8. Mentor

CORe churches expect young people to be involved in the faith development of other young people, as mentors.

Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another. (Proverbs 27:17)


Additional Bible texts:

Genesis 13:1-9 (Abraham and Lot)

Luke 9:10-17 (Following Christ)

1 Timothy 4:11-16 (Counsel to Timothy)

Philemon (Mentoring and reconciliation)

Mentoring is a vital part of discipleship. It is also a beneficial relationship for both the mentor and the one being mentored. Both people’s faith can grow and mature through this relationship. Most churches have no intentional mentorship of young people.

CORe churches realise how vital mentorship is. They have an active mentoring programme, including all young people. The young people mentor each other, with the older, more experienced youth mentoring the younger ones. This benefits the faith development of both, and fulfils the mission of the church by raising retention.

CORe churches emphasise the importance of each individual by mentoring to each person.

CORe churches expect young people to be involved in the faith development of other young people, as mentors.

Thought

Victor Marley, Norway

Tell me and I forget,
Teach me and I may remember,
Involve me and I l
earn


These are the words of Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers, of the USA, scientist, inventor, statesman, and diplomat – an influential figure in the development of the western world. What he said 300 years ago still holds true today. That’s why CORe churches takes mentoring seriously.

In my many years as pastor and youth director in the Seventh-day Adventist church, I can’t count the number of times I have heard the lament, ‘Why don’t the young people take responsibility, where is the next generation?’

We all want that, don’t we: A new generation rising up, taking on the baton? But where are they? I’ll tell you where they are. They are right in front of you waiting for you to give them the baton.

The problem is that many young adults are not interested in taking the baton if it means they are locked into doing things in the way you always did them. And perhaps you don’t want to let go until you are sure they can be ‘trusted’ to do things in the way you think they should be done.

I am British. And the British have a rather chequered history when it comes to sprint relay races at the Olympics. Yes, we have won on a couple of occasions, but more often than not we have lost the race on the changeovers. Someone has let go of the baton too early and the baton has been dropped, or the changeover has happened too late – one runner has gone too early or the other has held on to the baton for too long. Clearly, a good changeover is vital!

In a church setting, mentoring is about managing that changeover. There are 3 important lessons we can learn from the analogy of the relay race.

First of all, you need to draw up alongside the one you are mentoring. Walk the walk, together. Get to know the person. Be interested in the young people in your church. Look for their potential, their gifts, their passions. Affirm them in these, challenge them to use them, and look for the positive in what they come up with.

But, (and here is the second point) don’t hang on to the baton too long. Mentoring is not controlling. Every generation needs to discover the relevance of faith in a way that works for them and their culture. As mentors, our job is to support them in this process. And when the time is right, let go.

So we want to run alongside for a while, we don’t want to let go of the baton too late, but, thirdly, we don’t want to let go of the baton too early. Volunteers in church work often get so tired that as soon as they have the possibility of giving the responsibility to someone else, they give it to them and walk away. This kind of sudden transition means that a young person is most likely to fail. Yes, they will have their own ideas, but they need your experience.

Solomon was right when he wrote:

‘Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another.’ (Proverbs 27:17)

We need our young people to succeed, and it could just be your encouragement and experience that is the difference between excellence and failure. So, let’s not drop the baton. Let’s get alongside, be willing to let go when the time is right – not too early but not too late.

Be a mentor! Pass on the baton.

Discussion

  • Who has been a mentor for you? How did that work?
  • How are you mentoring someone today?
  • How did Jesus mentor people in his ministry, what elements could we copy?
  • Part of mentoring is letting go, how can you do that?
  • Consider how young people receive various licences and certificates in your country, what role does mentorship play in that system?

Implementation questions

  • What do you already do to encourage mentoring?
  • Are there elements of your church’s culture that need changing to have active mentorship in your ministry?
  • Can we implement at least 3 of the suggestions below?
  • What is achievable to create more mentorship within the next 12 months?

Suggestions for implementation

  • Pair every leader with someone who they mentor.
  • Create a system where young adults mentor younger members.
  • Encourage young members to lead out in children's Sabbath School, pathfinders etc.
  • Assign a mentor to every baptismal candidate.
  • Create a charter that intentionally communicates what young people can expect in your church in this and other areas as well.