College Ministry Mentoring

I’ve been reading up on ministry to college students (College Ministry from Scratch: Equipping Kids for Life after Youth Group, by Chuck Bomar) and want to share about college students sharing in the lives of older more mature believers in the church.

Here are five simple markers that show a certain quality in relationships between older believers and college-age people:

  1. The frequency and consistency with which the pair meets together one-on-one. If they’re meeting frequently on their own, without any prodding from others, then it shows that each of them sees the value in the relationship. If there isn’t consistency, then it’s paramount that we figure out why. It might be a matter of schedules, or it might be that the two people just don’t click for some reason. Either way, this is when we can step in and help cultivate that relationship.
  2. The college-age person seeks spiritual wisdom from the older adult on her own. If this is the case, it says the younger person sees value in this relationship. It also likely suggests that the older believer feels confident in his or her spiritual direction. If this isn’t happening, then we may need to equip the older believer or perhaps help the younger one to see the value of someone older investing in her spiritual life.
  3. The college-age person knows where the dishes are in the older believer’s kitchen. This shows a particular level of intimacy in the relationship, which takes time to develop, of course.
  4. The college-age person can drop by the home of an older believer uninvited. This again shows an intimacy and comfort level in the relationship that indicates quality.
  5. The college-age person’s pursuit of an older believer’s counsel in everyday life circumstances. College-age people are thinking through all sorts of things. If they’re seeking the advice of the older believer in their life’s direction, educational pursuits, job concerns, or any other daily issues—again, this shows us something about this relationship.

Most college ministry job descriptions include references to weekly gatherings, campus ministry, and discipleship but lack specifics that get to the heart of what’s truly needed in college ministry. Here is a Job Description summary:

  1. Learn and understand age-stage issues.
  2. Personally disciple college-age people.
  3. Help cultivate a heart in older believers for younger people.
  4. Create bridges for the building of intergenerational relationships.
  5. Provide direction for mentorships.
  6. Create a gathering point.
  7. Develop self-feeders.
  8. Develop a relationship with campus leaders.

Our biblical command isn’t to run a program; it’s to disciple people. Although a program might be a piece of that, it’s important to make the distinction.

The more you personally help college-age people through their life issues, the more you’ll be able to help other leaders do the same. Your experience is going to be critical for the long-term effectiveness of ministry to college-age people in the church.

So when Jesus told his closest men to go and make disciples, they certainly would not have walked away thinking they needed to have a weekly meeting and go through a book together! Discipleship is a part of the job description, but it is through sharing life, not through weekly meetings.

Preparing a great talk or small group Bible study probably won’t have the greatest impact on the people in our ministry. It’s the time we spend giving them our undivided attention. It’s being available, there in person, and willing to hear them out or walk alongside them through the pains and joys of life that has lasting impact.

Leadership is About Modeling

I suppose that when someone mentions modeling, the image of a too-skinny woman swaggering down a runway might come to mind, but I submit to you that modeling is what we do as Christians. We are to live out what we say we believe.

As a minister of the gospel, and an employee of a local congregation, leadership is a defining quality of whether one is doing a good job or not. I have always believed that if I am to do a good job, I should work myself out of a job; and that involves building up other people.

If you want to be a people builder, you have to start by giving people an example to follow. Paul and Peter wrote about this (Acts 20:35, Philippians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 1:7, 1 Timothy 4:12, Titus 2:7, 1 Peter 5:3). Leadership begins with you and with how you live. At its most basic level, leadership is about being a model for others.

Why? I believe that you can only take a person as far as you have gone yourself. People can go beyond where you are, but you are not going to be the one leading them there. You can’t teach what has not already impacted you, and has already changed your life.

One problem is that we don’t always know the difference between being a leader and a boss. Dictators demand. Leaders model. You don’t lead by telling people what to do; you lead by example. The Bible says, “Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care but lead them by your good example.” (1 Peter 5:3 NLT)

Jesus never asked anybody to do anything he hadn’t already done, wasn’t already doing, or wasn’t willing to do. The Bible says in John 13:15, “I’ve given you an example to follow. Now do as I have done to you.” Jesus said he did it, now you do it. In this particular case, he had just washed the feet of the disciples and modeled servanthood. Now he expected his followers to do it. He modeled it first.

Application: Men, in what ways are you modeling for others? How are you serving others? How can people follow your lead in different areas of life? Paul gives us five particular characteristics of leadership in 1 Timothy 4:12:

  1. Speech – How do you talk to people?
  2. Life – How do you live your life?
  3. Love – How do you really show love to other people?
  4. Faith – How do you really trust God?
  5. Purity – How do you live a life of integrity?

