When parenting feels overwhelming

Even on our best days, parenting a teen can seem overwhelming. Navigating how best to care for your child in the transition to independence is a challenging balance. If you are feeling drained, know that you are not alone. These tips can help you stay the course.

You are okay.

It is normal to feel overwhelmed. Just as there is no such thing as a perfect teenager, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Strive for good, not perfect. If your teen is acting out, do not internalize his or her behavior towards you. Your teen is going through a developmental stage. Even teen rebellion can be part of growth. It’s normal and okay to feel anxious and worried about your teen’s stage. Try to be objective about the stage and realize it is not your fault. It’s simply the journey that they are on.

Do not compare.

When you look around at families of teens like yours, it can seem like everyone has it easy. Yet, in reality, other families with teens are wrestling with conflict, struggling with boundaries and facing other challenges just like yours. Falling into the trap of comparison is not helpful for you or your family. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” as Theodore Roosevelt said. Instead of comparing, shift your mindset to gratefulness and positivity.

Utilize community resources.

You are not alone. When you feel overwhelmed with parenting, leverage resources available to you. Your church or school may have a parent networking group that meets regularly either online or in person. Additionally, there are many reputable resources online to equip parents like you.   

Schedule self-care.

When your life is focused on your teen, you can easily forget about your own care. It is important to stay healthy. Get rest and regular exercise. Schedule time to see your friends. Give yourself permission to say “no.” To best serve your teen, you need to be emotionally, spiritually and physically well. When you prioritize yourself, you model a healthy lifestyle for your child, showcasing the value of self-care.

Reach out for help.

If you have reached the point where you are constantly burnt out, your family may need additional support. A residential treatment agency like Shelterwood can offer your family true restoration. Check out this blog if you’re debating whether it’s time for residential treatment.

At Shelterwood, our desire is to create an environment where teens know they are loved, valued and have purpose. Teens arrive at Shelterwood when they are at their worst, and often leave with a transformed heart and a life restored. To learn more about how Shelterwood can help on your teen’s journey to restoration, call 866-585-8939.

Meet Stephen Hobson

This month, Stephen Hobson celebrates 15 years of service to Shelterwood, first joining the team as a young adult mentor. Today, he combines his accounting acumen with his heart for teens as the Director of Accounting. Meet Stephen Hobson.

Stephen Hobson 683x1024 Meet Stephen Hobson

What Stephen loves most about Shelterwood: “I love the focus we put on restoration of the whole family,” he says. “Nothing we do at Shelterwood focuses exclusively on the student’s issue. We see the most success when the whole family makes the commitment to grow, and I love how Shelterwood walks alongside parents and families in that process together.”

What brought him to Shelterwood: Stephen was a student at Oklahoma State University studying accounting when he met Shelterwood founder Richard Beech. “We talked for several hours. I even ended up missing my next class! I truly got hooked on his vision for the ministry,” he recalls. “I had spent a few summers doing youth ministry, and I saw the mentor opportunity as a chance to continue that impactful work with teenagers. I was also looking for the discipleship training that Shelterwood would offer me. I knew that caring for struggling teens would be a tough environment, but the challenge of it struck me too. I wanted to get Biblical leadership training while getting the hands-on experience of working with teenagers.”

His next Shelterwood steps: After his year as a mentor, Stephen continued as an intern. It was during that season that he met Amy, the Shelterwood Women’s Discipleship Director, who would later become his wife. At the time, Shelterwood had locations in Branson, Missouri, and Denver, Colorado; after Stephen and Amy got married, they moved to Denver. Amy accepted a full-time role in Shelterwood admissions. Meanwhile, Stephen planned to continue his Shelterwood work while studying counseling at seminary. “I thought my dream job was to become a Shelterwood counselor.”

