One Way to Mentor

(This is part three of a three part series. Click here for part one and here for part two) 

Mentoring has gotten a bad wrap. When people hear the word mentor, they think book study, weekly meetings, old people, etc. The older generations may be thinking that sounds great, but to the Millennials, nothing could sound worse. They don’t want a regular meeting, more homework or a relationship with a time limit on it. Don’t tie them down, man! I’d have to agree with them on all points. So let me set the record straight right now: we don’t have regular meeting times, we don’t go through a book study and I don’t do this through an organization.

Homework at Starbucks!
Homework at Starbucks!

It’s totally organic. It’s a real life friendship. Things have changed a bit since five of my six are now in college, but for the most part, we connect once a week. Not because we have a set meeting time, but because we like hanging out together.

In Deuteronomy, Moses tells parents to impress the truths of God upon their children when they sit at home and when they walk along the road. I believe this natural sort of talking and learning can and should be applied to mentoring as well. Teenagers and college students don’t need (or want) another thing to do, but they love to connect. When we make our lives available to them we allow that chance to connect. And you aren’t there to preach; you are there to walk along the road with them. It will require a certain vulnerability, because it will mean sharing the mistakes you’ve made. When you are willing to be open and honest with them (to the level that is appropriate for the situation), you will gain their trust. You will be a person they can count on.

Braves game!
Braves game!

To narrow it down a little bit, I believe there are two main jobs of a mentor for the Millennial generation:

  1. To interpret. These people definitely do not need any more information. They have information coming at them from all directions at all times of day. If they want an answer, they can find an answer. They don’t need you for the information. What they need are trusted adults to help them interpret the information that they are receiving. When I was living in El Salvador, one of my girls texted me and asked, “Kelly why is God allowing all of this bad stuff to happen?” I didn’t know it at the time I received her text, but the Boston Marathon bombing had just taken place and she was receiving all of that information from all around her. She was looking for an interpreter and I had the enormous privilege of being that for her. You won’t have all the answers. But when you make yourself available, you can help them to interpret.. 
  2. To provide perspective. You are in the unique position to provide the perspective that only you can give. You have walked ahead of them and now you are walking alongside them. What are you seeing that they can’t see? What have you learned that they haven’t learned yet? You get to help them see a situation from a different angle.
Yes, we play Scrabble at Starbucks...
Yes, we play Scrabble at Starbucks…

So what do we do? Whatever we feel like, basically. I look at my calendar each week (I work retail so my schedule is random) and figure out when there are times that I could realistically give, and I start texting out invitations. Sometimes they take me up on it and sometimes they don’t. It could be anything from coffee, to breakfast/lunch/dinner, to concerts or sporting events. If they are doing something that I can go cheer for, I go and cheer them on. If it is in my power to be there, I am there. I help with homework, I edit papers, we have long text conversations, I take calls in the middle of the night, we take road trips, and we have game nights. We just live life together, like normal friends.

Yes, it requires some sacrifice, but it is so very worth it. Bob Goff, in his book Love Does, says, “But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. It’s a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright.” Nothing is more loving than the gift of your time.

I do not take this lightly. Knowing that these young hearts trust me makes me dive further into the Bible. I have nothing to offer them if my tank is empty or if I am not rooted in the truths of God. My words could potentially change the course of their lives and that is something that I take very seriously. You better believe I pray before each interaction.

I am so much better for having these girls in my life. It is not one sided. I am so very blessed by them every time I see them. They help me see the world differently and my ability to love has increased because of them. So when people ask me why I hang out with teenagers (now young adults), my normal answer is, “Why don’t you?” 

Why Mentoring?

IMG_3559(This is part two of a three post series. Click here for part one)

When “my girls” introduce me to someone, most of the time they call me their mentor. I usually say that too, but I cringe a little because mentoring has gotten a bad wrap (more on that in the next post). 

Over the next two posts, I would like to answer two important questions:

  1. Why is mentoring important?
  2. How can I mentor?

In this entry I will focus on the first question.

