The ability to echo the words of Paul saying ‘follow me as I follow Christ,’ and pour your life into a younger believer is one of the best joys a Christian can experience. I am grateful for my friend Chip and his recent blog “Gospel Centered Discipleship.” His focus on evaluating the conversations and questions we give to those whom we spiritually mentor through the grid of Jesus’ obedience, death, resurrection and Lordship is fantastic!
In my ten years of student ministry the LORD has taught me some things about mentoring as well. It’s been an adventure filled with: spiritual fruit and rebellion, victories and failures, celebrations and sorrow, laughter and tears. Much time has been spent in prayer, with open Bibles, doing evangelism, hanging out, memorizing Scripture, sharing family meals, talking relationships, confessing sin, attending events, and reading books in mentoring relationships with students. The one thing that has changed from when I began mentoring students is the emphasis I give to establishing relationships with the teenager’s parents.
If the student has Christian parents they hopefully understand that they are the primary spiritual leader in the home (if not, my relationship with them is a perfect opportunity to encourage this – see Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Psalm 78:5-7). Thus, not only do I meet with the parents to get permission to develop a mentoring relationship with their student, I also want to communicate my desire to team up with the parent and be a supplement for the ministry that they are already accomplishing in the home. This open line of communication is crucial as it continues to encourage their role in the home as they lead, pray, and fight to stay connected to the heart of their teenagers. It also gives me the opportunity to see how my student is doing from the perspective of someone who spends seven days a week with them. Its rare that I have the opportunity to see how my student ‘honors’ their mother and father throughout the week, or if they are interacting with their siblings in a loving way, etc. So teaming up with parents is a win for everybody involved.
If the student has unbelieving parents, I can still partner with them and communicate my desire to have an open line of communication with the spiritual goals that have been set for their student. Beyond this, there is now the opportunity for me to proclaim the good news of Christ into that parent’s life. They have a vested interest in the growth of their student and I get to talk about Jesus the whole time we discuss that growth. What better way to turn the conversation to their spiritual need to respond to the GOSPEL with repentance and faith and start a relationship with Christ?
For the last several years my wife and I have been mentoring teenagers with an emphasis on relationship with the parents. We have also trained leaders to do the same. It has opened several opportunities for missional living with unbelieving parents and sparked many conversations with Christian parents as they are continually encouraged and equipped to fulfill the leadership role in their child’s life that God has given them. In fact, it is often the case that the parents call the spiritual mentor asking for prayer and wisdom to handle a situation in their home. This emphasis of relationship with the parents serves to increase the potential impact from one teenager and those he or she will influence to whole families influencing those around them for Christ.