Why Are Successful Mentor Programs Hard to Establish?

We mentioned 5 categories of support for BTs a few weeks ago:
1) Teachers of fundamental and advanced Torah topics
2) Rabbis who can rule on halachic questions
3) Mentors who act as surrogate parents and help with major topics like Shidduchim, Parenting and Shalom Bayis
4) Friends who act as spiritual coaches and tell us to slow down and inspire us to move up
5) Spouses who are soul mates on our spiritual journey

The one category that is rarely found in abundance are mentors who act as surrogate parents.

Have you seen any mentoring programs be successful?
What was the key to their success?

Why do you think mentoring programs aren’t successful?
a) Not a lot of qualified people to be mentors
b) It takes a lot of time to do the role correctly
c) BTs are hesitant to rely on a mentor
d) Other

9 comments on “Why Are Successful Mentor Programs Hard to Establish?

  1. I think David and Bob hit the nail on the head. We can’t fool ourselves into thinking that even if the resources were available (and they’re not at all), these sort of relationships are so amenable to institutionalization.

    On the other hand, I think we can say that absent institutional support along these lines, many, if not most, BT’s will not get what they need regarding mentoring.

  2. That’s an excellent point. However, I think very local issues can be advised upon by local friends, Rabbonim, etc. without them being full fledged “Mentors”.

  3. David,

    That poseik was wise.

    But what if it’s an issue about choice of day school/yeshiva or somethining else that’s requires knowledge of the landscape?

  4. One idea that I once threw to Mark is having mentors that don’t live in your community. That might facilitate the keeping of boundaries and foster independence.

    I remember that I once had a serious shaila in whether revealing something to someone was permitted in accordance with the halachos of shemiras halashon. As soon as I presented that side of the shaila, the poseik gave me a number of a competent Rav on the West Coast to whom I should address the question. Clearly, the issue of mentoring is completely different but I was impressed that this system had been thought out and implemented.

  5. I think that if kiruv organizations have a follow-up program in place that might help, instead of a formal “mentor” or “role-model” componet.

    Just like some kollels (for example) have a director of outreach, there could be a postition or dept that keeps track of who in a Kiruv organization has a connection with the BT-on-the-way and it could almost be like a “Division of Life Resources”, sort of like a Life Coaching group. Maybe the person in charge could be a “director of retension” or “director of assurance”.

  6. I think for adults that the term “surrogate parents” needs to be modified-IMO, the proper term is “role model’, and the issues that would be the subject of a surrogate parent’s role, properly should be decided by a BT and spouse-even after consulting and discussing the same with a “surrogate parent.” IMO, the term “surrogate parent” implies that a BT who is an adult is incapable of reaching an intelligent decision and is an unfortunate example of a tendency to infantilize BTs as lacking the abilities to make such decisions.

  7. What’s achievable in regards to mentoring and how does it differ from a teacher, a Rabbi or a friend who gives good advice?

  8. The type of mentoring we are discussing is quite a tall order. How many people out there are qualified in all of the areas laid out in the post? And, even those who are, are likely in high demand in their respective families, communites and workplaces and would be hard pressed to find the time necessary to mentor on this level.

  9. Is ideal mentoring program-related at all?

    Or does it depend on the particular relationships a person develops, being necessarily very individualized in form and content?

    A program can offer potential mentors but can’t make mentoring relationships “click”. Maybe we’ll be progressing from the shidduch crisis to the mentoring crisis once we see how hard it is to jump start mentoring.

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