Written by Pastor Greg Rensberry, Pastor, Mapleview Free Methodist Church, Niles, MI
I started mentoring Cody* at the start of his kindergarten year. From the beginning of our friendship, I could feel his distance and anxiousness. He was withdrawn and I knew he was afraid to trust me. One day I arrived at school and Cody was already having a hard day. The principal looked at me, smiled and sighed, saying, “Well Pastor Greg, do your magic!” We met together each week for four years, all the way through his third-grade year. By the end of that year, we had formed a deep and special friendship, and he and his teachers had learned to trust me and rely on me to be both a friend and champion for Cody. Those four years, I learned a lot about life, both my own and through the lens of a child who was facing so much adversity.
Here are my four biggest lessons learned as a Kids Hope Mentor:
- Relationships take time, patience, and flexibility.
The goal is always connection over content. My purpose in that school was to be a friend to Cody and make sure he felt valued, treasured, and heard.
- Always clearly communicate this truth: “I am on your team.”
Every year that my relationship strengthened and grew with Cody, it grew with his teachers, the principal, and other school staff too. It is said that it takes a village, and I was grateful to be a part of Cody’s.
- Balance form and flexibility.
Kids Hope USA provides a great format for the mentoring hour, but it is important to be aware of your student’s needs and what they might require week by week or year by year. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
- Serving as a Kids Hope USA mentor transcends the one-hour mentoring hour with a single student.
People notice – and they catch on to goodness that they see. One day when I picked up Cody, a student walked up to me and said, “You have been Cody’s friend since Kindergarten!” I was astounded by his observation, and I said, “You are right! And you know what – I know you have been a friend to Cody too.”
*Name has been changed for privacy.