Dec 09

Mentoring is the key to longevity in youth ministry

Mentoring is basically the regular commitment to meet with someone who understands what you do, and helps you to reflect well on your circumstances, opportunities and feelings. I believe mentoring could be the single most helpful key to enabling youth ministers to develop longevity in their role and not move away when it starts to get tough.

mentoringI believe in mentoring. For the last ten or so years I have had various mentors; those who have helped me professionally, spiritually and pastorally. Yes, I could have survived the last ten years without them, but I am convinced that I would not be where I am today without their support, wisdom and encouragement.

If you are a youth minister, it is so important to have regular meetings with a mentor; someone who is outside of your immediate work context but understands the pressures on you and your role.

Here are five reasons why a mentor will help you. A mentor:

1. Helps you set goals

A mentor will help you reflect on what you are doing and challenge you to set targets and goals. These are important as it protects us from being merely reactive in our ministry. So much of what we do, is responding to the needs we see in our young people. But lasting growth will only happen through intentional planning and intervention. Setting goals will help us to keep seeking God for what he wants us to do. It will keep us asking the question of how the ministry could be better, stronger and more fruitful.

2. Helps you grow in your own skills and abilities

The beauty of mentoring is that it invests in the whole you, not just your ministry. The truth is that if you are growing as a disciple of Christ, those you lead will be growing too. If you stop growing, you stunt the growth in those following you. Having a mentor can help you reflect on the different aspects of your life, how your own spiritual growth is going, how you maintain healthy boundaries and relationships. It can help you grow in Christ-like characteristics as well as help you to learn new skills of leadership.

Everyone wins when a leader is growing.

3. Supports you through times of questioning

From time to time, there are many pressures put upon a youth minister, which may cause you to consider giving up or trying something different. This may be God’s guidance, but often it is not. It can be purely human expectations or pressures. Having a mentor helps you to discern the difference. We want to be obedient to whatever it is that God is calling us to do, and we don’t want to be distracted by anything else. Meeting with a mentor gives us the space to vocalise our insecurities and doubts, without fear of them getting back to our managers or being forced to do something about them. They can help us reflect on why we feel these things and to help us seek God for the truth in each situation.

4. Helps you to know you are not alone

Youthwork can be a lonely place. We can feel that we have one foot in the adult church and the other foot in the world of young people, but not quite fitting into either. Now this does provide us with the opportunity to be the bridge between the two, but it can feel like we are trampled upon in the process. Having a mentor can help us process these thoughts and feelings in a safe, confidential place. They remind us that we are not on our own, that we are loved, valued and important.

5. Encourages and inspires you to greater things

Having a mentor keeps us going and keeps us growing. I have never left a mentor meeting feeling deflated. I have always left feeling better than when I went in, reminded of what is good in life at the moment, and with a clearer understanding of what needs to be done. It is not always easy. One of my mentors challenged me on one occasion saying, ‘Andy, you’ve been complaining of the same thing for the last three meetings! What are you going to do about it?’ It was a helpful signpost that grumbling is pointless unless it leads us to action. From that point on, I was able to consider with him what my options were to move forward.

Thrive’s partnership with churches is centred around mentoring of a key leader. This is because I believe this is the single most significant step we can take to enable a church’s youth ministry to be strengthened. Having that regular monthly commitment helps reveal the true health of a ministry and the person leading it.

If we want to see the church and youth ministry grow in abundance, we need to raise up a generation of people, with the willingness, abilities and availability to start mentoring our youth ministers. Oh, and don’t mentor someone without having a mentor yourself. We need to be growing just as much as those we mentor.