This is part two of this article. Please click here to read part one.
In the last post we talked about the importance of a youth leader recognizing his own unique call of God. If we youth leaders do not know where we are going, we can entertain no hope for leading the next generation down the path of God’s will. Paul knew who he was and knew where he was going. In such a context he could boldly encourage others to follow him as he followed Christ.
Although Paul influenced thousands of people throughout the course of his ministry, he only mentored a few. Obviously Timothy was one of them.
Prayerfully consider those whom God would have you to mentor.
To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 2 Timothy 1:2
We are all humanly limited in our ability to impact others. We simply cannot be all things to all men, nor can we be at all places at all times. With the Lord’s help, we must strategically determine whom we will influence given our limited reach.
Certain mentor relationships are non-negotiable; for instance, parents must mentor children. Other relationships must be entered into with much prayer and great consideration. It has been my contention that many a youth ministry tends to be a mile wide and an inch deep. Activities and programs—however well-planned and organized—simply cannot replace a bona fide mentorship relationship.
When Jesus engaged His three-year public ministry, He spent the lion’s share of His time developing twelve men. Ironically the crowds in the ministry of Jesus Christ did more to distract Him from His mission than they did to promote it. Perhaps the most striking phrase to me about Jesus’ calling His disciples is the little phrase “with Him.” Mark told us in his gospel that the Lord chose twelve to be “with Him” (Mark 3:13).
This is where true mentorship takes place—in the context of people being with their mentor. Only as others view our lives in the ebb and flow of daily living will we truly make an impact upon their behavior. At the risk of sounding trite, youth ministry is much more “caught” than “taught.”
Emulating Jesus, we must carefully consider those whom God would have us to mentor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to large youth groups or large churches, but I am adamantly against any apparatus that does not contain within it a structure whereby every individual is discipled, cared for, and held accountable. Too many young people slip through the proverbial cracks because youth pastors refuse to culture real mentorship relationships with them, or refuse to assure that those mentorship relationships exist.
Let’s ask a really practical question. Does your youth ministry have a structure in place whereby every single teenager is accounted for and cared for? Who writes Johnny a note when he misses Sunday School? Who daily text messages Susie to ask her how she is doing on her devotions? Which youth leader prays every day for Billy’s prayer requests? Etc.
The point is not that the youth pastor—especially in a large youth group—can necessarily perform all of these functions. The point is that our groups need to be organized sufficiently so that every teen has a legitimate spiritual mentor. If it were not for the Tom and Donna Hawkins of the world (two of the lay youth leaders in my teen group growing up), I would not be serving in the ministry today. They answered my inane junior high questions. They picked me up for youth group. They gently counseled me in many of my perceived traumatic experiences (i.e. breaking up with the third girlfriend that week!). In short, they loved me by being there.
Teenagers have many questions, and they typically have a lot of time. Mentors must fill the void—stand in the gap—to make the difference in the lives of those who struggle in life’s most challenging transition. So instead of lamenting the “one that got away,” why don’t you determine to invest in the lives of the one or two or four or five in whose lives you will forever make a difference?