For anyone about to make the jump from youth to adulthood, it can be hard trying to pave a path towards success. With all the colleges, employment, and volunteer opportunities out there to explore, many young people today feel overwhelmed with choices—it can be hard to weigh options and ultimately make informed decisions.
The verse from Jeremiah 29:11 recites. Many high schoolers going off to college or starting a new job find comfort in its message: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Guidance from God is a wonderful thing—that’s what we all want. We long to know what we should do and how to go about doing it. Believe it or not, many students and young adults feel the same way.
But what many young adults are missing out on is the reality that words of wisdom from the Lord often come through the mouths of others.
Particularly, through the mentorship relationships God has placed in their lives…
The meaning of mentorship
Learning happens most often through doing life alongside others. It’s people, I would argue, not books, from which we glean our most valuable life lessons.
We learn best in community and are blessed to be influenced by those around us. These influencers come in the form of casual friendships, sure. But they also come through relationships with those who students might refer to as mentors.
Mentors—in academic settings, the business world, church, or anywhere really—are just people willing to use their wisdom and experiences for the good of those around (and under) them. Often, these are leaders who both see and want opportunities to pour into young lives. This means mentors take part in overseeing mentees growth spiritually, emotionally and, at an institution of higher learning, academically as well.
So, I’m convinced we need more people mentoring more people. That does not have to be older to younger, but it usually is. And, since I am a professor, I’ve been thinking of it in an academic setting, but it is true anywhere that leaders are made.
Mentoring means making new leaders, thinkers, creators, and more.
Balancing motivation and care
Leo M. Lambert, the former president of Elon University, offered some reflections on the 2018 Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey, Mentoring College Students to Success. He shares the ways that mentoring relationships are a form of social capital. They give those who have them a certain ‘leg up’ on their peers. He shares:
For young adults, mentors aren’t just people who provide emotionless advice and stern motivation. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Mentees most often want this older/wiser/more experienced counterpart to not just care about their success, but them as an individual.
It’s not about pushing and pulling young people towards worldly achievements and accomplishments. For mentors looking to really make a difference, it’s actually not about helping students valuing what the world values at all. Instead, it’s about helping mentees—future doctors, lawyers, preachers, ministry leaders, and restauranteurs—come to see their lives as not their own, but God’s. In his hands alone, their future endeavors are fully secure.
The journeys we’re all on ultimately belong to Jesus, but mentors can help along the way.
Becoming a mentor
So, what if you are a young adult and you are saying, “Yes, I need this”?
In academic settings, where you would think that mentoring would most likely take place, not even half of students are being given all the tools they need to successfully complete their degrees. One reason I like being in a smaller academic institution is the higher number of mentoring opportunities.
Unfortunately, this is not just an academic reality. We need professors, church leaders, and others to step up and offer themselves in service of a young leaders. Not only for the student’s benefit, but also for their own. Often, it’s not the mentee alone who learns and gains valuable influence from the experience.
If you were mentored, you know the value of it. If you were not mentored, you probably know you missed out.
If you have some experience to share, why not volunteer to be a mentor? And if you want mentoring, don’t be reticent to ask for it.