Mentoring is only meaningful when mentors intentionally share their faith. For most people this means overcoming fear. Sharing your faith is personal; it is not handing a child a tract. If we have the right motivation to mentor, we will show children the love of God poured out in our own lives. This love controls us and urges us to persuade others (2 Cor. 4:5).
The Gospel is the only proper motivation for mentoring. God loved us so much that when we were spiritual orphans, He adopted us into His family. Although we were rebels and hated God, Jesus died to pay for our sins and bring us into fellowship with our heavenly Father.
Mentoring is the power of God's love demonstrated in service to orphans and fatherless children. "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me"(Matthew 25:40).
Mentoring is not:
- Building self-esteem. Secular humanism is a pervasive cultural power that has led many well-intentioned people to seek to change the life of a lost child by offering compliments and the promise of a future career. In stark contrast to the gospel, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" and "salvation is not of yourself, not a result of works, lest any man should boast," the humanist offers false hope, “You can be anything you want to be.” Instilling false pride and false hope is not helpful.
- Offering transactional help. A selfless desire to help "the least of these brothers of mine" must motivate our service. Expecting God's rewards as we do His will is biblical, but it must not be the key motivator.
- A means to overcome a guilty conscience. "I am a suburban upper middle class white person and I feel like I should be helping some of the people down here who are less fortunate” is not spoken, but it is far too often the tragic motivation for mentors who volunteer with the wrong motivation. Children can easily distinguish between love and fear or guilt.
- Setting up background checks. "Wolves' in sheep's' clothing" exist. Safeguards must be in place to protect the children. Staying "above reproach" is not only important for the safety of the child, it is important for the adult as well. Children can make false accusations with far-reaching and long-term consequences. A well-run organization will run background checks on all staff and volunteers and will do careful vetting through an interview process.
- Focusing on young children or on youth who desire adult guidance. By the time an exhausted single mother brings her 15-year-old home from jail, the likelihood of a positive mentoring outcome is low. When an 8-year-old yearns for someone to show him how to ride a bike, throw a baseball or read a book, he is in a place where a mentoring relationship can have a tremendous impact.
- Being direct. In a culture that emphasizes personal autonomy, it is politically incorrect to tell someone else what to do. Children lack information and need direction. Mentors are not adoptive parents, but fatherless and orphaned children need direction from a responsible adult. The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” A godly mentor will work himself out of a job as a child gets older, particularly if the child accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior and his mentor trains him to "walk in the Spirit." The mentoring relationship becomes much less directive and much more focused on helping the child learn to listen to God and obey Him.
- Counting the cost. Mentoring studies show that it is detrimental if the mentoring relationship ends too soon. Relationships that last begin with a desire to honor God through obedience to His will.