Beginnings are often challenging. Why? Because they move us out of our comfort zone and into the unknown. And that’s why a first encounter with the couple you’re mentoring can seem a bit awkward. But it doesn’t have to be. Think of your first meeting just like you would any social gathering where you are meeting another couple for the first time.
If you’re having them in your home, meeting at a restaurant, or even in an office, the routine is the same. You want to make them feel as comfortable as possible. And that means putting yourself in their shoes. Imagine what they might feel like. This will take your mental energy off of being self-focused (wonder what they think of us?) and help you focus on making the environment warm and inviting.
Don’t feel like you have to jump right into talking about their relationship, especially if you’re doing this over a meal together. Talk to them about their day or their week. Get a reading on their stress level. You can also ask them to tell you how they met, and don’t be afraid to reciprocate. They’ll enjoy hearing your story too (as long as you don’t dominate). Keep the conversation casual, light, and fun.
In the first session, you’ll want to make sure they know how glad you are to be in this relationship with them. Affirm them for even taking the step to do this. You might say something like, “It says so much about you and the value you put on your marriage that you are carving out this time to meet with us – and we want to make sure this time is valuable to you.” Then ask them what would make it most valuable to them. You may even want to also ask them what would make this a waste of time. This typically engenders a bit of humor but it also helps you focus on what they want most.
You’ll also want to spend some time in the first session deciding on the ground rules together. For example, you’ll want to decide how often you will meet. You’ll want to be sure they know that these times with you are confidential (that you won’t be reporting to their parents, their friends, your pastor, and so on). Ask them what they would like to accomplish with you as their mentors. In other words, what would you like to have accomplished together in the next three or six months together.
Before you conclude your first session, it’s always a good idea to ask your couple how you can pray for them in the coming days. The goal of the first session is to build a connection that makes this couple feel comfortable, cared for, and supported. And you can’t do that if you’re overly concerned with how you are coming across and what this couple is thinking of you. So don’t neglect the powerful skill of empathy that you learned in your training.