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How to Start a Summer Mentoring Program
By: Joy Emery

College students are in a season of searching. While some may have declared a college major, few have real experience in the workplace. While a declaration of an intended profession can give focus, on-the-job experience can help answer questions regarding whether the student's natural gifts and interests fit the job.

You can offer your students a great gift in helping match them with professionals in your church who are working in their respective fields of interest.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Enlist a Coordinator
A person with a passion for organization needs to be in the coordinator's role. You may find that you need two people: one to manage the organization and paperwork that accompanies matching students with mentors and one to function as the publicity person who will secure professionals who would be willing to work with students over the summer.

Develop Your Mentoring Plan
Map out your goals and intended plan of action from the start. Decide what your backup plan will be if you can't find an adequate number of professionals to make a commitment.

Would a traveling mentoring class best meet your students' needs, one in which you travel weekly from business to business for an on-site classroom setting? Would students benefit from a regular Bible study where students and professionals are joined together in order give students the "feel" of life in a chosen occupation?

Determine if you will ask or allow the professionals to actually hire students or if you will have a mix of some volunteer positions and some paid positions. Decide how you would manage both types.

Plan to inform the professionals of what you expect. Students will be frustrated if they feel that they are running errands and not being challenged.

Professionals should be expected to teach and guide the student's learning experience. Professionals should expect the student to document what she learns each day. He or she should also expect the student to create a database of networks in the field based on the experience.

Create Applications and Interest Forms
Determine what information you will need to match students with available positions. Ask about the student's secondary interests. If a professional actually hires the student, make sure the student knows that a background check might be needed. You will also need to develop a form to determine what types of needs the professionals might have in their organizations.

Publicize the Mentoring Program
Get the word out as soon as possible. Develop a brochure that can be sent to both professionals and students. Enlist business professionals who will be participating to come to student Bible studies and make a pitch for the program.

Celebrate the Experience
At the end of the program, have a celebration. Allow the students to share what they learned. Enlist someone to write a skit tailored to your church with the flair of the hit reality show "The Apprentice." Decorate and try to give the feeling of "the boardroom." Ask the students to share what they have learned and the professionals to give positive feedback about the student.

Conclude the celebration by challenging students to mentor others. Finally, thank everyone for participating in influencing each other.

Joy Emery is a former education minister and currently is a Christian Education Internet Producer for LifeWay.com. She serves in the adult Sunday School ministry at Hermitage Hills Baptist Church in Hermitage, Tennessee.

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