All of these are items that we share with our mentors as they go through training, but I think it is a useful exercise to share the principles of a recent paper written by Dr. Jean Rhodes from the University of Massachusetts – Boston and then write some of my own thoughts.
1. Promote the welfare and safety of the young person. Obviously a mentoring relationship should be about focusing on what is best for the mentee. It isn’t that mentors don’t benefit as a result of their relationship with their mentee, but we need to remember that the focus needs to remain on the youth and we must do no harm. We must exercise appropriate boundaries and realize that we are in a position of power which can be misused.
2. Be trustworthy and responsible. Simple – do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t make promises that you can not keep. Let your yes be yes and you no be no, (Matthew 5:37).
3. Act with integrity. It should go without saying, but ultimately you serve and perform for an audience of One. Also we want our youth to know there is something different about us. We want them to see Jesus in us, and since we limit ourselves to only talk about faith if the youth initiates it shouldn’t we make sure we’re at least modeling what it means to be a follower of Christ? If you fail to do this then you’re mentoring in vain.
4. Promote justice for young people. Be their advocate – a good example would be what Apostle Paul did for Onesimus (see Philemon). He wrote a slave owner to advocate on behalf of a young runaway slave, putting his reputation on the line – something that was unheard of in the ancient Roman world. Also recognize your own latent biases and prejudices (we all have them) as you relate with your mentee and keep them in check. Seek to be a student of your mentee to gain a better knowledge of their culture. Be a good listener.
5. Respect the young person’s rights and dignity. Kids are free moral agents, and they will make their own decisions. They may disappoint us, but we need to model perseverance in the midst of that. Also this means not looking at your mentee as though they are a project of sorts. Our role is not to be a “fixer” or a “savior” of kids (there’s only one Savior, and you’re not Him). We need to be a friend, guide, coach and advocate (along with many other positive roles).