Iím the worldís worst Christian mentor.
Forgetful in prayer, easily frustrated, too flippant, a wayward listener and hypocritical - and those are on the good days.
I sometimes wonder what I actually offer to Alex - one of our 18-year-olds at church who is about to embark on his student journey to Edge Hill University. Or what is it Leeds? See what I mean? Useless!
I try to be there for him whenever possible Ė spiritually, practically or just to have a laugh with. Alex is one of the few people I answer my mobile to when the pressure is on at church or home. We are frequent text buddies.
I may not be very good at it, but Iím a great believer in mentoring. Relying on a trusted Christian confidante can be a lifeline to anyone scrabbling their way through the moral maze of work, play and church.
I ensured that I had a mentor in place before taking up my current post as community evangelist at St Paulís Church, Holgate, in York. Despite his awful dress sense, Robinís sound advice, careful correction and single malt whiskey collection have proved invaluable. Whenever I talk to him Iím left feeling ďIím not aloneĒ.
Looking back on my spiritually-barren student years at Portsmouth University, I wish Iíd had someone then.
When Iím sat with Jesus on whatever heavenly cloud he chooses to allocate me and we are watching through my earthly life on a DVD player, I just hope he fast forwards that period.
ďYou donít want to look at my time in Pompey, Lord,Ē Iíll say to him, ďNot much to see there.Ē
From a Christian perspective, there is virtually nothing to see at all.
Spending time with a group of York students at a recent summer street mission added to my sense of regret about what those days could have been like. Those guys were just so up for it and alive for Christ!
Alex is aware of my student experience. Iíve advised him to do the opposite. Like find a church quickly, get involved in the Christian Union, dedicate time for prayer and Bible study, and keep in touch with those of us who are looking out for him.
In fairness, I did glance at the Christian Union stand during my Freshersí week all those years ago. I made an assumption (which was most likely unfair) that I wouldnít fit in. Everyone looked too posh, the only activities on offer appeared to be picnics and treasure hunts, and I couldnít find any mention of football or the pub.
I legged it into the arms of the student soccer team Ė and The Crown and Anchor.
As far as church went, I attended once in three years and only then when I persuaded my atheist housemate to accompany me with the promise of a few pints.
Suffice to say he didnít see the light that night and I wasnít moved enough to awake from my spiritually slothful existence.
Iíll never know if being in regular touch with a mentor would have made any difference to my student indifference.
It was only when I left university that I started to take my faith seriously. My relationship with God became just that and not something I pulled out of my pocket whenever I felt low or needed something.
I realise now just how great students are for churches - and vice versa. They bring a vitality and intelligent enthusiasm for the gospel that is so infectious. Nothing wards off cynicism and staleness among a congregation than a bunch of loud undergraduates on the front row.
In return, students get the chance to serve and use their developing gifts to make a lasting impact for Godís kingdom. The really clever ones will usually latch onto the serial Sunday dinner makers in the flock.
Iíd certainly like to see more students coming to St Pauls. There is loads of youth work to get involved with, and we always need people for our worship teams and evangelistic courses. Our 6.30pm Sunday services are particularly student-friendly.
A word of warning, though.
You wonít find many treasure hunts organised around the streets of Holgate and some of us like to wash down a good night at church with a sociable pint over the road. Oh, and another thing. The standard of community evangelist mentors are not very good, apparently.
Just ask AlexÖ
Community evangelist at St Paulís Church, Holgate.