Myth Busting on Mentoring. Qualified to Mentor?
Tony Johnson

At first, Tony Johnson didn’t think he was qualified to mentor. How does any  busy leader find time? Perhaps, it was his family’s wealth of love that prompts him to advocate for mentoring now.

Rich in Love

Tony likes to say his family didn’t think of themselves as poor because they had what they needed, even if they didn’t have all the fanciest stuff. One of eight kids, he credits his parents with setting an example he’s proud to follow to this day.

The Influence of Good Men

“I’ll tell you what we did have, two loving parents. We were in church on Sundays. We were taught to love each other, take care of each other, be there for each other.” Now, as a family, church, and civic leader, Tony Johnson sets the bar on how good men can impact the lives of everyone around them.

One of my favorite things about Tony is he’s a deacon in his church, Corinth Baptist, alongside his dad, T.J. Johnson, who’s been an elder forever. Okay, maybe not that long, but close. I have to be careful not to joke too much here because, well, I’m a little in awe of Brother Johnson, the elder. He has a stern, yet loving look that he’s perfected on his kids and grandkids. Even I sit still in church if he looks my way. I’m just sayin’ Tony got some good training on fatherhood from Brother Johnson, the elder.

Pain Does NOT Respect Race, Creed, Color, or Status

“As a mentor, I have come to realize that our young boys and young men want and need a father figure in their lives. Contrary to many beliefs, the youth of today actually want someone to guide them, to teach them, train them, and discipline them, but most of all…they want someone to love them!” he says in his new book, “We have to realize that hurt and loneliness know no race, creed, color, or economic status.”

Qualified to Mentor

Tony was an accidental mentor. He felt unqualified because his time was limited. What could he accomplish in the life of a child with only an hour to spare each week? His book, Me & My Boys, tells the story of how he was affected by the boys he mentored first. He asked many of the same questions we all have about mentoring. Mainly, how in the world could he work one more thing into his already busy schedule? But, anyone who knows Tony also knows he can’t say no when the district’s schools need him.

Almost before he knew it, Tony was pulled into a new mentoring program and the rest is, ahem, a history lesson. Not only is he a big proponent of mentoring youths in our school systems now, but he’s gone on to bring the successful program to neighboring districts. Plus, he wrote his book to put to rest the fears of other potential volunteers.

Drama, Action, StoriesMe and My Boys

Ever the story-teller and accomplished public speaker, Tony zips through the drama of finding out his boys needed him. He highlights ways anyone could earn the respect and cooperation of kids who’ve been labeled as “problems.” He recounts the joys of seeing young men become successful in school and life. He’s such a great teacher (and writer), you won’t even know you’re learning.

This gifted leader, with a successful career in management and past presidencies in multiple organizations, trembled the first time he went to meet “his boys.” On a recent episode of Fireside Talk Radio, he drew on his agricultural roots to express his enthusiasm, extolling the virtue of tending young lives.

Planting a Seed

“It’s like planting a seed. That’s when they need the most nourishment,” says, Tony, explaining how much an hour a week can mean in the heart of a young person, “As a mentor or father, you have to be the one to nourish that. Otherwise someone else will.”

Wouldn’t it be a miracle if a generation of good men were raised up due in a large part to mentoring? If you want to plant some seeds of your own, you can order Tony’s book, Me and My Boys, to pass along to friends.

If you are interested in mentoring, please contact the local school district. They are always looking for volunteers. I also like Mentoring Alliance for the work they do with Boys and Girls Clubs in our area. Blessings on you for considering the way your hour might impact the life of a child forever.

May I pray for you?

Dear Father, we are so grateful for the way You care for us even when others let us down. You give us strength and encouragement in the tender concern of strangers sometimes, if we will but notice Your care. Our hearts break for youngsters who need extra attention. We consider the kind of work their parents do and we yearn to help. Often single mothers or fathers feel forgotten. Teach us, O Lord, to see and respect those who feel overlooked and overwhelmed. We all need a kind word of encouragement some days. Help us reach out to each other for the help we need. Strengthen those whose heart says yes. Help us all carve out the time to engage with those around us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

We love to hear from you!

Who made a difference in your life when you were a kid? What’s the kindest thing a stranger ever said to you? What unexpected blessing did you receive when you reached out to encourage a young person?

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