Godmothering: The Power of Mentoring To Change Lives

“Profound Accord” by Tracey Penrod

A year ago or more, I bought this print from my friend Tracey Penrod. The image spoke to me of friendship and motherhood…of dreams yet to be fulfilled. I kept both the impressions and the artwork to myself until today. With permission from the artist to reprint her work here, I tell you that today, this image speaks to me about mentoring others.

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring is about giving back to the world some portion of what you have learned in it. When I write to you, dear reader, it is my attempt to help you learn and grow from my experiences.

But, actual mentorship gets more personal than a conversation like this. Mentorship is face-to-face and walking out life together with someone that can learn from you.

Why Do You Need Mentorship?

If you are young, the Bible says you are supposed to be mentored (into godly character and living) by older, more experienced Christians. So, in part, you can say mentorship is a part of developing your faith. But it is more than that.

To be a mentee makes you have wings to fly in your business, relationships with others, and personal life. It helps you more clearly define who you are to yourself and others. That clarity is immeasurably important–especially in business–because you have to be able to advocate for yourself to get ahead in this world.

Why Should You Be A Mentor?

If you think back to when you got started in your adult life, you did not do it alone. You had parents, teachers, or other business owners answering your questions. Most of the time, they did that all for free just to help. That is what mentorship is: selfless sacrifice for the good of others.

If you still don’t get it, think about how you want to be remembered and celebrated when you die. Will your funeral be Ebenezer Scrooge with one faithful employee that shows up–if you are lucky? Or will it be Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose passing was felt around the world and, when he died, a funeral train carried his body 3000 miles through 9 states for people to gather at the tracks and say farewell to his body as it passed.

What I find surprising about death is how much it tells you about the person. You learn things you never knew about them when they were alive, and you find out just what they meant to you emotionally.

Such was the case with my friend, Juanita Green.

What is a Godmother?

It wasn’t till she passed that I realized who she was to me. Juanita was a godmother to me, and by that I mean she poured her life sacrificially as a mentor. Pastor Jim Wall, the Senior Pastor of The Bridge Church, used 1 Corinthians 4:15-17 to show us that the church “is desperate for some spiritual mommas and daddies”. Do the needs of the early church still stand true today? The answer is: absolutely!

Lisa Bevere coined the term “Godmother” for this in her latest Bible study, Godmothers. It means someone who is investing actively in the lives of other people around them. They do life with these people and show them God’s love in practical ways. They invest even to the point of taking a risk because they see value even when it isn’t there yet. They make sacrifices and sometimes live frugally because it is more important to them to make other peoples’ dreams come true than their own.

Show God’s Heart

1 John 2 has some strong words for those who claim to know Christ but hold on to hatred and unforgiveness towards others. I have to admit–I struggle with this one two. What it is trying to say is that God is not a god that plays favorites; if we want to be like Him and claim to be his, we have to be less and less prejudiced with our love. It also means that we have to be willing to forgive when people mess up–because they will…we all do. If you are honest with your own relationship with God and you show who you are with actions not just words, you will exhibit the character of a person who is what they say they are. THAT is a person people will follow and trust.

Make Room For Love In Your Timeline

All throughout the New Testament, Paul’s letters open and close with reminders of what he did in the presence of the people he was writing to. They also talk about people he left or sent to them as examples and witnesses of what he was saying. All those verses are good examples of what it looks like to make yourself available. Paul wasn’t always able to physically be where someone needed him to be, but he was always with them in spirit. I think that is an important thing to note because we all struggle with time management. Nevertheless, he made it a point to make time to communicate to the people he cared about. We should do likewise.

When is the last time you sat down with the people you loved and spent quality time with them doing something they cared about? When have you last told your loved ones that you love them? As a mentor, you need to be clearly communicating all that to your loved ones, but you also need to be available for the people you mentor.

Being a spiritual momma and daddy is about every interaction you have. It’s being available and sharing your life–not just leading a meeting.

Jim Wall, Senior Pastor of The Bridge Church

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 gives us a picture of what this looks like in a family setting. It shows us parents who make their faith a part of their everyday living. They teach their faith to their children and children’s children. They set up reminders around the house of the goodness of God.

How does that translate into mentorship?

Mentors need to see themselves as spiritual parents and grandparents. They should make faith a part of their everyday lives and live it out with their mentees in a true honest friendship relationship.

