Faith and Life Mentoring For Lent!
A Programmatic Dream
by Don Marsh
As much younger youth worker, I had a dream; well, perhaps it was more of a prayer: I wanted a church that was mission oriented and responsive to the faith development of needs of the family. These days one might use the label “intergenerational”. At the time this prayer seemed more like asking for a miracle or at least a far-fetched, improbable dream. I mean, how does one find such a congregation? Once found, what kinds of programming does one develop that can change the culture of a congregation?
Long story made short, in 1997, I did find that congregation; Augustana Lutheran Church in West St. Paul, MN.
Augustana is a mission focused, ridiculously generous, and service-oriented congregation that truly makes a difference in the world.
Early on, I began to talk with other youth ministry leaders about various programs and ministry opportunities that might help accomplish some of the goals we had as a congregation which led us to try a program called Lenten Mentoring.
For Augustana, the rest is history. Lenten Mentoring was received with great enthusiasm by the entire congregation. This one single ministry quadrupled attendance at midweek Lenten worship services; reached to the highest levels of congregational leadership, directly involving church council members (and even a Senior Pastor) in Youth and Family Ministry; drew previously inactive adults back into the church and did wonders to break down the barriers between the young and old in the congregation.
In these days of uncertainty for the church, when young people seem to be disassociating with organized religion in record numbers, we continue to champion the opportunities the Lenten Mentoring program provides for the young and old to share the journey of faith.
As we prepare for the 18th year of this remarkable ministry, we are just as excited now as we were in the beginning.
While it is difficult to provide a concise summation of how it works, here goes nothing:
Each Confirmation student is sent a packet of information that includes the details such as dates, times and an adult mentor job description. They then seek an adult mentor and turn in that name by the specified date. Adult mentors are invited to one of several orientation sessions prior to the beginning of the mentoring experience which happens on Ash Wednesday and then continues for 5 weeks, ending just prior to Holy week. In our program, Lenten Mentoring replaces Confirmation classes on Wednesday evenings,which are immediately followed by mid-week Lenten Worship services. Our leadership team provides an introduction to the topic along with a discussion guide, after which mentor pairs are sent off for more in-depth, faith-based discussions.
To be sure there is much more to this ministry than this brief description conveys but these are the basics.
As a veteran of over 35 years in youth ministry, all I can say is that I have never been involved with anything that has accomplished so many of my goals for ministry which, for the most part, are centered around developing mature Christian adults.
I realize this may not work in other ministry settings; most programs do not transfer easily to other congregational cultures, but I want to close by encouraging interested leaders to consider some of the benefits we have experienced at Augustana as a result of the Lenten Mentoring ministry.
Director of Youth and Family Ministry