“Young at Heart” Seniors Mentoring Youth
January 22, 2016 • English
Shirley and Gary Raterink have a heart for youth. They are a part of the Fairway CRC of Jenison (MI) seniors’ group, YAH—Young at Heart. Around seventy members of the YAH group gathered in August 2015 to learn how they can be intentional about having an impact on youth in the church.
Each month the YAH group invites a speaker to challenge and inspire them in ways they can live so their faith has an impact on others. Rev. Steven and Deb Koster, leaders of Back to God Ministries’ Family Fire outreach, led the workshop on mentoring youth in faith.
“How do we make sure the faith of our generation actually makes it to the next generation?” Deb asked the seniors. “Research we’ve studied for Family Fire shows that it takes five adults with consequential faith to be involved in a young person’s life in order for their faith to become real to them.”
Fairway CRC is an active congregation with many ministries. Like many congregations, most ministries are separated into groups: youth, young parents, empty nesters, seniors.
Youth director Brian Davis is enthusiastic about the YAH group’s desire to be intentional as they influence the youth. “Students long for the kinds of conversations the seniors offer, to learn from what they’ve been through, their daily walk with God. Seniors also find a sense of belonging by mentoring our youth.”
The Kosters challenged the YAH members to get to know the names of the youth who sit around them in church, to learn what’s going on in their lives. “Engage in their world and pray specifically for them by name,” Deb told them. “We underestimate how much of an impact we make on others.”
Just before summer YAH and the church youth groups met together for an evening of games and activities. Then, youth and YAH members sign up to be prayer partners for each other. “It’s good for us to see what they are dealing with,” says Shirley, age 75. “Their lives are a whole lot different than when we were that age.”
Shirley appreciated the added ideas given at the workshop. “It affirmed what we are doing with our grandchildren,” says Shirley. She and her husband invite their grandchildren to a summer Bible study at their home or on trips and overnight events. “Just rubbing elbows with them,” Shirley adds. “I even got a smart phone so I can text with them. I still want to talk to them face-to-face, but this way they can get a quick message through. When they have a prayer request, they can let Grandma know.”
One workshop participant liked the idea of keeping a prayer card in her Bible with the names of the church’s young people in her sphere of influence. “It serves as a reminder to pray for opportunities to share my faith and reminds me of the role I play in the lives of others.”
Following the workshop YAH members are exloring new ideas, such as hosting small groups of youth in their homes. Davis added, “My dream is that opening their homes to small groups of high school students would break down walls for them to get to know each other and lead to relationships where the YAH members could disciple the youth.”
The Kosters are excited about the YAH group’s response to the workshop. “This group has an amazing legacy of faith. They’ve had years of seeing God’s faithfulness in their lives. But the church’s faith is never more than a generation deep. When youth interact with older people whose faith makes an impact, that faith will transfer to the next generation.”
The mentoring workshop is available to churches as a one-hour workshop or a day long retreat. Contact Family Fire if your church is interested in learning more about mentoring youth in your congregation.
Family Fire is a ministry of ReFrame Media, the English outreach of ReFrame Ministries.