Are you modeling those behaviors for your family? Are you modeling them for our congregation?

Leadership is a choice. The role of the leader doesn’t come automatically when we’re given a title. There are plenty of people in leadership positions who aren’t leaders. But you can be a leader. It starts by making choices that other people choose not to make, and providing an example to others.

Anyone can be a leader; John Maxwell says that leadership is influence. Think of all the people over whom you have influence. Now go lead them.

Being Thankful for Our Mentors

Chapter one of First Thessalonians introduced us to Paul the evangelist. Chapter two introduces us to Paul the pastor. It explains how the apostle cared for new believers in the churches that he started. Paul considered “the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28) a greater burden than all the sufferings and difficulties he experienced in his ministry (2 Corinthians 11:2).

Just as God uses people to bring the Gospel to the lost, so He uses people to nurture new believers and help lead them to maturity. The church at Thessalonica was born through the faithful preaching of Paul and his helpers, and the church was nurtured through the faithful pastoring that Paul and his friends gave to the infant church. This helped them stand strong in tile midst of persecution.

In these verses, Paul reminded them of the kind of ministry he had as he taught and cared for the young church. Three pictures of his ministry emerge.

The Faithful Steward (1 Thessalonians 2:1-6) Paul had been “put in trust with tile Gospel” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). It was not a message that he made up or that he received from men (Galatians 1:11-12). Paul looked on himself as a steward of God’s message.

A steward owns nothing, but possesses and uses everything that belongs to his master. Joseph was a steward in the household of Potiphar (Genesis 39:1-6). He managed his master’s affairs and used all his master’s goods to promote his master’s welfare. Every steward one day must give an account of his stewardship (Luke 16:1-2). If he is found unfaithful, he will suffer.

The message of the Gospel is a treasure God has entrusted to us. We must not bury it, we must invest it so it will multiply and produce “spiritual dividends” to God’s glory. Some Christians think that the church’s only responsibility is to protect the Gospel from those who would change it (Galatians 1:6-9). But we also must share the Gospel; otherwise, we are protecting it in vain.

Faithfulness is the most important quality a steward possesses (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). He may not be popular in the eyes of men; but he dare not be unfaithful in the eyes of God. “Not as pleasing men, but God who tries [tests] our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). The Christian who “plays to the grandstands” will lose God’s approval. When we see the characteristics of Paul’s ministry as a steward, we understand what faithfulness means.

The manner of his ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2).

Paul and Silas had been beaten and humiliated at Philippi; yet they came to Thessalonica and preached. Most of us would have taken a vacation or found an excuse not to minister. Paul was courageous-he was not a quitter. He had a “holy boldness” that came out of his dedication to God. Like the other Apostles before him, Paul boldly proclaimed the Good News (Acts 4:13, 29. 31).

His preaching was “with much contention.” This is an athletic term that means “a contest, a struggle.” The Greek world was familiar with athletic contests, and Paul often used this idea to illustrate spiritual truths (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Philippians 3:13-14; 2 Timothy 4:7). He used this same word in Philippians 1:30 where he pictured the Christian life as an athletic contest that demanded dedication and energy. It had not been easy to start a church in Philippi, and it was not easy to start one in Thessalonica.

The message of his ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:3a).

“For the appeal we make does not spring from error” (NIV). Here he assured them that his message was true. Six times in this letter he mentioned the Gospel. This message of Christ’s death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:16) is a true message and is the only true Gospel (Galatians 1:6-12). Paul received this Gospel from God, not from man. It is the only Good News that saves the lost.

The motive of his ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:3).

He was not guilty of “uncleanness,” for his motives were pure. It is possible to preach the right message with the wrong motives (Philippians 1:14-19). Unfortunately, some people in Paul’s day used religion as a means for making money. Paul did not use the Gospel as “a cloak to cover his covetousness” (1 Thessalonians 2:5). He was open and honest in all his dealings, and he even worked at a trade to earn his own support (see 2 Thessalonians 3:8-10).

The method of his ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:3-6).

Paul did not use guile or trickery to win converts. The word translated “guile” carries the idea of “baiting a hook.” In other words, Paul did not trap people into being saved, the way a clever salesman traps people into buying his product. Witnessing and “Christian salesmanship” are different. Salvation does not lie at the end of a clever argument or a subtle presentation. It is the result of God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

Paul hated flattery (1 Thessalonians 2:5). David also hated it, “They speak vanity everyone with his neighbor; with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak” (Psalm 12:2). I once read that a flatterer is a person who manipulates rather than communicates. A flatterer can use either truth or lies to achieve his unholy purpose, which is to control your decisions for his own profit.