Finding his calling in accounting: Stephen capitalized on his accounting degree and worked part-time in Shelterwood’s accounting department while in seminary. “Over that year, God was shifting my desires. I started to see how my gifts could be used in a different way to serve the ministry. I started to see that this could be a great fit for me: I could serve in that accounting capacity, and still be a key part of the ongoing ministry. What initially drew me to Shelterwood was my heart for the students. I still get to serve them in my role today.”

Family: Stephen’s wife Amy also is still part of Shelterwood, currently working in a part-time role as the Outcomes Research Coordinator in connection to NATSAP’s Evidence-Based Outcomes. They have four young children. “Living life with them is an adventure!”

Outside work: Stephen, along with Amy, spends most of his free time with the kids. They love doing activities outdoors together, especially going on bike rides, and he enjoys cheering them on as they start to become involved in sports.

Best part of his work at Shelterwood: Stephen points back to his first role with Shelterwood as something that drives his work today. “I love that my role supports our relational model,” he explains. “Our staff gets to know these teens at a deep level, where we can earn their respect and then model a Christ-like life and be someone they can look up to. I love how we have incorporated this into our program, and it is so unique to us at Shelterwood.”

Shelterwood Mentors: A lifetime of impact

At Shelterwood, everything we do drives towards transforming teens and restoring families — and our young adult Mentors are at the heart of it all. These men and women meet teens where they are and speak Gospel truth into their lives. Shelterwood Mentors dedicate a year of their life to authentic discipleship, serving teens in their journey of transformation.

Mentors, nicknamed “Bigs,” are are men and women in their early 20s who have a passion for discipleship. As they work with teens, they lay groundwork for social, academic and spiritual growth of the students. “We’ve found that our Mentors working with our teens is one of the biggest helps to them and really has a profound impact,” says Lloyd Rindels, Director of Training and Leadership Development. “Shelterwood is designed not to create simply behavioral change, but to get to that deep heart change and set our students up to succeed in life. Our Mentors help them navigate.”

Mentors have a wide variety of backgrounds, but they all have a common passion for serving struggling teens while growing in leadership. “Our Mentors come from a variety of backgrounds,” Lloyd explains. “Really, the biggest qualification is a willing heart. Mentors want to serve God, want to serve teens and want to share their faith in a way that can impact lives.”

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“We’re looking for Mentors who want to come live out their passion and live out the idea of laying down their lives for the sake of someone else,” Lloyd continues. “That is the background we are looking for. We look for a teachable heart and a servant heart.”

Mentors serve teens through discipleship, but it is a journey for them as well. Mentors experience intensive leadership development and spiritual growth, becoming positioned to thrive in their future no matter what career path they choose. “It is a year-long journey into leadership, coaching, spiritual growth and understanding how to help others learn.”

“We’ve designed the program to help Mentors with their own development,” Lloyd says. “When Mentors come to Shelterwood, they learn as much about themselves as they do in helping other people and learning how to help teenagers. We have a course of study to help Mentors with their own growth as leaders, navigating life and learning what they would like to do next.”

This is one year of service for Mentors, yet the legacy is lasting: Mentors make a lifetime of impact. One-on-one ministry makes a transformational difference not only on teens, but on their families and communities too. “When we have a student who graduates Shelterwood, it is a rejoicing. One thing that is highlighted, over and over again, is the Mentors. What they have done to help a student changes a life — for a lifetime.”

Interested in becoming a Shelterwood Mentor? Know someone who might be a good fit? We are actively recruiting for our next class of Mentors. Learn more about the program and apply now.

 

“I am proud of life after Shelterwood.”

For Gio Scardino, high school was a time of pain and struggle. After hitting one of his lowest moments, Gio found real redemption at Shelterwood — and he graduated having found the true fulfillment he was searching for all along. Gio shares his story:

 

My priorities were off when entering high school. I was focused on fitting in and living a life for myself. I was desperately trying to fill a void that unbeknownst to me could only be fulfilled through an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. In efforts to fill this void, I pursued “the popular life.” Enrolled at a high school where the students were inflicted with affluence, temptation was ever-present. It did not take long before I was headed on a downward and ugly path. Poor decisions of drinking, partying, and smoking (marijuana) quickly transitioned into daily poor habits.

