Restore Life’s vision is to see followers of Christ in the Atlanta area enlivened, ministries in Grove Park empowered, and inner-city youth in the Grove Park area loved with the love of Christ through a well-developed mentoring program
If you are reading this handbook as a new mentor we believe God has amazing things planned for you. We believe God wants to enliven your faith and your relationship with Him as you follow Jesus into the life of a youth in Grove Park.
This handbook is an intended to equip and empower you, along with our training, for this new endeavor you are embarking on. Restore Life will be with you every step of the way and we praise God for you responding to the Holy Spirit and saying yes to showing up in the life of a youth in the inner city neighborhood Grove Park.
Table of Contents
A Beautiful Neighborhood
Ezra and Nehemiah Working Together
The Mind and Heart of a Mentor
Understanding Cultural Differences
Hopes, Expectations, and Relationship
Motivation, Metrics, Reward, and Commitment
Boundaries in Mentoring
Stages of Mentoring
“A Beautiful Neighborhood”
Grove Park was developed in the 1920s and 1930s by various developers, but primarily by the Grove Park Development Company. For 30+ years Grove Park was an all-white community. African-Americans began to move into the area during desegregation in the 1960’s and very quickly “white-flight” took place and all of the white residents moved out of the community and Grove Park over-night became a predominantly black community.
Grove Park thrived for many years as an African American community. Schools flourished, businesses flourished, and families flourished.
Today, Grove Park as a community faces many complex challenges. While it experienced much flourishing in the 70s and 80s, it has declined seriously over the past several decades. In the last few decades there has been an epidemic of drugs, single parent homes, and education difficulties.
As of today, 67.3% of the children in this area live in poverty; an extraordinarily high percentage compared to other neighborhoods in the nation. With 67.3% of the children here below the federal poverty line, this neighborhood has a higher rate of childhood poverty than 97.4% of U.S. neighborhoods.
If you drive around you will be struck by the number of homes that are abandoned, boarded up, or totally devastated. A surprising 43.0% of the residential real estate is vacant.
Many of the families are single parent homes and the father of the child is entirely absent or minimally involved.
In spite of these challenges, Grove Park is a beautiful neighborhood filled with people made in God’s image; rich with history, personality, and purpose. There are amazing people, ministries, and churches that have existed in the area for years.
It is into this neighborhood that God is inviting you to join Him in how He is at work.
“Ezra and Nehemiah Working Together”
Restore Life is convinced that Grove Park is a special place where beautiful youth and families exist. It is a place where longtime residents and diverse ministries are at work to see community flourishing. We believe Grove Park is a place very close to the heart of God, and believe it an incredible gift to enter into the lives of its residents.
Restore Life was founded by Danny Iverson who accepted a call to plant a church in Grove Park in June of 2014. Danny and his wife Kim had been praying for years for God to guide them to a place where they could carry out a vision God had given them of inner-city community restoration, a vision taken from the story of Israel being rebuilt after exile. In the book of Nehemiah we find Ezra and Nehemiah working together to see Israel restored. Ezra was a priest who called residents to repentance and faith and Nehemiah was a community developer who rallied people together for the labor required to rebuild systems and structures for flourishing to take place.
With this vision, Shalom City Church and Restore Life were founded. Shalom City is a PCA Church that exists in Grove Park to call the community to repentance and faith. Restore Life is a non-profit that exists to help rebuild the systems and structures of Grove Park. These two entities are integrally related and work together to promote the flourishing of the community.
One of the broken structures in Grove Park is the family system. Many youth are currently growing up in single-parent homes and many of these parents cannot give adequate care or attention to the youth because of the complex challenges of poverty. The public schools in the area face many challenges as well, one of them being a lack of parental support and reinforcement.
Restore Life mentoring is uniquely positioned by God to help rebuild the structures that promote the flourishing of youth and families in Grove Park. The concentrated investment of a mentor in the life of a youth can dramatically change the narrative and trajectory of a child’s (and parents) life.
As a mentor you are starting an exciting journey and we believe God is going to bless and transform you as he uses you to bless and transform the life of another.
The Mind and Heart of a Mentor
Becoming Aware of Cultural Differences
The first step in preparing well to become a mentor is becoming aware of the differences between your culture and the culture in Grove Park.
When most or all of your relationships are with people within your same social-economic culture you can often lack a cultural awareness. Cultural similarity allows us to make assumptions which can often make relational intimacy and communication easier. However, it is important to be aware of cultural differences in a relationship in order to avoid miscommunication and hurt.
