nesters. Sometimes I felt like I was really out of place, like a kid at the grown-up table. Even so, I’m a thinker and a planner, and I’m always looking to the future, so I still got a lot out of reading Heartfelt, even if it was pre-mature. I think this book’s message is valuable in two different ways: there’s the direct interpretation of Jo’s church-based mentoring groups for, well, not students, and then there’s the indirect interpretation of how this same mentoring concept can be valuable outside of the church, too.
I grew up with a single mom who, for many years, didn’t take nights off, rarely went out with friends, and pretty much never did anything for herself. I still wonder how she did it, honestly. She would tell you now that her method was nothing to be proud of– that it was lonely and draining– and what she needed was Christian women her own age who could just be there for her. I wish that my mom could have been a part of one of Jo’s mentoring groups during that season of her life. I know that this female support system that Jo’s describing in Heartfelt is exactly what she needed then, probably what she could use now. As Jo explains, the wonderful thing about these groups is that they function as safety nets during bad times, but during good times, they function as wings. Who wouldn’t want that for their mom? For themselves? I hope that I get the opportunity to be a part of a ministry like that someday.
But then I was thinking, I’ve got 200 sorority sisters who I could mentor or who could mentor me…Why wait? So the past few days, I’ve been trying to adapt Jo’s mentoring lessons to fit my sorority. With 200 members (and more coming in the fall), my sorority has really been struggling with how to really know each other. Sure, we have socials and Greek Sing rehearsals and weekly chapter meetings, but like many of the testimonials in Heartfelt explained, being a large church or a large group like a sorority can often make you feel so fake. There’s simply not enough time to have a good conversation with everyone, so we have many cheap conversations instead. I know that I speak for my sisters when I say that this is not what I wanted when I joined a sorority– I wanted meaningful relationships. Luckily, I’m in a position in my chapter where I can actually do something about this. I can develop the programming to make our own little mentoring groups within the sorority where upperclassmen can host a small group of underclassmen in their apartments or homes. And the girls that I’ve run this idea by already love it. Personally, I’m giddy about it. I love the idea of little Theta small groups lighting up around Nashville. It’s like a dream.
People get lost in big groups– at schools, at churches, even in sororities. It just goes to show that even if you’re not looking for a Bible study small group, you should still find a way to bring a small group together, share a meal, and share your lives. This is an essential quality of femininity– this need for connection– and we should always, always honor that.
(If you want to read more about Heartfelt Ministries, pick up a copy of Heartfelt: A Woman’s Guide to Creating Meaningful Friendships or visit http://heartfeltministries.org.)