The Art of Mentoring Youth

Mentoring is a simple concept but difficult to practice. At the core of mentoring, there is a desire of two people to give their lives away. On one side is the mentor, who is called upon to be a trusted teacher and guide. On the other side stands the student, one who yearns to trust another person to teach and guide him. Yet words like called, trust, and give their lives away seem radically opposed to the language of individualism and consumerism that drives us to seek, obtain, and protect.

What makes it even harder for North American Christians to practice mentoring is that we typically encounter the language of mentoring in the world of business. If the point is not evident, then a quick web search will reveal that a majority of the hits focus on mentoring from a workplace perspective. However, if you are reading this post then you are interested in mentoring outside the realm of business and the workplace. Therefore, we recognize the need for mentors to guide people through life in general and not just in the realm of business.

I propose that we begin to look in other spheres of life for insights into mentoring. Specifically, I suggest that mentoring can and should also be seen in family life. If, at the core of mentoring, there is a desire of two people to give their lives away, then anywhere we find this taking place is an opportunity to learn the art of mentoring. It seems prudent to believe that family systems create these types of relationships all the time. So we should look at stories of wise uncles advising their young nephews as an opportunity to reflect on mentoring.

If you are with me so far, then I want to suggest also that the Bible provides us with insights into mentoring from Old Testament family relationships. The relationships between people like Abram and Lot, Jethro and Moses, and Naomi and Ruth are filled with insights on the role of the mentor and student (Click here to learn more about family language and systems in the Old Testament).

I hope that what follows is a challenging and encouraging exploration into the art of mentoring from a source that has long been ignored. May you take each of the following posts in this series in the spirit of a devotional reflection, and may they equip you to practice the art of mentoring with youth.

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Paul Sheneman
Paul Sheneman is an author, speaker and youth pastor. He serves with the Macedonia Methodist Church in Ohio. He drinks way too much coffee for his own good. His main interest is exploring Christian formation. You can follow most of his ramblings on his blog at www.discipleshipremix.com or on Twitter @PaulSheneman.

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