We want more attention to be given to youth ministry, and so Chris
Folmsbee joins us weekly to offer a post. Today’s post is about
mentoring. We welcome, as always, your feedback and conversation. This post today deserves responses from pastors and youth workers.

Sometimes I wonder how I ever even made it as a youth minister
through my emerging adulthood years (think: Dr. Jeffrey Arnett and his
book, Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road From Late Teens Through The
).  The first position I held as a “solo” youth minister I was
only 22 years old.  Those years were largely a time that I would
characterize my life’s experiences as experimental and transitory and
my inner life as self-absorbed, unbalanced and stuck. 

Disclaimer:  I
am not generalizing about a stage of life here; I am telling you who I
was and at times, still am.  

I took a call today from a youth minister in the Midwest who sounded a whole lot like I did when I was his age (25) and in my first few years of youth ministry; energetic, idealistic, optimistic, self-assured, and fearless.  The conversation was frightening in the sense that it took me back to mistakes I had made over a decade ago, words I had spoken in absolute certainty that I wish I could take back and statements I made to myself like, “I can handle this” or “I don’t need any help”. 

The difference between the youth minister I spoke to today and me at his age is this; he knows enough to long for and look for a mentor, I thought I could do it all on my own.  The problem this minister is having is that he can’t find one–maybe he isn’t looking that hard or looking in the wrong places.  I don’t think that is the issue however, as today’s conversation was one of a dozen or so I have had over the last year.

I certainly don’t have anything against a 25 year old being a youth minister and being called on to guide the spiritual formation of a dozen or sometimes ten dozen teenagers.  Much of my life is spent training and equipping 25-year olds.  What I do have a problem with, however, is what I perceive as the outright neglect of older more mature men and women to mentor the emerging adults. 

Am I the only one who sees a huge gap between the expectations we place on the lives of emerging adults to lead our youth ministry’s and the mentoring those ministers are getting?  Is it that youth ministers don’t want to be mentored?  Is it that others (church boards, pastors, etc.) won’t take seriously the role of mentoring?

I had and currently have wonderful mentors in my life.  I must say that the mentors who have taken their role with me seriously have undoubtedly changed and continue to change the way that I live, pray, work, play, etc.  I continue to wonder if much of what concerns us about youth ministry today isn’t at the very least reduced by commitments to mentoring.  What would youth ministry be like if the churches who hired emerging adults to lead their youth ministry’s were as passionate about mentoring the minister as they were about the minister mentoring the students?

Maybe I am trying to tackle an issue that really isn’t all that noticeable to anyone but me, that is possible.  I’d love to hear from all of you on this, however, I’d especially love to hear from some of you who are youth ministers and would be classified as an emerging adult (late teens through the twenties).  What do you think?  Do you think a mentor might help you be a better youth minister?  Do you already have a mentor?  If so, is it working?  Why or Why not?  Are you looking for a mentor and can’t find one?

More from Beliefnet and our partners