Your culture shapes what you value and what you expect as normal. What this means is that you will inevitably (and potentially subconsciously) bring into the mentor relationship cultural expectations about what is normal and a value system which will greatly affect the dynamics of your relationship with your mentee. Starting to think about these differences can help you account for them and can hopefully save you and the youth you mentor much confusion and potential hurt.
Let’s start to think about some of the ways you will have a different background and experience of life from your mentee.
More than likely you grew up in a home with two loving and involved parents who both went to college. Food was available at every meal. The bills were paid so your lights, heater or air conditioner, and refrigerator were on. If something broke the repair person would be called and it would be fixed within a couple days. You had a washing machine which allowed for clean clothes. You received great education which made college a viable option for you. You had an allowance, went to movies, got your hair cut when needed, got your learners license when you turned 15, and maybe went to summer camp. You went out to eat to celebrate birthdays and you even got to leave the city on occasion and probably even traveled to other states and might have even left the country before for vacation. Your neighborhood was safe and clean.
Everything I just listed as normal for you and your upbringing is completely foreign to most youth growing up in Grove Park. Most of the youth are living with a single parent, Aunt, or Grandmother. Because of different challenges, some of these single parents are uninvolved or disengaged. Many youth during the school year go regularly without dinner or sufficient food on the weekends. At times power bills can’t be paid and the result is the lights, heat or air being turned off. Things like refrigerators and stoves break and stay that way because of insufficient funds. A washing machine is a luxury. Going out to eat or to the movies or to a sporting event simply doesn’t happen. And maybe most surprising is some of these kids have never left the neighborhood, zero exposure to what life is like outside of Grove Park. And instead of a clean and safe neighborhood, there are abandoned businesses and houses throughout the community and it is common for prostitution and drug dealers to be a visible part of the community.
With all these differences, there is an even more significant difference to account for which is that you are a Christian and many of these kids have yet to experience the saving power of Jesus. They may have some surface knowledge but more likely than not they were not raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord and they have not seen many people live in a Christ like way. While full of goodness and made in God’s image, the youth who do not know Jesus are suffering from a blindness and slavery to sin which will cause them to do and say things which could shock you and will certainly grieve you.
If you fail to account for these realities and differences you will be extremely ill prepared to enter into a mentoring relationship in Grove Park and to navigate the complexities and difficulties of the relationship.
Before moving on, it must be stated that while these differences exists, what you will discover is that the more you relate to your mentee, the more you will discover similarities. You know what it is like to be insecure, to worry, to be afraid, to be sad. You have experienced disappointment, hurt, and failed relationships.
In all of these places you can connect with and relate to your mentee.
And best of all, you bring the love of Jesus to the relationship. You have experienced God meeting you in all of the above realities and you get to offer consistently and over time the God who loves you and keeps you in all of life.
Hopes, Expectations, and Relationship
Acknowledging cultural differences leads us into what I think is the some of the most important training you can get before entering into a mentoring relationship in Grove Park.
For the health of any relationship it is important to think through, assess, and acknowledge the hopes and expectations present in that relationship.
Your cultural background significantly shapes what kind of hopes and expectations you will bring to the mentoring relationship.
It will be important to assess what your expectations and hopes are and to figure out how you will handle these in your unique mentoring relationship.
It is also extremely important to understand the difference between hopes and expectations.
Maybe the best way to start thinking about these matters is to think about what reaction is appropriate when hopes or expectations are not met. How should you react when an expectation is not met? What about when a hope is not met?
If my wife tells me one morning she is going to cook my favorite meal of baked chicken and sautéed squash that night, how am I to feel if I get home that night and she decided to make something else and never thought to text or mention it to me?
Maybe a better example, imagine I told my wife I would make sure to keep Wednesday morning free so that we could go to an ultrasound appointment together. How is she going to feel, what would be an appropriate reaction, if the day before the appointment I let her know that I accidentally scheduled something and now I can’t make the appointment?
In both of these examples, expectations were set and then not met. This is a big deal. It is going to appropriately cause some conflict. Though one situation is more serious than the other, both will require some conversation and potential repenting for peace to be restored.
If both scenarios happen multiple times… we are in even deeper waters when it comes to how to navigate the relationship.
In thinking about assessing the validity of these expectations, do you think they were valid? I think most people would agree the expectations of the offended party in these hypothetical scenarios were reasonable.
What happens when expectations are not reasonable? What if I expected my wife to cook my favorite meal that night simply because I was really wanting it and I thought she would somehow know? Or what if my wife had never mentioned the appointment but got mad when she told me about it the morning of and I couldn’t go? Both of these scenarios spell disaster for a relationship.
