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I didn’t even call it a youth ministry; I called it a youth community. Rather than leading a group of young people and trying to get to know and support individuals within that, can we approach youth work starting with individual relationships and allowing that to create a larger group culture?
MAKING MENTORING THE START AND HEART OF YOUR MINISTRY
Here are five tips drawn from my ‘youth community’ experience:
Share quantity time…and it’ll become quality time. As a team we aimed to meet up with all the young people regularly, both on our terms (in our locations, settings and comfort zone) and on theirs (in their settings, with their agendas in their comfort zones). This involved meeting one-to-one and also including them in everything we did as much as possible. We ended up becoming known as a community that had fun and was always laughing together.
Commit long term. Each year when some got too old for our youth programme and moved away I gathered some of the younger ones and we went on a weekend tour of the country to visit them all at university. They knew they were loved when we travelled that far to bring them some treats and buy them lunch. Go the extra mile. Demonstrate your commitment. Mean it.
Nurture their gifts. Every job that needed doing, or responsibility I could think of, we did with the young people…until they could do it without us. This applied to admin, worship leading and preaching. I showed them and taught them what I knew, then worked alongside them as they grew in competency. I was finally able to step away as they brought their own contributions and took it further. This is one of the keys to unlocking young disciples: walk with them until they can walk alone, then fly with them until they are strong enough to soar away.
Have an objective. By this I mean an objective for the mentoring programme, not for how you want each mentee to turn out! I would encourage you to have an objective that is easy to articulate. It makes it easier for:
- Mentees to understand what they are a part of
- Other mentors to understand what is expected of them
Communicate your passion. Be passionate about what mentoring can unlock for you, your team and all your young people. You will need to remind yourselves of these things often in order to maintain and grow as a community. What does success look like? How will you communicate this regularly with mentors and mentees? Will you mentor the mentors? Feed them regularly with ideas, resources, enthusiasm and feedback. Remember that the mentees will only be as excited and passionate about it as the mentors are, and the mentors can only be as excited and passionate about it as you are.
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