Seven Different Mentors Your Students Need

The following is a blog post by Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders. To view the original post, click here.

One of the most common questions I receive from college students is: “How do I find a mentor?” What they mean by this is—how can I locate or identify the right kind of mentor for my personal plans?” Over the years, I’ve found the majority of students say they desire to have a mentor in their life; someone they could call and bounce a question off of; someone who is slow to judge but quick to offer hope.

A couple of years ago, Gallup released findings from the largest representative study of U.S. college graduates. The Gallup-Purdue Index surveyed more than 30,000 graduates to find out whether or not they’re engaged in their work and thriving in their life. In short Gallup wondered: “Do college graduates end up with great jobs and great lives?”

One of the most memorable findings is: where you went to college matters less to your life after graduation than how you went to college. Inside Higher Ed states:

“Feeling supported and having deep learning experiences during college means everything when it comes to long-term outcomes after college. Unfortunately, not many graduates receive a key element of that support while in college: having a mentor. And this is perhaps the biggest blown opportunity in the history of higher ed.”

The students who succeeded were the ones who said, “I had a professor or a staff member who built a relationship with me and offered counsel during my tough semesters or uncertain days. It made all the difference in the world.”

Why Don’t We Do This?
Most of you reading this article will agree—students benefit from mentors. At the same time, more of us talk about mentoring than actually do it. Some of us excuse our lack of involvement by saying we can’t find “hungry students.” Others say they just don’t know what to say to connect with students. After all, they’re . . . uh . . . different. Many of us never mentor anyone because we hold a stereotype in our minds of what a mentor looks like. And . . . alas, we just don’t fit our own stereotype.

Perhaps this list below will help.

In their insightful book, Connecting, Dr. Robert Clinton and Paul Stanley outline the seven different kinds of mentors that most often exist in our lives. Dr. Clinton was one of my professors as I did my doctoral studies and has remained a long-distance mentor in my life. I have tweaked the list he offered to fit our world today, and I offer it to you below. It is important for us to examine these seven roles for two reasons:

  1. To determine which kind we most need in our own life.
  2. To determine which kind we are best suited to be for someone else.

Seven Kinds of Mentors

Knowing your personal style and gifts will enable you to better decide what kind of mentoring role you will successfully fulfill in a student’s life. Note these different kinds of mentors below:

  1. The Mentor Tutor
    They help with basic qualities and skills of maturation. It generally involves frequent meetings, and the agenda originates from the mentor—not the mentee. Why? Because the mentee is often young and inexperienced, not knowing what they must learn.
  2. The Mentor Personal Guide
    They offer accountability and direction as the mentee makes significant decisions. The mentee may already be mature, but just needs advisement on an infrequent basis. It still involves a maturation process, but it can be done by a peer with gifts or perspective.
  3. The Mentor Coach
    They provide motivation and skills needed to meet a task or a challenge. While there is a relationship, it can be a short-term connection until the mentee acquires the ability to perform a task independently. It involves meetings that are scheduled more on a project basis.
  4. The Mentor Counselor
    They furnish timely advice and perspective on self, others, and interests or passions. This mentor enables the mentee to step back and gain a big-picture view, adding insight on issues, for a person who’s less mature, experienced or has blind spots.
  5. The Mentor Teacher
    They impart knowledge and understanding on a specific subject. Mentor-teachers are most common when a mentee needs to learn more about a new issue and the mentor has the insights needed. It can involve frequent or infrequent meetings.
  6. The Mentor Sponsor
    They give out of their network, experience and accumulated knowledge. They may not be “conversationalists,” nor know a lot personally, but they generously give from their wealth of contacts and reading. They can offer protection and direction.
  7. The Mentor Model and Consultant
    They offer a living, personal example for life, marriage, family or career. Often seasoned veterans, they embody a wise lifestyle in each life station they experience along the way. They may be people of few words, but their lives are vivid sermons.


Which of these mentor types do you need most yourself?

Which of these could you naturally become for a student?


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Mentor for Life

I’m a new youth pastor at Trinity CRC. I started last September, and I absolutely love it. It’s a dream job. I would do it for free if I could afford it. One of the big parts of my job is mentoring. I started taking out my youth for lattes and lunches and although it was fantastic – it was overwhelming: There were so many youth!


I attended a conference in Vancouver and went to a breakout session on mentoring. I heard a lot of stories of people who were mentored and had great memories and experiences. It was meant to be an encouraging session, but I walked away sad. I was sad because I wanted so badly to give all of my youth those experiences but I couldn’t. I was limited. I was limited on time, meaning I wasn’t going to be able to develop a deep relationship with every single one of my youth. There were too many and I might not have connected well with all of them. I was also limited because I’m a woman and I wanted all the guys in my youth group to have a guy that they could talk to about “guy things”.


