Lately I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a mentor for young people. There seems to be so much wrapped up in the definitions, models, trainings, workshops etc. for people that work with young people and I think sometimes we lose focus in the midst of these endeavors. This past Friday evening, I was out for a friend’s birthday and as dinner began, three women started sharing their experiences about being big sisters for young people in the Kansas City area. One common theme started to appear, whether we were talking about the adolescent girl, the brand new teenager (a girl who just had turned thirteen) or the nine year old boy. All of these women simply wanted to know if what they were doing made a difference.
Questions and statements that sounded similar came from all three of them during the conversation. “Am I doing enough?” “Do you think I am making an impact?” “How can I tell that something I do with them means anything at all?” “I hope that they know I am a safe person to talk to about their questions.” “I want them to trust me.” As I listened to these women share with one another, I noticed that they were doing something absolutely essential to the practice of mentoring. They were ENCOURAGING one another. No one told anyone else that their individual practices of being a big sister, role model, mentor, etc. was flawed. Everyone simply told one another that they were making a difference just by taking them for an ice cream cone while lending an ear.
The work of mentoring young people is not easy and it is one that should not go unevaluated or not be held accountable. However, do not do it alone! If you are someone who is working with young people, find a place to talk about it. Find a place to be encouraged. Find someone to tell you that your work is significant.
youTheology Mentor Coordinator
Loving God, Loving Neighbor