Youth in Focus

REVERSE MENTORING?

Oct 2011    

THE TERM “MENTORING” takes its name from the Greek classic, The Odyssey, in which the character “Mentor” becomes responsible for guiding Odysseus’ son, as the father goes off to war. The presence of an older, and possibly father-like, figure is often traditionally referred to as having a mentor. However, is this traditional view of mentoring outdated and antiquated?

The term “mentoring” has always been a little uncomfortable for me. I am a youth worker, and in the course of my work, I have had the great privilege of meeting and growing to love some remarkable youths. I guess, in a “work” definition, you could say that I mentor these youths. However, this definition of our relationship as “mentor-mentee” often puzzles me. Am I really an expert in the area of life?

Growing up, I belonged to a vibrant youth ministry. We had weekly cell meetings and over time, I grew to respect my cell group leader, who was five years older than me, and often looked to her for guidance and advice for both big and little things. While she began as an assigned cell group leader, our friendship and mutual respect for each other meant that our relationship was never confined to her guiding me. We shared our lives with each other and there were moments when I was able to guide her in situations where she found herself at a loss. This relationship, which began 15 years ago, continues to this day.

I guess the traditional definition of “mentoring” has always seemed a little too rigid for my liking. Surely a better way to define mentoring would be a mutual sharing of lives between two people?

Earl Creps, author of Reverse Mentoring, suggests that we need to look at mentoring in a different light. Too often we assume that older equates to wiser. While this is often true, we cannot disregard the fact that youths have a lot to offer, too. This idea of reverse mentoring has also caught on in the corporate world. For example, IT giant IBM actively encourages reverse mentoring amongst their executives.

Over the years, technology has developed exponentially. This has made a huge impact on our youth today. Not just in the way they communicate and express themselves, but more importantly, in the way they think and process information and situations. They are able to think outside the box that we “oldies” seem to reside in. Often, our experience in life hinders us rather than frees us to be creative.

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of co-leading a group of youth from our TRACKERS programme on a mission trip to Cambodia. Prior to the trip, I was extremely apprehensive, as it was my first-ever mission trip. Previous groups that had visited Cambodia had told us of the hardship involved – no air-conditioning, many mosquitoes, etc. I put on a brave face and told the group (affectionately known as “my kids”) that we were going to do God’s work and no matter what the conditions, we would persevere. However, secretly in my own moments with God, my prayers were mostly along the line of: “Lord, please let me not be the weakest link”!

On this trip to Cambodia, I was so blessed by my “kids”. They were just awesome! I learnt so many things from them. They were ready to love and give of themselves with such abandon. There were no complaints of the heat or the arduous work. Instead, they were open to doing things that they would not normally have the opportunity to do in Singapore. During the trip, whenever anything unexpected got thrown at us, they faced it head-on and used all the resources made available to them to do the best they could. While I went to Cambodia as their mentor, I truly felt that they mentored me in many ways too.

Reverse mentoring changes something within us. It helps us step aside to let humility invade, making space for a new approach. When we make ourselves available to form genuine relationships that are not based on age or position, we abandon our pride and presumptions, thus helping us learn new things about each other and ourselves.

CHURCH DIARY

2011 Hokkien Gospel Sunday

Bring your loved ones to hear the Gospel in Hokkien.
Oct 30 (Sunday), 10 am
Venue: Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Church, Level 4 Sanctuary
Speaker: Rev Oh Beng Kee (Retired pastor, former Chairman of “Celebrate Christmas In Singapore”) Enquiries: Call 6286-7243/
email plcmc@singnet.com.sg/ website www.plcmc.org.sg

On ‘Hearing God’s Voice’

Learn how to hear God’s Voice through prophetic word, dreams and visions, through Scriptures and through one’s life journey.
Nov 12 (Saturday), 8.30 am to 5 pm Venue: Bedok Methodist Church Speakers: Rev Vincent Goh, Rev Edmund de Souza, Rev Peter Koh, Dr Tan Tee Khoon and others Cost: $15
Registration: Website www.bmc.org.sg/ email Joshua at equip@bmc.org.sg

Between Evangelism and Multiculturalism

Talk on the dynamics of Christianity in Indonesia.
Oct 30 (Sunday), 11.30 am to 1 pm Venue: The Unfailing Light, 49 Cuff Road
Speaker: Dr Hoon Chang-Yau (Assistant Professor of Asian Studies, SMU School of Social Sciences) Enquiries: Call Evelyn at 6293-7997/ email evelyn@kkmc.org.sg

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