Older believers typically face a few challenges when they think of investing in college-age people. For example many don’t know what they’d do or say when they meet with someone. This can even make them (or you) wonder if they have anything to offer. At the core are feelings of intimidation and insecurity which hinders them from wanting to initiate these relationships. So helping people overcome this obstacle is a vital part of our ministry.
Sometimes when we ask people to come “help in the college ministry” they get overwhelmed because they often think of having to lead something formal. They often feel like they need a book to go through, a curriculum to follow, or to lead some sort of bible study when they meet with a college-age person. This can be very intimidating for some, especially for those that don’t consider themselves teachers or leaders. And although these resources can be useful, it’s important to realize they are not necessary. The most helpful thing I’ve found to build confidence in older believers is by emphasizing the need of their experience. Their role is simple: to allow God to use what He’s already done in their life in the life of another. I ask our adults to be an ear, shoulder, and when their life experience can be of help a mouthpiece.
When older adults realize that it’s their wisdom through life experience that is needed, a two very important things happen. First, they aren’t as intimidated because they have more of this than younger people. Often times the college-age person might know more about scripture, but they don’t have the wisdom of embracing what they know. This is where the older believer does. Secondly, when they realize it’s their experience that’s needed they tend to be more relaxed. They’re not trying to teach a lesson, they’re just being themselves. And this is when a genuine relationship can begin to be built.
Our role is helping leaders catch the simplicity of investing in one person by using what they’ve already learned through life experience. That’s it. Of course over time, if you have a spiritually maturing leader, conversations will include biblical truth. But it’s through conversation and relationship that this occurs. If formality develops naturally over time that’s fine, but it shouldn’t start there. It starts with relational connection.
Having a relational focus not only allows older believers to impart godly wisdom based on life experience (versus just information), but also helps college-age people feel connected to the lives of people–which is exactly what we’re trying to do. Through this connection they begin to feel a part of “the whole” of the church. We don’t need leaders to feel like they need to reach an entire generation, we just need to encourage them to share their life with one person. One day at a time.
Once we make the connection as leaders we can then step back and pray for a natural mentor relationship to be developed. If that doesn’t happen at least the college-age person was exposed to an older adult they didn’t previously know. It’s a starting point and we can look for other opportunities for connection–for both the older and younger person.
For more on how to lead mentor-mentee relationships, click here.