I believe in mentoring, and I’ve written about the topic in a book conveniently titled, Mentor. Most of my mentoring relates to millennials, so I’ve learned some of what works and doesn’t work with this generation. At least based on my experience, here’s what doesn’t work:
- Superficial discussions. This generation isn’t interested in surface-level conversations. They want to get deep; in fact, they sometimes go deeper than mentors are ready to handle.
- Structured meetings. They’re not opposed to structure, but they don’t want mentoring that reduces them to a project to be “completed.” They can schedule structured meetings with someone else if needed.
- Inconsistent times together. Again, they’re not always looking for a weekly, one-hour session, but nor do they want to feel like they’re a bother to the mentor. Consistency matters to them, especially because many other adults in their lives have been inconsistent.
- Watered-down theological discussions. Not every millennial is gung-ho for theology, but this generation is much more interested in this topic than my generation ever was. Their heroes are often well-known theologians and preachers, even if the millennials don’t feel called to ministry.
- No life-on-life experiences. These young leaders are okay with discussions, Q & A times, and one-on-one conversations, but they also want somebody to walk with them through life. They want to see models of Christian living, godly marriages, and wise parenting—and that can happen only with life-on-life time.
- Shallow vulnerability. Mentors have to be careful at times in being vulnerable with this generation (because they sometimes aren’t wise in what they share with others), but they see through false, simple, insincere vulnerability. They’re looking for authenticity in the people who walk with them.
- Cultural Christianity. They’ve seen what it looks like, and they don’t want any part of it. To be Christian means much more to them than carrying the title because it’s the expected thing to do.
- Denominational positioning. I’m a denominational employee who still believes in my denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention), but the millennials I work with don’t always carry that loyalty or interest. They’re willing to partner, but they don’t have much patience for ineffectiveness or inefficiency.
- Lifestyle hypocrisy. We may not always agree about what are the wisest choices, but this generation longs to see men and women who truly walk with God. They want to see what genuine faith looks like.
We who are older believers have the privilege and the responsibility to invest in younger believers. Let’s do it well!