Monday, March 23, 2015

A great new book on Listening

Lynne Baab's excellent book came out last year, and in July I wrote a review of it for a local minister's journal. Somehow it never got published, but the book is such a great resource for mentors I decided to post it here:

“Listen carefully; speak gently”. These words of advice are Rev Dr Lynne Baab’s gift to her readers as she guides us through a comprehensive examination of the power of listening in human relationships and faith communities. Baab, who teaches pastoral theology at Otago University, introduces her findings from over sixty in-depth interviews in a blend of academic insights and practical theology, and offers suggestions as to how we can more effectively listen to each other and to God.
The usual applications of listening skills to effective pastoral care and thoughtful Bible study are covered well, but Baab takes us deeper by examining how listening contributes to effective mission and ministry. In a chapter on congregational decision-making, she writes about churches characterised by a culture of discernment, where:
“Listening to God is emphasised in sermons, practised at meetings, modelled by....leaders and encouraged for all members.” P 75.
Our own church is focussing on faith conversations this year, so this book arrived at a time of personal openness to new wisdom in matters of listening and communication. Like many congregations today, we are seeking to make authentic connections with people in church and neighbourhood through sensitive listening to, and respect for, individual stories. Baab makes a realistic assessment of the impact of culture and technology on efforts to communicate in today’s society, and offers thorough and practical explanation of ways listening enhances relationships with God and others. “Listening”, she says, “honours each person’s journey.” (p49)
Captivating notions such as “double listening”, “holy curiosity” and “listening as hospitality” are well-explained, and grounded in both theory and example. The familiar roadblocks to communication are helpfully reframed as ‘obstacles to empathy’. Baab’s  illustrations of how anxiety and humility impact good listening are memorable; I often felt like I was looking in a mirror as she named my own experiences of listening and hearing. Chapter 8, “The Listening Toolbox” is a succinct and evocative guide that could well be published separately as a useful parish training resource.
I appreciated the way each chapter is linked with others in the book; this integration is explicit and helps the reader navigate the oceans of engaging information.  Connections are made with relevant literature and research, as well as with Baab’s other books, such as her  exploration of spiritual practices in congregations,  Joy Together (2012).  Her academic background in communication studies comes through clearly, but not in an intimidating way; the whole book is very inviting and readable. Writing about spiritual practices and authenticity, she says:
“(These practices) indicate our willingness to listen, to abide and to be available to whatever God is doing in our situation…fasting communally makes possible rich conversations about (addictive) habits,   and powerful prayers about how to respond. Those conversations and prayers nurture authenticity.  Praying using the body in various ways  also nurtures authenticity because the body, soul and spirit are united and we approach God with our whole selves. Contemplative prayer encourages authenticity because we draw near to God with our inner being. When communities engage in spiritual practices together, members are able to talk with each other.. .. this feels real and honest, building trust that God does empower those who open themselves.”  (p 104)
The questions at the end of each chapter are designed for individuals rather than groups; they range ‘deep and wide’ and offer valuable reflection points for a workshop or retreat. Adapting them for group study would be an excellent way to plumb further depths of this material.
A few minor criticisms – some typos early in the book were distracting and the absence of an index was surprising. The role of listening in relation to charismatic gifts might have widened the audience, and as a minister I would have liked even more specific coverage of how congregations have exercised discernment as part of their decision-making. That said, l enjoyed this book and would recommend it to a wide audience; certainly one for the church library (but leaders can buy it on Kindle!)

Baab, L. (2014). The Power of Listening: Building Skills for Mission and Ministry. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. (around NZ $20.00 plus postage from Amazon, $12.00 on Kindle).

Saturday, July 12, 2014

20. Structures that Support

The useful concluding session on community resources which can support a mentoring programme is one that will differ according to context. In Auckland we approached it as a conversation, naming places, people and resources in our two local communities as well as in the wider city. Careful setting of boundaries and appropriate referrals  to counsellors, marriage guidance, doctors, mental health services, and addiction support groups contribute to robust mentoring and self-care of the mentor themselves. 