In a year and a half timeframe (sophomore year to second semester of junior year) my life spun out of control. I had successfully filled my life with things that held no true value. Running with the “popular crowd” led me into a life of smoking regularly, heavily dealing marijuana, drinking alcohol/partying, drug-related suspensions, police tickets/arrests, and severe car accidents. As if that wasn’t enough, a three-month drug investigation ensued at my high school. On the very last day of the drug investigation I was escorted out of class by the Dean of Students, rather than Security. This was the ultimate breaking point in my journey of self-destruction. In the Dean’s office I was informed that the school and local municipalities had subpoenaed my phone, dating back one year, obtaining full access to personal phone calls, text messages, emails, and social media. They had discovered an ugly track record of substance abuse, and I was immediately given a ten-day out of school suspension with a recommendation of expulsion.

In desperate need of help, my parents loved me when I did not deserve to be loved. They proceeded to do what few parents would have the courage to do; they sought out a specialized growth opportunity for me to begin making genuine change in my life. God exceedingly answered my parent’s prayer by presenting us with the incredible opportunity of Shelterwood located in Independence, Missouri. God used Shelterwood to transform our story. When entering Shelterwood I could not have been less interested in enrollment, but I was in a place in my life where I needed healthy influences and people to make positive decisions for me. At Shelterwood I faced some of the most difficult hardships ever, but with the help of God, my parents, the Shelterwood community, and through hard work, my life began to change for the better. I reflected on my many wrong doings and began understanding just how serious the pain I had inflicted upon others and myself. I had always believed in God, but it was at Shelterwood where I developed a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus. Shelterwood will always be remembered by my family and me, as it was used in such a powerful way to refocus us all on what God had intended for our lives.

 

SW Testimonial Giovanni S. I am proud of life after Shelterwood.

I graduated from Shelterwood on October 25, 2012, and returned to Chicago. Shortly thereafter I graduated from my original high school. My parents and I never thought that me crossing the high school graduation line would have ever been an act of God, but it turned out to be exactly that. Since Shelterwood, God has gifted me with opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. I have been able to serve with mission teams in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Nadi, Fiji. I embarked upon a yearlong discipleship program, known as the Kanakuk Link Year, where I focused on growing in relationship with God and developing meaningful friendships. Following Link Year, I transferred to North Park University. Currently, I am in my senior year and plan to graduate in May 2017 with a B.S. in Business Management. Intermittently throughout Link Year and North Park, I have been actively involved with the National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF) and the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB) in Washington, D.C. where I have had the privilege of leading many friends to be part of such meaningful gatherings. I have pursued the industry of Commercial Real Estate for four years now and have been privileged to work four different internships spanning three major metropolitan cities, Chicago, Dallas, and Washington, D.C. Above all, since Shelterwood, my focus has been learning how to walk with Jesus Christ daily, develop meaningful relationships, and love people well.

 

“This is the best decision I’ve ever made for my son since he was born.”

Joe and Katya Khouri’s son Kevin was still in the hospital when they began their search for a therapeutic boarding school. After exploring hundreds of options, the family decided on Shelterwood — 6,500 miles away from home in Lebanon. Today, with Kevin now a Shelterwood graduate, parents Joe and Katya are celebrating: “This is the best decision I’ve ever made for my son since he was born,” Katya says.

“Back home in Lebanon, we don’t have therapeutic boarding schools,” Katya explains. Kevin faces both bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. “It’s either the hospital, or regular school and regular life. We knew Kevin needed something more than that, but couldn’t provide that at home.”

So Joe began the search for his son with the NATSAP directory. NATSAP, the National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs, was founded in 1999 as a national resource for programs and professionals assisting young people. From residential and wilderness programs to long-term care and transitional living, all NATSAP organizations are dedicated to serving children, adolescents or young adults. Katya and Joe explored programs across the United States.

