Commitment and the Art of Mentoring

In a few weeks, on February 1, six of the youth in our congregation will be leading us in the Coming of Age Celebration.  As part of that worship service, we will also be kicking off the Mentoring Program by officially matching up each of the youth with a mentor who will walk with them through the coming year.  From what I understand, mentoring at Columbus Mennonite has been an important ministry for a lot of people, but participation has faded in the last few years.  I am excited to be a part of the renewal of this program, in part, because I know firsthand the blessing that mentoring can be in the life of a young person.

As I have been organizing and planning these mentoring matches, I have been giving a lot of thought to what makes for a good match.  I will be the first to admit that there was not a lot of science that went into the matches for this year.  This was partially because I am still learning the personalities of both the youth and the adults in the congregation, but it was also because when I thought about my own mentoring experience, I realized that it was meaningful to me not because my mentor and I necessarily had all sorts of things in common.  Instead of a common identity, I believe that three main things contributed to the success of my mentoring relationship. 

First, and perhaps most simply, was the commitment to meeting regularly.  This sounds simple enough, but in a world that seems to be constantly over-scheduled, this was no small feat.  Any relationship takes time, and the dedication we both showed to building our relationship was an important foundation. 

Second, my mentor was willing to listen.  Again, this sounds simple, but I can remember meetings where we would wind up talking for 40 minutes before I was finally able to put to words what was really on my heart.  My mentor was able to listen and converse with me in a way that did not make it seem like he was trying to fix all my problems.  He was always willing to give his opinion or advice when I asked, but I think he recognized that much of the time I simply needed to feel like I had been heard. 

Third, I recognized a quality in my mentor that I wanted to emulate.  This was not about something we had in common, and it is hard to put into words exactly what this quality was.  In essence, when I looked at my mentor I recognized the kind of person I hoped to be some day. 

I understand that my mentoring relationship, which began when I was already a young adult, has very different challenges than the ones that will be beginning to form here at CMC in the next months.  I have had recent talks with both the new mentors and the new mentees, and both sides have expressed a sort of nervous excitement about the prospect of starting these relationships.  There is no magic formula to making these relationships work, and I know that sometimes they will be tough, especially at first.  In the end, some of them might even not work out, but that is the risk of any relationship.

I think perhaps now more than ever, though, the Church needs to see and practice what it means for diverse people to commit to being together, to listen to one another, and to become the kind of people who are worthy of emulation.