The Power of Youth Mentoring

The Atlantic Union Conference union-wide “Finish Faithful” Pathfinder Camporee is now history (see cover story). I, for one, was the recipient of a massive amount of inspiration from more than 3,700 youth, young adults, and adult chaperones congregated at Burlingame
State Park in Rhode Island. The experience was a moving expression of thanks to God for the commitment and involvement of young people in the life of the church, as well as the youth directors who planned and facilitated this awesome event.

And I thank God for each one of our Pathfinders, regardless of the huge distractions, challenges, and temptations with which their lives are constantly buffeted.

Having said that, it is no secret, however, that the church is also constantly battered by the disheartening statistics of how many of our teenagers will graduate from high school, never to darken the hallways of our church . . . probably ever again!

David Kinnaman, president of the renowned Barna group research company and author of the book, You Lost Me, Why Young People Are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith, makes a powerful point in an interview with a church youth leader.

Kinnaman explains that one of the reasons (a major one) many young people are leaving the church is a disturbing lack of mentoring which is happening in churches in general, and youth ministries specifically. What we’re talking about here is the concept of mentoring. The idea of an older person simply taking a younger person and constructively and intentionally—for purposes of kingdom growth—helping to coach that young person in the life-changing truths of Jesus. He calls this the missing piece of youth ministry. He gained this insight from visiting many churches, doing countless surveys, and observing the current youth ministry landscape. Here was one thing—mentoring, says Kinnaman, that was so simple, so obvious, but so missing.

Does your church have a mentoring strategy to help its youth? Is there enough emphasis on this timeless and transformative disciple-making strategy? I’m sure some of you do have such a strategy. Could it be that such a plan could help turn back the clock even incrementally to chisel away at the heartbreaking increase of young people leaving the church? Today may be your day to start ramping up your mentoring strategy.

May God continue to bless your efforts as, together, we make the support and mentoring of our precious youth and young adults in the Atlantic Union Conference territory a priority.

Donald G. King is president of the Atlantic Union Conference and chairman of the Atlantic Union College Board of Trustees.