Helping to Build Social Capital for Your Protege

As I look back at my life experiences, one thing stands out: there was always someone there. There was someone who encouraged, someone that inspired, someone that listened, and someone who introduced me to the next “someone”. When it comes down to it, life is all about relationships, those “someones.”

For myself, there was one man who opened the doors that would propel me forward. In high school, the local band instrument repairman took me under his wing and taught me so much. He believed in me, inspired me, pushed me to succeed, and introduced me to others. Because of him, I went to school for a degree in the field of instrument repair and went on to work in that field for more than 12 years.

For so many of the children that we serve, they need that one person to introduce them to the next person, opening up the doors of opportunity, or what we can call social capital. How, as a mentor, can you be that someone and help grow your protégés social capital?

Last week, the Youth Horizons Mentoring Team attended a webinar from the Christian Association of Youth Mentoring (CAYM) about helping your mentee build social capital. One definition for social capital is: the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively. CAYM Executive Director Peter Vanacore, was the main speaker. Here are a few thoughts from what he talked about.

Before you begin to think about building this capital, you need to first look at what assets your protégé already possesses. What are they good at? What is their personality like? Are they able to read? Are they creative? Are they good with their hands? Maybe there is one solid parent in their life. Part of building this capital is building off what assets the child already possesses.

Social Capital is all about relationships. There are three basic things you can do to help build this capital.

1) Build mutual trust

2) Connect them to the church

3) Connect them to others

Each one of these could be a full post, but I will try and just touch on a couple thoughts for each point.

Let’s start by looking at building mutual trust. For any good relationship, we must start by building trust. This takes time. Building trust is a mutual process. As a mentor, I always thought I needed to get my protégé to trust me. I never really thought about how I could provide opportunities for my protégé to demonstrate that I could trust him as well.

How can you be intentional in building trust? Here are a couple of suggestions:

Before you introduce your protégé to someone, mention why you trust that person, talk about your relationship with them. If you are going to play ball with friends, talk about how playing ball together has built this trust and how you feel like you could go to them when you need someone to talk to. Talk about the value of different relationships in your life. God has bless us with community, bring your protégé along for the ride.

Connect your protégé to your local church. As I mentored my protégé, I found this very difficult. He had no interest in church or anything spiritual. Remember, your job as a mentor is not to save your protégé . Let God be in charge of that. God has given many of our mentors opportunities to bring their protégé to church with them. Because of this, many of these children now have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Church is a place that we are able to connect not only to other people, but also to the One who created us. When we look at building social capital, there are few places better than the local church family.

Be looking for opportunities to introduce your protégé to other people. Help teach your child basic people skills. Teach them to smile, look at the other person as they communicate, speak up, and teach them how to shake hands. These are skills that will propel your protégé forward in life. If they are given the chance to meet others and talk to others, this will build confidence within them. As they grow up, get a job, and look at becoming a stable adult, these will be tremendous skills to have.

There are few things in this world that are as important then being connected to others. If you can help to build this social capital in your protégé , it will go a long way. Look for opportunities to build trust in your relationship, connect them to your church, and connect them to others. And watch God use others as you mentor your protégé.

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