“Mentoring” is a buzzword in our current culture. A quick google search on the words “mentoring teenagers” yields dozens of articles, blogs, organizations, and curricula to mentor teens in both the secular and Christian realms.
Biblical mentoring sets itself apart from many other mentoring strategies because it is not a program or a formalized ministry. It is a mindset, a lifestyle, and an organic means of discipleship that dovetails with the already existing ministries in the local church. It can happen anywhere your life intersects with the lives of teens.
Many of the “Christian mentoring” programs and organizations appear to mimic the secular ones to a large degree, although some add Scripture or scriptural principles. There are three distinctives that make biblical mentoring unique:
There are many common sense reasons to mentor youth. Students who have mentors are much more likely to stay in school, have better school attendance, avoid alcohol and drugs, enroll in college, hold a leadership position in a club or sports team, participate in extracurricular activities, and volunteer regularly in their community. Teenagers are at a critical stage in their understanding of spiritual matters, and we are all concerned about the number of young people leaving our churches in their late teens/early twenties.
As far as the motives for mentoring are concerned, Titus 2 is a good starting point. It mandates that the older women should teach the younger women for the sake of preserving sound doctrine in the body of Christ throughout the generations. Paul broadens this instruction in 2 Timothy 2:2.
Biblical mentoring is a gospel-centered ministry that involves making disciples by sharing the gospel for salvation as well as teaching others who are younger to apply the Bible for their sanctification. Teenagers are able to understand theology and doctrine, and they benefit from older men and women who are willing to impart wisdom and truth into their lives.
It can be helpful to become equipped and trained as a biblical counselor or mentor in order to maintain biblical integrity in relationships with the next generation. Whether or not a mentor receives formalized training, the Bible contains what is needed to make mentoring truly biblical.
A deep discipleship relationship targets the heart of the teen. It is tempting to focus on outward behaviors, but God-honoring and eternally significant change targets the heart. We focus on the heart by asking good questions that reveal the thoughts, beliefs, and desires of the teen as we teach them about God’s Word and how the gospel applies to their daily lives.
Be creative as you look for ways to mentor a teenager. Teens will be more likely to be open to your mentorship if you gain their trust by caring about the things they care about. Be natural in your interactions and remember that teenagers are open to having a mentor, but they tend to respond best when it is not programmed or forced. Start casually and ease in to the relationship. In time, this kind of mentoring relationship can be among the most rewarding relationships you will ever enjoy.
The New Testament’s one-another passages are as applicable to teens as they are to adults, and they provide a structure for mentoring them. Each one of the fifty-plus one-another verses can become a teaching opportunity for a mentor. Beginning with “love one another” (e.g., John 13:34), a teenager can learn to love like Jesus by following the mentor’s example in living this out in the context of real-life struggles.
I spend a fair amount of time in my counseling ministry focusing on intergenerational ministry, specifically mentoring youth and young adults. A while ago, I asked a handful of teenagers to tell me what they need from older generations. Their answers are insightful and helpful to us as we consider how to encourage them towards faith and a healthy Christian walk. Here are some of their responses:
- “Why are there so many unjust and unfair situations in the world, and what can a teenager do about them?”
- “How are we supposed to love others and be compassionate when the whole world seems to be so mean right now?”
- “How do I know what my purpose in life is?”
- “How do I, as a Christian teenager, deal with all the confusion and injustice in the world?”
- “I am worried about my future and the future of the world. There is so much suffering, and it scares me. How should I deal with that?”
If you read those questions and statements very carefully, you can discern a common thread. Every one of those concerns is addressed by studying God’s character. Teens need to gain an understanding of God’s goodness, love, holiness, sovereignty, justice, faithfulness, etc. Furthermore, they will trust you more if you allow them to ask questions and admit their doubts. Finally, you can help a teen to learn how to study their Bible for answers as you come alongside them as a mentor.
A very good additional resource to assist you in discussing doctrine and theology with teens is The New City Catechism, developed by Tim Keller and Sam Shammas. It is user-friendly, interactive, and inter-denominational. In an easy-to-follow format, you will find help in answering the questions that teens have.
Visit their website for more information: www.newcitycatechism.com.
For equipping and training as a mentor, please visit: www.biblicalmentor.com.
Join the Conversation
What are the challenges, and what fruit have you seen in your efforts to mentor teens?