In our resource called Transitions (download a PDF here), on pages 18-21, we address the topic of mentoring and sharing life and why it is important in the discipleship of students. We write,
It has been shown to be one of the most effective and high impact means for supporting students in their faith development, because mentors are able to address very specific developmental needs (while ministry groups address chronological needs). Studies show that intergenerational relationships are vital and formative in faith development. (p.18)
Although we have the research and we recognize this is important in the faith development of kids and youth, it is not often that we see children and youth relating deeply with adults in their faith community. Consider the opportunity to model and equip adults in your community to intentionally mentor students. The responsibility to invest in the next generation is not just for children and youth workers but for all adult followers of Jesus and you as pastor have the opportunity and responsibility to ‘set the tone’ or create the culture of mentoring and sharing life intergenerationally. One way to get started on creating this culture is to invite 3 adults to join you in mentoring 1-2 kids/youth from now until June.
In Transitions, we offer a six-degree scale to break down different aspects of this continuum of a culture of sharing life and mentoring. This is intended as an example of degrees of involvement that could be moved between depending on life circumstances and not a sequential progression. Following is the excerpt from Transitions explaining the six-degree model:
1st Degree (1D)
Every relationship begins with some basic knowledge of the other person. What’s his or
her name? Parents’ names? What grade? Which school? What interests? The key to this is
consistency. Is that adult regularly connecting with that student? This doesn’t have to be
a long conversation (maybe just a couple of minutes), but it does need to be consistent. It’s
proactively interacting with students each week—greeting them, seeing how they are, and
finding out about their lives (e.g. “How was that math test last week?”). The crucial part of
this level is following up. The key is reminding students they are noticed and are missed if
they are not around. It is a way to demonstrate that they have a place in this community.
2nd Degree (2D)
This is the deepening of the conversation from 1D. Whereas 1D’s purpose was to connect
for a brief time, now the adult extends the conversation. Consider this the 2+ level
conversation. Here’s an example:
• A: How was your math test last week?
• C: It was really hard.
• A: What did you find most difficult?
• C: I still have trouble with fractions.
• A: How much time did you spend studying?
• C: At least 3 hours.
• A: It sounds like you’ve put a lot of effort into this. I’m proud that you took that much time.
This degree maintains that consistency but delves deeper into students’ lives. To engage the
next generation is to enter into their world rather than pulling them into yours.
3rd Degree (3D)
At this level, the adult is looking for ways to enter the student’s world. This can include:
• attending special occasions like a sports tournament or a recital (mentors may consider
bringing along their families)
• meeting at a coffee shop after class near their school.
It doesn’t have to be frequent. However, entering their world gives a vantage point into other
areas of the students’ lives. It also broadens their familiarity with the mentors by seeing them
in a context outside of the church building. (We’ve all had moments where we recognize a
face but forget a name because we see someone in a completely different context.) Stepping
into their world deepens the sense that adults are making time for them on their turf.
4th Degree (4D)
At this level, adults have gained trust so now they can begin to invite students into their
world. In Doug Fields’s book Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry, he uses the example of bringing
them along to run errands. Perhaps an adult would like to invite the student’s family over for
dinner. Adults can even partner with a friend and invite both students and their families for
a meal. 4D looks for opportunities for the student to see the adult living outside a church
5th Degree (5D)
One great way to share life is by serving together. Typically, this involves common interests
and/or gifts. The key here isn’t just ministering together, but continuing those God exploration conversations. It also provides ways to share common experiences where the mentor and student begin to see each other more as peers versus leader and student. For example, an adult may teach a student how to use the sound board in the sanctuary. The adult intentionally goes beyond the “how to” stage of operating the sound board to helping the student unpack how this is a ministry. They can continue conversations like in 2D. The focus isn’t just the ministry itself, but another opportunity for the adult and student to learnand serve together with shared experiences.
6th Degree (6D)
Formal mentoring occurs at this stage. We define this as intentional, intensive, time-defined
explorations of God’s directives for that individual. Let’s break this down:
• Intentional: Both the student and mentor understand the purpose of gathering.
• Intensive: They realize this may delve into appropriately “hard” moments as the student
moves deeper into his or her own faith and exploration.
• Time-defined: Most mentors cannot commit to being “mentors for life.” An understanding exists between the student and mentor on how long this particularcontext will last.
• Explorations of God’s directives: Mentoring isn’t about going through a curriculum or a set of learning objectives (although that may be part of it). The purpose is helping students hear and understand what God is saying to them. Mentors are to help facilitate and create space for God’s directives to become as clear as possible.The point of this is to intentionally focus and assist students in uncovering what God may be revealing, whether through Scripture, through everyday circumstances or through indepth self-reflection. Bo Boshers’ book called The Be-With Factor explains this process well.
We look forward to how this opportunity will shape the culture of your faith community. We are happy to come alongside and support and resource you in whatever ways are needed as you develop these mentoring relationships and create a culture of sharing life.