Teaching Your Teens That Mentors Matter
by Chris Sasser

We’ve all been there. We encounter a situation or opportunity, and we’re not quite sure what to do. We have some thoughts and ideas, but we know that we need help sorting through it all. We need wisdom and discernment that we don’t yet have. We need to talk it out and process all the possibilities with someone who is older and wider than we are. We need a mentor.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had those people in my life. I’ve obviously leaned on my parents over the years in different ways for help, advice, and support. But I’ve also had other people who were a few years ahead of me who could offer insight and ideas. This started for me when I was a teenager. Mark and Jeff were two Christian men, just a few years ahead of me, who were serving in positions of leadership in ministry. They were leading different groups and spending time building relationships with students in order to share their faith in Jesus and have a positive influence. These two men, and others like them throughout my life, have been so valuable as I have learned and grown along the way.

As I look back at those years, I can see a few principles that I learned that helped me stay connected to the mentors I needed. Interestingly, as I watch my two teenagers navigate life and follow their own mentors, I see the same things. I believe there are some things we can do as parents to help our teens understand and feel the importance of connecting with mentors. If we can keep these principles in mind, we can better help our teens be surrounded by the influences they will need.

Teens Need to Believe This is Important

In a world where teens can get the information they need in an instant, they may not value the importance of real relationships that can impart a wisdom that no screen can offer. You need to help your teenager understand that mentoring relationships are important and can have a tremendous positive impact on their lives. If you have had significant mentors in your life, share about your experience. Give your teen a picture of what it has looked like to have people in your life who have encouraged you in your life and faith. Let them know that it is possible to build these kinds of relationships and that having these people in their lives can be tremendously beneficial.

Teens Need to Be Connected at Church

Probably the best place for teens to meet and get to know potential mentors is in a church or ministry setting. Youth leaders are serving so they can have an impact on the next generation. Do everything you can to help your teen be active in your church or youth ministry, so they have the opportunity to get to know significant adults who can speak into their lives. Studies show that the more faithful adults teens have in their lives, the more likely they are to embrace a faith in God. Coaches, teachers, and family friends can also fill a mentoring role, but your church is the best place for your teen to build these relationships. Do everything you can to arrange your family schedule to help your teen be involved at church.

Teens Need to Discern Who Can Help

Not every Christian adult that your teen encounters can fill the mentoring role. Your teen will need to learn to discern who they connect with and who might be a good mentor for them. Often, teens connect with adults who have the same interests and same life goals. In order to learn who might be a good fit, they need to spend time with a number of adults. This points back to the importance of church involvement. Just like in most of life’s circumstances, your teen needs to learn how to build relationships, handle conflicts, and navigate relational dynamics. There are likely faithful adults in your circle who your teen will connect with; they just need to discern who that might be.

Teens Need to Make an Effort

Like in most areas of life, all of this will take work. Your teens need to understand that relationships usually don’t just happen; they take time, effort, and energy. This can be especially challenging when there is an age and life stage difference. It can also be a difficult mind shift in a quick-fix, on-demand culture. Our teens are used to things happening fast and on their timetable. But connecting with the right mentor(s) will require a lot of work from your teenager. They will need to be willing to reach out to their mentors. They will need to make time for their mentor. They will need to put themselves in environments to build the relationship and talk to their mentor (maybe at church:). The relationship won’t just come to them.

Mentoring matters. We see this in scripture, and we see this in the world today. As your teens continue along their faith journey, encourage them to build relationships with adults who can spur them on, offer advice, pray for them, and be there for the difficulties of life. I was thankful to have these people in my life, and I pray that your teens will build these relationships in theirs.