Mindful Mentoring

By: Maria Teresa Gaston
February 16, 2017

I recently had the opportunity to participate as an observer at the High School Youth Theology Initiative (HSYTI) initial gathering in Indianapolis. I loved the diversity and creativity of the leaders and programs from colleges from coast to coast. I was struck by Chris Coble’s confidence in stating enthusiastically, ‘this program works!’ in offering theological wisdom that can be a lifeline for young Christian leaders. It got me thinking about what makes these programs work.

I believe the power of mentorship is at the heart of it.

Social learning theory has helped us understand how powerful like-role models are in helping us believe something is possible to do and believe we also can do it. If you are offering or planning an HSYTI program, you have an opportunity to be intentional about defining the knowledge, abilities and characteristics you want to recruit and select for among college mentors. You also should define the skills and practices you want to train for in contributing to the goal of raising up great Christian leaders for the world today.

In my ministry work at Creighton University, I learned the importance of clearly naming our expectations for student leaders. When we changed our job description to be explicit about wanting weekly service coordinators to lead reflection and not just organize logistics, this changed our recruiting, our selection of staff, our training, our supervision and our outcomes!

This position of college mentor in the HSYTI offers what organizational psychologists call “a realistic job preview” of collaborative ministry. College students build real transferrable skills, add to a not-yet-hefty resume, and gain a tangible leadership experience to reflect upon and discuss in job interviews or graduate program applications.

Along the way, they may experience intellectual and spiritual conversions and new vocational desires.

I offer a few questions to help promote clarification of intentions and planning in the work with college mentors in HSYTI:

  • How central is the role of the college mentor in your theory of change in the lives of the youth? What do college mentors do that is most important for the outcomes you seek with your particular high school youth target population?
  • What qualities, skills, and knowledge are most beneficial for this mentor role? Which need to be selected for and which can be trained?
  • Do your job descriptions and interviews clarify task expectations and highlight benefits?
  • What training, resources, and supervision do the mentors need from you to be most effective and happy in their roles (and so that they come back next year!)?

Invest in your mentors. It will ‘work!’ to God’s glory and the good of the church and the world.

Tags: Inspired Leaders, Thinking Out Loud, Shaping the Future


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