You’ve probably guessed what the next tip is: Adult leadership = Mentoring. There is an article on the adolescent brain that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. In that article it points out that the developing brain benefits when adults “arrange more opportunities for apprenticeship.” Which, to me, implies a level of mentoring.
As adults we hold knowledge and have experiences that we should be sharing with younger generations. One of the best “side effects” of LebCamp has been the building of a bridge between the generations. LebCamp, while a part of our youth ministry, has become very much an intergenerational experience for the church and the community. It has created a space for a retired rail man to spend time with a high school senior. Or for a former contractor to spend time with a high school sophomore. And so forth.
Kara Powell, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, works with the Fuller Youth Institute. They have done a massive research project which now lives in a book called, “Sticky Faith.” In that book, Powell suggests that the new ratio in youth ministry (and I would suggest beyond youth ministry) is a 5:1. For every one youth, there should be 5 adults in his/her life mentoring them. We are all in a prime position to be one of those 5 adults in a youth’s life. We all hold knowledge about our community. We have skills in meeting those various needs. Share them, teach them with our young people.
We have skilled people working with the Crews called handymen. We match these individuals’ skill sets with the project at hand. They are responsible for equipping the youth with the tools they need to achieve their goals. I tell them that they are first a teacher and then a worker.
We see these relationships across the generations move from the mission site to the church on Sunday mornings; to the grocery store during the week. Suddenly the gap between the generations gets smaller and smaller. Older generations realize that they have something to share with the younger generations and vice versa. We can learn from each other. We can work together. We can problem solve together.
All of us are in great positions to share our knowledge about very unique aspects of our community with a younger generation. Through the years we have worked with non-profits, like ACES, Hanover Safe Place, and BARK. By building relationships with these non-profits, our youth have learned about the work of endless volunteers who spend endless hours making a difference in our community. They have learned about ACES and the huge amounts of food and toiletries that go out weekly.
This past year we did a bit of an experiment and gave each crew on Wednesday $20 to spend on their mission site. One crew had done some work at ACES that week, in fact, they finished in two days. Knowing about the $20 experiment, they took inventory at ACES on Tuesday so on Wednesday morning when they got their $20 they went to Wal-Mart and bought items that were not on the shelves and took it to ACES. Who made that decision? The youth did. Who equipped them with information and resources? The adult mentors did.