Thursday, September 1, 2011

Calling All Mentors

At one point in my life I asked God to send me a mentor to help me negotiate the rushing waters of being a single parent with teen-aged children. And one showed up. She wasn't around long, but she gave me lots of good tips, and also shared with me some of the things she wished she hadn't done, in retrospect. Mentors are important in life. Along the way we will need many mentors. In youth ministry we call them Triple-A adults: Authentic, Available and Affirming. Those are three big words, big charges.

Being Authentic means simply being who you actually are, not who you think you should be. Being real means a lot to kids. They will trust an authentic adult in ways they will never trust someone who only shows the best sides of his/her life. You can only mentor from your own true center. And you can only be mentored from someone else's authentic core. Like the mentor I described - you have to share your failures and your successes.

Being Available means making this relationship a priority. It means leaving space in your schedule for your relationships. You can't be available if you are booked solid every day. You aren't available if your mind is elsewhere. And, as I've previously written, being available on your schedule isn't really being available at all. If you're called to be someone's mentor, you will find joy in that relationship. It may be inconvenient to be available at times, but it will usually be rewarding
Affirming is the most habit-driven quality so perhaps it is the first thing to strive for if you want to be a mentor. Can you find the good in a person? Not in her clothing or his car - but in him or her? If you watch for it you will find it - the organizational talents, the care and concern for others, the ability to forgive, an endless list of possible gifts. The rest is easy; just remark on it. I love the way you are so _____________. We see ourselves, often most clearly, through the eyes of others.

Who were mentors to you? Along the way I have prayed often for mentors when I was facing a new challenge, and God always supplied.  I am grateful to those good men and women. My life would have been very different without them! One taught me that it was a blessing to be passionate about motherhood. Another taught me about managing people by their strengths instead of their weaknesses. One time, someone gave me the perfect book for that stage in my life. Another continues to remind me to pray before proceeding. One wise woman gave me the courage to start putting thoughts to paper (and later to cyberspace). Some of these mentors were just heaven sent - I didn't even pray for them!

I have also mentored a person or two along the way and that has richly blessed me. The new school year is starting. Schools, churches, scout troops and teams are all looking for mentors. Are you being called?

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