This post first appeared at the Biblical Counseling Coalition
Mentoring is a buzzword in our current culture. A quick google search on the words “mentoring teenagers” yields dozens of articles, blogs, organizations, and curriculum to mentor teens in both the secular and Christian realms.
Biblical mentoring sets itself apart from many other mentoring techniques because it is not a program or a formalized ministry. It is a mindset, a lifestyle, and an organic means of discipleship that dovetails with the already existing ministries in the local church. It can happen anywhere your life intersects with the lives of teens.
Many of the “Christian mentoring” programs and organizations appear to mimic the secular ones to a large degree. Others model themselves after secular mentoring methods, but add some Scripture or Biblical principles. Counselors, youth pastors, Sunday School teachers, youth workers, homeschool group leaders, neighbors, nieces and nephews, your own kids or friend’s kids - anyone who disciples youth is positioned well to provide biblical mentoring to the younger generation.
There are three distinctives that make biblical mentoring unique:
There are many common sense reasons to mentor youth. Students who have mentors are much more likely to stay in school, have better school attendance, avoid alcohol and drugs, enroll in college, hold a leadership position in a club or sports team, participate in extracurricular activities, and volunteer regularly in their community. Teenagers are at a critical stage in their spiritual understanding and we are all concerned about the number of young people leaving our churches in their late teens/early twenties.
Biblical mentoring goes deeper than the reasons our common sense gives us. For biblical motives we turn to the Bible. The book of Titus, chapter 2, offers us a biblical motivation by mandating that the older teach the younger for the sake of preserving sound doctrine in the body of Christ through the generations.
Titus 2:1 " You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine."
Biblical Mentoring is a gospel-centered ministry that involves making disciples by sharing the gospel for salvation as well as teaching others who are younger to apply the gospel to their sanctification. Teenagers are able to understand theology and doctrine, and they benefit from older men and women who are willing to impart wisdom and Truth in to their lives.
It can be helpful to become equipped and trained as a biblical counselor or mentor in order to maintain biblical integrity in relationships with the next generation. Whether or not a mentor receives formalized training, the Bible contains what is needed to make mentoring truly biblical.
A deep discipleship relationship targets the heart of the teen. It is tempting to focus on outward behaviors, but lasting change requires heart change. We focus on the heart by asking good questions that reveal the thoughts, beliefs and desires of the teen as we teach them about God’s Word and how the gospel applies to their day to day lives.
The one-another scriptures are as applicable to teens as they are to adults, and they provide methods for mentoring that exceed what programs and some organizations provide. The one-another passages are both doctrinal and practical. Each one of the over fifty one-another verses in the New Testament can become a teaching opportunity for a mentor. Beginning with "love one another", a teenager can learn to love like Jesus by following the mentor's example in living this out while teaching and applying the rest of the one-another passages to the teenager’s relationships and life struggles.
John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
Mentoring is discipleship that is personal and intentional. Be creative as you look for ways to mentor a teenager. Teens will be more likely to be open to your mentorship if you gain their trust by caring about the things they care about. Be natural in your interactions and remember that teenagers are open to having a mentor but they tend to respond best when it is not programmed or forced. Start casually and ease in to the relationship. In time, this kind of mentoring relationship can be among the most rewarding relationships you will ever enjoy.
I spend a fair amount of time in my counseling ministry focusing on intergenerational ministry, specifically mentoring youth and young adults. I often urge colleagues, parents, and pastors to consider the concept of biblical mentoring the youth in their sphere of influence. I can cite many more good reasons to consider this, but this time I would like to let some teens speak to the matter themselves.
I asked a handful of teenagers in my life to tell me what they need from the older generations. Their answers are insightful and helpful to us as we consider how to encourage them towards faith and a healthy Christian walk. Here are some of their responses:
“Why are there so many unjust and unfair situations in the world, and what can a teenager do about them?”
“How are we supposed to love others and be compassionate when the whole world seems to be so mean right now?”
“How do I know what my purpose in life is?”
“How do I, as a Christian teenager, deal with all the confusion and injustice in the world?”
“I am worried about my future and the future of the world. There is so much suffering and it scares me. How should I deal with that?”
If you read those questions and statements very carefully, you can discern a common thread. These teens are asking us to teach and clarify theology. Every one of those concerns is addressed by studying God’s character. Teens need to gain an understanding of God’s goodness, love, holiness, sovereignty, justice, faithfulness and all other attributes.
Discussions and study about theology, specifically God’s character, are a critical topic to include in mentoring teens as you address their questions and concerns. They want to know about God and the gospel and will trust you more if you allow them to ask questions and admit their doubts. God’s Word is sufficient to address these matters. You can help a teen to learn how to study their Bible for answers as you come alongside them as a mentor.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
A very good additional resource to assist you in discussing doctrine and theology with teens is The New City Catechism, developed by Tim Keller and Sam Shammas. It is very user-friendly, interactive, and helpful in mentoring and discipling anyone. It is not specific to any one denomination. In an easy-to-follow format, you will find help in answering the questions that teens have.
Please visit their website for more information:
For equipping and training as a mentor, please visit:
Join the Conversation
Are you discipling the younger generation including these distinctives of biblical mentoring? What are the challenges, and what fruit have you seen?