Mentor tools and Tips

September Mentor Training & Tips

“The Power of Love”

(No, not the Huey Lewis song from Back to the Future; though it should be listened to right now) Recent cognitive research has revealed a close connection between emotions and reasoning. In other words, if a person wishes to convey the logic of right reasoning vs. wrong reasoning to another, i.e. a mentor relationship, it is better for that person to use emotional connection rather than going straight to cold-hard-logic. A powerful launching point for building positive, emotional trust is vulnerability.
“Children learn from people they love, and that love in this context means willing the good of another, and offering active care for the whole person… Extreme negative emotions, like fear, can have a devastating effect on a student’s ability to learn. Fear amps up threat perception and aggression. It can also subsequently make it hard for children to understand causal relationships, or to change their mind as context changes.”

Practical Application:

Be reasonable when it comes to vulnerability. Remember that this is not peer-to-peer sharing. It is an adult to adolescent relationship. Having said that, it is good for mentors to practice openness which leads to trust. Pick a struggle, doubt, fear, or anxiety you have in your life and share that as a prayer request with your 1:5 student. This action invites them to minister to and care for you. It shows that their voice matters in your life, and in so doing, will lead to trust and the opportunity to speak wisdom into their life.


“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

The Purpose of Mentor Training:

We want to welcome you to the privilege of being selected as a part of your student’s 1:5 Circle of Care. Village Christian School is committed to equipping and training all mentors as you take on the honor of guiding your student through this journey of adolescence. We recognize being a mentor is a blessing, but not always easy; therefore, we commit to equipping you with tools and tips as you engage with your student. These periodic updates are one of the ways in which we plan to help. If you have any questions or want more information, feel free to contact me.

George Ratchford
Spiritual Life Director


Past Tips

Training: “The Power of an Empathetic Mentor”

As mentors, we must be careful that we do not become fixers. All to often it is in our nature to paint silver linings around the struggles of others. Brene Brown does a great job of describing the difference between empathy & sympathy, and warns against becoming “at least” people in this short VIDEO.

Practical Application:

Being empathetic begins with discovery. It is about understanding the person and their current state of emotion.

  • If they are in a truly joyous place, celebrate with them.
  • If they are in a place of confusion or struggle, ask more questions and listen.

Sharing advice from our past experiences and giving hope by showing the “light at the end of the tunnel” is a good thing; however, we must never forget to share the reality of the struggle, difficulty, depression, etc. that exists in the darkness of the tunnel. Being empathetic means not assuming a person can magically skip to the light at the end of the tunnel. Being empathetic recognizes that the journey is fraught with thorns, while saying to that person, “I am with you”.

(For a personal story of empathy from a parent perspective, check out this Blog/Article.)

Lord, grant that I may seek rather
to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.

  • St. Francis of Assisi


The Power in a Note of Gratitude

Click Here to read more about the research behind the power of an encouraging note. Then, before moving on to your next task, write a note to your student and send it via text, letter or email. Don’t let the moment pass as it may be exactly what he/she needs.


Involvement, Sharing-Faith & Openness

In the Spring of 2016 we partnered with Fuller Thrive Center to conduct a survey of over 350 VCS high school students. Using the Positive Youth Development (PYD) score we were able to determine to key findings that are essential for mentors:

  1. Students scored higher on the PYD Confidence scale when they had a mentor regularly involved in their life.

  2. Students scored higher on the PYD Connection scale when their mentors where highly involved, shared their faith, and approached the mentoring relationship with openness.

In other words, our research has shown that being regularly involved in a student’s life, taking time to share your faith, and having an openness to what they are dealing with increases a student’s ability to be socially Connected and live with Confidence.

Practical Application:

  • Involvement (small ways and Big Ways): As mentioned earlier, sending notes of encouragement and love can be a powerful gesture. It reminds a person that they are know and someone believes in them. A bigger step is to show up at his/her game, performance, or show. Maybe set up a time to take them to a movie or grab some ice cream.

  • Share-Faith. Adolescents do not like to be “preached” at, but they want to talk about faith and real life. Make sure to ask good questions, share about Jesus, and talk through ways to live a better life.

  • Openness: Students consistently reported an aversion to mentors who were not open to their questions and real life challenges. Be a mentor that listens carefully. Try to look at what they are saying from their perspective, and then, with empathy, responds in love.

Bonus: (Try this during a car ride to break the ice.)

20 Questions is a classic game that has been played for ages. To play 20 Questions, one person thinks of an object and the others playing can ask 20 questions (typically with only a Yes or No response) in an effort to guess what it is.

Our prayer is that Christ is able to work in and through these mentor relationships. May real change happen; change that positively affects the course of each student’s life for the better.



“Mentoring Youth Matters”

Check out this excerpt from the above article: “A five year study sponsored by Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada shows that children with mentors were more confident and had fewer behavioral problems. Girls in the study were four times less likely to become bullies than those without a mentor and boys were two times less likely. In general, young people showed increased belief in their abilities to succeed in school and felt less anxiety related to peer pressure.”

From a biblical perspective, this study exemplifies the wisdom found in Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

For a practical response, and with Spring Break is right around the corner, use this opportunity to hang out with your 1:5 student. Here are some ideas:

  1. Go to a movie, baseball game, or to the mall,
  2. Bring your student along on an errand run to maximize your time,
  3. Invite them to Sunday Easter Service,
  4. If you’re far away, FaceTime them or send them an encouraging Easter Card.

If you have a student on the Mexicali Mission Trip, Click Here to sign up as a Mexicali Prayer Partner.


Video Tip: “Don’t be a Helicopter” Click Here for a quick video.

  • Mentorship is not meant to be mistake-free as life can not be mistake-free. As mentors, our job is to help students try, fail, learn and try again. Watch the above video and soak it up.

Bonus: The Zombie Apocalypse Game

DISCLAIMER: Know your audience! Some people will dive into an odd game like this while others could care less.

How to play this game?
Here is an example, but know that the scenario can be easily modified. Let’s say I’m hanging out with one of my 1:5 mentees. I simply bring up a scenario by saying something like, “Okay, we’re in Old Town Pasadena and a Zombie Apocalypse breaks out in Downtown L.A. These are the slow, “Walking Dead” type of zombies. So, where do we go? What do we grab to take with us? Who do we bring along?” And then let the conversation be free flowing.

Why play this game? - Let me give you three reasons: (1) Playing fun, and sometimes silly games can be a great way to bond. (2) A game such as this allows you to work together as a team, which helps to build trust. (3) It can be very insightful in discovering what and who matters most to a person.

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