Tip #1: Reach Out (2 Tim. 2:2).
Before I started dating my girlfriend, we were in the stage that millennials call “talking.” You guys probably get really confused as to what we mean by that and why there has to be so many stages to a relationship—frankly, we don’t understand it either. But that’s just how we are. Anyway, while we were “talking,” we suffered a communication breakdown. You see, she was trying to figure out if I liked her—if I was truly interested in her. Now, I thought I was making it abundantly clear—I was buying her food left and right and spending a lot of time with her and taking her to plays…surely, she should know that I’m falling in “like” with her! But…she didn’t. Because for her (and most women), she can never know for sure unless the guy tells her himself. Thus, the infamous complaint of wives that “you never tell me you love me!”
And the response: “I told you when we got married and if anything changes, I’ll let you know!”
Gentlemen, we should know better. So, I told her that I really liked her. And that settled it.
I think a similar breakdown in communication has occurred between Gen X and Gen Y. Boomers and Millennials. You see, we millennials would really like it if you older guys would reach out to us. If you would ask us to coffee or invite us to sit down in your office or invite us to dinner. But you guys don’t believe me—even now, you’re probably laughing and thinking, “Young people don’t want to even talk to old people!”
Au contraire! Though on the outside, we act like we can’t stand the sight of you guys (something we should probably adjust), deep, deep down we really long to be mentored. We long to have a strong relationship with an older man, full of wisdom, advice, and counsel. We’d love it. In fact, many of us may indeed pray for it for many months—and yet nothing ever happens.
The ball is in your court, Boomers. You make the first move, Xers. Though there is place for younger people reaching out for the advice of the older people, yet I think the typical route is for the older to reach out to the younger. Don’t believe me? Let’s look to Scripture.
2 Timothy 2:2 will become somewhat of our “theme verse.” It reads: “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul puts the ball in Timothy’s court for “entrusting” what he’s heard to “faithful men.” The question is—how did Paul get the ball in the first place?
For that, we go to Acts 16. Timothy was a young whipper-snapper—a new convert in the city of Lystra, where Paul had come on his first missionary journey. Now, en route to a second journey, Paul returns to his old stomping grounds and finds there this young guy. The Bible says he was “well spoken of” by the Christians in that area. Paul had lost his previous young companion, John Mark, who had abandoned him and Barnabas on the first journey. Maybe some of you have been hurt and embarrassed after taking a young man under your wing—only to find him betray the faith. But Paul is not too wounded from a previous young man to not take a second. The Bible says Paul “wanted” Timothy to come with him, and so he “took him.” And thus began one of the greatest mentoring ministries in recorded history.
Are you ready to begin such a relationship yourself? It doesn’t matter what your past with young men has been—if you’ve failed them or they’ve failed you. If you’ve been in ministry for any number of years (and remember, Timothy hadn’t been there long when Paul wrote him 1 Timothy), you have experiences and wisdom that we millennials desperately need. No, we won’t come crawling to your office door and beg for wisdom. You have to initiate the relationship.
So grab your phone. Better yet, use texting, Facebook, or email to find a young man in your church right now. Someone who’s “well spoken of” by your members. That young guy who helps take the offering or sings in a special group from time to time. The one who plays guitar for the teens. The one who made a decision to dedicate his life to full-time service—talk to your youth pastor about that. Certainly, if there are college guys in undergrad or seminary studying Bible, that’s an obvious place to start!
And don’t shrug off the guys who seem “good.” Rather, those are the guys you should be investing the most time into! Sometimes I feel that pastors look at upcoming young men and see some who are doing well and think, “They’re fine on their own. I’m going to spend my time on the one who’s rebelling and is a mess.” While you shouldn’t neglect the struggling, don’t neglect the ones who appear to be “under control” either. Odds are, they’re struggling too with secret sins and broken dreams—they just don’t show it. They’re too prideful to blatantly rebel. But they still need your attention.
Every millennial needs a mentor. Even more so, every ministry-minded millennial needs a ministry-minded mentor—one who reaches out to them and asks them to coffee. One who isn’t afraid to get to know them. A potential Paul who’s not too scared to start.
Ready? Type in your Timothy and press, “Send.”