Developing Student Mentors
One of the biggest challenges in youth ministry is figuring out how to multiply your efforts. What can you do that would ensure your ministry could still bear fruit even if you were to step away from it for a season?
One of the biggest blessings in my junior high ministry is the influence of high school students. Maybe you’re thinking this sounds sound dreadful (I know my high schoolers, and I don’t want them near my junior highers), but if you spend a little extra time and effort with some older students, you can multiply your efforts to reach the younger ones.
You must use wisdom and discernment when you choose the students you’re going to personally invest in. When you select a student to mentor or disciple, a good rule of thumb is to choose someone who is F.A.T.
The student must be FAITHFUL.
You’re looking for a student with consistent attendance at church activities. You also want to see this student producing fruit by consistently living out his or her faith outside the church walls. This will look different for every student, so use your judgment.
This student must be AVAILABLE.
It’s difficult to invest in someone if that person is never able to meet with you. You don’t want to overwhelm or cause stress by adding more to a student’s plate. Just like adults, students need healthy balance—it’s important not to make church the thing that pushes them over the edge. Find a student who has some room in his or her schedule to spend one-on-one time with you.
This student must be TEACHABLE.
You can’t expect a high school student to have perfectly formed theology before you decide that person is ready to have a kingdom impact. If you can see that a student is teachable—this student is confident, but knows that he or she doesn’t have it all figured out—that student would be a fruitful investment.
Once you have chosen students to mentor, how do you prepare them to mentor younger students? One of the best things I’ve done is to first allow these students to mentor you—allow them to communicate foundational biblical truths to you. The best part is that in this role, you get to play devil’s advocate.
I’ve been shocked when I’ve asked some of our leadership-caliber students to communicate (what I think are) simple biblical truths, and they can’t put them into words. These are answers to questions such as “If a non-Christian friend asks you what it means to be a Christian, what do you say?” or “How would I become a Christian if I wanted to?” The responses I typically get are along the lines of “Well, I would just invite them to church and introduce them to you so you can explain it.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad my students view me and their other leaders in that way, but it’s important to get students to a point where they can communicate these truths on a level that their friends can understand.
When you meet one-on-one with students, be careful not to spoon-feed them answers or spiritual truths. Instead, ask a lot of questions and work to get them to communicate truths to you—push them to move past typical Sunday school answers. Ask them to define terms such as holy, repentance, salvation, sin, etc. Ask them where the Bible supports their claims. Challenge them to really think through and process what they’re saying rather than regurgitate a lesson or sermon.
Once a student can explain these truths in a coherent and relevant way, has caught the vision of spiritual multiplication, and understands his or her role in reaching younger students, that student will be a part of multiplying your efforts. Continue to support these students by walking alongside them as they begin to mentor and disciple younger students, but gradually remove yourself so they can gain confidence in how God is using them. Continue to support them through prayer, encouragement, and continued investment.
Students need to know they’re cared for and noticed as individuals. You won’t be able to do that for everyone, but you can do that for student leaders in your ministry and teach them to do that for the younger students. Multiply your efforts by mentoring students and guiding them in mentoring you. Facilitate students meeting with other students. Challenge student leaders to step out of their comfort zones. Allow God to work in and through older students to help raise up the younger students. It won’t always be perfect or pretty—it won’t always go according to plan. But if God can use people like you and me in the lives of students, he can surely use students in the lives of other students.
Tyler Suplee works with Junior High Students at Grace Fellowship UMC in Katy TX. He is married to his wife Christina, and they have one dependent, their dog Buster. You can find him on Instagram @tsuplee and his recently started blog at tylersuplee.wordpress.com.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.