Khouri family with Jim Subers Shelterwood 1024x501 “This is the best decision I’ve ever made for my son since he was born.”
Parents Joe and Katya Khouri visit with Shelterwood CEO Jim Subers to share their son’s story of transformation.

“We went through every page of it and looked at 250 schools. We really had to do our research,” Joe says about their rigorous search process. Together with Kevin, Katya and Joe gradually narrowed down the search to 20 schools. They assembled a questionnaire to make their final decision, evaluating everything from the staff-to-student ratio to the financial investment.

“There are so many programs out there and it’s easy to get lost,” Katya says. “At Shelterwood, we knew he would be living a normal life, but within a community that would help him. The program was therapeutic, but Kevin would be living alongside people his age. It’s the only program we found that’s like this.”

Also important to Joe and Katya was Shelterwood’s faith-based approach. “We are Christians, and so we know we have to fight evil with love,” Joe says. “The staff is amazing — everyone has been.”

Katya also smiles as she recalls the impact the mentors had on her son. “The mentors really are like big brothers to Kevin!”

The Khouri family looks forward to Kevin’s future with so much joy. “I’m so happy to see Kevin, the way he is today. I am very confident that he’ll do well.”

As Joe and Katya reflect on the great strides Kevin made while at Shelterwood, they both notice the transformation in their son. “He was so broken when he came here,” Katya says. “There’s a big difference. Now when I look at Kevin, I see a man in this kid.”

Shelterwood Performing Arts: Life Lessons on and off Stage

When Shelterwood students participate in the performing arts, the show itself is only the beginning. Performing arts offer students opportunities for real transformation, and many students experienced that during the recent fall play.

This season, Shelterwood students performed the first-ever fall play, Body, Body. “The play is about a high school girl, Madeline, who thinks she is fat,” explains Kyle Anderson, Shelterwood Performing Arts Coordinator. Other characters in the play are Madeline’s body parts, personified. “These body parts bring back painful moments from her past,” Kyle shares.

“The play is a raw story, and very real. Although it deals with body image, the issues the play deals with are more far-reaching.” Other topics included body image, pressure to be perfect, peer acceptance, eating disorders, self-confidence, self-acceptance and more.

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At the end of the play, Madeline breaks free from these negative messages and decides she wants to be the one in charge of where her life is going. With its relatable themes and meaningful messages, the play offered a platform for Shelterwood students to process through issues they face in their own hearts. “The story does not hide from emotion, bringing some real issues to the table,” Kyle explains. “It was easy for students to get into the story because it was relatable.”

Participating in the play was a turning point for some Shelterwood students, Kyle recalls. The night before the performance brought more than just dress rehearsal jitters, so Kyle paused the practice so students could process their emotions. “As we started talking, several students said they felt unqualified to perform the play, because they were still struggling with some of the messages,” Kyle said. “It was a time of honesty and peer encouragement. They grew closer and learned they do not have to live under those strongholds anymore.”

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Ten Shelterwood students — seven actors and three backstage — participated in the play. The performance was a campus-wide event, with all students and staff in attendance. “Having the whole Shelterwood community supporting them was very encouraging,” Kyle says. “The students had worked very hard and got positive feedback from everyone who watched the show.”

Performing arts experiences at Shelterwood are designed to teach students lessons that last far beyond the performance, including the value of work well done, the importance of collaboration and the joy of trying new things.

“One of our goals for Shelterwood performing arts is to give students the opportunity to gather with their peers and accomplish something they never would have accomplished on their own. Students get to practice that healthy team dynamic, when they come together, work together, push through challenges and develop that sense of community pride in what they accomplished,” Kyle says.