A mentor cannot be expert in every area. At times they will need to encourage the mentoree in seeking help for themselves. Depending on the stage of the mentoring cycle, the mentor may tell them what to do, or support them as they explore options for themselves.  Simply telling them to go to a GP may suffice, or there may be a need for a diagnosis such as depression, where a mental health service may come in to the picture. Where illegal activities are identified, a wise mentor will seek professional help from police or addiction services; don’t try to handle stuff that is beyond your capacity. 

1) Referrals where the situation is too complex - look for support structures in the community. 
2) There may be experienced professionals or support structures in your church who can offer help. Think about these: 

3) Peer Support is also a  form of referral;
Whenever you are referring personally, make sure you get permission, and maintain appropriate  confidentiality.

4) Supporting Yourself
Caring for others can feel like an endless task, and mentorees can be very draining people. Its important to realise that if you give out too much without opportunity for replenishment,  you will be the one who hits rock bottom. So how do we look after ourselves?
 - have a mentor yourself or a partner soul friend.
 - debrief difficult issues with a pastoral supervisor - your church can recommend one
 - keep clear boundaries, eg no late night phone calls 
 - space your mentor meetings
 - monitor your sleep time
 - pray or meditate
 - laugh
 - have  a relaxing bath or go for a walk in nature 
 - identify your own warning lights.

Quote of the Day: 
 “In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.” 
Dalai Lama

What are your warning lights? 
Who do you talk to about them?

Godshaped Mentoring is the site where Rev Viv records material shared in the Mentor Training events held in a partnership between two Baptist Churches in Auckland New Zealand in 2012 - 2014. The blog has been set up to ensure people who missed some aspect of of the training can catch up on the themes covered and skills taught, and so we can add insights and feedback as the programme takes shape. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

19. Writing a Mentoring Covenant

A very important component of our 2013 mentor training was a collaborative exercise of drafting a mentoring covenant. The Biblical concept of covenant was used rather than the commercial paradigm of a contract because we wanted to emphasise the grace and commitment that undergirds our work as mentors. We asked these questions:
How will we behave in the mentoring relationship? 
What needs to be made explicit at the outset?  
Small groups shared ideas which were presented in form of a poster illustrating agreed values/expectations. Themes that came up in the groups ranged from punctuality and privacy, to confidentiality and contact outside the sessions. 

We also looked at a few ideas from other programmes

Mentor and Mentoree 
I will make time for you and invite you into my life. I will be authentic with you. I will not try to say or do the “right” thing just because I think it is what you want to hear or to see. I will be who God has called me to be in your life. I will share my life experiences, opinions, hopes, fears, joys, doubts and dreams with you. I will be honest with you, even when I don’t have answers to your questions. I will help you understand how I see the world.  I will affirm you. I will support you in your endeavors. I will encourage you to explore who God is calling you to be. I will not always understand everything you do or say, but I will try to be respectful of who you are and how you express yourself. I will listen to what you have done in your life, see how it has shaped you and take seriously the lessons you have learned. I will listen to you without judging you. I will seek to understand you. 
 Together we will create a relationship based on the love of Christ for us as God’s  children. We will teach each other, be open to each other and be patient with each other. We  will work together at navigating life and remembering who we are as unique individuals claimed, called, and sent by God....  We will open and close our time together with prayer. 

I believe that growth occurs in an atmosphere of honesty. 
Therefore, I will be completely honest with those that I mentor. 
I believe that with mentoring, comes the responsibility to live my life with integrity. 
Therefore, in word and deed, I will conduct myself with integrity. 
I believe that to truly help others, is to truly care about their well being. 
Therefore, as a Mentor, I will seek to make the well being of ..... my top priority. 
I believe that commitment is the foundation that meaningful relationships are built upon. 
Therefore, I will not quit. I will work with .... until our work is completed. 
I believe that open and timely communication is essential to the Mentoring process. 
Therefore, I will provide appropriate feedback and input. 
I believe that goals are essential to the Mentoring process. 
Therefore, I will work with ..... to help establish goals and walk alongside them as each goal is fulfilled. 
I believe that consistency develops trust in relationships. 
Therefore, I agree to fulfill the agreements that I establish with those that I mentor. 
I believe that confidentiality is important to the sanctity of the Mentor/Mentee relationship. 
Therefore, the information that I am privileged to will remain confidential, unless otherwise stated by the mentee. 
I believe that there are seasons and stages in each person’s life. 
Therefore, I will travel alongside .... as long as the need exists. However, I am committed to respecting and recognizing the day when they are no longer in need of my services and I will celebrate with them as they realize their full potential. 
 I believe that trust and transparency are developed within an environment of honor and respect. Therefore, I will respect and honor .... time and other commitments by keeping all scheduled meetings, phone calls, and appointments with my Group unless an unavoidable and/or unanticipated personal emergency or illness occurs. 
Sincerely __________________ Date____________

And here is one from a Georgia church, with a more explicitly Christian purpose. 

