In the Confirm Not Conform program, pairing each youth with an adult mentor is an important part of the program’s success. You may have a class of 2 or a class of 15; the importance of mentors remains the same.
Mentors provide youth with another caring adult who is not their parents, to share their faith and their questions about their faith. But in the process, both the adults and kids will grow in their faith.
Mentor relationships help build the entire parish into a stronger community. The intergenerational aspect of it continues to grow through the years.
Here are some rules and procedures we follow when we match our mentors with kids. Before starting, it’s good to have more than one person involved in the process to help you think it through, so figure out a time when your CnC team (or a couple of people in your congregation you respect) can figure this out together.
- Create a list of adults in your parish who you believe would be good mentors. I bet you already know which parishioners that you would not ask! Who would be great? Of those, who would be willing to try to be a mentor? Don’t decide for them; write them all down.
- Make your initial selections. Of those on your list, who do you sense would be a good match for the youth you think are going to be in your program? If any of your youth in the CnC program have a Godparent or other adult that they are close to, be sure to ask them first if they wish to be the mentor for this youth.
- Invite potential mentors to learn more about the role and its responsibilities. Schedule an informational meeting. Send out an invitation in a letter to the adults you and your team have preselected. In the initial letter, include the full schedule of the CnC program, highlighting the times that the mentors should attend. Invite them to attend an informational meeting with more details (including the Mentor Parent Handbook) and a chance for them to ask questions. Follow up with a personal call. It is harder to say no to a real person! Answer any questions you receive.
- Make your matches. Give mentors a deadline to decide whether or not they want to participate, and follow up if you have not received a clear yes or no. Once you have the list of the youth in the program and the potential mentors, meet with your team to match them together. After making the "final draft" list, I ask the team to take 24 hours to pray about the choices. We then make changes if needed.
- Offer support and clarify expectations. Within the first month of classes, host a meeting for the mentors to meet and go over the schedule and to review expectations, best practices, and establishing safety. Hold a few mentor meetings throughout the year. Check in about every 6 weeks one on one with the mentors via email or a personal call to ask about any concerns or joys. Often you can help them know more about the youth they are paired with.
- Trust God is at work, but revise if necessary. Trust the insights of your team and God to make these matches. You will have some mentor matches that will be outstanding; others will be good. You may also have a few that are just ok but that never really work. When we have a “just ok” match we will often make a change in the mentor, if needed. But remember that the goal is not to create new best friends, but intergenerational relationships that share the great gifts of faith and time.