In a time of social media, Skyping, texting, and Snapchat, I am not sure our kids know how to hold a real conversation while looking the person in the eye. This is why I love the mentoring component to the Confirm not Conform program. It gives our youth a chance to explore a relationship with another adult who is in their corner. There are not enough of those.
I have a lot of random ideas about mentors, so I’m writing two blog posts this month. Todays is on mentoring myths and realities. And next I’m going to talk about more practical suggestions.
Adults who mentor are often freaked out that I would ask them. I’d hear things like
- I don’t know how to be with a teen.
- I don’t know the Bible that well.
- I am still trying to figure out my relationship with God and Jesus.
- I guess I’ll do it, if you can’t find anyone else.
Or my favorite
- I hated confirmation class when I was a kid, so why would I do that to another youth now?
But with some simple training and meetings throughout the year for support, the adults are begging to mentor again the next year!
What the adults don’t know is that kids get freaked out too. Kids who are told they are getting a mentor say things like,
- Oh, man, are they going to judge me?
- Why? I will have no time to meet with them.
- I hate meeting new adults, especially if they are churchy.
But by the end, the youth are often so proud of their relationship with their mentor.
Here are some myths that adults have about being a mentor:
- We will become best friends.
- I will be able to see them each week.
- The parents will be so grateful for me getting involved in their kid’s life.
- The youth will be at church each week.
- It was hard to get kids or parents to return calls, yet once we did all went well.
- I planned some outings with other mentors and youth to go bowling or to eat so fun for all of us.
- We met often after church or before at Youth Group to start - a place we both felt comfortable.
Myths that kids have about the mentors:
- I don’t know this person, so why would I spend time with them? It’s going to be weird.
- I am afraid they will tell me what to believe.
- I think the church is trying to push this GOD person on me.
- I liked that my mentor was interested in me not my parents.
- I have an adult friend at church that is not my parents’ friends first.
For many the role of Mentor is what we think of as the role for godparents. The Book of Common Prayer says it is the duty of godparents “to help the new Christians grow in the knowledge and love of God, and in their responsibilities as members of his Church” (p. 298). But many of the godparents live too far away to really be there for the youth as they explore these questions. (If a godparent is close by or in your parish they make great mentors; it strengthens the relationship.)
As one youth said, “I don’t even know my real godparents. They’re friends of my parents from college. But now I call my mentor my godparent.”
The reality is there’s a place for mentoring in the lives of youth, one that has a historic place in the life of the church. We don’t expect the clergy to do all the preparation for those who are baptized. In fact, we expect godparents to do a lot of the preparation, and what better way to do that than through mentoring? More on how exactly to do that soon.