By CTA—Christ to All
When Jesus gave us a new commandment in John 13:34 to love one another, he set a new standard for how we care for each other. One way to care about the next generation is to mentor them in behavior, skills, and faith.
February, as the month known for the celebration of love, is a perfect time to begin a mentoring program with the men in your men’s group and the children in your congregation or community. Each of us is uniquely gifted, and sharing that giftedness with someone who is interested in growing is a joy for both involved. In a time when many families have moved away from their parents, children lose the joy of growing up with a grandparent nearby and grandparents miss out on the everyday interactions with their grandchildren. A mentoring program can help fill that void for both grandparents and grandchildren.
Whatever type of relationships you want to foster, here are key steps to consider as you set up your program:
- Define the purpose and the goals—for both the mentor and the mentee. As an example, for the mentor: The purpose is to share time with a child between 8–16 years of age, listening to issues and helping sort out a Christ-centered approach to dealing with them. From the mentee perspective: The purpose is to have someone dedicated to helping a child or youth sort through current issues and learn how to resolve them.
- Define the program—How many mentors and mentees are you wanting to participate? How will you match participants? How long will the mentoring relationship last? What mentoring options will you offer to mentees?
- Define your sign-up process—How will people sign up to be mentors and mentees? Will you start with the mentors and then center the program around their skills? Or start with the kids that are ideal candidates and find mentors to support them?
- Define the support for the mentors—What staff support and back-up will you be offering to the mentors? Will there be a regular check-in with a mentor coordinator? Will there be a time for all mentors to talk about how each of their relationships is going?
Who needs to be involved with the decision of the program from the church staff—the pastor, the children’s and youth ministers? Is there anyone else? How can this program work for the entire congregation through the men’s ministry team?
This type of mentoring program is a form of intergenerational ministry. Research has shown indicators (as discussed here) that strong intergenerational disciple-making relationships were critical to child, youth and young adult maturity, to faith development, to youth retention, and to longevity across all life stages. Essentially the more connections you have to a group the more connected you remain. It’s easily demonstrated in the secular world by high-school reunions who enjoy larger numbers of attendees in the fifth year than they do in the fifteenth year.
Implementing the commandment to love one another in the intergenerational sense bonds children to the Church in a variety of ways that help build that lasting foundation for a lifelong relationship with Christ and his Church.
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