You have probably considered finding mentors for the young people served by your ministry, but have you considered peer mentoring? Peer mentoring involves taking a group of kids or teens and training them to mentor their peers. They aren’t expected to handle tough issues, but serve as someone who listens, encourages and supports their peers – especially those who may be struggling. While there are formal programs for training peer mentors, it’s easy enough to find free training materials online.
The stated benefit of peer tutoring is that it encourages the young people mentoring to step into servant leadership roles. It also provides the adults working with the kids extra eyes, ears and hands to help them assist children and teens who may otherwise fall through the cracks.
Over the years, though, people have found that peer mentoring has some unintended benefits that can prove especially helpful in the context of a ministry.
- Mentors improve their own performance in the areas in which they mentor. For example, if you ask a mentor to give a peer tips for reading the Bible daily and using what they read in their lives, the mentor would also be more likely to read the Bible daily and put those things into practice. In order to give tips or teach someone else something successfully, you have to review the information you want to teach. Or you may need to do some research to find tips to teach. That process serves as a mini refresher course for mentors, too.
- Mentors benefit from the extra training and interaction with adult supervisors of the program. Training sessions and conversations about mentoring progress easily lend themselves to teaching young people more of what God wants them to know. It also gives opportunities to review critical information regularly so that it moves into the long term memories of mentors. Plus young people are sometimes more open to hearing information they will use to help someone else than when it is presented as something that will help them in some way.
- Mentors improve listening skills. One of the most essential skills for impactful ministry is to listen well. Teaching mentors how to be active listeners will equip them to be more effective in ministry for the rest of their lives.
- Mentors get real world practice in serving others and sharing their faith with peers who are more likely to be receptive. One of the most difficult barriers to serving others and sharing their faith for teens is their fear of rejection. When they are doing it with someone who has voluntarily enrolled in a Christian mentoring program, they are more likely to have their attempts accepted than rejected. This in turn can give them the confidence to approach someone who might reject their offers of help and the Gospel message.
Consider starting a peer mentoring program in your ministry. It may provide benefits you hadn’t expected for everyone involved.