We have all experienced the frustration of unrealistic expectations and this potential problem has to be addressed in thinking about the mentoring endeavor.
What about hopes though?
What if I told my wife one weekend, “Babe, I sure would love for you to make baked chicken and those vegetables you do so well sometime this week”. In that comment I am expressing to my wife a desire, a hope that she make chicken that week.
If she doesn’t (or can’t) make the chicken that week how am I going to feel? Whats an appropriate reaction? I may be a little sad or disappointed but I certainly will not be mad and my wife will certainly not need to repent to me.
Or what if my wife expressed to me, “Babe, I’d love it if you could make it to the ultrasound appointment this week, but it’s not necessary if you get busy and need to work that morning” Did she just set an expectation? She actually did the opposite, she let me know it was not an expectation that I attend but she did communicate a desire, a hope.
If I tell her the day before that there is a really important meeting that I shouldn’t miss during the ultrasound appointment, how should she or will she react? She will be fine! She might be little upset because she wanted me to come but she won’t be upset with me. She was never expecting me to come, we didn’t agree on that expectation together, and she even let me know it was O.K. if I couldn’t attend.
Are you starting to see from these scenarios the importance of thinking through hopes and expectations when it comes to mentoring?
Operating with reasonable expectations and distinguishing between expectations and hopes is critical to a mentoring relationship.
What are ways your cultural background might cause you to have expectations that are not reasonable?
What are some ways you might have your hopes easily turn into expectations? How would this affect the relationship?
Lets look at how this has actually played out before in a mentoring relationship. As you read, try and think how you would handle the scenario.
Jim and Jeff
Jim was matched with a 6th grader named Jeff months ago. Since they were matched, Jim has taken Jeff to all the fun places six Flags, AMC, The Mavericks, the Fair (you name it!). They’ve had a lot of fun together. Jim feels that these activities should be a reward for Jeff, so he decides to make a deal with Jeff. If Jeff reads ten minutes a night and calls Jim every Friday night, then they will continue to go have fun at these great places. Jim hates to read, and he has never called an adult on the phone before. He loves going to all these great places with Jim, but he doesn’t feel that comfortable around Jim yet. Calling him sounds really intimidating. For five weeks, Jeff doesn’t do the reading or call Jim. Jim can’t believe it. He stops taking Jeff out and rebukes him for not doing his part of the bargain. Five more weeks pass by, and Jeff still has not read and still has not called Jim. Jim begins to withdraw. He feels as though he is giving so much to the relationship, and Jeff is not giving anything. He feels like these are simple, small expectations and that they are important and for Jeff’s good. Jeff remains intimidated and uninterested. He doesn’t value his relationship with Jim beyond the fun places they go, so he doesn’t even think about doing the reading or calling. Jim decides if Jeff is not going to follow through with his end of the bargain, they cannot have a relationship. Jim stops mentoring.
What did Jim set as his expectations for Jeff? Should these have been expectations?
Why should a mentor establish a solid relationship before expressing their hopes and aspirations for their student?
How could Jim have helped Jeff take more ownership over these goals?
In the above scenario, a hope was made into an expectation and it led to the breakdown of the mentor relationship.
Let’s take some time now to think about what hopes you might have for your mentee and the relationship.
A hope is something very different from an expectation.
A hope is what you dream of for your student. It is what you long to see happen in the life of your mentee and it is what you hold out before them and challenge them toward.
It is what you pray for and seek to lead them into. It is as if you both are out in the desert, and you know there is water over the horizon. You guide them toward the horizon. You lead them toward the waters of truth. You articulate and embody that which will ultimately be for their good and the good of those around them.
A mentor’s ultimate hope for their mentee ought to be that they would meet Jesus and forever be changed.
This can never be treated as an expectation though. In a mysterious divine balance. God must draw the mentee to Himself, and if He does they will choose Him. You can hope and dream and pray that would happen, but you can’t know for sure if it will. What you can be sure of is if it does happen God will have used you and you will get to be one of the primary people rejoicing and celebrating.
Other great things you can hope for you mentee are: Good behavior in school, success in academics, better manners, gratitude, them learning to set goals and accomplishing them, them learning to save money for the future, them learning proper English.
What you must learn to do though is handle your hopes well.
Before introducing hopes into your relationship, you must establish a relationship. This nearly always takes longer than mentors expect.
One of the easy places to fail at loving well is to frontload the relationship with hopes and to determine the extent of your commitment based on these hopes being met.
