What makes a good mentor?

A mentor cares, listens, is accessible, supportive, practical, flexible, open, responsible, nurturing, trustworthy, positive, grateful, sees the humor in life, encouraging, not demanding, allows others to grieve, can problem solve and respond appropriately to needs, resists trying to fix problems.

In addition, a mentor:

  • Checks in often
  • Asks find out questions, gets to know people well, and genuinely enjoys their company
  • Learns about the family, their past, and talks about other things than just problems.
  • Doesn’t try to come off all-knowing. Helps the mentee explore all possibilities and navigate through their thinking processes instead of telling them what they think they should do.
  • Resists giving too much advice. Listens more than they speak.
  • Refrains from criticizing and preaching, choosing instead to problem solve together
  • Respects the uniqueness of each person, influences through constructive feedback. Is alert for teaching moments, explores positive and negative consequences.
  • Finds opportunities to socialize and bond. Invites their family over for a bbq or meets up for an activity at the park.
  • Helps set milestones and goals
  • Follows up on goals
  • Doesn’t try to handle problems that should be solved by a professional
  • Is a good example

Feeling overwhelmed? Feeling like this is beyond your ability? Then you are in good company.  No one will get it right all of the time. No one will flawlessly execute this task. Expect that sometimes you will say the wrong things, you will be less than what you should have been. But do not fear failure. You will learn as you go; with trial and error, you will become more expert in what does and doesn’t work. You will come to understand that when sincere concern, friendship, and love undergirds your efforts, you can be imperfect and it is still ok. The feelings in your heart for that person will speak louder than your imperfections and foibles. Conversely, if the feelings in your heart are negative towards that person, you won’t be able to hide behind the right words, those words will betray you and what you feel inside will still be communicated.

You don’t have to know everything, you don’t have to know all the right answers. In fact, as you readily admit that you don’t know all the answers, you may find that your mentee is more yoked with you because you are trying to figure things out together. Take time to meditate and pray about what your mentee most needs. Remain open and teachable and recognize that this is a very patient work.

Don’t rush the development of the relationship. As trust and friendship builds, so will your ability to influence and help them find the best solutions. You may arrive at a point that you can do no more for your mentee. This is not failure; no good that is done is ever wasted, it will have a positive place in their life. Respecting another’s choices of what they want and desire is a critical piece in their own journey. Knowing that you are there for them, should they need you, will bring them a sense of security as they move forward. Remember, your greatest goal is to be counted as a friend.

As a mentor, we want you to function independently as much as is possible. While we still require that you check in quarterly and file a report on your family’s progress, we want you to do your own research and come up with solutions. Take time to research programs in your mentee’s area that would be beneficial for the needs that they have. Contact local churches or organizations for events and classes that are offered in the community. We will have many educational events highlighted on our online calendar, searchable by city, but it certainly won’t encompass all that is offered, so do your research.

We’ve also compiled a library of helpful resources to address topics that you might encounter with your family. They contain information that you will want to use and pass along to your mentee. You can find them under “mentor resources” on the website. Keep learning and trying to understand what education your family most needs. Research the topics and problem areas that you want to understand better and share it with your assigned family. You know the family best and may be familiar with their thoughts, feelings, and disposition, trust in the inspiration that you will receive to know how to best help them.