Monday, September 5, 2011

Can Men Mentor Girls? - My Reponse

Neely McQueen posted the question "Can Men Mentor Girls" and it is a great question.

What are we to do when a student (or parent of a student) of the opposite gender approaches us requesting mentoring? Almost every college class, employee handbook and church insurance policy warns pastors to be weary of these types of situations. Red flags go up (and rightfully so) whenever we are put in this position.

The church that I work for has a high school pastor (male) and a middle school pastor (female) that have successful ministries that reach several hundred different students throughout a school year. There are multiple times where students of both genders approach them asking for guidance. What is important is knowing the difference between an "every now and then meeting for guidance" and a full fledged mentoring.

An "every now and then meeting for guidance" is a vast majority of what the students that approach us are going to be asking for. It usually involves hanging out with a student after a service or grabbing a coke to listen to them and offering some advice. A few months may go by and they may come back.

Full fledged mentoring in a leadership context is a much deeper and more personal relationship. They key is that it is a relationship. In this relationship the mentoree is expected to maintain a standard. What is important though is that the mentor has permission to call the mentoree out. When pictures posted on facebook contradict the expectations of the mentoree...the mentor must call the mentoree out. The mentor often has to ask tough and uncomfortable questions. Questions that not just anyone can ask.

At first any mentorship is going to be like any relationship - surface level. It is only after time and energy are invested in the relationship that a bond begins to develop. A bond where each person begins to feel vulnerable in the relationship. Where the skin of the relationship has become thin over time and the individuals involved feel the pain of a cut or blister.

As I stated earlier our church has both genders represented in terms of youth pastors. Both of the pastors have taken the proper steps to insure the safety of students when students of the opposite gender approach them for mentoring. Our high school pastor has two adult females that are background checked and fully equipped to love on high school girls. Our middle school pastor has two adult males that, again, are background checked and fully equipped to connect with middle school boys.

There is a small amount of mentoring that can go on between members of the opposite sex, but in terms of long term mentoring, it would STRONGLY be discouraged.

If you're a youth pastor and are mentoring students of the opposite yourself, the student involved, your church and your marriage a favor and STOP! Invest your time in training and equipping leaders that are capable of thriving in this arena. Setting up a mentoring program that allows leaders in your student ministry to reach out to students frees you up to full invest in a few students.

Anytime we attempt to mentor more than a few students...we're doing a disservice to the mentoring relationship.

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