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Students at Shelterwood have many pathways to participate in the performing arts, from live plays to video projects and musical opportunities. They are able to build their work ethic and recognize the good fruit that results from hard work. “These students realized that hard work is a good thing,” Kyle adds. “The play was not perfect, but they succeeded. This is a life lesson they will take with them long after they leave Shelterwood.”

Perhaps the greatest gain is in their self-confidence. “It can be scary to perform in front of others, but through the process of preparing and practicing, a lightbulb goes off, and students realize, ‘I can do this! I can be successful!’”

“There is a special kind of confidence that results from working hard and being successful,” Kyle says. “Students walk around campus a little taller, and they are at peace because they are proud of what they have accomplished. When they start believing in their ability, they start to believe in themselves.”

How we Manage By Strengths at Shelterwood

Mercedes Benz, Delta Airlines, The American Red Cross, Garmin, Hallmark . . . and Shelterwood. What we share with these leading organizations is our commitment to Management by Strengths, a transformational tool in fostering better communication than ever.

Management by Strengths (MBS) is similar to other temperament protocols, like the Myers-Briggs and the DISC assessments. Its focus on strengths, however, sets it apart from others. The extensive list of MBS clients includes national nonprofits and Fortune 500 companies.

“MBS is different from personality tests and assessments because it is based on the simple idea that people are biologically wired with a communication style they prefer,” explains Jeremy Lotz, Director of Training and Leadership at Shelterwood. MBS features four temperament traits — directness, extroversion, pace and structure — but limitless combinations. “Personality can be informed by your faith, education and integrity, but temperament is hard-wired.”

Jim Subers, Shelterwood CEO, was introduced to Management by Strengths creator and owner Mike Postlewait through a friend. “Mike was overcome with conviction about what Shelterwood does and our vision for restoring families through Christian relationships,” Jeremy says. “Mike felt such a conviction that he decided to make MBS services and consultation available to Shelterwood for free, forever.” This act of generosity has paid dividends for Shelterwood staff, teens and parents.

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Jeremy points to a clear example of how MBS has changed interactions with Shelterwood students. “It’s common for adults to face power struggles with teenagers. If you know that student’s temperament, however, you can quickly develop a disarming approach with that teenager,” he explains.

“We have found through MBS that many of our students who seem oppositional and volatile are actually results-driven and independent. These are real strengths, and understanding them influences how we communicate,” Jeremy says. “Teens who are very direct in their temperament want choice, freedom and autonomy,” he says. For example, those teens can be empowered by tying responsibility to results and offering choices.

MBS has been equally significant in enhancing how Shelterwood staff work with each other. “This has given us many revelations regarding how people want to be engaged with, and it has allowed us to get the best out of ourselves and others,” Jeremy says. “When we are working well as a team, then we are serving our students better than ever.”

Furthermore, when Shelterwood parents take the MBS assessment, the results can influence how teens and parents interact. “We tend to have quite a few students with the directness and extroversion temperaments, and quite a few parents with pace and structure temperaments,” Jeremy says. “One of the ways I’ve seen MBS help teenagers the most is that they develop an understanding of their parents’ temperaments. This increases the harmony in their relationships.”

Jeremy shares a recent example of how a teen’s understanding of her parents’ temperaments helped her better interact with her parents. “She is high in extroversion and her parents were high in structure. They experienced her as being intense and pressuring. So when she was planning a recent visit home, she presented her parents with a prioritized list of the top three things she wanted to do back home. This showcased so much maturity.”

MBS is one more Shelterwood distinctive, influencing how we help transform teens and restore families. “There are quite a few theoretical foundations, philosophies and behavioral techniques we employ at Shelterwood, but nothing has revolutionized how we work on a daily basis like MBS,” he says.

The group therapy difference at Shelterwood

Shelterwood students have access to a wide variety of therapies, and group therapy is integral to our clinical approach. In group therapy, the stage is set for transformation. “Students are learning from their peers, challenging unhealthy behavior, growing in community and supporting others,” says Kenny DeBlock, Substance Abuse Program Supervisor. “These groups can be such a powerful experience for our students.”