Those who participate in Re:new are required to: 
1. Attend all sessions.  
2. Be on time. 
3. Have a desire for knowing Christ and for growing to maturity in Him, because our mentoring model is based on this—and does not primarily involve behaviour modification and do's and don'ts. The spiritual focus is on change of the PERSON from the inside out.  
4. Understand that behavioral changes such as communication skills, problem-solving techniques, and anger management strategies will not be considered the solution to your problems.  
5. Expect your personal healing and peace not to depend on your circumstances or spouse or another person changing. Your fulfillment and freedom from emotional pain is to be found only  
in your understanding God’s grace, and your identity in Christ, and in pursuing an intimate relationship with Him.  
6. Weekly homework such as reading, writing, listening to CDs and/or viewing DVDs, doing relational exercises, or all of the above may involve an hour or more per week. Come to a session with homework completed as assigned. This is because in the mentoring process, each session builds upon the previous session and upon the homework. Homework will be an integral part of the change process. Mentoring will not be effective if the homework is not accomplished.  
7. Participate in mentoring not because a spouse or another person is expecting it, but because you have a desire for personal change through knowing Christ.  The purpose of mentoring is not to change another person with whom you are in relationship. 
CONFIDENTIALITY: All communications between the care receiver and the mentor are confidential. Such information will not be released to anyone, including other agencies, without your written consent. However, Georgia State Law requires that the mentor report to the appropriate authorities any suspect sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect or serious threat of physical harm to self or others. In addition, if a court orders the mentor to testify, the mentor must do so. Other exceptions would be if it were necessary to consult with a supervisor or colleague regarding recommendations for treatment. In the event of a medical emergency, emergency medical professionals will be contacted immediately. 
SESSION LENGTH: The sessions last for an hour. 
LATE APPOINTMENTS: It is necessary to be prompt for your session. The mentor will wait 20 minutes for a care receiver. However, if the care receiver arrives late, only the remainder of the 60 minutes scheduled will be utilized. 
CANCELLATIONS: Regular attendance will produce maximum benefit. However if you must cancel, please phone your mentor at least 24 hours in advance of your scheduled appointment. Services may be discontinued if there are two no- shows of scheduled appointments. Your cooperation in this regard will be greatly appreciated. 
1. You have the right to decide not to enter mentoring. 
2. You have the right to end mentoring at any time. 
3. You have the right to ask questions at any time about what we do during mentoring. 
4. You have the right to privacy except where a mentor is legally bound to break confidentiality. 
I have read and understand the conditions of participating as a care receiver in re:new mentoring, and I agree to the expectations listed above. 

Name ...................                                                                            Date............

As you can see the variety is rich and the contexts differ. The important thing is that  these expectations are discussed and documented in some way. Give it a try!

Quote of the Day:

MENTOR: A seasoned, called, and committed godly Christian leader who wants to apply the Biblical principle of investing in the next generation as found in 2 Timothy 2:2. They know that real life change occurs within the context of community. They understand the importance of keeping their own personal edge sharp, and that a great way to do so is by building relationships with the next generation of leaders. They are willing to invest 4 to 6 hours each month in themselves, and in others. They want an opportunity to "give back" and are serious about establishing their "legacy" by passing along what they have learned and experienced. 

What would be the core values you would want to specify in a mentoring agreement? 
What would you not want to specify? 

Godshaped Mentoring is the site where Rev Viv records material shared in the Mentor Training events held in a partnership between two Baptist Churches in Auckland New Zealand in 2012 - 2014. The blog has been set up to ensure people who missed some aspect of of the training can catch up on the themes covered and skills taught, and so we can add insights and feedback as the programme takes shape. 

