Mentors are great. The idea of an older wiser more mature Christian asking you if you’d like to sit down with them and read the bible and talk about life… that sounds awesome, right? Sounds like a “good thing”?
Great. If you think that’s a “good thing”… go and do it… for someone else.
“But I’m not mature enough”. No. Everyone can say that when they’re looking “up”. So look down instead. Look around. You’re more mature than some people. And even if you’re not… the very fact you’re trying to do something FOR them… that’s Christian maturity right there.
“But I don’t know what to do”. Fine. Get a book about it, read some blogs about it, do a course, or just simply have a go. Take the initiative. Take the responsibility.
“But what about all the things I’m going through? I need someone to talk to about them.” Do you? ‘Cause God’s your eternal Dad, who beckons you to call on him day and night; to pour your troubles on the Lord. (You might need to speak to a professional councillor or psychologist, that’s fine – loads of people need to, so do that.) But you don’t need a mentor.
Good if you do have someone… Great if you are that someone.
After catching up with some Moore College students who just finished first year, I was reminded how the type of MTS experience you get is so important.
College doesn’t teach you how to “do ministry”; it doesn’t teach methods, principles or how to apply God’s word to people’s lives. It doesn’t even teach you “the bible” like a Sunday sermon does. College teaches you to be an expert of the bible, it’s language, it’s doctrine, and supporting disciplines.
That’s why the ideal MTS experience gets you to read the bible (1:1) with as many people as you can. It’s basic ministry; bible, you and someone to love. It’s the best prep for preaching, because you’re learning “how” to teach the bible. It’s the best prep for college, because you spend heaps of time in the bible. It’s the best prep for ministry because you learn how to become dependant on God and his Word and prayer.
The principles and methodologies you take to college will likely not change, college will simply deepen them.
If you’ve ever had to do 121s with people you don’t know very well, it can be daunting to sit down and just read the bible. It might feel a bit odd or awkward if your don’t feel you know the person very well. That’s fair enough, since the word of God cuts to the heart. 121s are an intimate activity. There usually does need to be some trust in the relational bank to get some biblical momentum.
So invest some time to go for a walk, take a drive, chat about growing up and holidays and big brothers. Get all that 2nd or 3rd level deeper stuff out in the open so you feel you know each other a bit better. It also means you get an idea ow the bible might apply to them and their story.
One student I used to meet with was really cold to me. We’d been meeting for a few weeks looking at Romans, but it was awkward as!! Walks, coffee, chatting about growing up… None of it seemed to make any difference, but he did mention sport a fair bit. So one week I turned up at his place when we used to read the bible, but I brought a footy instead. We went for a kick around. We hardly spoke for 30mins while we booted the ball to each other.
Then we stopped, and that’s when he started talking. Apparently all I needed to do to get “in” with this guy was kick around a footy. It’s like I had to perform some right of passage. After that, reading the bible with him was not only easy, but a joy as well.
If you have “direct reports” (people who consider you their boss – even in a volunteer sense) then it’s worth scheduling in weekly 1:1 meetings. The point of these meetings is firstly just to give your directs some personal time with you. Just a few minutes where they can talk with you as a human, not just as a boss/leader.
Because, if you think about it,many of the interruptions you get from your directs throughout the week… Most of them are trivial-ish. They’re not urgent.
The Manager-tools.com guys came up with an interesting explain action for this… They wonder if people interrupt their leaders simply because they want that personal time with them.
You might think you’re a really warm and personal leader… But if you’re getting little questions about lots of little things throughout the day, maybe your directs just want to spend some time with you?
Notice that guys in the real world never sit directly across from each other, they sit side by side or at 90deg, looking at something else. It’s normally too intimate for guys to face each other – it’s more common for girls though. They seem more skilled in handling the face to face discussion.
But if your reading the bible or working on a project, it’s almost always best to try and sit at 90deg and look at it together.
Shoulder to shoulder can mean you never look at each other. And it can get awkward with make/female catch-ups when you are shoulder to shoulder and turn to face each other.
So, when you arrange to meet with someone, set out the chairs. If there’s only 2 of you, put your self at the head of the table, so they have to sit 90deg.
If its a round table, add/remove a chair so there’s only 3 available, and when they sit down, move yourself around from 120deg to 90deg.
If your meeting with 2 others at the same time, don’t stack one side of the table, keep it even. Sit around the end of a long table rather than in the middle.
If you’re meeting up with someone, or you’ve been approached by someone, there’s a question you need to ask pretty regularly…
“Is there something else you’d like to raise?”
“Was there anything else you wanted to chat about?”
“Is there anything else on your mind?”
Or even… “I get the feeling there’s something else you’d like to chat about; what’s up?”
They want to talk to you, but they feel like there’s never a good moment, or opportunity. Go give them one.
I reckon the 1 to 1 conversation is pretty much at the core of pastoral ministry. But if it’s really pastoral ministry, you never really have ministry 1 to 1s.
It might sound corny, but God’s always there.
And even if it does sound corny, its an important fact. You’re chatting to someone in Christ, you’re in Christ. Jesus bind you both to him and to each other by the Spirit. God is aware and present and listening and watching.
So how are you going acknowledging there’s more than just two of you? Praying? Reading his word? Speaking with his strength?
As we train and equip young leaders, we want them to grow in the skill of self-criticism. That’s a pretty tough skill to learn – cause you have to have a go, make mistakes, grow the “eyes” to see the mistakes, and have the humility to own the mistakes and create new ways to deal with it.
So as you get your developing leaders or MTSers to do that, don’t forget to model it yourself.
In 1:1s, in staff meeting, have the guts and the humility to do your own self-criticism. take them through your thing; be it an event or a sermon and let them watch you tear it apart yourself.
And if you want to go one step further, ask them to get in on the action.
Sometimes sermons don’t hit the spot, they don’t resonate, they don’t touch a nerve, they don’t point to our sin and Jesus’ grace, etc…
So make sure the gospel is in your meetings.
Use the gospel to explain why you meet. Use the gospel to explain why you pray. Use the gospel to shape your songs, and the welcome, and the farewell, and the interviews. Just a sentence here and a mention there. Wrap Jesus into and through everything.
And one step further; shape the whole meeting on the gospel. Start with the good God who we’ve rebelled against, hear his word — that he initiated for our sake — respond to his word in prayer and songs. Encourage each other to live in line with the gracious calling we’ve received.
And not just Sunday meetings; youth group, Growth Groups, special events, 121s, etc…