Facing Your Future
|Jan 30:||Nomination forms due|
|Feb 27:||Applicants will be notified by letter of their acceptance decision|
|July 5:||Arrive at Calvin Seminary|
|July 5 - July 13:||Grand Rapids Segment|
|July 14 - 23:||Excursion Segment|
|July 24 - 25:||Closure in Grand Rapids|
|July 26:||Depart for home|
Activities subject to change
What's My Purpose?
A mentor is an older, more experienced person who helps a person who is seeking - for wisdom, direction, God's will, etc. - to reach his or her God-given potential. A mentor can fulfill many different roles: Guide, Trailblazer, Coach, Lifeguard, and Role Model. A mentor's three main tasks are to support, challenge, and provide vision for the mentee.
A mentor should provide structure and direction for a student in the midst of change (i.e., going away to college) by providing expectations, simple tasks, and developing achievable goals.
A mentor should challenge the mentee to consider alternative perspectives. A mentor should set high standards for the mentee and help them achieve those standards. A good mentor asks tough questions about all areas of life - including spiritual life - in order to help strengthen the mentee's faith in God. A mentee needs encouragement to participate in personal devotions and prayer time, church, Bible studies, and other activities that strengthen their walk with the Lord.
A mentor should help the mentee see their God-given potential and explore the possible options that lie ahead of them. A mentor needs to fuel a mentee's curiosity about God's call in their life and connect them with people in the mentee's field of interest in order to learn from them as well.
What do I do?
First, begin by reflecting on your own life. These questions may help:
- Have you ever had a mentor? What did your mentor do for you?
- What did you learn from your mentor? How can you translate that to your mentee?
- Set ground rules for your relationship concerning confidentiality, accountability, and acceptable communication.
- Set goals for the mentorship. Discuss what each of you hopes to accomplish, paying close attention to the mentee's goals.
- Understand from the beginning that the mentorship isn't permanent; it is acceptable to end the mentorship for a valid reason.
- Plan appropriate means of communication, such as by email, telephone, or snail mail.
- Meet face-to-face on a regular basis or whenever possible. Regular meetings are beneficial to the mentee because you become someone that your mentee can depend on.
- Take time to provide feedback on how each of you feels the mentorship is going. Be honest with each other.
- When you reach your established goals, it is okay to move on. Celebrate that you both have accomplished what you set out to do.
- If the mentorship isn't going like either of you had hoped, it is acceptable to end the mentorship. Continue to encourage the mentee. Help them to find someone new to help them.
- If you are separated from your mentee by a great distance and it is hard to maintain an intentional relationship, encourage them to find a mentor geographically closer with whom they can meet with regularly.
Above all, pray for your mentee. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in them. Pray that the mentorship is beneficial.
Put forth the effort to make the relationship work. Commit to your mentee and to their growth in all areas of their life. Commit yourself to the mentoring process. Believe in your mentee, and invest yourself in them.
Actively listen to the mentee
Ask relevant questions in order to truly grasp what they are communicating. Don't assume that you understand them. Remember that communication goes beyond what is said to what is expressed by actions and demeanor.
Be honest and real with your mentee. Help them get to know you as you get to know them. Feel free to share your own personal struggles and triumphs at appropriate times.
Know your mentee holistically
Get to know your mentee on all levels, not simply their faith or vocation. Talk about family, relationships, and extracurricular activities as well.
Know your own limitations
You are not going to have every answer for your mentee. Be willing to refer them to other people more knowledgeable in something that your mentee is interested in or in an area that is beyond your expertise. Provide support for their journey, such as books to read or looking into available resources, not "quick fixes" to a problem.
- Young, Clara Y. "Mentoring: the Components for Success." Journal of Instructional Psychology. September 2001: 202-6.
- Brosend, William. "Unless Someone Guides Me." The Christian Century. 10 May 2000: 535.
- Cannister, Mark W. "Mentoring and the Spiritual Well-Being of Late Adolescents." Adolescence. Winter 1999: 769-79.
- Biehl, B. Mentoring: Confidence in Finding a Mentor and Becoming One. Broadman and Holman, 1997.
- Clinton, Robert and Stanley, Paul. Connecting: the Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1992.
- Elmore, T. How To Invest Your Life in Others. Kingdom Building Ministries, 1995.
- Hendricks and Hendricks. As Iron Sharpens Iron: Building Character in A Mentoring Relationship. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995.
Things to Avoid
- Being too quick with advice
- Being judgmental
- Suggesting a quick fix to a problem that goes deeper than the surface
- Hearing the mentee, but not listening to them
- Creating a carbon copy of yourself
Recap: A Good Mentor Is...
Most importantly, a good, active listener. They seek to understand what their mentee is telling them and ask valid questions. Often a mentee simply wants to be listened to and understood.