18. A Suggested Mentoring Template

Godshaped Mentoring is the site where Rev Viv records material shared in the Mentor Training events held in a partnership between two Baptist Churches in Auckland New Zealand in 2012 - 2014. The blog has been set up to ensure people who missed some aspect of of the training can catch up on the themes covered and skills taught, and so we can add insights and feedback as the programme takes shape. 

The first couple of times we meet with a potential mentoree, the agenda  will be building rapport, and will be determined by details such as how well you  already know each other. You will develop rapport by asking an open question like 'Tell me about yourself', and identify expectations by asking 'How do you think I can help you?' Then if everything looks positive you will agree on a time frame and how you will keep track of issues, eg through reflective writing in a mentoring journal. 

However in on-going sessions it might be useful to have a template to follow, so focus is maintained and time is used efficiently. The  one we used in our training programme is a blend of several I’ve looked at, and it is only a guide; you can work out what is best in your own context. The name, given first by our mentoring champion John Mallison, is a bit cheesy; its called the GLADWRAP template because it is intended to wrap around and protect. I've amended his version but the basic intention is the same.

a) Greet - using the person's name acknowledges their identity, and boosts self-esteem. Make sure you know the name they want you to use and how pronounce it correctly. Remember that the person's name is a part of who they are. Using their name is like handling the person, so be careful with it.
b) Listen/share problems - ask how has it gone since you last met, "what's on top?", what needs attention. Watch body language, and note if it doesn’t match their words.
c) Affirm - give some positive feedback on what has been shared, looking for evidence of their strengths and encouraging them about anything positive they have achieved.
d) Decide attention/agenda – decide if you will continue with an issue already introduced or if there is something new the mentoree wants to bring. This helps keep to time, and ensures the meeting is focussed on what they want to work on. As time goes on the mentoree will develop their skill in knowing what they want to talk about.
e) Work/Time – at the very least you will want to talk about two key aspects of daily life, how they spend their time (which may or may not be in paid employment) and who they regularly connect with. Some mentorees will need leading questions to draw them out on these two areas. The first one could include matters like finding your passion/gifts, as well as practical issues like going for a job interview or studying for an exam.
f) Relationships – this second aspect could include family of origin, marriage or romance, work colleagues and bosses, church family and clubs/hobbies. Where connection is causing stress or concern is more important than where things are going smoothly.
g) Action Plan – identifying various options and choosing where to start. If you can think of something they didn’t come up with, offer it cautiously, eg 'have you thought about …', 'is there anything you could you do differently…..?' The key is to get a commitment to their own goals, not some imposed by you. You can also agree on an interim goal for the time between meetings. Preferred activities can be made dependent on lesser preferred, eg no Facebook until homework done, do dishes before TV. Some example goals are - Get Fit, Get Help, Treat Yourself.
h) Prayer/God factor - your own attitude of prayer before and after the meeting is important, but within the meeting, as discussed in Post 8, you need to handle this one sensitively.  It is better to pray silently if you aren’t sure. But there may also be your chance to model a simple conversational prayer style that will demonstrate spiritual authenticity. One youth group videoed themselves  in an amusing but frighteningly life-like demonstration of  How Not to Pray for Someone

The STRENGTHS  acronym in the peer support resource by Cynthia Mellon (p 73) gives eight headings that could also be used:
  1. Share problems, 
  2. Think Positively, 
  3. Relax Body and Mind, 
  4. Express Emotions, 
  5. Note Past Successes, 
  6. Get Fit, Treat Yourself, 
  7. Help Others 
  8. Get Help

Three kinds of questions will elicit reflection:
  • Response Questions - what do you think? How do you feel?
  • Action Questions – what are you going to  do next?
  • Spiritual questions – where is God in this?
Finally, don't be afraid of periods of silence during the conversation. "Being silent while the other is talking gives assurance of love and acceptance and a sense of warmth and dignity. It facilitate openness and trust. Silence allows the speaker to gather their thoughts, to regain composure, to reflect, and to be aware of your supportive presence. It has equal benefit for the listener. Love is often most real in silence." (Mallison, Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders, 2004, p 135)
Quote of the Day: 
"Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be." 
(Eric Parsloe, The Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring 

If spoken prayer was not appropriate with your mentoree, 
how else could you finish a session? 
Why is a clear end point needed? 