WARNING, WARNING, WARNING
You must guard against this. A kid will smell this from a mile away and run, and they should because instead of treating them will love and respect, you would be treating them as a project.
This is what happened with Jim and it led to an early breakdown in what could have been a great impactful relationship between him and Jeff.
Wrestling with this brings us to our last section in the mind and heart of a mentor.
Motivation, Metrics, Reward, and Commitment
The question ‘Why?’ has always been a question which leads to an understanding of motivation. We must soberly ask and answer this question before setting sail into the waters of mentoring. Motivation structures determine how one measures success and this often determines what a person’s commitment level will be.
In a relationship there are often multiple motivations present. Think about how someone might be motivated in their relationship with their spouse. They desire companionship, they desire kids, they want to glorify God, they want comfort, they want safety and security. There are many blessings to a marriage and there is a complex motivational structure present. Some of these motivations are primary while others are secondary or tertiary.
Let’s think about the motivational structure of the mentor relationship you will be engaging in. Some possible desires may be: to experience a new relationship, to do your part to help an impoverished youth, to respond to God and the scriptures emphasis on caring about the poor and fatherless, to see a youth experience transformation.
These are all good motivations for mentoring and yet there are some dangers present if some are all consuming, in the wrong order, or if some are absent.
To be direct, if your number one motivator is not to honor God you will run into trouble. If your number one motivator is to see transformation you are in trouble.
Think with me for a moment. If your number one desire is to see transformation, is to see your mentee experience Jesus and moral reform (which is an AWESOME desire) how are you going to handle when this does happen in the first 3 months or even year of your mentoring? How are you going to handle when you find out they got suspended from school, for the second time and you thought you had gotten through to them after the first time? It will be nearly impossible to handle and remain committed if your number one desire is to see transformation.
What must be number one is the desire to be faithful to God.
What does it look like to be faithful?
To love well.
Think about God’s love for you. The scripture says that while we were still sinner’s Christ died for us. The scriptures teach that where sin abounds, grace super-abounds. The scriptures teach us that it is God’s love, patience, and kindness which leads us to repentance. The scripture teaches that when we are faithless, God remains faithful.
If this is our motivation, our metric will keep our eyes off our mentee and on ourself. How well am I loving? Am I reaching the heart of my mentee? How well do I know and understand them? Am I being consistent and keeping my commitments? Am I doing a good job of holding my mentee to our agreed upon expectations?
This kind of metric will help us remain committed and invested and glorifying God throughout the entirety of the two year commitment, even in the face of disappointment and grief when our mentee doesn’t live up to our hopes or even has trouble with expectations.
And this is where the real reward is also. This is where the voice of God shouts from heaven “Well done my good and faithful servant” The sum of Jesus teaching was to love your neighbor. If you have this clear in your minds, and you simply love well out of obedience to Christ, you are storing up for yourself treasure in heaven. There is a heavenly reward system and this ought to sustain us when our love is not reciprocated or when our love does not cause transformation in the life of the youth.
What’s awesome is if you will live with this kind of wisdom, you are the most likely to experience a deeply meaningful mentor relationship and are the most likely to see your mentee experience Jesus and experience transformation. When this happens, you get double-reward. Both the reward of God’s smile and heavenly treasure, and the reward of seeing a life changed by the power of God. What is great is that if you will keep honoring God your number one motivation you will always be experiencing reward, and you can hope to experience the double reward of a life changed.
Sadly, many fail here and loose commitment when their mentee does not shower them with gratitude and does not evidence a transformed life.
At Restore Life, we believe one of the defining marks of healthy mentoring is when a mentor sticks with a student even when they disappoint and fail. When a student makes a mistake, they need to know their mentor is disappointed in them, but even more so they need their mentor to remain by their side. A good example of this type of treatment can be seen in Christ’s interactions with His disciples. He wanted so much for them. For Peter especially, Jesus had mighty hopes and enormous dreams, but Peter failed and disappointed. In Peter’s failure, Christ remained in relationship with him. He showed His disappointment and then extended Peter much needed grace (John 21).
We love and show grace because we have been loved and have experienced much grace from God. Youth thrive when they realize their mentors love and care about them and are not going to drop them when they don’t live up to the mentor’s hopes for them. Kids watch as their choices disappoint their mentor and they are given a grace-filled space to work through their failure. Possibly for the first time, they will experience the love of someone who is deeply committed to them.
As time passes and a relationship grows, a mentor can slowly raise their hopes. They can more firmly challenge their student.
Because it is being done in the confines of a loving relationship.
The foundations of trust built over the years can hold the challenge.
