Photography by Matt Wyatt

You’re Not a Babysitter

I’ve been thinking lately about what I need say to the team of youth mentors I supervise. Here’s what I’ve thought of so far.

Working as a youth mentor is NOT babysitting. By taking on the role of a youth mentor, you are committing yourself to an enormous challenge. You are choosing to walk alongside someone who has presented to be a challenge to those around him/her. The reasons for a teenager needing a mentor are vast and endless. It may be as simple as he/she is struggling with school work or social cues or putting his legos away. It may be more complex . You have to understand that you are more likely than not entering the timeline of someone who already has a very complex and painful past. Your mentee needs you. He/she needs you to do your best and put forth every ounce of effort you have. Your mentee needs you to care about them and about your job. They have already experienced enough pain and hurt; don’t add to it.
Mentoring is typically done in a one on one, self-directed format. Without an authority constantly watching you and potentially no parents monitoring your time with their child either, this honor system easily lends itself to abuse. The way mentoring is set up leaves you two options; self-serving or self-giving. As a Christ-follower the life of Jesus is a role model for me. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” If I am a co-worker with Christ as the Bible says, then I have an obligation to help restore a broken world. Mentoring is a catalyst through which we can have a part in this restoration process.
So if you’re not a babysitter, then what are you? You are a life changer. You are a goal-oriented, dream come true, wish granter. In conjunction with therapists, psychologist, social workers and most importantly the families, you are helping to develop a challenging teen into a successful adult. I like how Josh Shipp, another youth worker, says it “Every teen is one adult away from being a success story.” You are that adult. Don’t let the opportunity to be an essential part of a teenager’s future pass you by because of how you feel in the moment. Tiredness, stress, house work, school work these are all normal parts of life that will never disappear. These teens need you to be able to handle your affairs as well as help them manage theirs. This is no small task and if you don’t feel like you can do it it’s best to leave it to someone who can.
Constantly check your motivation, attitude and mindset and make sure you are in it for the teen, not the paycheck. Seeing progress in a teen is much more rewarding anyway. Seeing teens develop a vocabulary instead of resorting to swear words, watching as their grades go from D’s to B’s, and knowing that you were a part of that is more valuable than any paycheck you’ll receive.


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