17. Goal Setting and Strengths

A mentoring relationship is a great context for helping a mentoree with setting their goals and determining concrete steps towards fulfilling them. Making our goals explicit helps us achieve them. In a study of Yale University graduates, the small percentage of the class who had written goals at the outset of their study course accomplished more than all the other class members combined (from John Maxwell’s Mentoring 101). But the goals have to be achievable; our training group looked at a New Year video that reminded us about setting goals that are relevant and realistic. 

We reviewed the SMART goals paradigm that was created by George Doran  in 1981. Although Doran had five specific meanings to his acronym, today there are a myriad helpful, and sometimes unhelpful,  definitions of SMART: 

S Specific, Significant, Stretching, Simple
M Measurable, Motivational, Manageable, Meaningful
A Achievable, Agreed, Assignable, Actionable, Adjustable, Aligned, Aspirational, 
R Relevant, Result-Based, Results-oriented, Resourced, Resonant, Realistic
T Timely, Time-oriented, Time-Specific, Timetabled, Trackable, Tangible

Goal-setting is an important feature of a mentoring relationship, say the Big Brother/Big Sister organisations. They have documented the power of a mentor to create opportunities for youth to become successful in school, improve peer relations, and make healthier choices (Tierney, Grossman and Resch, 1995). Goal setting is the pathway to making that kind of difference.  Mentors can use goal setting strategies that deploy existing strengths and values to help mentorees achieve their dreams and hopes.  We had looked at personal strengths in an earlier module, when we discovered these unique configurations of "Talent + Knowledge + Skills" can be used as a source of encouragement, the core of good mentoring, But they are also important resources for helping individuals achieve their personal, academic, and short- and long-term goals. 

The Ongoing Training resource  we have referred to already in this mentoring programme offers a six step paradigm and a goal-setting worksheet (p50 - 53) for using strengths to promote goals: 

Step 1. Defining Strengths
The first step in this model is to define personal strengths. Ask the mentoree what are the qualities, skills, and characteristics that they would define as your strengths? What abilities do they bring that could be a  foundation for future success? Many goal-setting workshops ask participants to identify four strengths, writing each one on a corner of a sheet of card.

Step 2. Envisioning the Future
The step helps us see goal setting within the bigger picture. Ask the mentoree what their ideal future looks like. How do they want to be living in 10 or 20 years? What do they want to achieve in the long term? Thinking long term will help them gain insights into what they  truly value. This will help them connect short-term goals with long-term dreams. Some workshops use "time travel" or "funeral eulogy" exercises to help with this.

Step 3. Goals for Action
Having reflected on their personal strengths and vision for the long-term future, help them choose three to five short-term goals that will help move them toward that long-term vision. 

Step 4. Concrete Tasks
Identify some specific and concrete activities they can start doing now, as a foundation for achieving these goals. Describe each activity and set a date by which they plan to accomplish it. If it is a recurring activity, describe how often they will do it (e.g., daily, monthly).

Step 5. Problem-Planning
Next think about potential barriers in achievement of the goal. What might get in the way of success?  Procrastination, Confusion, Fear, and Low Self-Esteem are examples. What preventive steps can be taken to prepare for these obstacles? For each goal write down the "Date to be accomplished" and any "preventive step" they will take.

Step 6. Reflection
At intervals in the goal-achievement timetable spend time reflecting on how specific activities have worked out, keeping in mind the Kolb learning cycle we looked at in another module. What worked and didn’t work? What has been learned? Have the goals changed, or do they need to? How have they changed since working on your goals? This provides opportunity for specific encouragement. Remember the heart of mentoring is to enable the mentoree to find their own strength to meet their goals. 

The chapter also suggests an interactive way to clarify the importance of goals with younger mentorees:
Together build a tower out of newspaper and masking tape or pins and straws.  
Ask the mentoree to define the goals for what the tower will look like. 
How tall will it be? How wide will it be? What will it look like? 
Discuss ways they can apply this activity to their own life. 

