Continuing the last post of "from mistakes...tips for youth pastors" today we will take a look at the importance of having good mentors in our lives.
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far war away we were introduced to perhaps one of the most influential series of movies, perhaps of all time. Yes, I'm talking about Star Wars. There is hardly a person who has not had the opportunity to enjoy these timeless classics and its newer prequels, and finding a person who has viewed one of the movies is usually met with a gasp of disbelief and shock, followed by "we're watching them now." It is interesting to see how ingrained it has become into western society that there is hardly a person who does not know what a Lightsaber is, or has never tried to "use the force."
So what does Star Wars have to do with us youth pastors? well, one thing we can take away from it is that each Jedi/Sith always had an apprentice with them. Someone that was learning how to use the force for good or ill. The "master" ensured that the apprentice was placed in situations that would test the limits of their skills as well as taught them how to hone their own talents for the benefit of the apprentice. They travelled together, went on missions together, defended each other and even dressed alike. Does this sound familiar to anyone yet? this is the concept of discipleship, if I'm not mistaken.
Now, depending on your take of the term "discipleship" you may see this example differently. I like to think that "discipleship" is more than just having students in a small group with a leader. From what i've studied about the jewish roots of discipleship it meant that the disciple was to striving to copy the rabbi or teacher in every detail of their lives. It then fell to the master to ensure that he was living in such a way that many people wanted to become like him in terms of holiness, morality and learning. Disciples were to literally become the Master, to speak like him, eat like him, walk like him, pray, read and even think the way their master/rabbi did so when the time came and the Master felt the disciple was ready, that disciple would be released with these words "go, and make disciples." Now, where have we heard these words before? oh yea! Matthew 28! the great commission! this was Jesus telling the disciples that they were ready to become masters/rabbi, they had learned to be like the Master and thus needed to make disciples of their own, which is exactly what they did (See Acts of the Apostles)
As we inspect the scriptures, we find that Jesus used this concept to train the disciples how it would look like for them to make disciples. The story of the 70 disciples that He sent out is a great example: they were sent out in pairs, and I like to think that perhaps he sent the "newer" disciples paired off with an older "trained" disciple. The older would then make sure to train the younger as they walked and the younger would submit to the direction of the older disciple, but Jesus took it further, both disciples were to serve each other.
I think this is something we do not do well in the church. we prefer the school/mass training system rather than the one on one discipleship method. I think if we were to pair up our teens with a mentor, perhaps a parent, grand parent or older believer (Y.A etc) who was a solid, seasoned believer who perhaps shared some sort of interest or hobby with their student, a person who was interested in showing them how to be a solid Christian and have them copy their style of prayer, bible reading etc, this would be more effective than preaching 1000 sermons and taking students through yet another teen oriented curriculum just so we can fill their heads with knowledge.
Don't get me wrong, curriculums are good, they have their place and purpose, but i've always felt that they lack the practical aspect, they don't really let you "see" how becoming a solid, deep christian is like. It is such an inconvenient and difficult model to pair people off with mentors, plus finding enough volunteers who actually want to mentor a student has forced us to rob students of a more "real" form of spiritual growth.
Most of us at some point in our lives had someone who saw something in us and took us under their wing and basically made us their disciple. whether it was a college professor or a youth pastor or even a senior pastor, someone along the line trained you to be the pastor you are now. Many of us have been blessed with multiple people who impacted our lives and who trained us to use out gifts for God's glory. Should we not seek to give our students the same experience we had?
How can we do this? well we must simply ask people around our churches. Bring it to the congregations attention and pray. The Lord will provide the people, but we must be prepared to train them and to support them as they begin. Don't expect to have a massive number of people sign up right of the bat, but even if you get 1 or 2 to start with, thats almost 100% more mentors that you had before.
We should also be on the look out for students who have that "something extra" or X-factor. Not the most popular or the centers of attention, but those who have servant hearts, those who show up for prayer without being asked, those who go out of their way to make newcomers welcomed every time there's an even and who do it not to get recognition but because they just feel compelled to do so. These are the ones we need to either mentor ourselves or find someone to mentor them immediately. They could be destined to be used by God in some great way down the road and it is our duty to prepare them.
Lastly, lets take a look at the need for us youth pastors to band together.
The days of the lone wolf youth pastor are over! I don't mean that you have to have multiple youth pastors in your church, but rather we need to increasingly seek out fellow pastors to make the work lighter. This is a lesson, I failed to learn I'm ashamed to say. My pride led me to fear others stealing my thunder and taking any original ideas that I had and using them to become more successful in ministry than I was. I robbed myself of developing deep relationships with other pastors in my area because I wanted to be the best. not only that but, I robbed other youth pastors of my knowledge and experience which could have helped them further their own ministries and thus expanding the kingdom of God.
It is one of the biggest dangers we pastors face. The fact that we have been given a following of people who would do just about anything for us, can tempt us to create our own sealed off kingdoms, where we control who can come in and who can leave. It has been a great realization that every success each of us have in our respective ministries is a success for the lot of us. We are to fight for the souls of the students in our cities not try to outdo each other. Its time to put aside our differences in styles and strive to work together submitting to each other for the good of our city. Dare i say, we must also yield from our specific denominational bent and come together in the fact that we all believe Jesus is Lord and that He rose again, is the son of God and the Bible is His book. I don't mean you compromise the beliefs of your denomination, but rather that we must learn how to work together in spite of our denominational beliefs.
So, my friends, my brothers in arms, where ever the Lord has stationed you to serve, do your best to create disciples and go above and beyond working with each other sharing your ideas, praying for one another, cheering each other on when one of you has a success. Stand with each other when you are facing opposition or a season of great upheaval. You all know how lonely it can be to face derision, opposition, disapproval or unrealistic expectations, so do your best to support each other not only with a kind word and prayer, but perhaps help the brother face it. Stand with him and provide any support you can. oh, and for those of you who are married, make sure your wives know each other and also have the same sort of support that you share. I've seen so many youth pastors' wives who feel more alone than the pastor because they don't have anyone in the church that understands what they are going through. Having them be able to meet each other and draw support from each other can be a healthy thing. Your wives are your partners and sometimes the only cheering section you may have, don't let them be bruised due to neglect.
Now Go! make disciples! continue the work the that Lord has given you to do! Keep fighting the good fight until the Lord tells you to stop. Stand strong and may the Lord Almighty bless you with a wealth of ideas, sermons and opportunities to grow.