Overcoming Two Hurdles in Discipleship

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Overcoming Two Hurdles in Discipleship

Written By Melodie Sun

Overcoming Two Hurdles in Discipleship

Over the last few years of engaging with the topic of mentorship (or discipleship, since the topic here is Christian mentorship), I have come to the conclusion that there are more people who want to be mentored than there are people who are willing to be mentors. Of the wide range of reasons people give for not wanting to be a mentor, two stand out as the most common hurdles in my own personal experience when trying to enlist mentors for our church’s mentorship program: either a feeling of being unqualified or unequipped to disciple someone else or a fear of being unable to relate to someone from a younger generation. Sometimes it’s both.

“I’m not qualified.”

Sometimes, we mistakenly think that we need to have our lives all together or know all the theological answers before we can disciple someone. However, at its core, discipling is simply helping someone grow in Christ. While it is important to live out our faith well and to have sound doctrine, the sheer fact that we are still growing means that we are not perfect and do not have all the answers yet. Whether it is a sticky life situation or a deep theological question, “I don’t know, but let’s figure it out together” is a perfectly acceptable answer. In fact, admitting that we still have struggles and make mistakes or that we don’t know serves as a reminder for both us and our mentees that we are all still on the journey of becoming more like Christ. It is not necessary to have a perfect life or perfect knowledge to disciple or mentor someone. If those were the qualifications, no one would be close to being qualified, not even the Bible characters that we often think of as heroes. Instead, what is required is a growing relationship with God. As we look to Him on the journey together with those we disciple, we get to grow together with our mentees in our knowledge of God and wisdom in life.

“I don’t know how to relate.”

This second hurdle seems to be a growing concern in cross-generational mentoring relationships, especially as the culture around us continues to change at an ever-increasing rate. This is also heightened in contexts where there are language or cultural differences, such as at my church, where most of the adults are first-generation immigrants who predominantly speak Chinese, while most of the youth and young adults are American-born and raised and predominantly speak English. Despite whatever cultural differences, there is always some common ground that can be found, whether it is shared interests or struggles. At the very least, in the context of discipleship, there is a shared faith and desire to grow in Christlikeness. As humans, we also all have a desire to be seen and understood. Perhaps relating to mentees is not so much about trying to relate by blending in and using Gen Z vocabulary but rather listening to them, understanding how God has shaped them through their culture, and relating both their experiences and yours to the timeless principles of God’s Word.

There are many ways to try to reduce these and other hurdles when it comes to mentorship, such as churches providing training or promoting intergenerational connections. One practical way that my church has tried to overcome these is by providing the structure of a one-on-one mentorship program and creating resources to make it as simple as possible for people to step in as mentors to disciple our students. In our program, mentor-mentee pairs meet for about 30-45 minutes once every two weeks (either virtually or in person) to check in about how life is going, go through discipleship material, and pray together. One new idea that we implemented in this year’s program was providing a Google Slides file containing discussion prompts and discipleship material that mentor-mentee pairs can click through during their meetings. By providing this curriculum, as well as mentor guides that go along with the slides, our aim is to help facilitate deeper mentor-mentee relationships and to equip mentors with a variety of resources they can reference or use as discipleship tools. The slides, in particular, also help with the concerns of being unable to relate by minimizing most of the awkwardness in one-on-ones, especially with younger students, because when there is nothing else to talk about, they can simply move to the next slide. This format was designed to target our two biggest hurdles in getting more mentors involved with discipling our students—feeling unqualified or unable to relate—and it has worked remarkably well for us. Of course, this is only one possible solution among many others, but hopefully, it is one that helps spark ideas for more ways to reduce the hurdles we face when it comes to discipleship in our churches.

About the Author

Melodie Sun
English Ministry Director, Ark Baptist Church

Melodie Sun serves as the English Ministry Director at Ark Baptist Church in Milpitas, CA, a Chinese heritage church pastored by her father and also where she grew up. She has a Master of Theological Studies from Gateway Seminary and is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity. Her desire is to see the Chinese youth of America love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Some of her hobbies include reading, trying to run her life on excel spreadsheets, and watching video reviews of premium Bibles.

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