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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