“Mentoring and discipling this next generation is everything.”- Aspen Group CEO Ed Bahler, a founding partner of the Cornerstone Knowledge Network.
What is mentoring? The Management Mentors website defines it this way: “Mentoring is most often defined as a professional relationship in which an experienced person (the mentor) assists another (the mentoree) in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the less-experienced person’s professional and personal growth.” That sounds great. However, before you start matching older wiser leaders with the 20-something in your church, you need to know that this is not what Millennials are looking for in a church. Think about it. Have millennials ever taken a traditional approach to anything? Have they ever done things the easy way? Millennials are a different breed, not a bad breed just a different breed, a unique group of individuals.
If you stop and examine many of our teaching methods, they are based on discipleship that has at its core a mentoring mindset. In the old discipleship models, we used for the previous generation people came to the church and sat at the feet of the pastor and were instructed. That discipleship model contained these essential elements:
- Teaches the mentoree about a specific issue. (We called that youth and adult instruction)
- Coaches the mentoree on a particular skill. (Training in the use of spiritual gifts.)
- Facilitates the mentoree’s growth by sharing resources and networks. (We put people to work on boards and committees.)
- Challenges the mentoree to move beyond his or her comfort zone. (People moved up the ministry ladder into leadership positions.)
- Creates a safe learning environment for taking risks. (Sending people out to carry out the ministry of the church.)
- Focuses on the mentoree’s total development. (Developing spiritual maturity)
However, Millennials don’t want a one-way information dump where they sit and receive mountains of information. What the church needs to adapt to is the dawning of a new mentoring model. One that fully engages Millennials in a dialogue with mutual sharing of information. You see Millennials have something they can teach the church as well as need to learn from the church. By developing a new understanding of discipleship and instruction called reverse mentoring both the church and the young adults today grow together.
What is reverse mentoring you say?
According to Techopedia, reverse mentoring is an initiative where older executives are mentored by younger employees on topics like technology, social media, and current trends. You read that correctly. Millennials mentor executives.
How does this work? Imagine your seasoned ministry leaders following this radical concept and using reverse mentoring to gain a deeper understanding of the emerging culture. As the church attempts to get a handle on this postmodern thought, Millennials could help the church become fluent in the language of the emergent conversation. “The best way to do this is to become a willing and intentional student of the culture, to become the humble protégé; instead of the mentor.”
Reverse mentoring takes into account that Millennials want to be taken seriously today and not just seen for some distant future leadership position.
The Benefits of Reverse Mentoring
What is the church’s biggest challenge? We are fresh idea deprived. With reverse mentoring, the church gets an injection of fresh ideas and a new perspective. Reverse mentoring counteracts ministry blind spots that come from doing ministry the same way for too long. This approach to ministry acknowledges everyone within an organization has something to bring to the table. By pairing a younger, less-experienced ministry professional with older leaders, reverse mentoring helps young disciples gain confidence and strengthen their leadership skills while assisting older disciples to stay up-to-date on the latest ministry ideas while at the same time enhance the overall ministry of the congregation.
Discipleship is a critical responsibility of the shepherd. Paul makes it that clear. Here is the context for that preparation from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 4, “12 His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ 13 until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, 16 who is the head.”
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