I m no nutritionist, but in trying to explain the role of a mentor in the life of a child, many times I have used this analogy.
For a young person to have a healthy diet they need to eat healthy meals regularly, complete with fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately many people do not, so they supplement their diet with vitamins. These provide basic nutrients that can be found in food, but are more concentrated in their pill form. For most they eat close to a healthy diet, and then with the vitamins they live healthy lives.
I see our relational diets the same way with our students. Relationally their diets consist of their family. Mom, Dad, Granny, Auntie, Uncle, or Cousin could all be on the plate, but usually it s some combination of these. These relationships provide their sustenance. These are the primary ways in which our young people are shaped and fed .
So where do mentors fit in? Well, we are vitamins. We are merely a supplement. And though this may seem demeaning, I wanted to encourage you with some truths about vitamins that are important in understanding your role:
1) Vitamins must be taken regularly to have any impact. One cannot take one vitamin every month and think that that is sufficient to meet their needs. Most vitamins are taken daily so that the nutrients can accumulate in their system and provide sustainable help. In the same way, as a mentor, we must be consistent. At minimum you should be hanging with your protege twice a month and communicating with them weekly. These relational connects will accumulate and provide sustainability in the relationship.
2) Vitamins take time to work. Vitamins are not instantaneous. They must be given adequate time to make a difference, and in the same way we must be patient and see the big picture in mentoring.
3) Vitamins are helpful. Vitamins provide a positive aspect to our bodies when they are lacking. In the same way, as a mentor, we should seek to be a blessing to our proteges and their families; maximizing on things that may be lacking relationally. For some it may be socialization, and for others it may be discipline with schoolwork. But whatever way, we need to look to be helpful and not a burden.
4) Vitamins are not necessary. Here s the humbling truth, our proteges have made it without us for 9-10 years and they, by God s grace, will make it without us if we ever have to leave their lives. This should free us, on one hand, knowing that we do not hold the responsibility of a parent or guardian (primary diet) and should humble us as we engage with limited time and influence.
So embrace your role in your protege s life and seek to be the best vitamin to the glory of God!
-Billy Rose, Director of Mentoring & Discipleship