Adults frequently ask me “how do we get young people more involved in our life team/chapter, etc.?” As I learn more about youth life teams and student life groups, I have learned that this may be the wrong question. Intergenerational life ministry is needed, but a better question may be “how do we equip young people to be leaders in their own context?”
In my own life, the things that were most important to my development as a leader were the people in my life, in particular, the mentors who took the time to encourage me in my growth in Christ and in the life movement.
Mentorship was a key component in my leadership development. Any student (or adult) can go to a workshop and learn about the top ten characteristics of a leader or whatever new leadership fad is being promoted these days. From my experience, however, I learned to be a leader by learning from leaders. It started with the leadership in my home—my parents. Both my mother and father were wonderful examples of Christian leadership and they were active in teaching my siblings and me about Christ’s love for us and how we can show that love to others.
I was also blessed to have strong mentors at church, men and women who invested time in building a relationship with me, teaching me, and praying for me. I remember my youth leader in high school going above and beyond to help me through my difficult teenage years. I am now blessed to have him as my pastor. I also became so close with a woman who was my mother’s best friend and a leader in our congregation that I now consider her a second mother to me. I have gone to her more times than I can remember with questions about life, faith, and family.
When I first got involved with Lutherans For Life, it was the relationships I developed with staff and fellow board members that made coming to work for LFL the easiest decision I have ever made. And all throughout this first year, it has been those relationships, those mentors, who have taught me more than I could imagine and encouraged me through the good and the bad times. I thank God every day to have such people in my life.
If you are a parent, you are probably already mentoring with your children. But, beyond your own home, this is something that you as a life team or chapter or even an individual can be involved in. Is there a student life team at your local university or high school? How can you mentor their leaders? What services can you provide them? These students may know how to reach their peers, but you can provide them with resources and ideas they hadn’t thought of. Is there a young person at your church who seems passionate about life? Take the time to personally invite them to activities, or to the LFL National Conference, or even just to lunch. It is amazing what a personal invitation will do.
By doing this, you will prepare leaders who will continue to work for life in the future. My generation learns and grows through relationships. I know I did.