Intentionally mentoring younger generations is a key part of building up the Church
Written by Emily LaRose
Life is complicated, especially at a young age. Often, what youth need is someone who’s a few years ahead of them who they can relate to, and who can guide them. Looking out for younger people in your church and becoming their mentors is a tangible and important way of supporting upcoming generations of Christians.
Are you ready to be a mentor?
Mike Gordon, a pastor and speaker with Youth for Christ, says there are a few things you should think about before becoming a mentor. Are you in the right position spiritually? Are you participating in practices of the Christian life such as prayer and corporate worship?
It’s important that you’re grounded in wisdom and seeking God as you have deep conversations and invest in other people’s lives. You also want to make sure you have enough space in your calendar so your mentee doesn’t become a task on your to-do list. You need to be ready to devote time to them.
Mentorship should involve playing to your areas of gifting, and also knowing your weaknesses. Identify what areas you are unqualified to offer counsel in and what you have to bring to the table. Offer advice from your areas of strength.
When you think about the person you’re considering mentoring, it’s a good idea to ask: Are they coming with a humble and teachable spirit, and do they actually want to be mentored? If not, it will be difficult to have a fruitful mentoring relationship.
April Taylor has been a mentor for young women at her church for several years. “God never calls us to be perfect, He doesn’t expect us to do mentoring one way,” she says. This can mean being vulnerable with your own experiences and allowing God to redeem and use your past failures and painful circumstances as teaching moments for others.
Have a mentor yourself
Gordon stresses the importance of having your own mentor who will keep you accountable and counsel you so that you can pour into someone else’s life with greater wisdom and integrity.
Taylor says having her own mentor and being discipled by other godly women in her life impacted her approach to mentoring. “Because I’m being poured into, then I want to pour into other people,” she says. Knowing you have someone who cares about you and your spiritual walk and prays for you will make you want to offer the same to someone else.
Be intentional about your walk with Jesus
Don’t advise others to do something that you’re not walking in yourself. “When you start inviting other people into your walk with Jesus […] they are watching everything you do and how you carry yourself in Christ,” says Gordon. “Your walk with Jesus is no longer just about you.”
According to Taylor, this means remembering that God is working through you in the lives of those you mentor. If you are living the life you’re teaching, you’re able to guide others with more wisdom and credibility.
Go back to Scripture
Throughout Scripture, we consistently see people teaching or learning from someone else. We see this in Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Elizabeth and Mary, and Jesus and the twelve apostles who in turn mentored many others.
It’s important to go back to Scripture and note the importance of teaching and learning from one another. Investing in people is biblical, and it works.
Meet others where they’re at
Meeting others where they’re at may take the form of living life alongside the person you’re mentoring, having conversations, or joining them in one of their favourite hobbies.
Taylor says mentors need to listen well. “Your goal as a mentor isn’t to have all the answers or to provide a quick and immediate answer to all their problems, but to be there for them, to pray with them, and to lead them back to Scripture.”
Gordon encourages mentors to ask their mentees what they want to talk about before they meet. Whatever it may be, being prepared gives you time to discern how to approach the conversations.
If things become too personal or close, Gordon says, “you have to be quick to set that line or boundary or cut things off.” For example, with opposite-sex mentorship, he suggests that boundaries such as limiting frequency or length, or not meeting one-on-one, can reduce opportunities for inappropriate levels of closeness or unhealthy power dynamics to develop.
“Keep it professional, not casual,” Gordon says. While friendship isn’t a bad thing, what you teach may lose some credibility if your mentee begins to think, “it’s just a friend telling me this.” Friendship changes the mentor relationship, and it’s important to be aware of this.
A helpful book on healthy limits in relationships is Boundaries by psychologists Henry Cloud and John Townsend. They combine science and Scripture to unpack what healthy boundaries look like and how to set them in all areas of life, not just mentorship.
Become a servant
A mentor is a humble servant of Jesus. Their purpose is to help others through life, invest in them, and give them guidance. Having someone who can help you navigate through life, who will understand you and want to get to know you, is valuable at any stage of life. In a world that puts so much pressure on young people, we need more mentors in the Church to encourage and direct them.