Sometimes, in our youth and children’s groups, we end up creating robots who know the right answers and, in familiar circumstances, can do the right thing. Yet robots only repeat thinking or actions they have been taught. We want dynamic disciples who really ‘get’ what they believe, so if you throw them into a new situation their faith works in that new context. There are a few dangers though:
They may not come to the same conclusions as you. How will you respond if your children or young people decide to adopt a different stance from you? Can you still feel proud of your mentoring if they end up becoming strong people or strong Christians in ways you don’t agree with?
They may end up achieving more than you. Are you happy to step back and allow your mentee to shine? Can you handle not getting any credit for your involvement? Don’t feel redundant if they start flying and come to you less often - it’s just a change of pace for your mentoring.
They may not learn the way you want them to. Can you adapt to the way your children or young people think, reflect and grow? What if they argue with you? Can you swallow your pride and see what is going on under the surface? What ways of stretching and engaging them will most benefit them personally?
They may not turn up for meetings or do what you have asked. When children and young people don’t listen or fail to be prepared, it doesn’t mean disrespect. They are still developing and their brains are adapting and coping with physical and emotional changes. Can you spot the hidden causes of their behaviour? Can you step back and consider the wider picture?
They might go off the rails. Most of the outcomes of creating free-thinking
disciples are good, but there is the risk that they may come to wrong conclusions or theology… How will you respond? How do you support someone who is going off the rails? Perhaps the best thing is to love them while they go through a phase, so that you’re in good relationship with them when they come out the other side.
There is a new word this year: frenemies. This describes when friends treat you badly or are not even friends but act in a friendly way towards you. It’s a massive issue at school and can leave people feeling trapped and bullied in their own friendship groups. Ask your mentee what they think about it.
Write down the word FRIEND. Ask your mentee to come up with words to make this an acronym for what they feel friendship should be (eg Faithful, Reliable, Interested, Empathetic…) How good a friend are they towards their own mates?