I’m not sure where it came from, but I used to have a wonderfully idealized perspective of what mentoring is. When I thought of mentoring I would picture two people sitting across from each other at a table, engaged in deep conversation, providing intense eye contact and gesturing with non-verbal feedback, all for hours on end.
That might be how it happens for mature adults, but that approach does not work when mentoring middle school boys for two reasons: One, they are males so they usually don’t connect through conversation. Second, they are in middle school, which means it is a challenge to sustain a deep conversation with even the most talkative middle school boys for more than a few minutes. I quickly learned I had to re-think what mentoring middle school boys was supposed to be.
So what does mentoring a middle school boy look like? I’m still figuring it out, but I think it entails the following things:
- Letting him know you take him seriously by the way you interact with him.
- Taking his problems, worries, and fears seriously even if they seem trivial from your perspective.
- Extending grace and patience when he says or does something ridiculous or stupid.
- Praying for him on a regular basis
- Making a genuine effort to connect with him on his terms no matter how random “his terms” are.
- Risking asking deep questions every once in awhile, even if they don’t elicit a satisfying response.
- Providing focused, individual affirmation and attention.
- Genuinely listening when he talks to you.
- Spending consistent time with him because quality time happens within quantity time.
- Loving him for who he is, where he is in life, no matter how awkward he is right now.
If those things are in place, you can do any number of activities and be “mentoring” a middle school boy. You could be at a football game, on a boat, at a restaurant, in a car, on a basketball court, on a walking path, in a mall, or any number of places. It’s okay to be fun and creative with mentoring. Middle school boys love fun and creativity!