What Every Teen Needs from a Mentor

A couple of years ago, our youth director reached out to me and asked if I could lead a discipleship group of teen girls. “You have a lot to offer,” he said.

My first thought was, It’s been decades since I was a teen, how would I even relate to them?

But I had been praying about an opportunity to serve in my new church, and I believe in the Titus 2 admonition, so I agreed.

The Gap for Teen Mentors

Mentoring younger women can be intimidating and daunting in and of itself, but mentoring teens can be even more so. Let’s be honest, the years that stretch between their generation and ours is many. Some of the issues they face are issues we never imagined when we were their age.

When I was a teen, I could only talk on the phone that was attached to the wall outside my bedroom door. I never imagined one I could carry in my pocket and post photos and status updates for everyone to see! When I was a teen, I enjoyed watching TV, and if there was a series I enjoyed, I had to wait each week for a new episode to air. I never imagined the temptation to binge watch every episode of a television show in one sitting, not to mention the ability to watch the crazy antics of everyday people on YouTube!

For some of us, it can be hard to remember what it was like to be a teen—with the challenges, temptations, and pressures they face each day. We’ve likely forgotten what’s it’s like to be stuck in the middle between childhood and adulthood. We’ve forgotten about the cliques and the groups and the mean girls. We’ve forgotten what it feels like to be on the outside looking in. We’ve forgotten conflicts with parents, strained relationships with peers, and stress over grades.

While there are many differences between a mentor’s and a teen’s experiences with life, what a teen needs most is not dependent upon a mentor’s ability to understand the current lingo or how up-to-date they are on the latest technology trends. What a teen needs more than anything is the gospel. And that’s what a mentor can offer them.

Five Things Teens Need from a Mentor

1. To learn God’s Word.

A teen needs to learn God’s Word. The Bible teaches that God’s Word . . .

As a mentor, we can teach teens God’s Word. We can help them learn how to study, memorize, and live by it. We can show them Jesus on every page, who He is and what He has done for them in the gospel. Equipping teens to read God’s Word is one of the greatest things mentors can do for teens.

2. To know who they are in Christ.

Identity is a significant issue for teens. They are navigating the often-difficult terrain of wondering who they are apart from their family. They seek affirmation from their peers. They look for significance in sports, grades, outward beauty, and achievements. They want to know their identity. Society tells them one thing, peers another. Their parents might tell them something else. What they need is to know that what they do isn’t who they are. Rather their identity is found in Christ and in who He is for them. Their union with Him through faith provides the secure identity they seek.

3. To be equipped to engage the world around them.

Teens also struggle to understand how the gospel applies to daily life and the situations they face in school with teachers and friends, as well as to what is happening in the culture around them. How do they respond to atheism? How do they respond to the postmodern belief that truth is individual rather than universal? How do they live out their faith in an anti-Christian world? How do they share the gospel with their friends? Mentors can help teens learn how the gospel intersects with daily life and culture.

4. To be heard.

An effective discipleship relationship is a safe one. It’s a place where mentors listen to their mentees share about their life, struggles, temptations, hopes, and dreams. While a teen mentor doesn’t need to have all the answers, she does need to listen. She needs to pay attention and listen for the things left unspoken. She needs to be trustworthy so a teen knows she is safe to share her life with.

However, there are times when a teen may be involved in some kind of activity that is unsafe for her, dangerous even. When she shares that with her mentor, her mentor will need to be prepared for how to respond, always encouraging her mentee to be open and honest with her parents—even offering to go with her to speak to them. (If a church has an organized discipleship program with teens, it is important to have guidelines on what things a mentor should and must share with the teen’s parents. It’s also important that teens know in advance what those things are.)

5. To be encouraged through prayer.

Above all, a mentor can pray with and for teens. Prayer is a powerful and significant way we live out our union with Christ and with one another. It helps us learn to rely and depend upon our Father in heaven. Teens learn about prayer as they hear their mentor pray out loud. They are encouraged in knowing they are being prayed for. As you meet together with teens, your group can share the ways God has worked in each other’s life and respond in prayer and praise. Teens can commit to praying for each other during the week. As a mentor, your prayers can help shape the life and faith of teens.

A Common Need for the Gospel

I’ll admit it, I was intimidated by the thought of mentoring a group of teen girls. I was uncertain about how I would relate to them and wondered what I had to offer them. But after two years of discipling teen girls, I’ve learned that what they need most is something I am equipped to provide. Our common need for the gospel is a great equalizer. I may not know much about being a teen these days, but I do know who to turn to for refuge and help: Jesus.

About the Author

Christina Fox

Christina Fox is a speaker, writer, and author of several books includeing: Closer Than a Sister; Idols of a Mother’s Heart; and Sufficient Hope: Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Moms. She received her Masters in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University and serves on the PCA's national women's ministry team as the editor of their blog, enCourage.