by Abbie Smith
In a random coffee shop on a random day recently, I asked 10 people what came to mind when I said the word mentor. Answers ranged from “my dad” and “a man in my AA group,” to work-related responses and even a 20-minute conversation about “a woman in grade school who changed my life.”
What can I conclude from these responses, I wondered? Well, I could at least say that “mentor” means different things to different people. Had I surveyed 10 people at my church one Sunday morning, I can only guess that I‘d get radically different responses. Or had I conducted this random questioning in Seattle, Washington, as opposed to Savannah, Georgia, I’d likely receive an entirely different batch of answers.
Another conclusion seemed to be that mentoring can look a lot of different ways—which is refreshing for we who can get overwhelmed by expectations of knowledge, or “coolness,” etc. For some, mentoring means a scheduled, one-on-one meeting, whereby one person intentionally mentors. (Webster defines this as: (n) “acting as a mentor to somebody, especially a junior colleague.”) For others, mentoring may look less orderly or occur less frequently. Maybe it involves taking a youngster to a sporting event, inviting someone from your neighborhood over for coffee, or signing up for a mentoring program in your area.
Finally, I was reminded that even from a simple coffee-shop survey, the benefits and life-altering potentials of mentoring, for both mentor and the mentee, are endless.
Where do I begin mentoring?
Simply put, mentoring means offering your life experience for the sake of another’s growth. Mentoring has been around for thousands of years. Paul may not have used the word mentor in his letter to the Romans, but he sure painted for us an admirable picture in his letter: “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine,” (Romans 1:11-12 ESV).
There are many ways to mentor, and XP3 College makes an intentional effort to equip you well, while leaving room for your unique creativity. Here are five mentoring scenarios that have inspired me lately, and hopefully will do the same for you!
1) Two guys meeting over a weekly cup of coffee at 6:30 a.m.
2) A single woman who owns a home and rents it out to college-age girls. The woman believes that she has been granted this opportunity to share what it looks like to pursue holiness and offer her household unto God, even as a single.
3) Mentoring may be easiest when the proximity is close, but that scenario isn’t always the case. A recent man I met plans monthly phone meetings with guys he mentors (some of whom he’s mentored for over 11 years).
4) This seemed like a rare, but noteworthy situation. A mentor group of guys meets twice a week—once for the purpose of Bible study and prayer, and the other for living life and building community. One man leads the group and the guys range in age from 19 to 25.
5) A mom of four kids carves out breaks in her week to invite girls over to cook, or chat while the kids play. (Obviously, one has to know his/her boundaries—there will be seasons of life that do not afford for one to invest as liberally as another season might.)
Chances are good that you’re already mentoring someone, to some degree, in your life. Why not take that relationship a few degrees deeper, by embarking on something that could change one’s life forever. You may even change your own life in the process!
We at XP3 College have recently released a series of Conversation Guides to make mentoring accessible to the masses—especially in the Church. It’s a resource specifically created for college-age people, mentored by adults, for the purpose of mutual growth and transformation in their respective relationships with God.
We believe that between the crucial ages of 18-25, individuals need individualized attention, beyond social gatherings, sermons or 1,000 friends in a given social media account. College-age people need adults walking alongside their lives for the simple, and yet profound, purpose of affirming their existence and encouraging their next steps into adulthood.
If you’re interested in mentoring a college-age person, XP3 College can equip you to do so. If you’re interested in other age stages, we’re happy to request resources, or offer alternative ideas (the below list should offer you some starting points).
For more information to equip you for mentoring a college-age person, check out www.xp3college.org.
Abbie Smith is a co-author of The Slow Fade and part of the XP3 College team.