6 CRUCIAL TIPS FOR EVERY MENTOR
Lee Pinner, a Community and Youth Pastor in Bushmead shares with us the lessons he has learnt as a mentor and his top tips he couldn't do without!
I started mentoring 12 years ago, and more specifically in Secondary Schools about 11 years ago, and in the last couple of years I’ve started mentoring in a local sixth form. Usually this is mentoring young lads with behaviour challenges or emotional things they’re going through. I fell into mentoring through another local youth worker who told me they needed another male mentor to help in the high school, and his advice to me when I asked how to do this in a school setting was “to wing it”.
Fortunately I had read up on mentoring, and had been mentoring young people through church and our youth group so I had a vague idea what was expected. Having always been a good listener and as an older Youth worker (now 44) I had experience on my side too. Over the years here’s what I learned:
Over the years I have noticed that one of the big issues facing young people is that they often don’t have anyone who has really listend to them without just telling them what to do, or telling them off for what they’ve already done. There’s a saying; “we have two ears, one mouth so use them in that order”. It’s so important to listen well and yet can be so hard to do. A great song of recent days is called “Listen” on the Beatitudes album by Stu Garrard and Becky Harding and it asks the question “How often do we listen?” Really listen. Young people are desperate to be heard and have the opportunity to have an adult who will do this for them, and after listening (and lots of it) to offer some gentle guidance, the odd suggestion, challenge and even correction done through your relationship with them, once they know that this person really does care about them.
One of the most helpful things I have done in recent years is a Diploma course in Youth Counselling with the Institute of counselling (IOC) which has given me a deeper insight and direction in listening to and helping young people through some of the complex challenges and issues they face in their daily lives. You can find out more about the course here: http://www.instituteofcounsell...
One of the things I do in mentoring in the early days of a relationship with a young person is to tell them all about me, my background (Truck driver), a bit about my family (6 of us), that I’m a foster carer etc, and then get them to do the same to me. Sometimes I'll prompt them as needs be if they lack confidence or don’t know where to start. This opens things up so that one they can see that I’m a normal bloke (sort of!) and also gives me a bit more info on them, often more than maybe what I've been told or what is on paper about them.
I have also found the Schoolswork Playing Cards really helpful particularly with young people who are reserved or shy. The questions on the cards help to open up conversation. Another great tool is to have a couple of portable games such as Dobble (my favourite) and also connect four which I have on my tablet. Having games can just make the session more relaxed and fun, especially if the session has been quite full on!
Keeping notes is helpful and in a school setting there is often a system for this, I keep notes in school mentoring and in church or youth group I just keep short notes to help me remember key points that I need to remember or revisit with the young person.
One final point before I finish is on safeguarding, if you have the smallest concern for a young person or something they have said concerns you, share this with the supervisor in school or your line manager as sometimes young people just let something slip, but sometimes they tell us things because they want us to do something about it. I have learnt this along the way both through mentoring work and also through fostering.
God bless you as you listen and support young people - Colossians 3:23 (NLT)
23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Lee Pinner – Community and Youth Pastor