If for years a mentor and student have interacted amidst a gracious, consistent relationship, then the student knows that the mentor’s love is always going to be there. The protégé knows that the mentor can be trusted and has their best interest in mind. So, when a mentor challenges them to break things off with their girlfriend, stay away from a certain friend who is bringing them down, or make a decision about following Jesus, a student is more likely to receive those challenges and consider them.
Having thought about all of this lets now establish what your expectations should be heading into the mentor relationship
When a student signs up for the mentoring program, they agree to Restore Life’s expectations.
We have expressed to all mentee’s three primary expectations which every mentor should insist their student meets. If a student persistently fails to fulfill these three standards after having been addressed and worked with over a period of time, a mentor is to contact their mentor coordinator to determine best course of action.
- Respect: A mentee is expected to respect their mentor. They are expected to honor the reasonable wishes of their mentor, like wearing their seatbelt when you ask, or taking their headphones out during your time together. Mentee’s are expected to not use words you deem inappropriate.
The presence of respect is critical for any match to be successful.
Many youth will do this naturally because of age (young) and out of gratitude for the relationship, but you may run into respect issues that will require wisdom to confront.
For many students, the adults in their lives have neglected or abused them and failed to truly teach the value of respect. At times grace will need to be given. Mentors will need to be patient. But if a student does not make progress and begin to learn respect with time, their participation in the mentoring program will be jeopardized.
A match cannot withstand ongoing mistreatment. Relationships cannot grow if respect is not shown. If your student is not showing respect to you, work with your mentor coordinator to discern the best road forward.
- Responsiveness: Any relationship requires that both people are active. If a student never hears from his or her mentor, there can be no relationship. The same is true if a student never responds to their mentor’s initiation. If they do not call back, do not show up for their meetings, or do not respond to any efforts made at conversation, then a relationship is not possible.
Again, many youth in the mentoring program are unfamiliar with intentional relationships and will require some grace as they learn this new concept. It is common for a mentor to set up a time to meet their student and find that the student doesn’t show up. Mentors drive home angry and say, “This is not worth my time.” Students are confused about why the mentor is upset. No one else in their life has ever scheduled a meeting with them before. The concept is entirely new to them. Grace must be extended, but students must make progress. Again, work with your mentor coordinator when problems arise and or persist over time.
*Important note; It is not uncommon for mentors to spend time with students that initially will not talk or do very limited talking. Typically this is because the student has virtually never conversed with an adult or at least not with someone like his or her mentor. Don’t let this make you think they don’t value you, the exact is most likely true. They greatly value you, they just don’t know how to relate yet.
- Parental Involvement: When Restore Life makes a mentoring match, we do so with the expectation that parents will be involved. Mentoring is not to be done entirely independent of a family structure. A parent is expected to interact with the mentor and collaborate with them, particularly by mentors communicating through the parents. This will likely be a new concept to most parents. Many parents of the mentored students have never seen or heard of a mentoring program before. They will be very unfamiliar with the whole idea, but parental involvement is something that Restore Life expects.
Parents will know this is something Restore Life require and will commit through signing to participate and support the relationship. If this is a new idea for a parent, the mentor must give grace but progress must be made. If a parent is not making progress in supporting the mentoring relationship and collaborating with the mentor, a mentor should contact their mentor coordinator to talk through how to move forward.
There is a fourth expectation.
This expectation is very different from the first three.
It is one you should come to count on and assume will be a part of your relationship with your student
It is universal among all matches and must be mentioned.
If your student is not a follower of Jesus, you can expect them to be controlled by their sinful nature (Gal. 3:22-23). The Bible is very clear in saying how, apart from the Holy Spirit, no one’s life is righteous (Rom. 3:10-12) and all are SLAVES to sin (Rom. 6). They are held captive by evil and conform to the pattern of the world (Rom. 12). The things of God seem foolish to them (1 Cor. 2:14). Every mentor should expect this from his or her student. They should assume their student will be selfish and ungrateful if they do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior. Apart from Christ, any good deeds are done for the wrong reason.
Only Christ purifies one’s heart and makes them whole. So, your student’s sin should not surprise you. It shouldn’t shock you when they do something you told them not to do. They are lost and drowning. They need Jesus to rescue them, and until they discover what He has done on their behalf, they will continue to live as if they are the center of the world.
Before moving on, lets look at one more mentoring story while we are thinking about the dynamics of hopes, expectations, love and commitment.
