While we are an organization that is known for mentoring children, that is actually just a small portion of what our greater hope is for those of you that volunteer with us as mentors. Our mission statement speaks of impacting the youth, families, and community of South Dallas through positively influencing the life of one of its young people. The big question our mentors often wrestle with is: how do you turn hanging out with a child twice a month into loving a family and community? While there isn’t a specific formula or cookie cutter process for this, there are some helpful tips and tools that we’ve found to be beneficial for our mentors.
Get out of the car. When picking up or dropping off your protégé, turn off your car and walk your protégé into their house. This is monumental in building a relationship with mom, dad, grandma, or whoever may be around. They may not really engage you the first few times, as you may seem like an intruder into their space, but typically, as mentors build consistency in this area, they warm up to you. A few minutes of intentionality goes a long way in winning trust!
Hang out at their place. Most mentors at first feel like they are invading if they decide to hang out at the child’s house, but many of the guardians love it when mentors and protégés hang out with them. It gives them a chance to get to know you one-on-one, not just through their child, and it allows you to see a bit more of the child’s home life. Homework, making or eating a meal together, or playing games are just a few suggestions of things you can all do together.
Take them with you. It may be a stretch in the budget to try and take the whole family out to eat, but finding something free or cheap to all do together is a big win. Klyde Warren is fun for an entire family, as is White Rock Lake. Inviting guardians into your hang out times shows them that you care holistically about their child. It shows them that you are more intentional about getting to know them, building character in their child, and developing a strong relationship more than just going to do fun stuff together.
Pray over them. If you hear that something has happened or there is a struggle or problem that has arisen, stop right where you are and ask if you can pray over them/that. A parent has never refused prayer from our staff when we’ve done this, and you’d be surprised the doors that fling wide open after a parent has heard your heart of love for that family and child.
Attend church with the family. Many of our families have some church nearby that they call their home church. A number of them don’t attend regularly, but would probably love for you to join them when they do. Simply asking if you can go along with them or if they’d be interested in going with you can be a great segue into a more intentional, gospel-centered conversation.
Deep relationships don’t ever occur overnight, so be patient with yourself and the family members. Pray for wisdom when you should push and when you should not. And always remember, God loves your protégé and their entire family more than you’ll ever be able to. Trust the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you as you press onward in seeking to love them!
-Christina Hickman, Relationship Coordinator