Believe To The Point Of Taking A Risk

Every great person in the Bible had someone believing in them when they were not yet great. That is what Jesus did with the disciples—especially Peter. How could Christ look at the man that would deny him three times and still say, in Matthew 16:18, that he would be the rock on which the church would be built? He said this not just because he was God. He said this because he believed in Peter and saw his potential even before there was evidence of it.

To be a good mentor, you have to be willing to do the same thing. Sometimes you have to trust someone when they are not currently getting it right or being trustworthy. This can be a risky thing to do because sometimes you have to invest in them in ways you don’t know how they will end up. Paul did that with a former slave in Philemon 1:18-19. He offered to pay off the debt he owed for him! And guess what happened to Philemon after that? Scholars believe he went on to pastor a church that changed a whole city!

The Risk Reward is a Legacy

The legacy you leave behind when you are a mentor is the people you invested in. It is their lives living on after you, leaving a mark in the world, that you have made different. Whether that is one life or one million doesn’t matter. What matters is that you didn’t keep it all to yourself. What matters is that you took the risk to gain the reward of a legacy of lives touched by your presence in it.

That is the risk Juanita Green took at the end of her life. She did not always live life well, but at the end of it all giving and mentoring was the refining fire of all her former selfishness (as she would have called it). She was not the first important mentor in my life nor will she be the last, but I think it is important to note here that she left the impression she did on me in just four months. It doesn’t take a lot of time to make a difference that changes a life for a lifetime. It just takes a heart open and willing to love.

A father [or mother] who serves the destiny of others above serving his own, will, in the end, fulfill his destiny.

Pastor Bill Humphries

Church Ministry is a Partnership Not Competition: The Story of Pastor Andrew Price and The Bridge, Mount Olive, NC

I grew up under the ministry of Pastor Ferrell Hardison at Whitley Church (now The Bridge) in Princeton, NC. He raised us to see church ministry like we are all part of the same team. Jesus is the name on the front of the jersey; our church name is on the back. What matters is the name on the front of that jersey. I’ll partner with any church that let’s us work with them (to serve our community) because it is about advancing the Gospel not one church over another.

Andrew Price, Pastor of The Bridge Church, Mount Olive, NC

The Man

Andrew Price is a small town, country preacher with deep roots and agricultural heritage in the community he serves today, but he will be the first one to tell you how surprised he was to end up the pastor of a church in his hometown. Introduced to the Bridge Church (then Whitley Pentecostal Holiness Church) as a teenager with his mother, Andrew has been a part of The Bridge Church NC for many years.

When God called him into the ministry, it began as a job at Falcon Children’s Home and Family Services, an outreach of the Pentecostal Holiness Church serving at-risk children and families. There were many challenges to the work, but the highlight of that time was the fact that Andrew met and married his wife, Nicole, there. Nicole and Andrew both credit their time in service at Falcon Children’s Home for setting important foundational lessons to the ministries they would go on to lead later.

Purchasing a home in Mount Olive, Andrew and Nicole laugh when they recall the early years of their marriage. They say they “really were living on love back then; we didn’t have much.” Nevertheless, God put a seed of hope in their hearts that they could do something for God in the town of Mount Olive, NC.

Andrew took a position as the Children’s Pastor for The Bridge Church in Princeton, NC, and Nicole took a job teaching music in Wayne County then (later) Johnston County Public Schools. It made more sense for them to move closer to their jobs, so they rented out their Mount Olive house and made the move. This could have been a moment to feel defeated because they were leaving Mount Olive, but they didn’t. They knew God was in the move and would not disappoint them in the journey regardless of where the road ended.

Pastor Ferrell Hardison, then Senior Pastor of The Bridge Church NC, became a mentor and friend to Andrew and Nicole. He knew their heart for Mount Olive, but, at that time, that was not part of the vision for The Bridge. The Bridge Church was one church with two locations, Princeton and Goldsboro, and it was very intentional about how any further locations would happen. When the next location was attempted, it wasn’t Mount Olive, it was Smithfield. Pastor Ferrell asked Andrew to take the point on that launch because he knew he had a pastor’s heart. Andrew accepted and learned a lot during his time in Smithfield that would help him later as well.

Family photo of Pastor Andrew with wife, Nicole, and sons Mason and Landon.