Mark and Kendrick
Mark has been mentoring Kendrick for a year. They have spent much of their time hanging out and getting to know each other. Mark has introduced Kendrick to his family but tends to spend more time getting to know Kendrick’s family. He has spent hours talking with Kendrick’s mother, looking through photo albums, and listening to stories. They have become great friends. Now embarking on their second year of mentoring, Mark begins to talk to Kendrick about school. He starts to talk to him about his report card and what he likes and dislikes about school. Six months later, Mark notices a big drop in Kendrick’s grades. So, he talks about it. Kendrick is honest. He says, “school is boring and I hate it. I want to drop out like my brother did.” Mark listens. He has much to say in response, but he holds back and listens. He continues to build trust with Kendrick and continues to talk to him about school. When Kendrick is degrading his teachers Mark speaks up and encourages Kendrick to think about why a teacher may have said or done what they did. Meanwhile Mark starts going to parent/teacher conferences and learning more about Kendrick and stepping more into his academics. After another six months, Mark gets a call from the school administrator informing him that Kendrick has skipped 32 days of school. At this point Mark has been walking alongside Kendrick for two years. They have talked a lot about school. Mark has remained faithful despite Kendrick’s dismal school performance. Mark has been doing a lot of listening, a little coaching, and even less rebuking. He decides to take a step of faith and give Kendrick a little bit of a lecture about school and its importance. All his words are girded with love and tenderness. He is stern and intense but loving. He is repeating many of the comments he has said over the last few years, just more intensely. Kendrick receives his rebuke well. At the end Mark says, “Kendrick, I want to help you do well in school. You are smart and capable, just unmotivated. What could we do to motivate you more? I want to reward you for doing well in school. What type of reward would work? You know I don’t have that much money, but you know I love you and I want to help.” Kendrick responded by saying, “I won’t miss school and I will bring my grades up if we can have dinner together every other week.” So, they started meeting more regularly. Kendrick hasn’t missed a day of school since. His grades are high, and he remains motivated.
Why do you think Kendrick received Mark’s rebuke well?
What difference did Mark’s unconditional commitment to Kendrick make?
Mentoring is a relationship; because of that, we have tried not to put many ‘requirements’ or ‘limitations’ upon it. Relationships look and work differently because they’re made up of unique individuals. Your relationship might have similarities to others, but it will be unique and special.
I think the goal for any relationship should be to reach beyond just the activities you do together and to actually become a part of each other’s lives. Life-on-life ministry is just that: it’s not entertaining, and it’s not a show. It’s not even always planned with purpose – it’s life. It’s the conversations, experiences and trust that are built over time. This type of ministry drips off the pen of the apostle Paul as he writes his letters to the fledgling New Testament churches. He was intentional in teaching and raising up a new generation of people who would follow Christ when he was gone. He was also deeply relational. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul writes, “We loved you so much that we gave you not only God’s Good News, but our own lives, too.”
Mentoring might be going to the grocery store and making dinner; it might be doing the dishes or working on homework. We think the focus isn’t as much on WHAT you’re doing – as long as you’re doing it TOGETHER. Yes, from time to time, you might splurge and enjoy the spectacular –the aquarium, the water park, a nice restaurant, a movie or two – but the mentor relationship is mainly about spending time together and that can happen in many ways.
People can feel a lot of pressure and fear when it comes to thinking about how to spend time with their mentee. We hope this GPS acronym can help serve as a guide for your time together. Before looking at the acronym, it is important to note that JUST SHOWING UP is the HUGE DEAL. It’s 90% of succeeding. Just by showing up you have already made a significant impact in a youth’s life. You are telling them their life matters and that someone cares about them and is there for them. That in and of itself is an expression of love and care that SPEAKS VOLUMES.
God – Grove Park is a fairly religious community, there is a church on every corner. A lot of parents grew up attending church but for one reason or another have lost touch. Most of the churches are filled with people who drive in and drive out on Sundays, and some churches in the community are more welcoming to new people (and worth attending) than others. Expect your youth to have had some exposure to God and church and to be very open to learning from you. Very likely, you will be the first person to really introduce them to what God is like, both by how you live and treat them, and by what you speak to them and expose them to. What an awesome opportunity! We strongly encourage you to make talking about God a regular part of time with your youth.
As a mentor, you have the chance to significantly help develop your mentee’s conscience. A conscience is a person’s internal sense about what is right and wrong. The conscience functions like a smoke detector which starts to alarm to warn of a potential fire. Left to themselves, many youth in Grove Park will have their conscience formed by peers, music and television. Oh no! When you spend time with your mentee you have a chance to influence them because of your relationship and to start helping them form a conscience that is in tune with God’s heart and word.