We live in a fairly young country, compared to the rest of the world, but a lot has changed

First visit home from college at the same time.
First visit home from college at the same time.

relationally in that short time. Back in our foundational years (and all the way back to Bible times), the generation gap was narrow. Girls grew up working day in and out with their mothers, aunts and grandmas. Not only that, but many times they grew up working with, learning from and talking to various women in the community. Maybe that was in going down to the river to do the wash together or cooking together. They learned from each other. They fellowshipped together. They, of course, spent time with people their own age, but walking with and learning from the older generations was normal and essential for growth and development. Young boys did the same with their fathers and other men in the community. They were apprentices; learning trades by working alongside someone who had walked before them. And yet, somewhere along the way we started to lose that intimacy. As technology developed, education systems changed and transportation improved, we began to separate from one another. Soon it became every man for himself, and while children are still exposed to the knowledge and advice of their parents, they are missing the critical element of other adults in the community.

We all need guidance. We need people who have walked ahead of us, who can share the lessons they’ve learned and warn of us pitfalls they see us walking towards.

Mentoring gives me the chance to help a generation of young women understand who God is, what it means to be loved unconditionally by him, that holiness is not out of reach and that He really is at work all around them. It is truly a holy calling. Psalm 145:4 says, “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” That is an incredible privilege! Sharing the works of the Lord that we read in the Bible, and the works of the Lord in our own lives. We are passing down the story of God to the next generation. If you are willing to take the time to earn their trust, you have the privilege of influencing the course of their lives. It is a great privilege that you will completely miss out on if you stick to the generation gaps that our society has created.IMG_5372

You may think you aren’t qualified. That is a lie. Each of us is uniquely qualified to mentor. Each of us has a story to tell and you never know how your story might speak to the heart of a young woman. This generation is so open to mentoring, but that means you have to take a step of faith and put yourself out there! You don’t need to be “cool,” you need to be trustworthy.

Start praying about some young people in your life that you could start investing in. Who comes to mind? Tomorrow I will talk about my mentoring methods, if you need some ideas. But, there isn’t a rulebook. Be creative!

Words of encouragement are like that. They have their own power. And when they are said by the right people, they can change everything. What I’ve found in following Jesus is that most of the time, when it comes to who says it, we each are the right people. And I’ve concluded something else. That the words people say to us not only have shelf life but have the ability to shape life. -Bob Goff

Read the next post of this three part mentoring series here.

Mentoring: My Story

Let’s start with some background. To be honest, before the fall of 2011, I did not really enjoy being around teenagers. My own teenage years, like most people’s, were somewhat confusing and I didn’t feel the need to relive them. And then I ended up with four tickets to the Taylor Swift show in Columbia, SC. There was teenage girl that I did like being around, since I’d babysat her for several years, and she happened to love Taylor Swift as well. I thought it might be fun to go with her and let her invite some friends, so that’s what we did. I picked up Allie and her two friends, Allison and Hannah, at Allie’s house and we headed off to South Carolina. I was totally intimidated. I had never met these other two girls and all of them were sitting in my backseat watching the Twilight movies while I drove.

I wasn’t sure what I’d gotten myself into. But as we arrived at the hotel and got ready for the show and I watched them relate to one another, God started to plant something in my heart.

We have now spent countless hours at Starbucks, travelled to a few States, eaten tons of cheese dip, cried tears, laughed until we cried and played a ton of Scrabble. I ask them about their lives, they ask me about all of the mistakes I’ve made.

Sometimes they ask for advice, sometimes they just want to be listened to. But, why? What’s the point? Why can’t they just hang out with people their own age? What is the benefit to us spending time together? Isn’t it weird? These are all great questions. Stay tuned in the next few days to get some answers.

In the meantime, think about some of the most influential people in your life. Why were they so influential? What did they give you that made you feel the most valuable?

Read the second post in this three part mentoring series here.