Youth & Children's Ministry Matters: Mentoring

Tim Broadbent writes,

Mentoring – both formal and informal – is an important part of the youth and children’s ministry at St Mary's. Informal mentoring involves the catch-up conversations that I have with children and young people every time I see them, usually on Sundays. The formal mentoring involves regularly meeting one young person every week in their school, and occasionally I meet other children if their school feels that they need some short term extra support. The extra support I provide is usually because the young person is struggling academically due to personal or family reasons.

Before my formal mentoring meeting, I speak with the young person's teacher and a look at their behaviour report. This helps guide the meeting and allows me to ask specific questions about attitudes and behaviour. As the relationship grows, I’m always hopeful for signs of improvement.

I often begin the session with a game. Through the social interaction of play, relationships deepen and trust grows. I like the unexpectedness that play reveals; I find it reflects life. But the main task of mentoring is to listen. This involves being present and consistent: such small things, but essential to a successful mentoring relationship.

Mentoring is not mentioned explicitly in the Bible, but recently as I have been looking at Matthew's Gospel, it struck me that before Jesus empowered his disciples to teach, he empowered them to heal. I think this is important to remember when thinking about mentoring. It is very difficult for anyone to learn if they are in any kind of pain. I believe that good formal and informal mentoring can be a healing ministry that we all can provide. The children and young people that I mentor are often finding learning difficult and frequently are in need of healing. Usually this is caused by a void created by the absence of a significant person in their life. This can be where mentoring can provide a deeper level of support. While I can never take the place of a significant person in a young person’s life, I can be an influential figure in their life. This is where listening, being present and consistent is particularly vital. On my way to a school for a mentoring session I occasionally feel nervous about what to say and I remember the words from an experienced hospital chaplain to a new staff member, ‘People probably won’t remember anything you will say; they'll just remember that you showed up’.

I believe each of us can informally mentor anyone, as being present and consistent is the foundation of any good friendship, and from time to time we all need someone to listen to us.