An effective mentor is:
Many different definitions for the term 'mentor' exist. A generic definition of a mentor is an individual with experience in a particular field who enters into a relationship with the mentee for the purpose of promoting the growth and development of the mentee. Typically, a mentor is at least several years older than the mentee and has a treasury of knowledge that they are willing to share.
In Christian circles, a mentor does more than simply promote the growth of the mentee in a particular field. The mentor helps the mentee reach their God-given potential in all areas of life. The mentor has the great privilege and responsibility of impacting the mentee holistically, including the mentee's spiritual life.
The purpose of a mentor can be boiled down to three primary tasks:
- providing vision
Supporting the mentee is vital to a meaningful mentoring relationship. Participants in Facing Your Future have either recently graduated from high school, or they are entering their senior year of high school. In either situation, they are at a point where they are going through major changes in their life. The mentor is a person who has the opportunity to help them through this time of change.
The mentor can show support by providing the mentee with expectations, simple tasks, and achievable goals to accomplish. The mentor should be able to inform the mentee what to expect based on their own life experiences. Obviously, the mentor will not know exactly what will happen in the mentee's life, but the mentor can shed a ray of light. They should also give the mentee simple tasks to do such as reading a book or a passage from the Bible, so that the mentee can be actively involved in their own growth. Finally, the mentor should help the mentee set achievable goals for themselves that give them something to strive for and move towards.
Challenging the mentee involves evaluating their abilities and encouraging them to explore their personal beliefs. A challenging mentor will offer alternative perspectives to the thoughts of the mentee so the mentee will be able to grasp all the possibilities of a situation. A challenging mentor will also engage the mentee in honest discussions about all areas of the mentee's life. Setting high standards is important in order for the mentee to be able to grow and develop.
Challenge needs to be blended with the proper amount of support. Too many challenges bring about frustration-not only for the mentee, but also for the mentor-because goals are not being met. Too much support and the mentee will not grow and develop because they will become dependent on the mentor. Figuring out the delicate balance between challenge and support is not easy, and comes with time.
The mentor needs to provide vision for the mentee as well. This vision is like a road map that shows the paths that can be taken in order to achieve life goals. In providing vision, the mentor must encourage the mentee to become more fully himself or herself and not become a carbon copy of the mentor. The mentor needs to help the mentee reach his or her own God-given potential.
The responsibilities of the mentor go hand in hand with the mentor's purpose. Yet the extent of the mentor's responsibility needs to be established from the beginning so that each person in the relationship is clear as to what is expected. The goal is to have clear boundaries that on the one hand avoid intrusiveness, and on the other hand avoid the feeling of frustration that one or the other is not doing enough. The key to an effective mentorship is establishing the responsibilities of the mentor before beginning the relationship.
Primarily, the mentor is a role model. The mentee will look to the mentor as an example, who in turn needs to live a life that is worthy of imitating. What is communicated through the mentor's actions should coincide with what the mentor communicates verbally. The mentor should realize that their everyday life is a book to be read by a mentee, and be willing to display the good and bad decisions that can be made over time.
The mentor is responsible for being both a guide and a trailblazer for a mentee. The "road map" is based on the Bible and the mentor's own life experiences. The mentor uses his or her own life as an example to show the mentee what the possibilities are. At the same time, the mentor does not force the mentee to follow a specific path, but rather shows the possibilities and gives advice as to which path should be taken, based upon personal experience. The final decision is made by the mentee, with the mentor walking alongside-not just a passive observer, but an active guide down the path of life.
The mentor has the responsibility of being a coach for the mentee. A coach tells a person the best way to approach a situation based on the person's strengths and weaknesses. As a coach, the mentor allows the mentee to establish his or her own pace and encourages them along the way. Being able to encourage a person well involves knowing a person well.
Another responsibility of the mentor is to be a lifeguard for the mentee. Whenever the mentee needs to talk to someone, the mentor should try to make themselves available to the best of their ability, depending on the situation. The mentor does not always have to be available at the drop of a hat, but in some circumstances, the mentor should try to make themselves as accessible as possible. This does not mean that the mentee will immediately call the mentor as soon as something goes wrong, but in critical circumstances, the mentor should be willing to help the mentee through the situation as best as he or she can.
Mentors do not fit one mold: they can perform a wide variety of duties and handle a wide variety of tasks. Some mentees will want the mentor to be all of these things and more. Some mentees will just want someone to talk to and get advice. Setting the boundaries and honestly establishing the desired responsibilities is foundational to an effective mentoring relationship.
The Stages of the Relationship
Like every other relationship, the mentoring relationship goes through different stages. Most commonly, the mentoring relationship can be divided into four different stages:
Before the mentor enters into a relationship with a mentee, it is wise for the mentor to reflect on his or her own life and think of people who have helped them to be who they are today. The mentor should ask him or herself why these people affected them in the way that they did. They should ask questions like: "What was it about these people that helped me gain a better perspective as to who I am? What kind of tangible things did these other people do for me? What kind of questions did they ask of me? How did they act? How can I translate what they did for me to my mentee?"