Quote of the Day:
What is the worst goal-setting mistake? What I call ‘goal setting by menu.’ Imagine you have gone to a restaurant and the waiter presents you with the menu. You look at all the lovely options and think; ‘Oooo, I fancy a bit of that, followed by a load of this and finished off with a great big dollop of that.’ And this is often the approach people take when setting goals – just randomly picking something that has caught their attention that seems a good idea at the time.....
When you set goals in this random way, they may not deliver the the results you really want. This is because they are not chosen based on what you have identified is MOST important. To avoid this goal-setting mistake, first create a compelling vision of what your ideal outcome looks like, based on your core values. Make sure your goals are based on that.

When did you last do a personal goal-setting exercise? 
Why not try a letter to your "seven-years-from-now" self to clarify what you want? 

Godshaped Mentoring is the site where Rev Viv records material shared in the Mentor Training events held in a partnership between two Baptist Churches in Auckland New Zealand in 2012 - 2014. The blog has been set up to ensure people who missed some aspect of of the training can catch up on the themes covered and skills taught, and so we can add insights and feedback as the programme takes shape. 

16. Boundaries for Mentoring

A “boundary,” says the dictionary, is “something that indicates or fixes a limit or an extent",  that holds something else either in or out. For example, a woman may have a boundary to only hold hands on a first date. Or a backyard fence creates a boundary to keep our kids and pets safe.   

An illustration: 
Renovations were being done at an intermediate school.  The tall fences that surrounded the playing area were taken down in preparation for replacement the following week.  Typically, the kids would play right out to the fence line, but after the fence was taken down, the kids stayed in the central part of the play area and would not venture within twenty feet of the old boundary. 
Children and adults feel safe when they know exactly what is expected of them 
and where the boundaries are.

One mentor trainer says “boundaries are like safety cones; they tell us why we’re both here and what we’re supposed to be doing together.” Setting boundaries helps us delineate important distinguishing characteristics that set a mentor’s role apart from that of a clinician, peer, or friend.

To start this module of our mentor training, we clarified together what the task of a mentor is and isn’t. 
We noted a mentor is:
1. Not a counsellor, although many of us may use counselling  skills (such as paraphrasing) 
2. Not a psychotherapist, though over time our conversations may dig deep into the past and enable healing
3. Not a preacher, although faith and spirituality may inform our understanding
4. Not a social worker, although we may be of considerable help in setting goals and forming action plans for addressing social problems.

Although a boundary can be clearly marked by a wall or a road, it is never entirely clear exactly where one area ends and the other begins. In a similar way, when we use the word boundaries to describe limits and rules in relationships, some honest judgement is needed to decide which behaviours "cross the line." We offered ideas of times when we need to hand over or let go, for example when there is a medical problem. or when the person is becoming aggressive or clingy. A future post will look at referral, but this module looked at the wider issues of boundaries in the mentoring context. 

For boundaries to be effective they need to be applied on a consistent and ongoing basis.  What issues might present a boundary concern for a mentor?  Examples of two commonly-agreed boundaries are:
  • CONFIDENTIALITY - we agree that we will not share information with anyone else, unless safety is an issue, in which case we will tell the mentoree that this is going to happen.
  • TOUCHING – we agree that hugging is inappropriate but that we can use words or signs such as highfives to communicate love and acceptance.
John Mallison notes that caring Christians can find boundaries confusing.  They feel God calls us to a sacrificial attitude that always puts the other first. But Paul says there is a balance here: ‘Bear one another’s burdens’ (Gal 6:2)  and ‘all should carry their own loads’ (Gal 6:5).    ‘Burden’ - beyond our normal ability to carry.  ‘Load’ - what is manageable. The mentor needs to note what is manageable for themselves as well as the load the mentoree can carry. What are the signs to look out for?  A US-based mentoring initiative for high school students says in its 'Ongoing Training' manual that "When I  am feeling angry, used, violated, drained, or thinking about walking away from the relationship," I should consider whether my boundaries may be being violated. 