- Figure out early on how much exposure they have had to Christianity. Ask a lot of questions to discover their ‘spiritual background’. This will help you figure out how to meet them where they are. Ask if they grew up going to church, if they have a favorite bible verse, if they pray, etc.
- Take them to church with you. Ask questions after about the sermon or about children’s church
- If they have attended a church in the community before, offer to take them one Sunday and invite the entire family. Ask questions after about how they liked it, what spoke to them.
- Tell them over and over again how much God loves them.
- Open the bible with them. Tell them your favorite bible verse or ask thiers and try and memorize it together. Offer them a prize if they can memorize it (like taking them to get ice cream or something like that).
- Use scripture when counseling them. In time they will start to open up about stuff going on in their life. Pray with them. If they are going through something hard, point them to God and how God is there to walk with them through it.
- Freely and regularly offer your judgement on what’s right and wrong. When your mentee talks about someone getting in a fight at school, talk about respecting school rules, loving your enemy and having self-control.
- When watching a movie together, press pause when something bad happens and talk with your mentee. Ask them do you think what so-and-so just did is wrong? Why or why not? How might that action affect others?
- Memorize the 10 commandments together with them and have a fun prize for them if they can get all of them memorized
- Ask them if any of their friends smoke week or do drugs. Ask them if they ever have before? Talk to them about how these actions are illegal and can cause personal harm
- Bring them to a Restore Life event where sexuality is talked about and let that start a conversation between the two of you about what is right and wrong when it comes to sex.
This should be a really fun part of mentoring. This is your chance to help spiritually form a person at a young age. You are planting TONS of seeds and modeling for someone what its like to know God which paves the way for them to experience God in their own life.
Prayer – Prayer is such a practical way to bring God into your time with your mentor. Prayer helps introduce your mentee to living relationally with God.
- Pray before your meals together
- When they share with you about stuff going on in their life, offer to pray right then and there about it. This teaches them early on the power of prayer and how to turn to God in the midst of the difficulty of life.
- Try to end your time together with prayer, right before you drop them off. Thank God for the time you got to share together. Ask them if there is anything specific you can pray about for them or their family. As they get comfortable, try and get them to also pray. If they aren’t comfortable the first time, keep asking as time goes on and eventually they should be comfortable
School- National studies show that kids with a mentor are 55% more likely to succeed in school and to enroll in college. School is a place where your mentoring will have a HUGE impact. Academics are often seen as unimportant in impoverished communities and often a youth is not getting any outside support in their school work. By talking about school, asking how school is going, and celebrating successes you can significantly impact your mentee’s school experience.
- Make a point to ask how school is going for your mentee when you spend time with them.
- Ask them what their favorite class is, what their hardest class is?
- Ask them how they are getting along with their teacher?
- Try and meet their homeroom teacher*** You can call the school and set this up. Introduce yourself as their mentor and give them your contact info and tell them to contact you concerning any issues they have with the youth.
- Ask them how their grades are?
- How they are getting along with other kids at school?
- Take them to the library and work on school work with them. Check out a book with them. Read with them to see how their reading skills are. Let Restore Life know if they have significant struggles with reading.
- Ask them about any sports they play at school. Try and attend a sporting event.
Service- There is no greater gift you could give your mentee than teaching them the reality that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. Many youth are hard wired to serve and when you set them up to do so they will come alive! You would be amazed at the heart with which kids often engage in serving when given a chance. Your mentoring relationship will be greatly blessed if you are able to find times to serve together.
- Help serve a dinner at Trinity House, a partner ministry downtown that houses and serves for a 2 year period men seeking to recover from addiction. The address is: 21 Bell Street Northeast, Atlanta, GA 30303. You can call to schedule a time to serve – (404) 577-6651
- Pick up trash on your mentee’s street or go to a local park to pick up trash.
- Reach out to Atlanta Mission, a great homeless mission in downtown Atlanta. visit: http://atlantamission.org/ways-to-give/volunteer/ for information on ways to volunteer.
- Let them help you with chores around your house like feeding the dogs or taking out the trash or cleaning the kitchen. This will bless them.
Story- Learn your mentee’s story and be a part of it. Past- Over time try and discover what their relationship has been like with their parent or guardian, what has their relationship been like with the other people in their house. Ask where happened to their real mom, if they know their Dad at all? Present- Do they have a best friend, do they get bullied? Empathize with them. What is going on in their home? God can greatly use you to bring healing and blessing to your mentee as they feel known and loved in their hurts and wounds. Future- Believe in them! You are the person in their live who believes they can achieve and you are there to cheer them on and help in any way you can.
