Mentoring has been a trendy area of youth work and youth ministry over the last decade, however I’m not convinced that most of us have realised the full potential of mentoring.
In the church where I work mentoring is an exciting, purposeful relationship that helps young people grow, develop, learn and share the journey that is life. Some want to work through specific issues such as anger management; others just want somebody to talk to. Whatever the purpose, our mentoring scheme can help to create trusting and lifelong friendships for any young person.
Over the last decade I’ve seen lots of lives changed by mentoring – the changes in behaviour, self-esteem, spiritual maturity and more and it’s left me with one conclusion. We need to start mentoring at a younger age.
We constantly hear the challenging and distressing statistics about how many young people are leaving the church. There is lots of research about just why this is. Most of the religious beliefs, behaviours and expectations that define a person’s life have been developed and embraced by the age of 13, according to Christian Research. If there isn’t a firm foundation in the Bible and the Christian life before that, children are more susceptible to succumbing to peer pressure, to doubting the faith and seeing church life as alien to the real world.
The Sticky Faith research from Fuller Youth Institute shows that inter-generational contact in the church is critical for a child to developing a resilient faith. Take a moment to think about your church. How does it ‘do’ children’s work? Is it separated away from the youth and adult ministries? One of the easiest ways to join them together is to have a mentoring scheme that includes children using a combination of young people acting as older sisters and brothers, and adults who can act as spiritual and pastoral parents and grandparents.
I want to challenge you not to see mentoring as a tool to work alongside older teenagers but to instead view as something that children, young people and adults all need to be involved in – both as mentees and mentors.
How do you do mentoring in your setting?