How do we prevent that from happening? Its good to decide what boundaries are important to you before the mentoring match begins,  and certainly before being confronted with a difficult situation. Although we all need boundaries, that US mentoring resource notes they are particularly important for youth who:
    i) Come from chaotic and unpredictable environments
    ii) Have been the victims of abuse
    iii) Have to take care of the adults in their lives and as a result have not had their own needs met.
The 'Ongoing Training' manual gives some ideas of specific areas where boundaries are important (the first five are from a youth mentoring context):
  1. Money: How will I respond if on an outing my mentoree asks me to buy him/her something? How would I feel if my mentoree’s family requests help with their finances?
  2. Behaviour: What will do if my mentoree uses foul language, mistreats others, steals, or is disrespectful of me during one of our meetings?
  3. Self-disclosure: How will I respond if my mentoree asks me about my previous experience with sex, drug use, past relationships, or other personal issues?
  4. Time: How much time do I feel comfortable spending with my mentoree on a weekly/monthly basis?  Am I comfortable receiving phone calls at work?  How late is too late to receive a phone call (or too early)? What would I do if my mentoree does not show up?
  5. Working with Parents/Caregivers:  How will I respond if a parent offers a “laundry list” of complaints about their child or starts sharing deeply about their own problems?
  6. Spiritual Advice: How will I respond if my mentoree asks me to advise them about an ethical or theological issue, eg can I sleep with my boyfriend? Or shall I change churches?
Cynthia Mellon, whose out-of-print book on life skills we have used already, notes a good boundaries question to ask, explicitly, or just in your own mind: “Who owns the problem?"  A way to test that is to ask "Is this problem hurting me directly or stopping my needs being met?" Think for example of working with a teen who has taken up smoking. I may regard it as a poor choice but is it hurting me directly or stopping my needs being met? If the answer is No, then I do not own the problem and will need to find ways of helping that leave responsibility firmly with the actions of the mentoree. We need, says Mallison (p 120)  to avoid becoming a perpetual rescuer. There are consequences to all our actions - good or bad, helpful or unhelpful,  joyful or sorrowful. Rescuing only reinforces irresponsible behaviour.  Mentors help their mentorees take responsibility for their lives.  

We looked at this helpful flow chart from Mellon's book: 
The reference to the acronym STRENGTH will be covered in a future post, but it includes Share (problems) and Note (past successes) which we have already covered, as well as others like Get Fit. The National Mentoring Center says "planning in advance will help prevent being caught off guard and it will also help you rehearse your desired response. However, you can and should make adjustments to your relationship as necessary. It is better to adjust a boundary than to walk away from a relationship.Communicate honestly and raise the boundary question in a way that honours your needs without blaming or shaming your mentoree.

Remember that  if we are not sure how to respond to a situation, we can offer to take time to think about it. Finding a way to respond that protects the well-being of the mentoring relationship is paramount. And we can seek support do not have to do this alone. Consult and be accountable. Discuss  any boundaries issues with trusted others. Know your own limitations and  act as a bridge to specialised resources.

Here is a summary from Mallison's mentoring seminar:
  • Be available - within reason
  • Keep confidences
  • Avoid excessive intimacy - Codes of Ethics apply
  • Don’t try to force mentorees into your own mould
  • Allow others their freedom to develop God’s way
So in summary boundaries mean we need to know  what is our task and what isn’t, when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’. Boundaries help us take control of our lives. 

Quote of the Day: 

"Without the important first step of setting boundaries, mentorees run the risk of lumping the valuable gift of a mentor’s time in with more casual friendships (we know this is happening when we receive emails or phone calls that begin with “hey girl” or “hey bro - what’s up?”)  Mentorees require the guidance of boundaries in order to be able to use the partnership for the purposes for which it was formed. Using a mentor’s time to chat, gossip, vent, or otherwise connect socially serves neither partner well, and all but negates the singular value a mentoring partnership can provide.

But when a mentoring partnership is formed with a clear purpose and goal that both partners agree upon, and when clear communication boundaries exist, there is literally no limit to how transformative and supportive a mentoring partnership can be."
(Shannon Cutts in Mentoring Basics: Boundaries)

What did you immediately think of when the topic of boundaries was raised? 
On reflection what do you think that response was about?

