Coaching and Mentoring Vs. Grooming

Indian Rocks 2

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back I was watching my favorite show at the time, Unsolved Mysteries. This episode was about a young boy who was mentored by a young man. Since it was Unsolved Mysteries, where we’re often told to call the 1-800-876-5353 number to catch the bad guys, I was bracing myself for the turn in the story, when the man would harm the boy. That time never came. Instead the boy, grown, was using the show to find his mentor, to thank him for being such a great friend in his time of need. It turned out to be a heart warming story about an adult mentoring a child.

Sadly the media often shares the horror stories which have made a couple of my friends, both male and female, afraid to mentor children, even though they would make amazing mentors to worthy young people, like the boy in the Unsolved Mysteries story. The horror stories, sadly mostly true, that get passed from church to church, scare legitimate mentors away from helping children as well. They do not want their intentions to be misconstrued.

This week at school, I heard an excellent discussion about child safety, which mentioned grooming. Grooming is where an adult with ill intentions, over time gains the trust of a child, only to abuse that trust. During the talk, it occurred to me, exactly why some would-be great mentors refuse to mentor. Is it possible to them, mentoring and grooming look alike? After all Satan has to have his counterfeit for everything good. He knows how vitally important mentoring is, so he wants his counterfeit, grooming to look like mentoring. This gives him a double victory. He can destroy innocent lives through grooming, and make good people afraid to mentor for fear they will be considered groomers. As a matter of fact, before I started writing this, I Googled, “Mentoring and grooming,” and found this website saying that grooming and mentoring are synonyms! That gave me a hunch that I may be on to something.

So I thought it might be a good idea if potential mentors could have a clear picture of mentoring, and a clear picture of grooming, so they could tell them both apart. I realize I am not an authority on the subject, so I would like to paint a picture of both just to get the ball rolling, and hopefully some people a lot more skilled than I am can chime in and agree or disagree and add some insight. Here goes:

Mentoring: A coach works with a group of children and other adult coaches to give each child a sense of belonging to the group and community. When a particular child needs extra coaching, the parents and/or child approaches the coach, and the coach gives the extra one-on-one instruction on the group site, only as requested and needed. The goal of the coach is to get the child back into the group mainstream. The coach networks to get the child the help he/she needs. If Sally needs extra help memorizing her Sabbath School memory verse, the coach will share tips, like word associations, and then encourage other students and/or coaches to practice with Sally. The coach wants Sally to feel like she is a valued part of the community, and trains Sally to be a useful and healthy member of the group and community. Mentoring is community driven and social in nature.

Grooming: A coach meets a child in a group, but then isolates the child from the group, under the guise that the child needs extra and “special” training that only the coach can give. The coach may even claim that Sally should not be working with others, as she may become “confused” by the tips others may give along with the tips the coach provides. The coach wants Sally to feel like she is special when she is alone with the coach, instead of feeling special to the entire group. Instead of training Sally to be a healthy member of the group and community, the coach teaches Sally to rely on her/him and the special instruction only she/he can give. Grooming is one-on-one driven, and is isolating in nature.

I hope together, we can give a clear picture of what healthy mentoring looks like, as boys and girls can use, not one or two, but many positive male and female mentors in their lives. The more the merrier-and the healthier!

Mentoring the Youth on Common Ground

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Occasionally, the school where I teach a weekly Bible class will ask me to sub for the entire day. One day when I was assigned to teach for the entire day, a delightful but rambunctious boy, who had typical behavioral issues in the past, came up to me and promised he was not going to cause me any problems at all today. I believe he meant it with all his little heart, but before noon we were already making a trip to the principal’s office. The boy was in tears. His promise earlier that day was so sincere but how soon it was broken! The cause of his tears was not the trip to the office, but of a broken promise he made. He cried tears of shame, thinking because I was a teacher and he was a young boy that I would have no idea how he felt. But I did! I had to let him know I knew exactly how he felt. I know to well what its like to tell God how good I am going to be, only to let Him down by noon. The boy was surprised to learn I have cried the same tears he has. By sharing common ground I was able to mentor him and share how I have accepted Jesus’ forgiveness and trusted in His promises to be a little less rambunctious.

Several years ago, a teenage girl who had several tragedies in her life, started visiting our church with her parents. She was still trying to figure out who God was and who she was. Other kids started making fun of her blue hair and strange wardrobe, so she declared she was not coming back to this church! She went to the atrium, where she sat on a bench. Soon an elderly traditional and conservative elder came and sat beside her. Now you wouldn’t think an old man in a traditionally stuffy suit would have a chance to reach the heart of a teenage girl with blue hair, now would you? But this old man was from Vietnam and came to the United States as a teenage boy. He too was made fun of because of his cultural differences and even because of his religion. He explained to this young girl that he did not let people making fun of him stop him from coming to church, and told her not to let people making fun of her stop her either. So on that bench you had an elderly Vietnamese man in a stuffy grey suit, sitting next to an american teenage girl with blue hair as they talked about all the things they had in common. It was at the elderly man’s funeral that the mother of this young girl shared with me the difference he made in her life.

In Luke 1:39-45 Mary, a young teenage girl is getting ready to have a baby, as promised by the angel. She visits her much older cousin Elizabeth, who’s husband is high priest so they are probably around retirement age. This was before the days of “youth church” and “grown up church” when families worshiped together on common ground. While there was a vast age difference, being with child was the common bond between the two. Elizabeth’s age and wisdom was a comfort to young Mary, while Mary’s youth and vigor strengthened and comforted aging Elizabeth.

So it is today. The young still need the “old” and the “old still need the young. We all need each other to stay healthy, balanced and happy.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.