Resources for Mentoring Young Adults?

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We are looking for ways to mentor our young adults (both those who stay in town and those who go elsewhere to university). Do you have any strategies, programs, or resources that you've used? Any lessons learned or advice you can give? 

 

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Thanks for the question Angela. A very important topic to address and a timely one. In 2018, a research paper coming out of Canada called "Renegotiating Faith" spoke very directly to this topic. Below are some highlights from that paper.

"The consensus in the literature and among ministry experts and among young adults is that mentoring is a good thing. There is agreement that mentoring involves a lot of conversation, that it should be focused on the mentee’s life, and that it will succeed as a ministry form where programmatic ministry fails. There is also agreement that with mentors, mentees grow up more quickly, and are more likely to embrace faith. Although mentoring is talked about as the solution to youth and young adult ministry problems, there is less agreement about what it is, or why it works.

Perhaps because of the hopes vested in mentoring, many adults, the would-be mentors, find the prospect of mentoring to be intimidating. In the literature many authors reframed mentoring in the more comfortable language of “intergenerational friendships,” “sharing life,” or “non-parental adult investment in children and youth.” Even with this more comfortable language it remains unclear why “sharing life” should work, and if it does, how would mentors know if they were doing it well.

An interviewed young adult shared, about the way her mentors walked alongside her supporting her in her interpersonal struggles and while offering guidance:

They know where your struggles are. They know where your joys are. They know what you are good at. They know what you are terrible at, but they can still walk alongside you, encourage you in things you are good at, rebuke you for the things that you are not doing too great at, and just keep pushing you towards righteousness and following Christ more fully. And just generally being a friend in that process.

The research pointed to these important findings for us.

The mentor’s role is to assist the young adult in negotiating a new relationship with the church that is different from the one they had as a child. It is not, however, limited to questions of faith and religious participation, because religious identity is not neatly separated from other aspects of identity. Moreover, young adults are renegotiating all their childhood relationships with the different communities in which they interact. Once the major identity planks are set in place the rest tend to follow close behind. This means that a Christian identity, an identity with the church, needs to be at an advanced stage of negotiation at the same time, or before, the young adult is finalizing other large roles like career and family.

There are three key spiritual characteristics, BIG life questions to keep in mind when we think about the faith formation of our teens and young adults. Those are;

Who am I?

Where do I fit?

What difference do I make?

The first is about "Identity", the next about "Belonging" and the final one about "Purpose".

When we consider mentorship in our churches, helping a mentee wrestle with these huge questions is a great start. Consider who already has a relationship with the young adult and how can that relationship can be strengthened using these questions as a building block. Perhaps there are activities like canoeing, sailing, small engine repair, choir, sports etc where those intergenerational connections can be built upon. And for those who are away, a care package from someone who loves them unconditionally is life giving. And lastly, just pray. Pray for all of your young adults. Pray, pray, pray.

 

Admin

I remember being a college freshmen getting a care package from my church. Hand-written notes, cookies, and other little things. It made me feel remembered and loved. So simple but meant a lot. 

Also, Well-Watered Women is a great ministry and community that encourages women to get in the Word (they do a great job of being relevant to the challenges women today face). I just got an email from them mentioning a devotional called Dear College Girl.

Per the description, "you’ll find letters written by women who have walked through college and want to encourage you with wisdom and truth from Scripture as you head into these exciting years." This would make a beautiful gift!