I was at a women’s conference in Oklahoma, and the leader of the conference had us pick a question to discuss at our table. My table’s question was, “What do you have to offer other generations?”
A woman with beautiful grey hair who had to be at least 70 looked straight at me, a then 21-year-old woman, and said, “I don’t think I have anything to offer you.” The way my heart felt in that moment is hard to describe, but sadness swept over me because I knew this woman did have something to offer. I asked her, “Do you know how to make a pie crust from scratch?” She nodded. I continued, “My grandma never got to teach me before she passed away, and I’ve always wanted to learn.”
Although she didn't believe she had anything to offer me, it was clear to me there was much I could learn from her experience.
In the Christian world, the word “mentoring” often connotes offering spiritual advice and wisdom. This is certainly important but many times we overlook the value of simply passing on the wisdom of living life well. After all, our questions aren’t always related to overtly spiritual categories. At times, I need help in giving my anxiety over to the Lord, but other days what I really need is someone to define what a 401(k) is. Young adults in the Church are looking for both spiritual and "non-spiritual" mentoring, and there is room for both types to coexist.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: People my age often feel misunderstood. Personally, I am constantly battling the stereotypes assigned to millennials, many of which are negative and false. Millennials are told that we are lazy, entitled, and bad for the economy. But if you look past those stereotypes, you’ll often see humans who want to know and want to be known.
For example, we want to know how to change the oil in a car and how to pray prayers of healing over others. We want to know how to begin our careers while strengthening our walks with the Lord. We want to understand what it took for you to get to the place you are in life, and we want you to understand that we are trying our best. Young adults know we don’t know everything, but talk with us for five minutes and you’ll see that most of us are interested in learning.
We also want to be known. Being mentored in spiritual matters is so important—we learn so much about who we are and how God sees us through those conversations. However, those conversations don’t fully cover what is going on in our lives, and we don’t usually feel fully known when we only discuss spiritual matters. As a young adult, I have to know you value and believe in me. Once I know you do, my walls begin to come down. When I know that I can trust you with who I really am, what you speak into my life goes much deeper.
Both types of mentorship—spiritual and practical—can stand on their own, but when we put them together, we see a style of integrated mentorship that appears all throughout scripture. This is the type of mentorship between Jesus and his disciples. I believe one reason Jesus’s mentorship was so effective was because it tied both doing life and spiritual matters together. Jesus knew his disciples, and he also let himself be known by them. They ate together, went to parties together, ministered together, and walked hundreds of miles on the same dusty roads. Jesus even gave James and John the nickname “Sons of Thunder”. And because they just walked through life together, the disciples ended up coming to Jesus with all kinds of deep questions. How do we pray? Will you show us the Father? Jesus was constantly showing his disciples who he was, but patiently waited for them to come to their own conclusions—wading through endless questions and doubts—at one point even letting Thomas touch the scars from his crucifixion just to clarify that he actually was who he said he was. Our Jesus wanted to be known by us, but first he knew us and called us into our identity.
Jesus gives us a beautiful example of “full-life mentorship”. When we tie doing life and engaging spiritual matters together, we have an incredible opportunity to understand others and be understood by them. All of a sudden, simple things like cooking together or changing a flat tire are about more than just helping one another. Those everyday things become a way for us to know each other, to grow together, and to create opportunities for even deeper sharing. Teaching a young twenty-something how to make a pie crust might become a way to mentor like Jesus, allowing heart questions to emerge and passing on practical and spiritual insights you didn’t even know you had.
So do you have something to offer another person? If God has given you life experience, I would challenge you that you do, and sharing even the simple things you know might open the door to deeper mentoring. Look for those opportunities, and I’m sure you’ll find a millennial willing to walk through that door with you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy Benton lives in Fullerton, California. Born and raised on a pig farm in Oklahoma, God called her to the West Coast a year ago, where she now serves on Novo’s Communications team as the administrative assistant. Her passions include laughing, good conversations, and women’s ministry.