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EXPERT TIP: Impacting the Next Generation

Would you like to connect and communicate more effectively with the younger generation of volunteers and employees in your center?

Have you considered that you have the unique opportunity to experience "intergenerational mentoring"?

Here is a simple pattern that anyone can follow.

  1. Recognize mentoring as an agreement to do life together. We do not have to have all the answers, we do need to have the time. We don’t need to be at their beck and call but we do commit to meet regularly.

  2. Learn to listen well. Young people need someone to allow them to verbally process all the input they have received. We live in a loud world with so much information filtered through to their overcrowded minds. They need a safe place to work out what they are hearing and seeing. Proverbs 10:19 makes me giggle a little but it is great advice. “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.” (NLT)

  3. Make a commitment for a given amount of time. Mentees will come in and out of your life, these relationships will ebb and flow as their needs change. Keep in mind that mentoring from an experienced leader can be one on one or in a group setting where you support each other.

  4. In your discussions, be careful with absolute statements. Express your beliefs as opinions with facts to support it but be careful not to shut down the conversation because you must be right. Especially with Gen Z, this will close them down and they will avoid the subject in the future.

What do you need to know about the younger generations? Who are they and what do they value?

Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) are now parents and see the world so differently than the generations before them. Where Gen Xers are much more independent and self-reliant, millennials desire and thrive in community. They are more interested in community service and positively affecting the world around them than in building their career.

Authentic dialogue is central to millennial’s priorities. They prefer to collaborate and desire the dialogue that is the center of mentoring relationships. They are uninterested in masked conversations and polite small talk. They want to know you and they want you to own your imperfections. In fact, your vulnerability is attractive and inviting. Expect them to be brutally honest and recognize there may be conversations that gracefully end with agreeing that you disagree.

Generation Z (born 1997 – 2013) have entered the work force with a cocktail of desiring to positively impact the world while feeling overly anxious. Anxiety and loneliness are almost at epidemic levels among older Gen Zers. They are heavily reliant on the internet which makes them digitally fluent, often leading to isolation.

With the chaos in the world over the last few years, they have learned to quietly go about their business. They have strong opinions but will rarely express them unless given an opportunity to freely share in a safe environment. It is difficult for them to act on their passions until they feel safe and encouraged to move forward.

So how do we respond?

Mentoring is not a spiritual gift; it is a way of life. Lay down your excuses and reach out to the younger people who are already in your sphere of influence. They need your encouragement, patience, wisdom, and support. Building a discipling relationship with the next generation delivers joy. One of the greatest joys is to see another grow in Christ. Sometimes, I even get to be part of that growth.

Lastly, remember, although they are young, they still can teach us. There is a reason why Paul tells Timothy not to worry about his youth. Lack of experience doesn’t equate to lack of wisdom. Friendships can develop with some of these young women. Energy and enthusiasm abounds in these generations and it can be contagious. Time together could rejuvenate you to follow your passions or even find new ones.

I encourage you to take a chance and reach out to someone younger. Invite them to meet with you and watch the blessings flow!

Leslie Schonfeld, founder of Dragonfly Ministry, enjoys speaking and writing about the generations, mentoring, and the empty nest. She is the former Women’s Ministry Leader for Christ the King Church and now is the Family Life Pastor at LakePoint Community Church in Oxford, Michigan. Leslie is an author, speaker and offers workshops for those interested in intergenerational mentoring and more.


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