Being in youth ministry, we wear many hats ranging from teacher, babysitter, coach, counselor, educator, mediator, advocate, friend, parent, etc..
Perhaps one of the most important roles we play is that of mentor. More than likely, if you are in any form of youth ministry you mentor students. This may take place formally in weekly meetings and studies or informally through shared experiences and journeying through life together.
Since you probably do a great job in mentoring students, I want to reflect upon something different.
Who is mentoring you?
I spent the first 7 years at my church being completely poured out for my students. I was constantly mentoring them and had very little coming in to me. As Paul writes, I was being poured out and drained like an offering. The only problem was that nothing was replacing it.
This catches up with you eventually.
It was odd, because I taught about the importance of accountability, authenticity, inspiration, and challenge in the context of students’ spiritual formation, yet it never occurred to me that I was the one who probably needed those things the most.
I realized that I was lonely and isolated even though constantly surrounded.
As you know,being in ministry is difficult and there are few people whom you can talk to about the struggles and difficulties.
I needed someone like that, and so I prayed earnestly for a mentor for a lengthy period of time.
Months passed and they turned into years.
But eventually, after I kept praying and asking, the right person came along.
A former missionary, pastor, and professor whom I had known for about 4 years had just recently moved to a nearby town to pastor a church.
He was my guy and the great thing was (and is) we both knew it.
My mentor has taught me a great deal about myself. I am free to share my deepest and darkest secrets, as he also brings out my hopes, dreams, and goals.
I can honestly say that I am a better husband and youth pastor because of my time spent with my mentor, not to mention his prayer support for myself and my ministry.
He believes in me, advocates for me, holds me accountable, asks me the hard questions, challenges, encourages, and inspires me.
He is to me, what I hope to be for my students (what we all aspire to be as youth leaders)
I am also a part of a few other groups that function as support systems for my wife and I.
We are part of an amazing small group of young married couples from our church and share life together weekly.
My mentor and his wife also recently began a married-in-ministry mentor/support group where a few couples meet monthly to be ministered to.
There is a real necessity and blessing in allowing others to serve and minister to us.
It is humbling at first to admit that we need this, but it is vital to our own spiritual formation and soul care, not to mention endurance for the long haul.
I have discovered there to be a striking connection between youth pastors who burn out and leave their positions (if not ministry altogether) and those youth leaders who do not have a mentor. (by the way, the word mentor can be synonymous with spiritual advisor, coach, etc.. but the point is that she/he is intentional and consistent and focussed on youth spiritual health and growth)
I have others who have informally mentored me (family, authors, speakers), but my mentor does a few things that others do not:
He spends quality time with me and for me, meaning that he is actively engaged in my life.
He listens well and shares advice when appropriate.
He remembers what I share with him and keeps it all in strict confidentiality.
He prays with me and for me.
He encourages, supports, affirms, challenges and confronts when necessary.
And he does it all because he genuinely cares for me and my future (and this holistic concern includes my family, education, finances, spiritual growth, soul care, physical health, and relationships)
1) We need mentors in our life to keep us grounded, hold us accountable, and stay focussed on personal and spiritual growth.
2) We need to mentor our students and not just teach them or organize activities for them.
We all need Pauls and Timothys in our lives. We need people to mentor and invest in us, so that we are equipped and able to mentor our students.
Mentoring changes lives.
Our students need us, but..if we are not being invested in and poured into, we will have little to give those who look to us.
So…who’s mentoring you?
*Above is a great book on mentoring by a former professor of mine.