a 'word cloud' with 'mentoring' as the main word and with words including "organization," "communication," and "relationships" surrounding it in various colors

Mentoring: The COVID Response Your Church Can’t Do Without

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I am really tired.

This pandemic has taken a toll on us all, hasn’t it? In a previous blog, I made reference to the fact that we have been given the gift of a “mulligan” this year, something for which I am extremely grateful. It is in this context, however, that I find myself having to constantly readjust my approach to the ball before I take a swing. 

You know what I mean?

Part of my work as Youth Ministry Catalyzer is supporting the Classis Youth Champions scattered throughout Canada and the U.S. These passionate leaders constantly inspire me with their hearts for the church and for the gospel truths we have been called to share with youth and emerging adults in the CRC. It is an honour to work so closely with this group.

During our May 2019 Champions retreat, one topic that consistently rose to the surface of our conversations was the ministry of mentoring.

If I were to define “mentoring,” I’d say it this way: Mentoring is supporting and encouraging people in their own learning and sharing what you have learned so they can maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance, and become the person they are called to be.

But here’s something to think about: during the retreat, our conversations revealed that although we all see the need and importance of mentoring, a conservative estimate is that 95% of our congregations do not do it well.

So what do we need to change in order for mentoring to take place with fruitful discipleship results?

You may be thinking, “The pandemic hit us in the gut, and we just can’t address mentoring right now.”  Forgive my bluntness, but that is absolutely WRONG.

This COVID mulligan has actually highlighted the fact that mentoring and relational ministry are necessary, now more than ever, within our congregations.

Unfortunately, we are at times mired in an intergenerational dynamic that hinders the constructive dialogue that is paramount in discipleship and mentoring. In the article Pilgrim Stories: Evangelism Is a Dirty Word to Millennials, John Seel writes,

The church has a significant communication problem with millennials. Not only do persons of faith tend to talk exclusively to themselves in coded religious language, they communicate with a tone and content that is perceived as offensive to many young people. Genuine disagreements do not need to be offensive. Effective communication can lead to the achievement of real disagreement. But the process need not be intrinsically offensive

This statement reflects what I have encountered in conversations with CRC churches. So where do we go from here?

Well, part of learning is being together, either in the same room or virtually, so that we, the 95% who have not learned to do mentoring well, can sit at the feet of the 5% who have. Those folks can help us work through some of the barriers that prevent us from effectively mentoring young people, both those who are baptismally connected to our congregation and those who are not but desire to belong and to know what it means to be a child of the Creator.

Here are three opportunities that I hope every one of the 95% will be able to take advantage of during the pandemic and after it ends (please Lord, let it be soon!):

  • Faith Formation Ministries, in partnership with Thereforego Ministries (formerly Youth Unlimited), is hosting a virtual Intergenerational Mentoring Cohort in 2021, from January to May. This cohort experience will be facilitated by three passionate voices who see mentoring as a means to bridge the gap between healthy and unhealthy discipleship for the emerging adults in our midst. For more information, please contact Ron deVries at [email protected] or 780-619-6566.

  • For a number of years, Generation Spark has been a Michigan-based experiment that helps churches bring together youth and adults in one-to-one mentoring relationships that have a unique shared purpose: to identify, assess, and recommend solutions for real problems in church and community. The success of this initiative has been inspirational! As a result, the CRCNA and RCA are partnering to train our Champions to roll this ministry out to our churches beginning in 2021. If you want more information, please contact me, Ron deVries, at [email protected] or 780-619-6566.

  • As a follow-up to their excellent book Growing Young, Fuller Youth Institute released another helpful book titled Growing With. In this book, Kara Powell and Steve Argue focus on how and why we walk alongside children as they grow and learn and transition into adulthood. As you might expect, mentoring is a significant part of this dialogue. If you are interested in learning more or participating in a book study on this topic, please contact me, Ron deVries, at [email protected] or 780-619-6566. Some of the youth ministry Champions have developed a workshop for this material, and we are happy to share it at a council/congregational/classis meeting at a later date.

Meanwhile, here are a few questions I encourage you to ponder:

  • Who is mentoring you, and what have you learned from this relationship?

  • Is there a young person in your life with whom God is nudging you to connect?

  • How will you strengthen your church’s mentoring culture in 2021?

If you want to talk, please contact me at (780) 619-6566 or [email protected]

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