Students learn the value of accountability and equality through group therapy, plus practice positive peer relationships. “Students grow in accountability because they learn that not only do their actions matter, we are going to talk about them,” Kenny explains. “This is an opportunity for everyone to be seen as an equal and to have equal space to be challenged and to grow.”

untitled 29 1024x683 The group therapy difference at Shelterwood

Group therapy at Shelterwood takes place in two different formats: educational groups and processing groups. Educational groups are designed to help students gain information and build skills in a larger group setting. Centered on a specific topic, students learn strategies and methods to cope with challenges and move forward through their issues.

For example, a recent educational group led students in creating their own genogram, a visual display of a family tree. As they created their genograms, students visualized hereditary pattern. “Students got to share their genograms with the group,” Kenny says. “Students learn empathy and humanizing when they see that their peers may face the same struggles.” This format also allows the therapist to direct the conversation in a healthy way; for example, if several students show divorce in their genograms, the therapist can help them practice talking about common experiences in an assertive way.

Processing groups, in contrast, offer students an experiential application of what they are working on in therapy. Students learn verbal processing, how to express experiences to peers, sharing courageously, how to give and receive constructive feedback, healthy communication boundaries and more.

“As students process a certain topic with the group — for example, guilt and shame — the students recognize that other people have dealt with these issues too, and so they don’t feel as alone or isolated,” Kenny explains. “One especially cathartic aspect is that students can talk about their challenges and then experience real relational feedback from a variety of other students and other staff, so it’s not just sharing with one therapist or one parent. It’s a different experience than many of our kids have had.”

Distinctive to Shelterwood’s approach is the integration of staff mentors in group therapy settings. “The mentor staff have an opportunity to participate with students in group therapy,” Kenny says. Unlike conventional therapy relationships, students receive meaningful feedback from adults in the next stage of life. “You can find group therapy in many places, but this is something you will not find anywhere else.”

For many Shelterwood students, group therapy is a setting for real transformation. One student recently experienced a paradigm shift in how he viewed bullying, Kenny explains. At home, this student would bully his peers to try to win the favor of others.

“This student felt it was accepted, and even cool, to pick on other people,” Kenny says. “His peers at Shelterwood really challenged him on that behavior, and pointed out that while he thought bullying earned acceptance, he was in fact losing acceptance.”

“Ultimately, group therapy is important because we, as humans, live in community,” Kenny explains. “In group therapy, students recognize that because they are part of a greater community, their personal issues impact everyone. Groups foster a relational and positive peer environment. Students learn that they are part of something bigger than themselves.”

Meet Jessica Wood

Jessica Wood, Clinical Director at Shelterwood Academy, loves seeing families restored and relationships rebuilt. Get to know Jessica.

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What Jessica loves most about Shelterwood: Jessica points to the sense of community throughout Shelterwood. “This is a very compassionate environment in which to work, and the importance of family is communicated to our residents and our staff,” she says.

When she was a teen: Growing up in a small town in South Dakota, Jessica loved her strong support system, including her family, friends and youth group. “I also encountered some of the struggles teens today do, and I really leaned on that support system,” she says. Jessica also enjoyed being actively involved in school, clubs and sports, including volleyball and basketball.

We all scream for ice cream: Jessica’s father owned a Dairy Queen in their small town, and Jessica worked there as a teen. She still loves working with ice cream today, especially baking ice cream cakes. Her favorite flavor? Chocolate chip cookie dough.

Before Shelterwood: Jessica earned her doctorate in Psychology (Psy.D.) from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology and is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist for the state of Missouri. She spent more than eight years in residential therapy for children and adolescents. “While I have always loved working with adolescents, I felt something was missing and wanted to incorporate a spiritual element into my work,” Jessica explains. Her family had relocated to the Kansas City area, and her sister-in-law mentioned Shelterwood. Jessica continued to explore Shelterwood and applied for the Clinical Director role. “From the location to my desire to incorporate spirituality into my practice, this was all God’s timing,” she smiles.

