What A 17 Year Old Taught Me About Mentoring
It used to be all about the content for me. "What am I going to teach her? What new thing can I pass on to her this week? How can I be certain she leaves impacted by the material?" While not all of these are "all-bad" things, they're missing the main point. Successful mentoring, I've come to find, is 90% naturally sharing life together, and 10% of intentional, planned content.
Ellee taught me that. She's the funnest 17 year old I've ever met - so full of life and passion, creativity and dreams, drive and hope. She's weathered some stormy seasons and come out stronger than ever, and I've been gifted this sweet front row seat to all of it. For 2 years, we've done life together in Oshkosh, and it's been one of the absolute best things about our move here!
Over the course of our first year, our mentoring times together moved from structure to a lack thereof. From all sorts of plans, to throwing out the plans when she had 3252509 new life updates to chat through (and I LOVED every minute!). I was originally way too concerned about getting through the content, that I was missing the chance to build relationship and let the content seep in naturally.
My favorite mentoring memories are those where my mentor and I made fun memories together! One took me to a beach, another out for brunch, others on long walks or to local events, and others still for the classic #coffeedate. The memories that stick out most to me from my time with them have very little to do with the knowledge they passed on (while I DID learn from them!), and much more to do with the fun we had and how known + loved I felt by their presence in my life.
It's taken me a bit to learn this enough for my approach to change, but thanks to Ellee, it totally has. I still make a plan, and I still pray for the words to share and the tips to offer- but there's a sweet surrender to let whatever needs to happen, happen! To throw out the plans when what she really needs is to just talk. To forget about the order of things, when it's clear eating something first will help break the ice! ;) By just being herself, Ellee has taught me that mentoring is about doing life together, with confidence that the teaching will occur in the midst.
We've talked about politics and TV shows, dating and Starbucks drinks, faith and world issues, high school and online shopping...and we've done it across tables, couches, sushi plates and more. It's been everything I hoped it'd be and everything I couldn't have imagined. Mentoring her has mentored my own soul in the sweetest of ways - refining parts of my heart that really needed some work. It's been humbling and beautiful, redemptive and just SO MUCH FUN.
If you're mentoring someone right now, and something just feels "off", or you're really hoping to go deeper - ask your mentee what they love to do, and go do it together! You'll be surprised how conversation flows and wisdom is shared when the pressure is off, trust is built, and you show up readied to step into their interests with humility and hope.
May we not lose sight of the person behind the commitment, the memories behind the plans, the unexpected joy in the interruptions, and the point of the whole thing: life shared together.
Ellee, thanks for teaching me all of this and more just by inviting me into your world! I love seeing it through your eyes. God is mighty in you!
What have you learned most about successful mentoring? Whether from being mentored, or by mentoring others?