What is a Mentor and What is Spiritual Mentoring?

What is a mentor in the TLC program? A mentor is often understood as a person who is a "spiritual encourager." A mentor is able to live out before a mentee what it means to be a Christian in the world today. A mentor should challenge a mentee to do the same. This partnership begins while the mentee is still incarcerated and continues upon his or her release.

Tough questions are asked of the mentee in holding them accountable to what God needs to do in their life. In many respects a great mentor is not a friend nearly as much as he or she is someone who inspires others to be all that God wants the mentee to be even if it means being tough sometimes. The greatest gift given to a mentee is the direction they receive through guidance in their relationship with God.

Spiritual mentoring is the process of giving help by one person of faith to another. Mentors help individuals who are striving to grow in personal awareness, communication, and intimacy with God so they can live out that relationship in the world.

In the context of the TLC program, residents are seeking someone who can help them deepen their awareness of God. They are looking for someone who can be a sounding board to help them process their lives in relationship to what God wants for them. Mentoring is not a time of preaching or lecturing the mentee, but a time of exploring God’s Word for answers to life struggles such as moral character, social adjustment, coping with incarceration, criminal mentality, life controlling problems, relationships, emotional and psychological-spiritual issues.

The process of spiritual mentoring usually involves regular sessions on Monday nights focused on the mentees relationship with God as it is reflected and challenged by all aspects of his or her life. Sessions last approximately two hours, in which mentors may question, challenge, suggest, support, and reflect on whatever they sense the Holy Spirit is directing them to explore.

At Alaska Correctional Ministries, spiritual mentors are open to God, practice times of solitude and silence in prayer, and hopefully receive regular spiritual mentoring from someone else. Mentors should maintain an attitude of openness to God for their own spiritual life and openness to the Spirit of God in others. We try to sharpen our guidance skills.

In TLC, mentees may desire to focus on specific questions or may seek their mentor’s guidance in developing disciplines of spiritual awareness such as prayer, meditation, discernment, noticing, journaling, fasting, entering the sacred texts, listening to the inner life, receiving, letting go, self-care and boundaries.

What does a spiritual mentor look like? They are ordinary people who are sensitive about relationships; care about the mentee; embody the grace of God; know how to listen with acceptance and respect; discern the moving of God's Spirit; verbally open in relationships; of the same gender as those they are working with; helping the mentee dig deeply into his/her spiritual journey by asking searching questions.

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