Mentoring is a powerful tool in youth ministry. The intensive, personal guidance of one or more students can have a lasting impact on their lives and the lives of those around them.
Ideally, every student in your youth ministry has a youth leader for a mentor, but in practice, that’s not always possible. When you don’t have enough youth leaders to ‘cover’ every single student, you have to make some tough choices. So how do you choose students to mentor?
Prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit have to be your starting point. Don’t pick names at random, but do it prayerfully, waiting for God to naturally bring someone to you.
Looking back at the students I’ve mentored over the years, very few were chosen intentionally by me. Most of those relationships grew out of God-given situations and encounters, with me being led to slowly invest more in those students. I’ve simply trusted God to bring the right students into my focus and I never had to go looking for them.
Don’t pick just the popular students
What I would strongly advise against is to only mentor the popular kids. This sends a very damaging signal to the other students, who may feel like they’re not good enough. That’s probably the same message they get in school and that’s not something you want to reinforce. On the other hand, you don’t have to pass over the ‘loud’ students completely as well. Just don’t pick them because they’re loud or popular.
Look for gifts
If you have students with obvious gifts, that could be a good place to start. I had a student once with a clear gift for leadership, which is why I chose to mentor him. That doesn’t mean you only have to pick the students with leadership abilities, it can also be a gift for serving, for worship, for organizing or creativity, anything really.
One student in my youth group was very creative and always came up with great ideas for youth services and ‘special moments.’ Mentoring her was a privilege and I learned as much from her as she did from me!