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Mentoring as a Spiritual Discipline

19 May Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on Mentoring as a Spiritual Discipline
Mentoring as a Spiritual Discipline
 

Editor’s Note: In the month of May, we’re focusing on the idea of cultivating spiritual formation in the lives of our students – inviting them to meet God by introducing them to spiritual disciplines. Two weeks ago, we talked about the very helpful practice of “unplugging” as a way of starting this series. Last week, we talked about the role leaders have in guiding students through spiritual disciplines. Today, we invite you to consider mentoring as a spiritual discipline both for students to receive and embody.

cheesusI was one of those church rats in middle and high school. You know, the kid who attended every event and function; who showed up early and stayed late. I always helped load and unload the bus on trip days. I ran check in tables, added more chairs when needed and handed out snacks. Yes, I even had a rather impressive collection of Jesus t-shirts. I meant it though… so it was okay.

The Invitation to Follow

I was 15 when a new youth pastor was hired at the church. One of the first things he said to me was, “Hey, I have learned a lot about God, how life works and that kind of thing. I’m still learning a lot too. I would love to teach you all the things God has taught me and keep learning more about Him, together. Whatta ya say?”

This was something altogether new. I had been great at programming. I was a star athlete at attending all the youth group had to offer and checking every event off the events list. With that simple question I was presented with an invitation that would change everything for me, and in time I came to realize there was more to God (and church) than just the programs.

Then something crazy happened. About nine months to a year later that new youth pastor, who had become my mentor, said something altogether new. “Ben, it’s time for you to do the same thing. There are a lot of students who are new or who are where you were a year ago. It’s time for you to ask them if you can teach them and keep learning together.”

I was excited, thrilled, scared, nervous… ready to go and ready to say, “No.”

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Mentoring as a Spiritual Discipline

With this second question, my youth pastor was inviting me into a new chapter of my own faith that would profoundly shape me to this day. The challenge to start mentoring another person is in many ways a step into a highly-relational spiritual discipline. One that God has used to shape my life and those of countless others.

Good mentoring is persistent, gracious, faithful, long-suffering, hopeful, selfless, and highly intentional. That’s a tall order and none of us could adequately pull it off without the guidance of the Father, the model of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Inviting Students to Mentor Others

So three simple questions for youth leaders:

  • Where are your students spiritually? This is one that it seems like every youth leader and volunteer is asking on a weekly basis.
  • Are they being mentored? This is one that we all know we should be asking more than we probably are.
  • Are they ready to be a mentor? This is the one that most often goes overlooked. As you ask yourself this question, what emotions come up? Excitement, Worry, Fear?

I learned a lot about the spiritual discipline of mentoring from that new youth pastor. Here are a few those things that have stayed with me over the years.

  • Just ask. The beginning of an amazing friendship that has lasted almost 20 years began with a simple, honest, upfront question about becoming a disciple of Jesus.
  • Make a plan. One of the first things we did was read a book about my identity in Christ. This was all new to me. No one had ever told me more than the typical Sunday school stories. I soaked it up.
  • Be together. We spent a lot of time together. I still showed up early, stayed late and never missed an event (except for that one trip to Canada, which I heard was a disaster). But our time wasn’t just about the program. It was about solo time in solitude and silence, prayer, visiting other students and taking the time to care for my soul.
  • Lead, train and empower. I was just an average high schooler. I had no clout. Amazingly, my mentoring began training me and empowering with me opportunities to speak, organize and lead.

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  • Make them mentors. I remember the first student I approached. My goal was just to get to know him and see what God would do. I was stunned. In a matter of minutes I found out that we shared a passion for yardsaling (yeah, yeah, snicker and laugh all you want). A week later we were cruis’n the neighborhoods in my pickup with the newspaper classifieds. Along the way I said the same thing this young student, “Hey, I’ve been learning all this awesome stuff about God and I’m always learning something new. Would you…”
  • Keep mentoring. Of course, it doesn’t end there. My mentor continued to be so and still is today. Our friendship has growth and deepened incredibly and we have had more crazy adventures than I can recall. He kept mentoring me as I began mentoring too.

One Last Thought About Getting Started

I bet some of you are thinking the same thing I was thinking when I started at Arrowhead. “How I am going to mentor/disciple all these students? There are dozens of them or hundreds, some of you could say. Not every meaningful mentoring relationship is going to look exactly the same. Some of the most deeply impacting relationships aren’t always the most intensive. Connecting by Clinton and Stanley is one of my favorite practical guides to mentoring. It takes the impossible and makes it possible. I highly recommend you check it out.

Ben Myers
Camp Director at Arrowhead Bible Camp
Ben Myers has served as the Camp Director at Arrowhead Bible Camp in Brackney, PA for the past 13 years. Arrowhead is a ministry committed to discipleship through its programs for adults with developmental disabilities, missions opportunities for youth groups, and mentoring of High School and College students. Ben also teaches as an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College and holds degrees from Cairn University and Baptist Bible Seminary.