Young people today are bombarded by messages that can undermine their faith. They are often over scheduled and stressed. The pressure, along with the very mixed messages from society and their peers, can lead many of them to use ungodly and unsafe ways to try and cope.
Sadly, many young people don’t get enough meaningful attention from parents and other adults to help guide them through the ups and downs of growing up in our world. If young people do have parents who give them enough attention and guidance, they also need other adults to reinforce what their parents have taught them about what God wants for their lives.
Your kids need godly mentors in their lives. It helps them to have another adult who gives them the same advice God wants them to have. If their mentor has expertise in areas – like schools or careers – in which you may not, it also gives you and your kids another resource.
Some churches have a formal mentoring program. The ways they choose and train mentors can vary greatly. Or you may need or want to try on your own to find a godly mentor for your child. In either situation, you need to be aware of the qualities of a person who will make a great mentor for your child.
A potentially great mentor is someone who:
- Already has some sort of relationship with your child or is comfortable interacting with young people. A person your child doesn’t know and who really doesn’t enjoy spending time with young people will most likely not make the best mentor. Your child can get to know someone they really don’t know currently, but just realize it may take longer for the mentoring relationship to actually begin.
- Knows scripture well and values it. Secular mentors and advice have their place, but if you want a mentor who will point your child to God, they need to know what God wants. The only way to really know God’s commands and principles is to have studied them. You also want your child to be mentored by someone who emphasizes the importance of going to God for the answers to life’s problems. They don’t need to have the Bible memorized, but they should know it well enough that they can give accurate, godly advice.
- Lives a godly life and realizes being a Christian is more than just attending church. If your child sees his or her mentor robbing a bank, it will undermine any godly advice they have given your child. No one is perfect, but in general you want someone with integrity – living life the way God asks us to do. They also need to understand their goal is not just to encourage your child to attend church. While church attendance is important for worship and community, being a Christian is much more complex and involved. A great mentor will help your child understand the difference between Christianity as an activity and having your core identity as being a Christian.
- Listens well. The biggest need for most young people is just to have someone who really listens to them. Sometimes they need to vent. At other times, they may just want to “talk out loud” as they work through their problems. Someone who doesn’t listen well can leave your child feeling even more frustrated.
- Points your child to God for answers to life’s questions and give godly advice when needed. You don’t want a mentor who will put themselves in the place meant for God. A great mentor will give advice that has God mentioned in it quite a bit. The mentor may mention actual scriptures, refer to Bible stories or quote Bible verses. What you want is someone who reinforces the concept that all wisdom ultimately comes from God and uses God’s wisdom in the advice he or she may give to your child.
- Is willing to ask hard questions and talk about awkward topics. This is why it’s so important you know and trust your child’s mentor. Teens especially may bring up awkward and potentially dangerous topics. You, your child and the mentor must have an understanding about what should and should not be shared with you. If possible, you want a relationship where the mentor gives godly advice and you are pulled in to the loop if the child also wants to share with you or if the mentor feels it is important you know something and comes with your child to share it with you. Often this is done only in cases when the mentor believes the child is in some sort of possible danger – like alcohol, drugs, etc.
- Is willing to make a long term commitment and “go the extra mile”. At times, someone will have a mentoring conversation with your child and never interact with your child in a meaningful way again. Those relationships have value, too. For a true mentoring relationship to occur though, the mentor is usually involved with the mentee for a long period of time – even years. You also want someone who is willing to attend your child’s events or show support in other ways that may require their time and even occasionally small amounts of money. It’s not essential, but it can strengthen the mentoring bond.
Mentoring is primarily for your child, but it can bring a lot of benefits to you and your spiritual life, too. At the very least, you will have another trusted Christian adult reinforcing the godly things you want your child to know, understand and believe. That support alone can make all the difference in your Christian parenting journey.