Christian ethical development requires mentors to model. Our current church models for developing ethics in our young people is largely accidental. My assertion stems from experiences with adults who grew up in church and how they often mishandle relationships in the context of church. These thoughts came to mind as I read Hauerwas and Willimon describe a suggested path of ethical formation for their particular denominational framework. Please note this does not mean what the suggest cannot be adopted to fit any group intent to partner with parents in helping young people develop the ethic of Jesus.
The key element came in connecting young people one-on-one with an adult mentor in an intentional relationship. They offer a few of the elements of the suggested project,
-Read the Gospel of Luke together. As each of you reads at home, keep a note pad with you and note those passages which you find interesting, confusing, inspiring. Every two weeks, make some time to discuss what you have read.
-Attend Sunday services together for the next three months. After each service, discuss your reactions, questions, impressions of the service.
-Get a copy of our church’s budget. Find out where our money goes. Discuss together how each of you decides to make a financial commitment to the church.
-Attend any board meeting of our church together during the next three months. Decide what congregational board or committee you would like to be on at the end of the Confirmation process.
-Explain, in your own words, "Why I like being a United Methodist Christian." Discuss two areas in which you would like to know more about our church. Ask our pastor or church librarian to help you find this information.
-Attend a funeral and a wedding at our church together. After the service, discuss "Where was God at this service?" "Why is the church involved in these services?"
-Spend at least fifteen hours volunteering at Greenville Urban Ministries, or one of the other service agencies our church helps to support. Why is the church involved here? (Resident Aliens,p.106-107)
Hauerwas and Willimon offer a couple of stories which note the mentoring works both ways. Some today are calling for reverse-mentoring. That is, older Christians being mentored by younger Christians in order to understand the different ways we view the world. In either case there is a great need to work in an intentional way to help our young people learn the ethic of Jesus.
A final story in this chapter (5) brought me to tears. The pastor of one congregation persuaded one of the women in his church who had been assaulted to seek help from a therapist for the trauma. In an attempt to help work through the ordeal the therapist suggested the woman find someone to whom she could tell her story. She relayed the notion to her pastor. The pastor asked who she had decided to tell.
She said, "I think I will tell Sam Smith." Sam Smith was a sometimes recovering alcoholic in the congregation.
The pastor was surprised. He thought that she would have preferred telling another woman, even another man who was a bit more "together" than Sam Smith.
"Why Sam?" the pastor asked.
"Because Sam has been to hell and back," she said. "I think he will know what it has felt like for me to go there. Perhaps he can tell me how to get back."(Resident Aliens,p.110)
Our mentoring experiences, "normal" or "reverse," will be full of times where we learn the ethic of Jesus from unlikely sources. What we need is to create intentional means to assist our young people along the way.