Godshaped Mentoring is the site where Rev Viv records material shared in the Mentor Training events held in a partnership between two Baptist Churches in Auckland New Zealand in 2012 and 2013. The blog has been set up to ensure people who missed some aspect of of the training can catch up on the themes covered and skills taught, and so we can add insights and feedback as the programme takes shape. 

15. Stages of the Mentoring Cycle

The mentoring life cycle has been described (Hay, Transformational Mentoring,  1995) as having four definable stages, including orientation, nurturing/honeymoon stage, maturing/developing independence stage, and at some time the ending stage. These seasons will influence the questions/themes of the interviews.  It is important for volunteer mentors to recognise the stage they are in and use it to plan the session.  The relationship is not a life sentence and it will come to an end at some stage; optimum timing is thought to be q 12 - 24 months, certainly at least 6 months and not more than 3 years. It is good to agree this beforehand, maybe a three month trial to start, review after 12 months and continue only for another 12 months. Erikson's work on identity found long term mentorees fall out with their mentors in their mid thirties. Why? Because there is a natural life cycle to these things, and people change and grow. There needs to be an endpoint.
Tasks of a mentor differ at each stage of the process: 
1) Beginning. Set the scene – agree the purpose, frequency, and managing boundaries like confidentiality. Discover shared interests and opinions. Identify that there will be differences and that's okay. Talk about hope and expectations. Draw up  a contract or covenant. Agree on time boundaries. Clarify if others will be involved. Recognise nervousness, or uncertainty by structuring semi-formal exercises such a 5 minute life stories or sets of three questions. Be genuine, caring, and open.  Not much work or guidance will happen yet. Bonding and rapport are more important.

2) Growing and developing. Time is given to mentoree telling a more detailed life story. Use crayons to graph life stages, and portray their story. This stage is much more about the mentoree than the mentor; plans and objectives will come from them. Listening and questioning skills will draw them out and begin to identify the real needs; make your conclusions explicit to test out their accuracy.   Friendship  and trust is developing as well as a level of dependence., although there may also be some testing and challenging.  Difficult emotions may emergePlanned friendship activities will be helpful. 

3) Maturity. The key work is done at this stage, because trust and understanding are well established, and you can implement plans to address needs. Setting weekly expectations will establish accountability, but also encourage your mentoree to become independent by working out these for themselves. Use good probing questions, and appropriate self disclosure now that the mentoree has a good sense of self in your presence. Now you are trusted and known more deeply, your experience and suggestions count. They will increasingly be able to decide what to take and what to leave behind. Be realistic about whether the goals envisioned earlier are being met. Use affirmation and encouragement to celebrate growth, even when some aspirations are not yet fulfilled. Maybe some will be consciously relinquished, eg educational goals that prove unreachable. Hanging out can be a helpful friendship activity here.

4) Winding up. This will have been flagged right from the start. Signposts for it include a sense of closure, and the realisation that needs have been met, or that they don't look like they will be. Not every mentor match is highly successful, but if the relationship ends sooner than expected by the mentor, they should seek some support from a fellow mentor to process understandable emotions. There needs to be honesty about what has been helpful and some closing action or ritual used to mark the finish. Strategies for future problem solving should have been identified along the way but they can be reiterated. 

Quote of the Day:
"Did you know that most of the world’s population never travels more than 100 miles from where they were born in their whole lifetimes? One of the wonderful things about our lives is that they are so multifaceted; we get to travel through time and space in so many ways that we are almost living multiple existences. School, church, sports, hobbies; each component exposes us to a universe of individuals and experiences not possible in the not too distant past.We see more, do more, and pack more into a year than previous generations and individuals from other cultures cover in a lifetime. That’s the good news.
But there is a down side. All this opportunity takes us away from many relationships that in earlier times might have lasted a lifetime. One result is that we all are faced with the experience of closure."
Judy Strother Taylor.

Recall a relationship you have had that ended well.  
Why do you feel it was a good ending? 
Now think about one that wasn't so positive. 
What could have made it a more helpful transition?

Godshaped Mentoring is the site where Rev Viv records material shared in the Mentor Training events held in a partnership between two Baptist Churches in Auckland New Zealand in 2012 a - 2014. The blog has been set up to ensure people who missed some aspect of of the training can catch up on the themes covered and skills taught, and so we can add insights and feedback as the programme takes shape.