Some people flatter themselves. “For he flatters himself in his own eyes” (Psalm 36:2 RSV). This was the sin of Haman, that evil man in the Book of Esther. He was so interested in flattering himself that he even plotted to slaughter all the Jews to achieve that goal.

Some people try to flatter God. “Nevertheless they [Israel] did flatter Him [God] with their mouth, and they lied unto Him with their tongues” (Psalm 78:36). Flattery is another form of lying. It means saying one thing to God with our lips while our hearts are far from Him (Mark 7:6).

The Loving Mother (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8) The emphasis of the steward is faithfulness; the emphasis of the mother is gentleness. As an apostle, Paul was a man of authority; but he always used his authority in love. The babes in Christ sensed his tender loving care as he nurtured them. He was indeed like a loving mother who cared for her children.

It takes time and energy to care for children. Paul did not turn his converts over to baby-sitters: he made sacrifices and cared for them himself. He did not tell them to “read a book” as a substitute for his own personal ministry (though good Christian literature can help young believers to grow).

Paul had patience with the new Christians. Children do not grow up instantly. They all experience growing pains and encounter problems as they mature. Paul’s love for them made him patient, because love suffers long, and is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Paul also nourished them. First Thessalonians 2:7 can read, “even as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.” What is the lesson here? A nursing mother imparts her own life to the child. This is exactly what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:8. You cannot be a nursing mother and turn your baby over to someone else. That baby must be in you arms, next to your heart.

The nursing mother eats the food and transforms it into milk for the baby. The mature Christian feeds on the Word of God and then shares its nourishment with the younger believers so they can grow (1 Peter 2:1-3). A nursing child can become ill through a reaction to something the mother has eaten. The Christian who is feeding others must be careful not to feed on the wrong things himself.

A mother also protects her child. It was this fact that enabled King Solomon to discover which woman was the real mother of the living child (1 Kings 3:16-28). Paul was willing to give not only the Gospel but his own life as well. His love for the Thessalonians was so great he would die for them if necessary.

If we do not nurse the new Christians on the milk of the Word, they can never mature to appreciate the meat of the Word (Hebrews 5:10-14).

The Concerned Father (1 Thessalonians 2:9-12) Paul considered himself a “spiritual father” to the believers at Thessalonica, just as he did toward the saints at Corinth. “For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15, NASB). The Spirit of God used the Word of God in Paul’s ministry, and many people in Thessalonica were born again into the family of God.

But the father not only produces children; he also cares for them. As he defended his own work against false accusations, Paul pointed out three of his duties as the spiritual father to the Thessalonians.

His work (1 Thessalonians 2:9). The father works to support his family. Even though the Christians in Philippi sent financial help (Philippians 4:15-16), Paul still made tents and paid his own way. No one could accuse him of using his ministry for his own profit. Later on, Paul used this fact to shame the lazy Christians in the Thessalonian church (2 Thessalonians 3:6ff).

Paul used the words “labor and travail.” It was not easy to make tents and minister the Word at the same time. No wonder Paul toiled “night and day” (Acts 20:31). He worked because he loved the believers and wanted to help them as much as possible. “For I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children” (2 Corinthians 12:14).

His walk (1 Thessalonians 2:10). Fathers must live so that they are good examples to their children. He could call the Thessalonian believers as witnesses that his life had been exemplary in every way. None of the members of the assembly could accuse Paul of being a poor example. God had witnessed Paul’s life; and Paul was not afraid to call God as witnesses that he had lived a dedicated life, while caring for the church family.

His life was holy. Our word pious is close to it, if you think of piety at its best and not as some fake kind of religion. This same word is applied to the character of God in Revelation 15:4, 16:5.

His life was also righteous. This refers to integrity. uprightness of character. and behavior. This is not the “righteousness of the Law” but the practical righteousness that God works out in our lives as we yield to Him (Philippians 3:4-10).

Paul’s life was also blameless. Literally, this word means “not able to find fault in.” His enemies might accuse him, but no one could level any charge against Paul and prove it. Christians are supposed to be “blameless and harmless” as they live in this world. (Philippians 2:15).

His words (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12). A father must not only support the family by working, and teaching the family by being a good example. He must also take time to speak to the family members. Paul knew the importance of teaching these new believers the truths that would help them grow in the Lord.

Paul dealt with each of the believers personally. “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children” (l Thessalonians 2:11 NIV). As busy as he was, Paul still had time for personal counseling with the members of the church. While it is good for church leaders to address the larger group, spending time with people on a one-to-one basis is also needed. Our Lord was never too busy to speak to individuals, even though He preached to great multitudes. To be sure, this is difficult and demanding work. But it is rewarding work that glorifies God.

