Last Sunday afternoon, we had the privilege to conduct a seminar on mentoring young adults in Bedok Methodist Church. The request was a recent one and I was already down to preach at another church that morning, two sermons in fact. But I had said yes to this invitation because ministry to young adults is a key Graceworks focus at this point in time, and mentoring is quite pivotal in helping young adults make a healthy transition to full adulthood in Christ.
In her book on mentoring young adults, Sharon Daloz Parks writes:
. . . within a distracted, indifferent, or exploiting culture, emerging adulthood may be squandered on dreams too small to match the potential of the emerging adult life. In the good company of thoughtful mentors and mentoring communities, however, emerging adults can navigate the complex tasks at hand and galvanise the power of ongoing cultural renewal.
(Big Questions, Worthy Dreams (Revised Edition), San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, 2011, 13).
Parks writes for a general audience, but the same conclusion has come from those who write from the perspective of the church. In their book, Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults, Richard R. Dunn and Jana L. Sundene write:
If our years of working with successive generations of students and young adults have taught us anything, it’s this: shaping the next generation through disciplemaking remains by far the most powerful strategy Christ has given us for shaping the church and changing the world.
We are convinced, therefore, that this relational strategy is mission-critical to the future of the church in the world.
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012, 21).
I think disciple-making is needed at every age group. A relational strategy was Jesus’ main strategy for shaping the new community He came to form. We shouldn’t be surprised then that it is also the most important strategy for shaping the lives of young adults.
Of course disciple-making/mentoring is tough. It is time intensive. There is no “one size fits all” because different people develop differently, each at their own pace with their own unique set of potentials and struggles. But this is what young adults need.
Young adults do not need older adults for information. This is perhaps the first time in history when the young know more than the old because of the Internet. But they need guidance as to how to interpret the flood of data available to them. They need models to inspire them and to show them how to follow Christ. They need safe places to process the many questions that are in their faces every day. They need mentors.
Therefore, going forward, a substantial part of Graceworks’ time and effort will be spent looking at how we can do mentoring for young adults, especially in the Singapore/Malaysian context. We are not experts. We don’t think anyone is. We will need prayer. And we will need to work with others with similar visions. But work on this we must.
That same evening (last Sunday), we had dinner with a couple who were about to go overseas for postgraduate studies. They were among the first we mentored when we started Graceworks 10 years ago. We are so proud to see how they have moved on in their lives and in their faith. They are now friends who teach and inspire us also. (The best mentoring is mutual.) It was another confirmation of the importance of mentoring. Last Sunday was a very full day. But it was a good day.