Her favorite part about being the Clinical Director: In her role, Jessica says, no two days are the same! “I enjoy getting to be involved in a variety of activities and handling a variety of responsibilities,” she says. She provides therapy to students and their families, explores training opportunities, tackles administrative duties and more. “I really enjoy the opportunity to have a caseload and provide therapy, but also to help others in our team grow. All of our therapists come from different backgrounds, and it is fun to see how it all works together to benefit our students.”

The most unique thing happening in Shelterwood counseling right now: “We’re constantly refining our approaches to therapy,” she says. “From sand therapy to equine therapy to experiential therapy, we’re always striving to advance the therapies we’re providing for our students.”

Family: Jessica has been married to her husband for two years. They have one daughter, Lily, who celebrates her first birthday this month.  

Outside work: Jessica loves staying active and working out. She also enjoys exploring the outdoors with her family, including going on walks. “I also love just relaxing at home as a family and snuggling Lily!” she smiles.  

Best part of her job at Shelterwood: “I love watching families heal and grow in their relationships,” Jessica says. “It is a difficult thing to have your child away from home, and the best part is to watch those reconnections built and those relationships restored.”

Shelterwood Mentors: Serving Teens, Growing Spiritually

Shelterwood Mentors dedicate a year of their life to serving our teens as they journey towards restoration. Serving teens is a life-transforming experience, yet comes with unique challenges. For this reason, spiritual development is crucial in the mentoring journey. While mentors are developing teens, they are growing in their own spiritual walk.

“It can take an emotional toll doing this demanding work, so spiritual development is where we grow and find the strength we need to continue serving,” explains JJ Francis. He serves many roles at Shelterwood but most importantly is the Spiritual Development and Community Facilitator to our mentors.

Shelterwood Mentors are young adult men and women who are passionate about helping struggling teens and have a desire to grow in leadership and service in their own personal journey. Mentors, nicknamed “Bigs,” commit to the year-long life-on-life discipleship and hands-on ministry with teenagers. “We give teens grace when they mess up and teach them that they are not a failure and that they are well-loved. We are both their best friend and counselor,” JJ adds.

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While mentors work to develop teens, they are also growing in their own faith.

Rewarding work, certainly — but it isn’t easy, JJ explains. “Coming alongside our brothers and sisters as they face a myriad of issues, we also face our own challenges. In the process of serving and giving to others, mentors learn that God can use our service to build us in the process.”

Having served as a “Big” himself, JJ knows the unique challenges our mentors experience. The spiritual development program is designed to address the one-of-a-kind trials mentors face on the journey. Spiritual development for mentors includes Bible studies, small group discussions, recreation and more. In every aspect, mentors find encouragement from every member of the Shelterwood Team.

“We call each other to a higher standard, and when you have brothers and sisters in the same struggle, you realize you’re not alone in this,” he says. “This is a challenging role, so we need to nurture each other. We lift each other up in everything.”

To guide mentors through their journey, JJ and his team recently developed the “Mentor Discipleship and Leadership Program Guidebook.” The first portion of the guidebook outlines the stages of their journey, from orientation through completion of their Shelterwood year. The second portion of the guide focuses on spiritual resources, including a spiritual gift assessment, spiritual disciplines and tools for personal development. Practical guidance is also offered, as mentors plan for their career post-Shelterwood.

All of the support given through the Leadership and Discipleship program builds a group of mentors who make life-changing impact on the lives of our students. “You see the difference mentors make at every graduation,” he says. “Parents testify that if it weren’t for them, their child would not have made the progress they have.”

“For mentors, this is not just a job or occupation. This is a calling,” JJ says. “Mentors really invest in these students. They are the backbone of our program, and Shelterwood would not be the special place it is without them.”