It would benefit the mentor to reflect on the path that they have taken in their life as well. The mentor should think about all the things that they have gone through and the situations that they have encountered in order to better understand what is happening in the life of the mentee. The more that the mentor knows about their own life and the path that they have taken, the more beneficial they will be to the mentee.
From the start, it is imperative that both the mentor and the mentee set ground rules for the relationship. The role that the mentor is going to play needs to be established. The mentor and mentee need to discuss how involved the mentor is going to be in the mentee's life. They need to discuss how deep they are going to go into the mentee's life. What questions are okay to ask, and which ones go too far? Also, what forms of acceptable communication need to be established? Can the mentor call the mentee? Can the mentee call the mentor? At what times? Is email better than phone calls? What about snail mail?
After setting the ground rules, it is best to discuss practical issues: When should you meet? Where? How often? Discuss what topics should be talked about, and what topics should be left alone. Discuss what each person's role is going to be in the relationship, such as who will be the one to initiate meetings and communication.
Before the relationship can take off, the mentor and mentee should set goals. The mentor should ask the mentee exactly what he or she is expecting to get out of the relationship, and the mentee needs to clearly convey what they desire. The mentor should also identify what their own goals are so that both parties know what the other person is intending in the relationship. The goals should be as specific as possible, but they do not have to be something measurable. An example of a fairly common goal is to understand more clearly where God is calling the mentee vocationally. Obviously, this can not be measured, but it is specific enough that the mentor can ask good questions about it.
During the establishment of the relationship, the mentor should ask a lot of background questions to get to know the mentee. Getting to know the background of a person helps in understanding who they are. If the mentor and mentee already know each other fairly well, this will not be too difficult. However, if the mentor and the mentee do not know each other well or at all, this will take more time. The mentor should also share some of his or her background with the mentee so that the mentee can become familiar with the mentor and understand where they are coming from as well. Also, it is beneficial to have the mentee talk about the future: hopes, dreams, plans, and God's calling. Obviously, discussion should start off broad. As the relationship develops, the discussion will become more focused and specific.
Maintaining a mentoring relationship is not terribly difficult, but it takes effort and time. The most important characteristic that a mentor needs to have in order to maintain the relationship with a mentee is intentionality. Ultimately, the relationship rests in the hands of the mentor; however, the mentee must be intentional with the relationship as well. If the mentor and the mentee do not take the time to establish a relationship, the mentorship will not flourish. If the mentor does not ask good questions that cause the mentee to really think hard about the answer, the relationship is not going to benefit the mentee. If the mentor does not give the relationship the priority that it deserves, then the relationship loses its value.
The mentee should be intentional in the relationship as well. The mentee needs to make the relationship a priority, and take it seriously. A mentoring relationship can be very beneficial for a mentee, but only if effort and time are put into it.
Both the mentor and mentee need to regularly discuss the health of the relationship. Each person should give the other feedback on how he or she feels the mentorship is going. If one feels that there could be room for improvement, they should let the other person know. If one person feels like it is going incredibly well, they should let the other person know that as well. Constant evaluation should be happening so that the health of the relationship is maintained.
Mentoring relationships end. The relationship as it is originally constructed is not intended to last a lifetime. The mentor and mentee can have a relationship that lasts a lifetime, but to expect the relationship to last as a mentorship for a lifetime is a misinterpretation of the purpose of a mentorship. A mentorship is intended so that there can be frequent or regular meetings between the mentor and the mentee to accomplish certain goals. Once those goals are accomplished, the need to continue on with the mentorship is removed. If desired, new goals can be set, and the mentorship can continue. However, ending the mentorship is also okay. When a mentorship ends in this way, it does not mean that it has failed. It means that it has succeeded as the goals were accomplished.
If both the mentor and mentee decide that the mentorship is not going as originally intended, it is acceptable to decide to end the mentorship-they are not bound by it forever. Moving on is okay. In such a situation, it is best for the mentor and the mentee to be honest with each other as to why they think the relationship is not working out. Maybe the problems can be solved and maybe they can not. In situations where the problems can't be solved, the mentor should try their best to help the mentee transition to a new mentor if they so desire. Neither person should give up on the other.
Sometimes, mentorships simply fall by the wayside because of neglect, geographical distance, or other extenuating circumstances. However, if both the mentor and the mentee are taking the relationship seriously and are being intentional, this will not happen.
Mentors come in all shapes and sizes and do not all fit into a specific mold. Mentors will have different strengths and weaknesses, but mentors should exhibit many of the following characteristics:
- Effective in interpersonal communication
- Knowledgeable in the mentee's desired field
- Active listener
- Problem solver
- Allows mentee to see things in a new light
- Model of appropriate behavior
- Wears many hats
- Asks open ended questions