January is National Mentoring Month, and all around the country organizations and churches are hungry for adults to begin investing in the lives of youth. Being in full-time youth ministry, I’m an obvious supporter of mentoring.
The more adults I talk to, the more I hear that many of them are interested in taking on a mentoring role. Most just don’t know where to start or feel ill-equipped.
While not everyone may be cut out for the job, here are four reasons to finally take on that mentoring role you’ve been considering:
1. Younger people need you. Regardless of your background or experience, you have just that — a background and experience. For up and coming generations to succeed, they need to learn from both the successes and failures of people who have been there and done that. Much of my personal growth happened both through experiences as well as learning from other men who had navigated the same waters I was either going through or headed towards. Being candid and vulnerable with youth about your past, both good and bad, can open up some incredible doors for them to learn and grow.
2. You need younger people. Believe it or not, there may be a lot you could learn from your mentee. And not just the latest trends or how to actually use your iPad. Younger people have what I’d consider a fresh pair of eyes. Their perspective in life isn’t always clouded by to-do lists and bills to pay.
Youth tend to be less jaded and more hopeful for what’s to come, which is always refreshing in a world that tends to be rush-crazed and worn out. And let’s be honest — you really could use some help in how to use your iPad.
3. It really does take a village. Parents — even the greatest ones — will always need outside support when it comes to raising their children. I’ve been blessed to have two amazing parents who continue to be loving and supportive into my adult years. But it was a number of men who took time out to invest in me that worked along side everything my parents did for me. There’s a saying in youth ministry that sums this all up: “Same message. Different voice.” Younger generations may not always need to hear a different message — but may need to hear the same message differently.
4. It’s Biblical. OK — maybe Jesus didn’t sign up to be a Big Brother for Jerusalem’s Big Brother/Big Sister program. But sharing your life with other people (regardless of age) is a Biblical thing. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God, but our lives as well...” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Your time and attention are some of the most valuable things you can give to someone else, especially a child.
Have you been thinking about becoming a mentor? There are several ways to get started. Checking in with your local church and applying to be a small group leader is always a great option. I have the great privilege of sitting on the Advisory Committee for the YMCA Building Futures Mentoring Program, a great program that pairs up mentors with at-risk youth all around the Valley. While this isn’t the only way to go if you’re considering becoming a mentor, it is a great start when you’re ready to begin investing in today’s youth.
• Colin Noonan serves as the director of Youth Ministries at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee. For more information on the YMCA Building Futures Mentoring Program, visit www.valleyymca.org.