One of my first blog posts was titled Who Is Supposed to Disciple Me? In ministry, we usually focus on helping others grow in discipleship, but lets face it: it can be very difficult for a youth leader to find good mentorship for him or herself. Naturally, it would seem that the Diocesan Director is the one who should be mentoring and forming parish youth coordinators, but the reality is that many times they have 10 other hats they are wearing, or their roles are more of authority and program coordination than mentorship. Plus, there are likely more parish youth leaders than any single Diocesan Director would be able to reach by themselves anyway.
One of the most fundamental aspects of discipleship is that a disciple is striving to be like their rabbi and do what their rabbi does. What I have found in youth ministry is that most youth directors don’t really have a specific person whom they follow or way of doing things to which they ascribe. There are numerous online communities and websites that peg themselves as “youth ministers helping youth ministers.” However, the danger of this is that there is no authority or leader who is driving things. To put it bluntly, the right thing to do often becomes “what everyone else is doing.” It’s almost like a football team without a coach, just trying to be the best football team they can be.
Even though I didn’t really experience formal mentorship in youth ministry up until a few years ago, I do feel like many of my strengths have come from finding mentorship in other ways. I thought I would share with you 10 different ways I have found mentorship not just in ministry, but in family, finances, marriage, etc. Here they are:
God is our greatest mentor and has been by far the greatest guide to me in every aspect of my life. Never underestimate the power of spending time with God in daily quiet prayer, the Sacraments, Scripture, and finding him in community and friendship with others.
I would argue that most, if not every, leader in ministry should have a spiritual director. There are many resources out there on helping you figure who would be a good spiritual director, how to find one, etc. I meet with my spiritual director every 4-5 weeks.
Veteran Youth Coordinators
Find someone who has been in ministry longer than you who you think you could learn a lot from. Do not just look at the amount of their experience;look at they way they view and do ministry, and ask them to meet with you on a regular basis.
In many dioceses, there is someone hired or appointed to act as the support to parish youth leaders. Find out who this person is and meet with them, especially if you are new. Typically this person will have a good knowledge of the diocese, people you can connect with, and opportunities available for you to be fed.
Ideally in any working environment, your boss would be a mentor to you. Strive to follow the vision and guidance of your pastor. If your situation allows, set up a regular meeting with him, simply to keep the lines of communication open and to help you grow in your understanding of your role in the parish.
Read Authoritative Documents
There is a great treasure of wisdom and guidance that can be found in the documents of the Church. Be sure you are familiar with the documents specifically focused on evangelization and catechesis. Also, talk to your diocese about any guidance that has been given from the local level of the Church in regard to evangelization.
Read Books and Blogs
I love reading books and following blogs. In some ways, I would say that I am a follower or disciple of many different authors and speakers online. I recently updated my reading list on the site and added books and blogs focused on different areas in which I am striving to grow. Find a few people you desire to emulate, and soak in everything they have to offer.
Listen to Podcasts
I am also a big fan of podcasts. Many of the people I follow online and look up to in various aspects of life have a podcast. I listen to them while I run, on my way to/from work, and while I travel.
Finding a youth ministry mastermind group is one of the newest ways I have found to receive and be a great help to others. It’s a way of working and growing with people on the same level as you, but committed to a more specific area of growth. I will have more on this in a future post. In short, the goal is to network on a regular basis with a few others striving to grow in similar ways that you are.
Finding an online community of people desiring to grow in specific areas is also a great way to be led. We have a group specifically focused on Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry on Facebook. While it is peers learning from peers, there is at least a common vision and shared practice that everyone is striving towards.
These are just some of the ways that I am working to become more like the people I desire to be like. Sirach 6:36 says, “If you see an intelligent person, rise early to visit him; let your foot wear out his doorstep.” I encourage you to be a disciple; yes, a disciple of Jesus Christ, but also stri other people in your life whom you look up to as well.