I’ve been blessed to be a part of a student ministry over the last few years that has reached hundreds, maybe even thousands, of students in some way. I’ve watch children grow into young adults and young adults leave to start their life-after-high-school. But, I’ve always done it from the comfort of our youth room. Every week, a couple hundred kids move through there and we go through the motions of our youth program. There is nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. It is awesome to have a place where everyone gathers for the same reason (hopefully) and students can let their guard down and allow God to work in their lives by transforming their heart.
A few months back an email went out at my work announcing a mentorship program at one of the local high schools. Anyone who was interested was to show up in one of the conference rooms for an information only meeting. A guy from my department and I went to check it out.
One of the schools offers an academy of finance program for students looking to get into various finance-related jobs. They even have their own credit union on campus that they run as if it were a real credit union. Teachers, and even the general public, can visit this place and do whatever it is people do in banks these days. I’m sure they aren’t writing loan documents and approving mortgages, but if you need to make a deposit, or withdraw, cash a paycheck or something along those lines, then you are welcome to stop in and handle your business (as they say). The school is looking for real business professionals to come in and mentor the students. Ideally, they want long term mentors; someone who will meet with a student once a month from their freshman year all the way through graduation.
It sounded like a pretty good idea so my coworker and I signed up for the training session.
A few months later.
We went through a 2-3 hour training session to learn how to be effective mentors. Yes. Yes. It was an abbreviated program that packed a bunch of material into a short period of time, and we were sent on our way with more information to review on our own. Honestly though, once a month, how much can we actually accomplish as mentors? The main focus, I think, is to help these students learn how to set goals, organize their stuff, and stay focused on an overall dream or goal.
A couple days ago was our orientation. We went to the school and sat and listened to the head of the program review some policies and guidelines. Before too long, the students made their way into the cafeteria where we were. I saw a couple familiar faces from youth group and was looking forward to finding out who my mentee was going to be. We played a couple ice breaker games and had about 15-20 minutes to talk to a lot of students. There were quite a few of them. I was expecting maybe 50-60 kids, but I would guess we had closer to 150 in there. After the ice breaker activities, the students and mentors who had already been matched up moved off to another section of the cafeteria to have their time together which left the rest of us students and adults sitting, wondering what the next step was. I fully expected them to have already assigned students to adults. But that wasn’t the case. It literally turned into an elementary school dodge ball games where we were picking teams. The adults were the captains and the students were, well, the students.
The first adult turned the whole thing around. She said that any of the students she spoke to during the icebreaker could come up. Bad move. High school students aren’t too quick to move on these things, and it was an uncomfortable 20-30 seconds before two girls said they would do it. I looked at the sheet of paper I had in my hand. We had gathered names based on icebreaker questions. I remembered a lot of the kids I talked to, but not all of them. A couple stood out, and I already knew they were friends. So when it was my turn, I said their two names. Originally, I thought I would only get one student, but was kind for hoping for more. Two was great. But then she asked me if I would take more. The two student I picked were in the same class so I could meet with them at the same time. I said ok and she found two more students that were in a different class. So now I have four students across two class periods when I thought I was only going to get one student for maybe half an hour, now I have four and will be at the school for two hours.
I took my four students and we found a table to sit at and talk some more. They were all really cool. And, I had the whole spectrum from, “I know exactly what I want to be when I grow up” to, “I have no idea what I want to do with my life.” We talked for maybe 30 minutes and then they had to head back to their regular classes.
I’m excited about the opportunity. No longer am I waiting for students to come to me. Now, I get to go to them, on their turf. I get to move out of my comfort zone and build a relationship with these four guys that could extend into the next 2-3 years. God could use this to have a serious impact on their lives. So I pray, and I will ask you to pray for me, that God does exactly that. He has provided this opportunity for a purpose, and I pray that he use me for whatever purpose he has in mind.
I’m taking God into public school, and hopefully bringing a little bit of public school to God.