Making disciples is a role for every Christian, one of the final marching orders Christ left us (Matthew 28:19). And just about everyone can list people who taught and inspired them, people who mentored and discipled them. Receiving great mentoring is critical to success, whether in your career or family life or faith.
Yet it’s extremely rare in churches today. A frequent complaint Millennials have about churches is that they rarely encounter serious teaching, it’s hard to find mentors, no one wants to invest in them, there isn’t a place for them to serve or learn or grow. It’s really all the same complaint – “discipleship isn’t what it should be.” Why?
One of the leading reasons why we don’t do things we should, the things we are called to, is because we don’t feel confident we can. Since all our Rogue authors spend a lot of time mentoring younger Millennials we wanted to share a few essentials that might give you more confidence in mentoring people and making disciples.
Your past doesn’t disqualify you. It increases the depth of what you have to share. Christ was all about redemption and he was all about liberating people from their pasts. Think of the lady at the well, the lady about to be stoned, Zacchaeus the tax collector, Paul the Pharisee. Christ is about putting people back on track despite their pasts, and redeeming those pasts to help others. Your past informs your present actions, it makes you wiser and it gives you the experience you need to help others. And being honest about your own mistakes, failures or fears is the fastest way to building a relationship of trust where disciples can share their own.
It doesn’t take a scholar. Discipleship is sharing what you already know. It doesn’t take a college degree, it doesn’t take advanced learning, it doesn’t take a scholar or an expert. It’s just about sharing what you’ve learned in life to give others a head start – so they won’t need to make the same mistakes. You don’t have to learn anything new to start mentoring . You just have to be willing to share what you already know and be willing to learn things together with them moving forward. It doesn’t take a lot of head knowledge – instead, it just takes being real. Remind them that it’s okay not to be okay all the time, and be willing to share with them when everything isn’t perfect in your own life.
Millennials are humans too. They speak the same language you do, they want the same things you do, they need to know the same things you learned. We humans often have more in common that we have different – and all it takes to get to know another is to show an active interest in their life. Be willing to share your own life with them and take a real interest in their personal life. You’ll be amazed at how much you have in common.
Discipleship doesn’t have to be an added burden to your schedule. Discipleship consists of doing life together – being real and allowing them to join in your own life. All you have to do is invite them to join things you’re already doing. Do you go fishing? Invite someone along. Do you eat dinner? Invite a younger person from your church. Are you working on a house project? Ask a Millennial if they want to help out and learn. It doesn’t have to take any extra time in your life – it just requires you to be more intentional about inviting people in to what you are already doing.
Set your expectations high and your grace even higher. You won’t hear the phrase “kid gloves” in most mentoring talks – because you need to challenge them by setting the bar high. If you don’t expect any more out of them than their church, school, family or culture then you really aren’t offering them anything that will push them forward. Have high expectations for them and you’ll be amazed at how they strive to achieve. Yet, you must couple your high expectations with an extraordinary amount of grace. You have to be okay with them failing to meet the bar and you have to teach them how to better cope with failure in their own lives. You really just need to be an encourager – someone who sets high expectations, cheers for them to achieve it, and be understanding when they fail yet encouraging them to get up and try again.
It’s okay to not know what to say. Mentoring and discipleship isn’t some formulaic advice-giving relationship. It’s okay to just be there for someone when they get fired, when they lose a family member, when they feel depressed. You don’t have to have all the answers to help a friend out. There are times they won’t want advice as much as they want encouragement, support, and to know they’re not alone.
We hope that is a bit encouraging. Often generations look at the next generation as some foreign beast they simply can’t understand. But in the end, we all need the same things – security, belonging, love, work, purpose, faith, etc. Passing these on to the next generation doesn’t have to be a convoluted, expensive, time-consuming errand. It can occur in enjoyable relationships where sharing life is the norm.
But it takes people being intentional. Your faith has to mean enough to you that you want to share it. Your concern that the next generation carries on your faith has to be strong enough that you want to share it. And you just need 20 seconds of insane courage to ask a young person if they want to hang out.