Paul encouraged the new believers. Children are easily discouraged, and new Christians need someone to encourage them in the faith. The word exhorting means “to call to one’s side, to encourage.” It does not mean that Paul scolded them. Rather, it means he encouraged them to go on with the Lord.

Paul also comforted them. This word carries the same idea of “encouragement,” with the emphasis on activity. Paul not only made them feel better, but he made them want to do better.

Finally, Paul charged them. This word means that Paul “testified to them” out of his own experience with the Lord. It carries the idea of giving personal witness. Sometimes we go through difficulties so that we may share with new Christians what the Lord has done. God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (1 Corinthians 1:4 NIV).

What was the purpose for this fatherly ministry to the believers? His aim was that his children might “walk worthy of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). Just as a father wants to be proud of his children, so the Lord wants to get glory through the lives of His children. “I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth” (2 John 4 NASB). Paul ministered to them in such a personal way because he was teaching them how to walk.

Every child must learn how to walk. He must have good models to follow. Paul instructs them to walk “worthy of the Lord” (see Colossians 1:10 and Philippians 1:27). We are to walk worthy of the calling we have in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:1). God has called us; we are saved by grace. We are a part of His kingdom and glory. One day we shall enter the eternal kingdom and share His glory. This assurance ought to govern our lives and make us want to please the Lord.

The verb in 1 Thessalonians 2:12 is in the present tense: “who is continually calling you.” God called us to salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14), and He is constantly calling us to a life of holiness and obedience. “But as He which has called you is holy, so be holy in all manner of conversation [behavior]: because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

This passage gives us a beautiful example of New Testament follow-up. Paul has shown us how to raise the babies. He outlined the method of discipleship. We must be faithful stewards, loving mothers, and concerned fathers.

No wonder the church at Thessalonica prospered in spite of persecution, and shared the Gospel with others for miles around. They had been born right (1 Thessalonians 1) and nurtured right (1 Thessalonians 2). This is a good example for us to follow.

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The Covenant Within Supervision

“Covenant” is a word that has been used to described numerous relationship between people throughout history. People still make covenants today. In many states, a marriage license is called a “marriage covenant.” Covenants are necessary for good supervision.

Covenants are not job descriptions. A job description relates only to task issues not personhood issues. A job description is generic inasmuch as it applies to whoever accepts the job. A covenant is personal since it relates to a specific person who has a responsibility. An employing agency develops a job description, but a supervisor and a supervisee negotiate a covenant. Both the job description and the covenant are compatible and important. A job description always contains more duties than a person can work on at any one time. A covenant helps define responsibilities, designated by the job description, that the person will work on during a specific period of time.

Types of Covenants:
There are three types of covenants: formal, informal and tacit. Each provides ways for supervisors to relate to the supervisee.

  1. Formal Covenants: Formal covenants are written agreements. They include conditions, responsibilities and expectations of the parties agreeing to the covenant. Formal covenants are intentional; they set out specific expectations.
  2. Informal Covenants: Informal covenants may be as intentional as formal covenants out are less likely to be written. They may be adequate for short term and non-developmental transactions. However, oral covenants are subject to game playing disclaimers, such as “I didn’t say that,” or qualifications, such as “But that is not what I meant.”
  3. Tacit Covenants: Tacit covenants include hidden conditions that one or both parties do not want to admit. The tacit covenant usually benefits one party to the detriment of the other. It can be changed without notice. A tacit covenant may exist alongside a formal or informal covenant. The reasoning goes like this: “We have this formal covenant, but what we will really do without telling anybody is….” A tacit covenant creates suspicion and confuses accountability. Avoid this type of covenant.

Goals in Covenanting:
Goals provide one of the most important parts of the covenant. They serve as a road map for the supervisee in relating to others, especially the supervisor. Goals are not static and may need to be revised. The covenant should be dated, and a review time should be designated for revising the goals when new situations arise or self awareness increases. The supervisor and the supervisee will have goals to enter into the covenant beyond the goals of the systems. These goals may deal with relationships or areas of the person’s personal growth. The goals should be reviewed carefully to ensure they are reasonable. The supervisee must not be caught between conflicting goals set by the system and the supervisor.

What to Include in the Covenant:
Four areas should be covered in the covenant: needs, goals, activities and evaluation. Different organizations use a variety of technical phrases to describe these areas, but the process is the same.

