Widening the Circle – Why mentoring matters more than you think
When you were growing up, did you have a special person in your life who did things with you, gave you advice, or was a good listener? This person may have been a relative or family friend who was older than you. If so, then you had a mentor.
You may know that all children need a variety of mentors, but did you know that parents and grandparents make great mentors too?
What does it mean to be a mentor?
A mentor is someone who provides support, guidance, friendship, and respect to a child.
Sounds great. But what does that mean?
Being a mentor is like being a coach of a sports team. A caring coach sees the strengths and weaknesses of each player and tries to build those strengths and lessen those weaknesses. In practice, coaches stand back and watch the action, giving advice on what the players should do next, but knowing that the players make their own game- time decisions. Coaches honestly point out things that can be done better and praise things that are done well. Coaches listen to their players and earn players’ trust. They give their players a place to turn when things get tough.
Mentors do the same things: develop a child’s strengths; share a child’s interests; offer advice and support; give praise; listen; be a friend. Mentors help kids to reach their full potential, which includes mistakes and tears, as well as successes and smiles. Mentors know that small failures often precede major successes. Knowing this fact, they encourage kids to keep trying because those successes are right around the corner.
There is no magic wand that turns people into caring mentors. Just spending time with your child helps you become a mentor. You can do ordinary things with your child, like going grocery shopping together. You can do special things with your child, like going to a museum or a concert together. The important part is that you do things together, and communicate with one another.
What about mentors besides parents?
The authors of Parenting Beyond your Capacity share the idea of kids having positive adult role models, besides (and as well as) their parents, throughout their lives. Research has shown that students with mentors are less likely to engage in risky behaviour, like drug use and violence, and more likely to excel academically. As a parent, you can help to connect your child with other positive adult influences throughout your community or church.
These relationships can start very simply and early on, like a piano teacher or chess tutor. They may be very informal in the early years. But what’s interesting to note is that mentors are important to have before they are really needed. We want to widen the circle of influence with these special relationships in a purposeful way, long before life gets tough.
Camping ministries are another avenue where significant and life-long mentor relationships can begin. Camp leaders are often young and full of life, physically active, kind and attentive, and most of all they have a deep desire to love and serve Jesus by reaching out to kids. Camping experiences allow kids to have a “front row seat” to watch young adults living out their faith in Christ.
“I have come to realise the value of mentors and role models – apart from Mum and Dad – in the development of my children. Little did my wife and I realise as we drove to camp for the first time that our eleven-year-old son and three daughters would receive so much more in their spiritual development and formation than we could have ever imagined.” – Parent.
There isn’t a price tag a parent can put on the godly influence of mentors outside the home! As you pray for your child’s spiritual development, ask God to provide Christian role models and mentors for your son or daughter. There’s much truth in the idea that it takes a village to raise a child.
Want to find out more about mentoring? Grow Ministries has a great resource is designed to assist congregations in ministry to young people. It is filled with frameworks, how to sheets, fact sheets, training power points and videos. Click here to check it out.