Project 51 is one if the results of the latest research coming out of Fuller seminary and PARENTEEN, a non-profit who seeks to address the issues of the family and to help young people mature into Christian adults who remain connected to their church communities into adulthood.
The basic premise behind it is this: In order to significantly raise the chances that we will help usher young people through adolescence and into Christian maturity within the church, we need to create a network of supporters for each student we have the opportunity to care for; that network requires a 5:1 ratio (adults to students) and can be coaches, teachers, youth pastors, elders, parents, grandparents - anyone willing to make an intentional, significant investment in the lives of young people and to let go of their inhibitions and use learn how to connect and spend time growing up together.
I think they're on to something. I think it's why mentoring is probably so important. Sure, we sometimes push programs in the church and we sometimes that is easier to draw people in with and it certainly makes it more easy to speak in generalizations instead of dealing with the specifics of our individual lives and circumstances... but for more of us, there's always someone or a few key people who didn't just barely get to know us - but they took an extra step - they invested in us in a way that most people wouldn't and those are the sorts of things that I believe we need to begin making happen for our kids.
"Mentoring" sounds so official and so formal though and I think sometimes that scares us off of something that really isn't all that hard that would make SUCH A DIFFERENCE.
When I think of mentoring, I don't think about Bible studies or book studies - time spent answering tough questions that we often don't know the answers to either or anything quite that in depth... I think it begins with a friendship... sure, it's different because one of you is an adult with lots of life experience and the other is a young person who is often a little socially awkward and doesn't know always what to talk about or how to carry out an adult conversation yet... So, it just means that one of you has more to share with the other... the tragic thing today its that youth culture (for all sorts of reasons) has become so separate our everyday adult lives and now it is increasingly rare that our the wisdom of the elders in our churches and communities actually gets passed on to the next generation...
For that reason, I hope we will do whatever it takes to start bridging that gap. There are SO MANY easy steps we can take to begin to address it. You don't have to think about running a program or following a curriculum... think of it like this:
All of us have things that we do as adults that so many of our youth have not yet learned to do... we pay bills; we go fishing or hunting; we build things; we go for hikes; we eat lunch and dinner, we spend time with friends and family... I would just suggest that the first step toward mentoring a young person is modeling - and to do that, it's as simple as inviting them into your life. If you're going to go hiking, invite them along... maybe along the way, as you are getting to know each other, you will be surprised by how you discover why God put you two together...
The real hurdle is just making the commitment - saying "Yes, I will regularly and consistently invite so and so into my routine and I will strive to my authentic self as they get to witness what my pursuit of God looks like in my day-to-day living."
Pray about it. If you feel like it's something you can do or feel God leading you to do, let's have a conversation and see what we can do together with Christ.
We hope we'll have many contributors from our congregation. I imagine we will have regular and occasional contributors. If you'd like to contribute a poem, a photo, a devotion or anything that you believe enhances our life together, please contact Pastor Criss to learn about posting.