Thirteen years ago, I went on my first ever retreat. I didn’t sign up, my parents signed me up. And my friend’s parents signed them up. We drove down to a basilica in Carey, Ohio and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. It wasn’t that I was unfamiliar with my faith; I had attended Catholic grade school and high school for my whole schooling life. I knew a lot about Jesus, but I didn’t know Jesus. At this Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) Retreat in 2003, I began an incredible relationship with Jesus and His Church. I was not the same person driving to the retreat as I was driving home from the retreat. I am who I am today because of TEC.
Recently, I have been reflecting on what makes it so effective. Countless other people have had similar experiences to me. Some of my strongest relationships have been born out of this retreat. What makes it so different than any other retreat? See, since 2003, I have been on a ton. Many have been great, but often they are forgettable weeks after. TEC has seemed to be different and I was trying to discover why.
It hit me while I was listening to one of the talks on my thirteenth TEC just a few weeks ago. My friend Shane was talking about how certain people fought for him and encouraged him to be the man of God he was supposed to be and that made all the difference. He said that without those people that walked with him and cared for him, he would have never stayed with his faith. That was it! That is what makes TEC different.
Mentorship. It may be the “secret sauce,” if you will, to make our churches and our faith come alive again.
[Jesus] said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Mentorship has two parts:
- When you support, encourage, and guide someone a little younger or less experienced in their faith. You walk with them and invite them into your walk as a disciple. In other words: “follow me as I follow Jesus.”
- When you seek the support of someone older or a little more experienced to help you on your faith journey.
Are you involved in either right now? Do you have people that you are mentoring into disciples? Do you have people that are mentoring you?
In order for us to thrive as followers of Jesus, we need both. This may be the very thing that will take our faith to the next level.
I work at a Catholic Church and very early on, I realized I needed local mentors. After all, I spend my day as a youth minister mentoring young teens all of the time. Four staff members and incredible men of God: Graham, Jack, Ed, and Jim support, encourage, and guide me on a daily basis. In addition, Fr. Eric, my spiritual director, has become one my best friends and heroes in the faith. I would not be the man I am today without them!
On the flip side, my favorite part of being a youth minister is sitting down with a teen over some food and mentoring them. I love being able to support, sometimes challenge, and invite them into something greater. I may sound like a broken record because I end each conversation with “I am proud of you.” And I mean it.
You do not have to just be a youth minister to mentor. My friends, it’s time to embrace what Jesus did years ago. Who are you mentoring? And who is mentoring you?
“As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man.”
- Proverbs 27:17