Mentoring Models and Ideas
Faith Friends, Continued
Your congregation may already have mentors in place. Many congregations pair children with faith friends when they begin kindergarten or first grade. If children have continued these relationships, it makes sense for faith friends to become confirmation mentors. Ideally, these relationships can continue throughout the adolescent years. John Gooch suggests that every young person should have godparents who are members of the congregation. Traditionally, godparents make a commitment, upon a child’s baptism, to nurture that child in faith. In cases where parents name as godparents friends or relatives who live in another state or attend another congregation, Gooch suggests that each young person have a second pair of godparents who are part of the congregation. He says that, if we really take seriously the Baptismal Covenant, it makes sense to have godparents serve as mentors for young people from baptism, through confirmation and adolescence, and into adulthood.
Karen Kluever, a youth pastor and confirmation leader at Woodland United Methodist Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina (and a writer of some of the Credo Confirmation
sessions), pairs each of her confirmands with a “grandfriend,” an older adult mentor/Christian friend. Some people feel as though ministry to young people is the domain of twenty- and thirty-somethings. Involving older adults affirms for an older generation that the spiritual formation of youth is a multigenerational endeavor.
Camille Mattick, a pastor in California, enlists anonymous mentors (called “Friends in Faith,” or FIF) for her confirmation program. Confirmands and mentors communicate by letter. One week the confirmand will write a letter to his or her FIF. The next week a FIF will write a letter to his or her confirmand. Through these letters mentors and confirmands discuss their faith journeys, tough questions, and what they are learning in the confirmation program. FIFs also send, along with their letters, small gifts (less than $5 each). The identities of the FIFs are revealed at the confirmation banquet. While these relationships begin anonymously, many of them continue for several years.
When many children are baptized, godparents are present. Godparents vow to nurture their godchildren in faith. In a sense, they are mentors who make a commitment not only to guide and be present with a young person during a confirmation program or during his or her formative years but for life. Godparents should be involved in confirmation and can act as confirmation mentors.
Claiming the Name: A Theological and Practical Overview of Confirmation
John Gooch establishes some guidelines for having godparents serve as mentors. Gooch insists that godparents be members of the congregation. If a confirmand does not already have godparents (or has not been baptized), work with the family to choose godparents from the church community. If a confirmand already has godparents who are not part of the congregation, he or she also should have godparents who are members of the church.
Godparents fit the theology of confirmation and understanding of church membership in The United Methodist Church. It acknowledges that baptism is one’s initiation into the body of Christ and that confirmation, while being an important step along one’s faith journey, is not an end unto itself. Godfriends follow confirmands from baptism, through confirmation, and beyond.
Multiple Mentors, Multiple Mentees
There is no rule saying that the relationship between a mentor and a confirmand has to be one-on-one. The relationship could instead be two-on-two or two-on-three. While some youth may prefer one-on-one relationships, having multiple mentors has a safety and security benefit. Pairing confirmands with two (unmarried, non-related) greatly reduces the risk of abuse. And some youth may feel more comfortable in a family-style small group than in a one-on-one relationship with a mentor.
Younger youth benefit greatly from relationships with older adolescents who have continued to grow in faith in the few years since they took their confirmation vows. These former confirmands set a positive example of how to stay faithful to one’s relationship with Christ and the church during the teenage years; they also act as a reminder that confirmation is not an end unto itself but is one important step along one’s faith journey. Many confirmation programs have involved older youth with great success. (Michael Ratliff, Associate General Secretary of the Division on Ministries With Young People, when he was in local church ministry, referred to his older youth confirmation helpers as “ex-cons.”) But older teens should act as mentors in addition to, not in place of, adult mentors