Last week, I was assigned an important role within my church that excites and terrifies me. For the next 18 weeks, until Pentecost Sunday (May 15), I will be a spiritual mentor. It might not sound like much of a title, but let me assure you, the role comes with great responsibility! I am travelling the road of adventure alongside a young lady who has made a bold commitment in her spiritual journey … and I don’t want to let her down! I also believe every person – young or old – can identify with being a student and mentor. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how much experience you have, there is always something new to learn and someone you can look to for guidance and reassurance. We each can benefit from HAVING a mentor and BEING a mentor!
So what does a spiritual mentor look like and how to we become one?
Even if you do not consider yourself “spiritual mentor” material, someone in your circle of influence is watching you. No one is perfect or worthy of being on a pedestal, but genuine relationships should be grounded in truth and authenticity. Students and mentors should be comfortable asking questions, admitting doubts, and sharing celebrations with each other. Additionally, when we mess up (because we eventually will), say, “I’m sorry.”
Create and maintain boundaries.
This is one of the most important aspects of healthy relationships, yet it is too often ignored. At the very beginning of your student/mentor relationship, set boundaries so both parties are clear about what is appropriate and what is not. As the mentor of a young person, I have made a covenant with my confirmand (and her parents) promising I will be a loving, gracious, kind, and encouraging role model in a safe and appropriate manner. I will not put her or myself in a difficult, uncomfortable, or compromising situation. Her safety and well-being are my top priorities. The same is true if the student and mentor are both adults. Healthy relationships maintain healthy boundaries … at all times.
Stay in constant contact.
Living in a digital world makes this really easy. My confirmand laughed at my FLIP PHONE and couldn’t believe I didn’t text but, thanks to social media, we have plenty of options to stay in contact when we’re away from church. For any relationship to thrive, however, there needs to be face-to-face interaction. Mentors and students need to communicate on a regular basis – even if it’s a quick phone call or short email to say hello. My confirmand and I are required to meet a minimum of 10 times outside of her confirmation class where we can discuss faith topics, Biblical principles, spiritual developments, and everyday life events. This fosters relationship and builds conversation skills, both of which are crucial to confirming one’s beliefs. My confirmand and I also plan to share our personal calendars and look for opportunities to share life experiences (birthdays, dance recitals, community and church events, etc.)
One last thought on social media … make sure your presence on social media is positive and mature. My great-grandmother was ahead of her time when she said, “Don’t do or say anything that would embarrass Jesus!”
Encourage, guide, and model faithful living.
During the next several months, I will be watching my confirmand grow in her faith as she discovers what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in The United Methodist Church … but she will be watching me with intentional eyes too. As her mentor, it is my responsibility to walk the walk and talk the talk. I have the good fortune of being friends with my confirmand and her family and worshipping with them every Sunday and Wednesday. But my Christian example is lived 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It is my responsibility, as a mentor, to model love, grace, forgiveness, humility, and authenticity. I am also expected to prioritize faith development, such as daily prayer and Bible reading, regular worship attendance, and mission outreach.
Pray! Pray! Pray!
I saved the best (and most important) for last! When I signed the mentor covenant, I agreed to be in prayer every day for my confirmand and the other 13 confirmands, plus their families, other mentors, and our pastor who is leading this confirmation experience. I admit, prayer is not comfortable for me or something I do well. But I committed to do it because I believe there is great benefit to growing one’s prayer life. Relationships are also strengthened when we pray WITH and FOR one another.
Confirmation class is really a church-wide endeavor as we nurture the future generation to be loving, gracious, and knowledgeable in their faith. Being a spiritual mentor is not something I take lightly and I’m excited to see where we all are in our faith journeys come mid-May!