About those mentors . . .

A confirmand and his mentor from Trinity Episcopal Church, Menlo Park, California

As noted in my previous post, I gave a workshop over the weekend on “Best Practices in Confirmation Ministry.” Several asked for my handout as well as my presentation slides, so they can be found here:

As I introduced the group to the Confirmation Collaborative. Basically, anyone who is gathered to discuss best practices of confirmation as well as share stories and struggles about making this catechetical time a catalyst for ongoing faith formation in our congregations. One of our discussions centered around having mentors for confirmands. What does this entail? Who does the choosing? What do mentors actually do?

Gail Sheehy, the author who did pioneering work about the various passages of life, recommends some tasks to consider during the fifth decade of life. She said that some of the most important work is in having and being a mentor. Will Willimon writes in Making Disciples: Mentor’s Guide:

A mentor is one who has a genuine faith from day to day. A mentor is one who is willing to share their journey of faith with another person.

Kate Harmon Siberine, a member of the Confirmation Collaborative team and research assistant for the Confirmation Project, has a great article entitled “Mentors Key to Successful Confirmation Program” in the special issue of Episcopal Teacher on Confirmation from Winter 2017. She writes:

As a model of incarnational discipleship, which is supported by both our scriptural tradition and social science research, mentoring allows adult members of the congregation to live more fully into their own baptismal call. They are given the time and space to share their lives, their stories, and their brokenness with young people who are in the process learning to claim their own embodied faith and identity.

At my workshop, some ideas that were shared, along with some “dos” and don’ts” included:

  • Mentors are active adults in the congregation who are comfortable sharing their faith, including their doubts and questions with another person. Parents of friends who are also confirmands are not always the best choice. Older adults are great as they add another generational perspective.
  • A “job description” for mentors explaining their role, responsibilities, and what kind of commitment that is expected of them is important.
  • Safe Church practices must be followed. Mentors should never meet alone with a mentee; choose a public space such as a coffee shop or pair up with another confirmand/mentor team.
  • Provide mentors with the schedule and topics that will be covered at sessions, along with questions for follow-up conversation that the two can have together.
  • Share a ministry together in the congregation such as ushering together, hosting “coffee hour” after worship, or volunteering in a soup kitchen.
  • Take on a project together. This could be a project that the church needs to be done such as repairing broken bulletin boards, painting a room, or planting flowers. Or perhaps a longer term project with other mentor/mentees like creating an outdoor labyrinth.
  • If the confirmands write faith statements, invite the mentors to write one also at the same time and share them together.
  • Learn and share a Bible story. This can be done by “assigning” a known (or not-so-well-known) Bible story to a mentor and confirmand. They can then read, study it, and then determine how they might present it to the other confirmands and mentors in a creative way: through video, drama, art, a contemporary take on the story, etc. It is a great way to explore a variety of stories from a variety of perspectives instead of saying, “Let’s open our Bible to page 678 and discuss.”

What are your best practices for using mentors in confirmation preparation?

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