Every week I get the privilege of working with pastors from all over. Most have a sense there could be more. More participation, more depth, more passion, more community. What they’re doing isn’t broken, but it’s not enough. A common concern I hear: “my church is a mile wide, but an inch deep.”
I’m a little biased, but I think the best way for a church to help their people dig a few inches deeper is small group mentoring.
Before I tell you why, here’s the two-sentence overview of how Radical Mentoring does “small group mentoring.” We equip an older, wiser mentor with conversation guides and other resources to lead a group of younger mentees through an intentional mentoring process for nine to twelve months. Mentors share their faith stories in the first meeting and continue to share their life experience by facilitating a topic-based conversation during each of the monthly meetings that follow.
Now, here are four reasons launching a small group mentoring process can have a profound impact on your church…
1. Mentoring groups build intergenerational relationships. Last year, Barna released a study on engaging men. They found that men with intergenerational relationships were “nearly twice as likely to be very satisfied in their relationship with their child (54% vs. 30%) and in their marriage (64% vs. 54%).” Mentoring groups create an environment for people of different seasons of life to interact. Mentors find value in sharing their wisdom and life experience, while mentees get to learn from someone who has already been where they’re going.
2. Mentoring groups create authentic relationships. Ultimately, we all want to be known. Of the 450+ people surveyed after their mentoring season, 95% said they experienced authentic community in their group, and 88% described their group’s relationships as “very deep” or “deep.” The secret sauce? Stories. By focusing on stories, mentoring groups create a safe space for people to be real, encourage each other, and drive relationships deep. Having everyone share their full, no-holding-back faith story, starting with the mentor, equips the group to go further, faster and leads to conversations that matter.
3. Mentoring groups raise the leadership capacity of your church. Every church needs more leaders. More people to lead small groups and get involved with the high school ministry. More people to serve as deacons and elders or to lead Bible studies. People who go through a mentoring group become your next generation of leaders. They improve the quality of your other environments by bringing the authenticity and intentionality they learned during their mentoring season.
4. Mentoring groups develop all-in Jesus-followers: Arguably the most important one. Mentees spend nine to twelve months learning from and watching their mentor. They observe how the mentor lives their life and how they interact with Jesus. While anything but perfect, the life of the mentor, transparently exposed and fully committed, shows them a real-life example of what a fully-alive Jesus-follower is like and what it can be for them if they go all-in.
The people in our churches today are connected but more alone than ever before. This isolation causes them to stumble through life, unsure of who they are or where they’re going. But when they can connect with someone who’s a few steps down the road and engage in authentic community with others, they begin to uncover who God created them to be.
Small group mentoring has become a next-level discipleship model for churches of all shapes and sizes. It works best as an expansion of a church’s current discipleship model, building on what a church is already doing. Here’s how one church outside Charleston, SC, uses mentoring to enhance their discipleship model…
101: Events – periodic events (i.e., men’s hike, women’s gathering, etc.) aimed to inspire people and encourage them to take a next step and serve or get into a group.
201: LifeGroups – weekly small groups aimed to help people “learn about God, pray, eat, laugh, and share life” with others in the LifePark community
301: Mentoring Groups – high commitment groups that meet for three hours, once a month, for nine months, aimed to “yield a deeper walk with God and a biblical perspective on many aspects of life” under the guidance of older, wiser co-mentors.
So, what do you have to lose? If you want to build a culture that fosters meaningful connection, you have to put a process in place to help your people develop authentic relationships and unlock their leadership potential.