The importance of mentoring students

Guest Blog post by Marica Ramey. Marica attends Parker Hill and serves as a small group leader in 3D. 

My hair was teased so far out it required half a can of Aqua Net, so I could somehow intentionally make myself look like I had elephant ears. I beach rolled my jeans, popped my collar, wore hula-hoops for earrings, and wore jelly shoes that left the most horrible blisters on my feet. Yes, you were there with me and you know who you are… We lived the 80’s!!! Ever wonder, “What was I thinking?” The decisions we made were likely based on what friends, celebrities, and TV told us was “totally rad” at the time. We naturally imitated those we admired. Now, we all get the privilege of looking back at pictures of our younger self with an overwhelming sense of equally co-mingled embarrassment and entertainment! Today, in this technologically and social-media saturated society, students continue to be exposed to the influences of culture, media, fashion and music that we will never be able to completely control. So, shouldn’t that make us focus even more on intentionally and purposefully linking them with people and organizations that are going to make a vested investment in their growth and health, while promoting and shaping the kind of values that you also promote at home? Where would you find such a person? Glad you asked…   

 

Mentors. It’s one of those words that can be hard to define. Mentors equal influence. I think of mentors as the select few who will be on the lifetime-highlight-reel of VIP’s that made the most substantial deposits and investments in your child’s emotional, mental, and spiritual resources. Sometimes it’s over years and other times it’s just a short chapter in their life, but incredible mentors leave a mark that will last a lifetime. Jeff Weiner (@jeffweiner) explains that “Trust equals consistency over time. There’s no shortcut for either.” We know that increased trust results in increased influence. While parents are most definitely the strongest influence in their child’s life, it is also extremely important to have trusted adults that will consistently choose to show up in that child’s life and walk alongside them through the highs and lows, while using their own unique experiences, talents, resources, and wisdom for the benefit of your child! However, not every adult is automatically a mentor. In “The Power of Following” (http://amzn.to/2nkBm1A), Freedom Kongvold talks about the unique role of mentors and points out an important distinction that there is a “…difference between someone who cares about you versus someone who can lead you forward” (p. 17). Mentors are meant to lead your child forward in a specific area.

 

Mentors are also coaches. Think of a sport you’ve played. How would your performance have been affected if there was no coach directing the team at practices and games? Now, picture a favorite teacher or coach that you had growing up. Why did you like them so much? Chances are pretty high that they believed in you and helped you believe in yourself and probably gave you some sort of tools to help you succeed. I’m sure they encouraged, supported, and challenged you in some way too. When it comes to issues like moral boundaries, conflict resolution, and personal faith we must be intentional about placing these kinds of adults in the lives of students to help coach, shape, and guide their decisions. The most effective mentoring with the greatest influence usually happens in informal, everyday settings and, in my experience, often comes in the form of late night phone calls and texts, or impromptu talks at camp or even at Sky Zone. By the way, why is it that a student’s emotional processing has an incredibly resilient nocturnal feature that brings out the “big” issues late at night? 

 

What can parents do to facilitate this connection?  Prioritize. Identify. Encourage. Make church and small group activities a priority. This may mean some schedule changes. Also, contact and connect with small group leaders and other positive, adult mentors in your child’s life to let them know how they can support you in handling specific issues with your student. Browse through the Parker Hill Students Facebook page (@parkerhill3d) or message small group leaders to stay up to date on the weekly teaching topics. Encourage your students to talk with these mentors, especially about things they may not be comfortable talking to you about. Small group leaders are positioned to be mentors that can strengthen spiritual growth and cheer your child on through whatever phase they are in and the challenges they are facing. Research shows that a large majority of students, who hold on to their faith and stay in church after graduation, have had positive adult influences and connections during high school. In Christianity Today (May, 2014), Ed Stetzer reports that the ages of 17 – 19 is when the highest rate of church drop-out occurs. However, one of the factors that most predicts a teen’s likelihood of staying in church is that “At least one adult from church made a significant investment in me personally and spiritually (between 15 – 18).” MENTORS!!!!!!!

 

So, what’s the end game? What are the future results you can expect to see? Well, it’s hard to say because an effective mentoring relationship is often going to be just as much about the things that DON’T happen in your child’s life, as it is about what DOES happen. It’s about the choices they make and the choices they decide to walk away from. Parents, mentors are one of your best resources to promote these daily “wins” and to help students face challenges. Connecting your student with mentors will definitely make your parenting more effective because now there are other adults speaking the same truth into your child’s life. Mentors turn up the volume on truth.

 

Bottom line: A mentor accelerates and maximizes your child reaching their God-given potential. They are a traffic light to prompt and guide them on the road ahead and to help them navigate the pitfalls they may face.

 

A core value that we purposefully promote at Parker Hill is: “Life is better connected!” It’s true. Try it out! Who can you encourage your student to connect to that can be a mentor in their life? Coaches have a roster of players and positions to maximize the success of their team and as parents, so should you! So here’s your game plan: Prioritize. Identify. Encourage. (That’s right, “P.I.E.” because who doesn’t like pie?)