This week I started carrying a thin leather bracelet with eight knots in it when I go out for a run. Each knot represent a person in my team at work. I can fiddle with each knot as I pray for each person in turn. I have found this is a really helpful way to keep my mind on others rather than on myself.
For me, running is usually quite a selfish activity. I listen to music, I visualise finishing a race and I get lost in my own thoughts. Ultimately, I focus on me. So, I have been trying to
make my running time less selfish and egocentric, and this is an important principle for all of us in life and in the discipleship of our mentees.
If we are not careful, we can become overly introspective in our desire to grow and find answers, endlessly studying ourselves and going around in circles. This is common in the identity-forming process that is part of adolescence and faith development. There is a paradox here, though, in that when we focus on others we end up more blessed than when we pray for ourselves.
As mentors we always need to be vigilant that, while we are helping our mentees critique and understand themselves, they are able to do so without becoming self-centred or self-obsessed. I once discussed this with my youth minister. As a result, we scaled down our traditional annual residential and introduced a second weekend away, where we went to bless another church and help them reach and serve their community instead. The young people learned more about themselves and had greater experiences of God in mission than they did from listening to a preach in the safe environment of our worship services.
Here are ten ideas to help your mentees get out of their own heads and focus on others:
- Create a selfless, outward-looking goal for the coming month.
- List 100 things you are thankful for in your life.
- Spend an hour in prayer without praying for yourself.
- Try the prayer knots bracelet idea. Make one with knots to represent no more than six people who you feel need prayer (not just limited to your friends and family).
- Be a ‘secret angel’. Do an act or give a gift without receiving any recognition or reward.
- Go with your mentee to visit an elderly person for a cup of tea at a local care home.
- Choose a people group you know little about that exists in your town and spend time reading about them and reflecting on what life would be like to live in their shoes.
- Sponsor a child in a foreign country.
- Donate supplies to a food bank and experience what it is like to go there.
- Sit somewhere public to pray and people-watch, asking God to speak to you about the people you encounter.