The Fine Line Between Friendship & Mentoring

By Doug Franklin August 16, 2016

There is a fine line for youth ministry volunteers between being a friend or a mentor. Often times adult volunteers want to be liked by students, so they cross the line between friend and mentor. They tell students what they want to hear instead of hard truth they need to hear. We must consistently remember we are here for students, giving them what they need to grow.

Mentors want a lopsided relationship with their students. Knowing that students will never build into them, they pursue students at a deep level. Discover their hopes, fears and struggles. This is why mentors need solid relationships with other adults so they can get their emotional tanks filled through appropriate relationships.

Below is a list of a few of the finer qualities taken from a mentoring relationship. Think about what the student gains from having this kind of relationship with a leader.

        1. The Hard Truth

Students get plenty of honesty from their friends, but they need a leader who tells them the truth out of love. They need someone who sees God’s best for them and will work with them to bring it out.

  1. Unconditional Love

Love is one of the most confusing and often misunderstood words to students. Leaders need to model what it looks like to love unconditionally. Start by telling students that you love them and that you won’t leave them. I often tell them that I am not like other adults; I will not let them stay the same, I will push them to grow.

  1. Humble Honesty

Students will be blessed by having a leader who shares their life story with them, not someone who only preaches at them. Tell them the redemption story of your life. Allow them to see and understand your mistakes and let them know the peace you have from forgiveness.

  1. Challenge

Paint a picture for students of what they can do for God. Let them see how God has used students to accomplish His goals. Help them understand what God wants to do in them and through them.

  1. Selflessness

Students have one great love: themselves. It is a vital responsibility of the leaders to work at teaching their students the act of selflessness. By putting others’ needs first, leaders have the opportunity to consistently show students that life is about more than just themselves.

  1. Value

Students are bombarded daily from every direction about who they should be in the eyes of the world: smart, attractive, wealthy, funny, etc. A leader building intentional relationships challenges them in areas that reach deeper. Remind students of their potential in Christ, and show them what is important by how you spend your money and how you give your time.

  1. Consistent

Empty promises are hard to forget. What if our students had a relationship with someone they knew they could always count on? Leaders who are consistent do what they say and they keep their promises.

Building Intentional Relationships Discussion Questions

  • How do you think it would impact small groups to have leaders that were too much like one or the other of the relationships we discussed?
  • How can you tell if you have become too of an authoritarian with your students and not compassionate?
  • How can you tell if you have become too much of a friend to your students and not enough of a mentor?
  • What is the one of the seven things we discussed earlier that you feel you need the most work on? What areas do you feel you are already doing well in?

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More