  1. Needs: First, determine what is needed. Write down a need followed by the goal it produces, the activities required to achieve the goal, and the evaluation process. Then write down the next need and repeat the process. The need serves as the overall “big picture” for the work.
  2. Goals: Goals should be a response to the need. While the need is general, goals should be specific. Goals should be attainable. It is tempting to set goals that are idealistic but unreasonable given the time, situation and resources. The goals should also be measurable. Personhood goals are often more difficult to measure and may need different criteria than task goals.
  3. Activities: Each goal will need multiple activities; actions designed to reach a specific goal. This is where you will outline the responsibilities and roles for accomplishing the stated goal.
  4. Evaluation: Each goal requires an evaluation process that includes a date set to accomplish the goal. The criterion for evaluation is as necessary as the process. How do you know they did what they set out to do?

Other Considerations in Covenanting:

  1. Time: The covenant should specify a time frame. An important time concern is the number of hours per week the person should spend at the task. The person may consider 40 hours per week a normal expectation, while the supervisor may expect 60 or 80. Personal time is also important. The emotional demands of a work setting may exact a toll that can be dealt with only by adequate personal time for renewal. The wise supervisor will be concerned about not only the task time, but the person’s time for study, family and spiritual renewal.
  2. Work: The type and intensity of work also should be defined in the covenant. The person may not see paperwork or other activities as relevant even though the system may require them.
  3. Behavior: Supervisors sometimes have been surprised by the behavior of their supervisees. The surprises may involve dress, personal habits or language of supervisees who were not aware of cultural differences, taboos or expectations.

Roles and Relationships: The supervisor and the person should covenant their relationship and roles. When the supervisor is program oriented and the person is person oriented, difficulties can arise. Differences in age, gender and culture can heighten these problems.

Renegotiation: Circumstances and relationships may require the covenant to be re evaluated and rewritten. A time for renegotiation should be included in the original covenant. This gives the covenant a chance to work and prevents change on a whim. Renegotiation, as part of the original covenant, is done by mutual consent of the supervisor and the supervisee.

The Art and Science of Supervision

There are good and poor supervisors. The best supervisors have good positive personal qualities and follow the proper roles that make them good supervisors. Many books on supervision have reported surveys about the characteristics of good supervisors. Usually these have some characteristics in common and others are different.

I read a story about Doran and Gloria McCarty, who took a group of students to Belize on an overseas project. One Sunday morning they spoke at meetings in the city and in the afternoon went into the rural area for an afternoon service. Because of the distance, road conditions, and having to take two ferries each way, they were late returning to Belize City that evening where Gloria was scheduled to sing. She had only one copy of the music and had no time to reproduce another. A local member assured Gloria that the pianist would be able to play the song if she would go through it with her once. Gloria was skeptical. After a brief rehearsal on only a portion of the music, Gloria took the songbook and the pianist played the song perfectly.

The pianist playing was a beautiful example of the art of music. Since she did not have a copy of the music, she could not exercise the science of music, but rather she demonstrated incredibly the art of music. We refer to it as “playing by ear.” The art of music represents the natural gifts a person possesses. The science of music refers to the music structure and the laborious hours of practice required.

The art of supervision refers to people who are especially good at building relationships and understanding human behavior without specialized supervisory training. Their sensitivity enables them to discover and deal with issues. Supervision as an art is done through intuition. Intuitive supervisors follow their hunches.

The science of supervision offers supervisors training in diagnosing issues and assisting supervisees in dealing with issues. Since supervision is a human enterprise, a person should utilize all of his/her abilities in the art of supervision. Yet the supervisor’s perceptions, even if generally correct, are not always accurate. They need a system to check out their perceptions.

The science of supervision offers a way to check those perceptions, a scientific backup. A medical doctor may have the uncanny ability to diagnose a condition, but no one would want a physician to operate until he/she had passed the necessary tests. Through good supervision training, the supervisor will gain a heightened sense of the art of supervision and have at his/her disposal the tools of the science of supervision.

Regardless of the helpfulness of science, there is always the subjective element in supervision. Value judgments have to be made. This is important because people cannot be transformed into things to be quantified. There are some qualities of supervisors that help them to become effective. McCarty points out these twelve characteristics:

  1. Faith: which reflects the image of God
  2. Health: emotionally and spiritually
  3. Care: the essence of the support system, there is no reason not to care
  4. Courage: facing hard tasks and issues rather than avoiding them
  5. Growth: if it doesn’t grow it is diseased or dead
  6. Authority: using the wrong type in the wrong situation
  7. Preparedness: the supervisor needs training to be good at it
  8. Insight: inner vision to understand what’s happening
  9. Communication: listen and hear, clarify
  10. Flexibility: meet the demands of the situation
  11. Perspective: keep the whole situation in mind, not just while in the trenches
  12. Relational: we work with people, don’t forget it