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It takes a team.

It takes a team.

My Field of Dreams

I love the game of baseball. In fact, one of my earliest memories is of my dad taking my brother and I to see a Phillies game at Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia. It was one of the best days of my life. Like many young boys that day I had my glove in hand, the hope of catching a foul ball, and the passion to someday play on that field. (Well, maybe not that field, it was the Vet!)

In the top of the seventh inning, the Atlanta Braves were up to bat. The first three batters reached base and now they were loaded. My dad leaned over to me and told me to get ready, because the guy stepping into the batters box was one of the great homerun hitters of all time. As I watched intently the first pitch was delivered and then promptly crushed over the left field wall for a grand slam.

It was Hank Aaron.

Needless to say, I was hooked. Hooked on baseball, and for a child of the late 70’s, sadly hooked on the Phillies.

The year after that game I began my pursuit to become a major league baseball player. Now, I was only eight and had just signed a contract to play for our town’s little league, but I knew I was well on my way. In my first practice I told my coach about my dreams and then asked him if he would have any advice on how I could make them come true.

Bending down to get close to me face he said, “I will teach you all I know, but there will need to be many more who come after me that will teach you skills I don’t have” It seemed to make sense, and over the next 12 years of playing baseball on different teams and for different coaches, it made perfect sense.

Many Different Mentors

As I reflect on my years in baseball, it reminds me a lot of my years in Student Ministry. For many people there seemed to be this assumption that one person; one youth leader would fulfill all the various needs of a student in the ministry. But with many of our students, it was obvious that they needed many different people in their lives; people from varying backgrounds, with unique skill sets, and of all generations. Healthy discipleship always seemed to involve more than one mentoring influence.
In the book “Connecting” Paul Stanley and J. Robert Clinton identified eight critical types of mentoring relationships that everyone needs throughout their life. These types varied in their intentionality and influence; some hardly fit the discipleship stereotype that we’ve come to expect, but all are necessary in order for a young person to spiritually develop.

More Intensive Types

1. Discipler – Provide instruction, training and modeling in the basics of following Christ.

2. Spiritual Guide – Offer accountability, direction, and insight for questions, commitments, and decisions affecting spirituality and maturity.

3. Coach – Focus on imparting motivation, skills, and the application needed to meet a task or overcome a challenge.

More Occasional Types

4. Counselor – Provide timely advice and correct perspectives on viewing self, others, circumstances, and ministry.

5. Teacher – Impart knowledge and understanding of a particular subject.

6. Sponsor – Give career guidance and protection as a individual moves within an organization.

Passive Role-Models

7. Contemporary Models – A living, personal model for life, ministry, or profession who is not only an example but also inspires emulation.

8. Historical Models – A past life that teaches dynamic principles and values for life, ministry, and/ or profession.

Where we fit.

No one person can fulfill all of these roles within a young person’s life. No one should attempt to. Instead, it’s important that we recognize that we’ll be disciplers for some, spiritual guides for others, and perhaps teachers for another group. In our ministries, there may be others better suited to fulfill some roles in a particular student’s life.

As I reflected over my own spiritual journey, I can identify the mentors that cared for me and invested in my life in very different ways. Notice they are all different.

  • Discipler – Doug Weygand…… Pastor and mentor from my home church
  • Spiritual Guide – Doug Jones…….Spiritual Guide and deep friend
  • Coach – Sheila Snow…….Trauma team member, taught me not to miss details
  • Counselor – Jerry Higley…….Gave me a chance in ministry
  • Teacher – Roy King……Seminary Professor, Pastor, and good friend
  • Sponsor – Jim Ayers…….I’d take a bullet for this guy… enough said
  • Contemporary Model – Dan Allender…….I want to live like this guy
  • Historical Model – Watchman Nee……. This guys writings are ridiculous

In your ministry, what student’s list will your name be on and how are you training your team to have a more robust understanding of mentorship through providing the relationships they need for life?

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.