Going to Smithfield was short-lived and seemed in the opposite direction of where they wanted to be, but it would not be the only time the Prices were left to question God’s plan. In 2013, the hurt hit close to home with the loss of their first son, Anthony Jordan Price. They still remember and celebrate Jordan every year with family trips to his grave. Jordan was just 40 weeks old when he died, yet he was a part of this world from the moment of conception.

It is hard to come through such devastating personal loss and see beauty on the other side of it, but Jordan is now a big brother to three brothers who have learned to value life more acutely because he existed. No life, no matter how short it is lived, is without value.

The Ministry Structure

Looking from the outside in, it is easy to misjudge The Bridge Church NC. Are they competition to other churches–even in their own denomination? Are they spreading the Gospel or just another rock-star contemporary church with a feel-good message? To all these questions and more, I point you to the Bible. 1 Corinthians 3 teaches us that denominations are not the point; we are all co-workers in God’s service. In John 17, Jesus himself prayed for a spirit of unity not division amongst Christians. As Pastor Ferrell explained it, we are like members of a football team, and when we go out on the field (in ministry in the community) it is as a team united with other churches, not in competition against them. The Bridge Church NC expands into locations the Lord directs its leadership to go, and it reaches people that haven’t been able to be reached any other way. Whenever possible, they work with other churches and organizations to make a bigger impact in the community through acts of volunteer service and giving to the needy.

As a whole, The Bridge Church NC is one church with, now, four locations. In addition to ministry outreaches in Kentucky and Belize, The Bridge Church is located in Princeton, Goldsboro, Mount Olive, and Smithfield. Though the sermon points are generally the same every service across all four locations, the personalities, strengths, and stories of each pastor as well as the locations themselves make each location different.

Since its growth into a multi-site church under the leadership of Pastor Ferrell Hardison, The Bridge Church NC has fostered a sense of volunteerism and community engagement unparalleled in many churches today. Moving forward under the leadership of Pastor Jim Wall, the church is strategically building a legacy to pass on to future generations. Members of The Bridge NC give of their time, talent, and treasure because they want to partner with the vision of the church and with its outreach to the community. They are excited to serve and see Jesus at work in their hometowns, and they volunteer as an act of stewardship and obedience to Christ.

The Bridge Mount Olive Story

When The Bridge decided to go to Mount Olive in 2016, Pastor Ferrell, Andrew, and Nicole rejoiced that things had come back around full circle to answer this desire of their hearts.

The first location was a very humble beginning in a rented auditorium at the University of Mount Olive (UMO). It was the beginning of a beautiful partnership with the college that continues today, but it was not an easy place to serve. Every Sunday was a pop-up that had to be set up and torn down by a small group of volunteers starting around 6:00 AM every morning. When Covid happened, UMO had to press pause on its partnerships with outside organizations–and that included The Bridge Church.

Having to find a new place to meet felt like a punch of defeat. How could they come so far just to be shut down now? With two weeks left at the college and no place to go thereafter, Andrew felt God say in his spirit: “we’re not done”. He made the need for a location known to the people of The Bridge Mount Olive and asked everyone to pray and put out feelers in the community.

From those prayers and conversations came the opportunity to rent the Dudley Christian Disciples of Christ Church’s fellowship hall on Sundays. In less than a year of partnership together, Dudley Christian reevaluated the lease agreement and opened up more opportunities for The Bridge Church Mount Olive to access the property and grow in its ministry. The primarily older congregation at Dudley Christian said they were blessed by the sound of the children everywhere.

We feel like neighbors, but we want to feel like family.

Leadership of Dudley Christian Disciples of Christ Church

The desire to grow together as a family led the two churches to have their first combined service on November 7, 2021. They look forward to more growth and collaboration in the future.

The Bridge is not just a place I go, it is a people with whom my family can pursue Christ.

Ronnie Wise, Congregational Life Director

Where They Are Headed

The Bridge Church Mount Olive has an exciting future ahead of them. Celebrating 5 years in the community in October 2021, they plan to be here for many more years to come. Over the next months and years, they plan to invest strategically in growing their ministries to kids and students as well as outreaches into the community and UMO.

For more information about The Bridge Church Mount Olive, check out their Instagram, Facebook, and website. You are also welcome to join them for Sunday morning services at 10:00 AM here.