When I came back to Edmonton, I was wrestling and praying with how to mentor more efficiently when I had a fantastic idea that I believe was inspired by the Holy Spirit: I can’t do it, but the church can.


The idea of the mentorship program blossomed from there: I would pair up all the youth with someone from our church – a guy with a guy and a girl with a girl. They would be responsible for building deep relationships with the youth.


I began emailing and calling some of the people that I knew would be great mentors. The response I received was wonderful and I knew I had enough volunteers to get started. I began forming what the program would look like – focusing on simplicity and joy. When I was finished, I met with a youth ministry consultant who further encouraged me. I remember him looking at the program and calling it “gold”. This assured me again that I was following the Holy Spirit.


He gave me a few pointers and agreed to be a part of the mentor training. We went over the program with all of the volunteers and paired them all up with the youth, starting with grade 7.


Right now we have a total of 19 mentors who are roughly between the ages of 20 and 30. They are paired up with kids from grades 7 to 10 and some in grades 11 and 12. The mentors were all told that it is a lifelong commitment. The main goal and purpose is to love their youth and do life with them. Their main responsibilities are: praying for their kid, saying hi to them every Sunday, and hanging out with them once a month.


The volunteers are not just mentors though. They are disciples making disciples. The program starts in grade 7 and “ends” in grade 12. When I say it “ends” in grade 12, I mean I will stop holding them accountable after that and just assume and trust they will naturally be in their lives. The first 2 years (grades 7-8) is simple relationship building. The next few years (grades 9-11) we have a bible reading plan. The last year will focus on apologetics. Although we have this in the program, nothing is set in stone – the rule is to follow the Holy Spirit. Some mentors have said that rather than reading the Bible, they would prefer to do topical Bible studies. Great!


Another major aspect of our program is our prayer partners. We have people in our church who have committed to pray for a handful of our mentors on a regular basis. They are also instrumental in this program.


For the most part, this program has flourished. Some of the mentors have a hard time hanging out once a month because of their schedules, but they make more of an effort to call and email or to talk more on Sundays. The mentors are going to kid’s basketball games, taking them to movies, going for walks in the river valley – someone even took their kid to the Harlem Globetrotters game!


Because this is the first time we are doing this, they were told to expect kinks and we would just talk them out and get better. It’s not a perfect program, and it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be joyful. It’s meant to be meaningful. It’s meant to glorify God.


Below are some quotes from some of the mentors currently involved in the program:


 “I find it challenging but interesting to get to know my kid, to help her and myself grow in Christian faith together is something I look forward to.”


“Being a mentor creates opportunities for both the mentor and the mentee to explore and grow in their faith. It allows the mentor to provide encouragement and advice to the mentee, in which the aim is to promote a lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ.”


“What I like so much about the mentorship program is that it is set up to be long-term. Although our relationship is still pretty new, I think there is a lot to look forward to. It’s not always easy to find things to talk about with someone you barely know, but I’m having a lot of fun just being there for her. I’ve started out just getting to know my mentee, but I hope to be able to develop a spiritual partnership as well as a friendship. The mentorship gives me a chance to connect with someone who is going through a life-stage that I have been through. I wish that when I was girl in junior high, I had someone who was older (and not my mom) to talk to and ask all my questions. I want to be that person for my mentee, and hopefully it just becomes natural.”
“When asked if I would like to mentor a young girl at church, I was a bit hesitant, as it was completely out of my comfort zone. I took on the challenge and I am so glad that I did. I have started to get to know a beautiful, young girl who has taught me more about the innocence of our youth, a need for leaders and to love as Christ loved. God has blessed me through her quiet disposition and sensitive spirit. As Betty Ramsay said, ‘We all know investing in our young people makes good sense. The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow and will shape the destiny of our country and the future of their children and so on and so on'”
“Starting and maintaining a relationship can be challenging even amongst people of similar age. Having just recently started the mentorship program, it’s going to take some time to establish a mutual trust. The biggest challenge for me so far has been to be in contact with my mentee frequently enough that the level of trust and familiarity grows. With some effort on my part and some help from God, I hope to continue to grow our relationship so that I can be a positive influence on my mentee’s life.”
“I really enjoy being able to share my experiences and advice and watch my mentee grow in all aspects of life. I am blessed to be part of her journey and excited to see where God takes her.”