- After having gotten to know your mentee some, don’t be afraid to ask personal questions like, do you know your Dad at all? How do you get along with your mom? Your brothers?
- Find out where all they have lived? Ask if they have a best friend or if they get bullied
- Share your own story! Relate to them when you can.
- Ask them about what they want to be when they grow up.
- Tell them they can do anything if they will work hard.
Boundaries in Mentoring
Beware of Manipulation. Many of these kids have learned the art of manipulating to get their needs met. People have failed them and they have had to learn how to survive. Beware of being manipulated into giving money or saying yes to time together because of guilt or pressure from your mentee.
Ultimately you are the adult and you primarily define what love looks like. Feeding any kind of manipulation by compliance is ultimately not loving to your mentee. A real relationship will develop over time where your mentee will be able to see that you care for them. Don’t feel like you have to over prove yourself, especially if they are over pressuring you to do so. Ultimately, DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY NO.
It is so important to use consequences (and rewards) in your relationship. If being on time is really important to you, and your mentee keeps making you wait a long time when you pick them up, let them know that if they are ready when you pick them up next time you will let them get desert next time you grab food together. Stick to your plan and don’t get them that treat if they don’t show up on time. You are helping them learn how to modify their behavior to pursue goals and rewards. This is a great thing.
In a similar way, don’t be afraid to give and threaten reasonable consequences. If your mentee is continuing to disrespect you after you have tried to talk with them, let them know you are going to reach out to the program director Hammond and reach out to Hammond who will address the situation. This can be tricky but try and find rewards and consequences that work for them and motivate them.
Stages of Mentoring
Lastly, we want to zoom out and help you see the relational road ahead before you begin your journey. You can expect your relationship to experience these stages and hopefully having thought about them beforehand will help you respond with grace and wisdom.
The Honeymoon Stage – Mentors often start out with a Utopian dream. Their blissful forecast generally shows signs of one of these three; the expectation of problem-less mentee progress/ development, effortless communication, and “fun every hangout”. While we hope that our mentors experience ease, fun and joy the with their mentee’s, we want them to also remember that mentoring is like any other relationship and will have ups and downs. Ultimately it is a marathon and not a quick sprint.
The Wall Stage – This is when the “rubber meets the road” and mentoring moves from a whimsical ethereal concept unto real life. The mentor begins to realize the tough nature of keeping a mentoring commitment to a human being. Phone numbers change, emotions wane and unrealistic mentor expectations become unmet. After the mentors hit the wall there are generally two responses…
The Fight or Flight Stage – In this stage the mentor begins accessing how they will deal with the realities of the mentoring relationship. Will they honker down and fight through the tough nature of mentoring or will they fade away to pursue the next project. Our prayer at this stage is that they would pursue a “come what may” posture. No matter the obstacle the mentor will lead out and model faithfulness even if the fruit of their labor is not clearly seen. While the “flight” mentors fade away the “fight” mentors show a desire to pursue prayer, creativity, and wisdom in arranging hangouts. (ex. Some of those practical ways to fight include meeting with their mentee’s early morning for scheduling purposes, showing up to the mentee’s lunches periods and extra circular activities.)
The Genuine Relationship Stage – This is when we see that the mentor understands that his/her job is simply to share and live out the gospel consistently in front of their mentee. The expectation is not that the relationship will be problem free rather the mentor understands that they will cling to God in the midst of their tough times. In this stage mentors also learn to appreciate the good moments and milestones in their protégé’s life. (ex. birthdays, thank you’s, signs that your mentee is hearing and remembering things you have said to them, the birth of a child in the family)
The Life-Long Relationship Stage – This is the dream for all of our matches. In this stage our mentors don’t just see this as not just being a program, chore or a race to the two – year line. In this stage our mentors see the need to be present in their mentee’s life as a mentor and a friend for the rest of their lives. In Restore Life’s dream sequence, we long for this day for all of our matches, some 15-20 years down the road we hope our current mentee’s will be calling their mentors for advice on how they can better mentor their mentee’s in the future.
What you say If I told you there is a way to double your investment revenue in a simple way? You would eagerly want to know and you would be crazy not to takes the steps to double.
There is a way to double you Kingdom impact by recruiting another likeminded high quality mentor for a kid in Grove Park.
God could use you in this season to not only impact the life of a youth in Grove Park, but to see another youth changed forever by helping that child find a mentor.
As you begin to mentor, start praying that God would put someone on your heart and mind whom you can reach out to about becoming a mentor. Over time share with that person your experience and try and get them to seriously consider and pray about being a mentor.