How to Mentor Even if You’re an Introvert

mentoring for introvertsMy phone rang during class and I checked the number before stepping outside to answer it. “Yes?”

“I have Maria here in the office with me,” the principal said, “and she wants to know if you’d be her mentor.”

“Um, I guess so,” I answered inelegantly. “What does that involve?” Inside, I cringed at the thought of mentoring someone. I already had a calendar full of to-do lists. But when the principal asks AND he’s your husband, not to mention that Maria had requested me, I couldn’t refuse.

“Just meet with her once a week and see how she’s doing, having a mentor is part of her action plan after her experience this weekend.”

Ah, yes. Maria and a group of other students had been smoking weed. I breathed a prayer and tried to inject more enthusiasm into my voice. “Sure, I’ll act as her mentor.”

The inner, lazy, conflict-avoider part of my nature warred with the constraint of God. As an introvert who highly values her alone time, I had managed to stave off all requests for mentorship over the years. At the last school I worked at, the church ladies had an active mentoring program with the students at the school—but I used my daughters as an excuse (I didn’t want them to become jealous of my relationship with another teen girl).

But, with both girls out of the nest, I had lost my excuse.

When Maria showed up in class later that morning, she buzzed straight to me and exclaimed, “When will we meet?”

“Um, Wednesday afternoon or evening?” I asked.

I wracked my brain, wondering what in the world we would do and afraid that she would turn out to be one of those silent girls where every word extracted involves Novocain and sharp instruments. I prayed (ok, maybe whined), “Lord, you know I don’t have the emotional energy left at the end of the day to carry a conversation with a stranger. I can start off with a few questions, but I need Maria to grab the bit in her mouth and take off running.”

Wednesday loomed, and I still had no idea what to do. My tiny town doesn’t have a local Starbucks (nor do I feel comfortable feeding teenaged girls caffeine) or a mall or even a shopping center. It’s a one-move-a-week sort of town, and the hours are so limited I haven’t made it to the theatre yet in the four years we’ve lived here.

I needed to go grocery shopping and to the post office, though, so I met Maria after classes and she hopped in my car and off we went. I felt a little embarrassed that the extent of my creative mentoring abilities involved a trip to the market.

One question, that’s all it took. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” I asked. Like the proverbial racehorse, Maria chattered unhindered by me for the next 40 minutes while I got my mail and pushed a cart around Safeway.

God knows what he's doing-why do I ever doubt that? #mentoring Click To Tweet

God knows what he’s doing—why do I ever doubt it? I still don’t know how to be a mentor. I think I’m more of a ‘mentrovert’, but I know that if God called me, he’ll equip me. I do know he hasn’t called me to preach to Maria or point out her mistakes or the consequences of her actions. He has called me to come alongside her and listen to her stories.

So far, we’ve grocery shopped a few times and gone on a few long walks. I’m open to ideas! What about you? Have you ever mentored someone? What kinds of things did you do?

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • God does always know what God is doing. I’m a little Leary of mentoring too, but I know God will place the right individual in my path and it will all be goodl
    Tara recently posted…Easter AlleluiasMy Profile

  • Mentrovert – love it! I think you hit the nail on the head – no one wants to be preached to or have their faults pointed out. Sometimes we don’t have to speak as much as listen – undivided attention really goes a long way to someone who just wants to know they are seen and heard. I pray that God shows you exactly what Maria’s empty spaces are that need to be filled up.
    Tiffany recently posted…When You Wish it Could be EasyMy Profile

  • Oh, my.
    I’ve actually been thinking about this lately. Still homeschooling two of the boys, so I’ve got to be careful of time, but I’m also seeing that one on one time in the Word of God is what women need to grow forward and see how to do it for themselves.
    Praying praying praying.
    Michele Morin recently posted…Running the Race of FaithMy Profile

  • I have not been in a formal mentoring situation, either on the giving or receiving end. But there were a number of women I looked up to and observed. One in particular, after learning of my family situation (divorced non-Christian parents) told me, with her husband, that if I ever needed anything, even just to talk, to let them know. Then they started inviting me over to their house fairly often (they were hospitable and had a lot of people over regularly, so I didn’t feel like I was being singled out). I based most of my own thoughts about being a Christian wife, mom, and homemaker from observing her and counted her as my spiritual mom. So for me, “doing life together” – being together doing normal things and sharing in the process – works much better than a formal meeting where I am expected to bare my soul to someone just because they’re my official mentor. Not that the latter can’t ever work, but the former just appeals to me more, both as a mentor and a mentee (if that’s a word, LOL!)

    It’s neat how God paired you up with someone who sounds like the perfect person for you, someone who talks easily and openly. May those conversations lead to even more sharing and opportunities to lead her in God’s ways. I think you are wise to listen and get to know her first before instructing.
    Barbara H. recently posted…What’s On Your Nightstand: March 2016My Profile

    • How wonderful that God put that couple in your path to mentor you in a situation that exactly suited your needs! I’ll probably save my ‘instructing’ for when she’s in the classroom and I’m instructing the whole class at a time, and just keep building the relationship so that when she has quesitons or needs help, she has a safe person to talk to!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…National Nutrition Month Recipe RoundupMy Profile

  • ‘mentrovert.’ that’s cute. and pretty accurate!

    I think we’re mentoring online, that’s for sure.

    I really think that everyone needs a mentor. and everyone should be one.
    Linda Stoll recently posted…7 Marriage Pitfalls to Avoid Like the Plague ~ and the $40 Giveaway!My Profile

    • You know, I’d never thought about it before, but I think you’re right! We do mentor online–not one on one, but we are definintely building relationships and earning trust and learning how to do life from each other!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…National Nutrition Month Recipe RoundupMy Profile

  • Anita,
    I agree with you about how God equips when God calls us. And I think you gave her a wonderful gift: you listened to her talk. So few people/teens have a caring adult willing to simply listen and by listening to convey that she or he is important. Good for you 🙂
    Dolly@Soulstops recently posted…Why I’m still celebrating Easter joy – 8My Profile

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  • Thanks for being so honest, Anita. Going out of our comfort zone is SO hard! You will probably never know just how meaningful your listening ear and open heart is to this young girl… keep up the good work! You’re an encouragement to us all 🙂 Stopping by from Tell His Story.

  • Aww! I feel like you’re a great mentor. Maria is a lucky girl. 🙂