Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:15, 16.

Having just returned from an almost month-long holiday with my family in Europe, I was reflecting on what I accomplished. First, I honored my wife’s request to make the vacation a real vacation, and not be distracted by doing “work” – in my case, blogging, and interacting with the many men that I have been mentoring recently.

I covered this theme in an earlier post entitled “Free Days” which is a concept we used in a life coaching class I took over 20 years ago.  The idea behind “free days” is that you should plan your schedule to include a reasonable number of free days – days that are devoid of work where you are truly off duty.  Staying in touch via text or email or phone is frowned on.  And you can’t cheat by playing golf with a client or customer.

The idea is that we all need a breather from our occupations (in my case, my avocations). It is a biblical concept, because Jesus took time to withdraw from the crowds. It is a time of refreshment. A time to pause and smell the roses. A time to spend valuable time with your family. It is a time for replenishment of your emotional tank.

For most of us (including me), we often ignore our emotional tank, and the stress of work and life can take its toll.  For men, it is often hard, because we are taught to tough it out and “don’t let anyone see you sweat”.  If you are really drowning emotionally or are depressed, it is countercultural to let others know you are barely making it and are just hanging on.

This is particularly true of the millennials who have exhibited to isolation leading to loneliness and clinical depression.  The suicide rates are alarming in this age group. Recent studies have shown this, and it is something that needs to be addressed by parents and mentors. Many of them don’t realize their plight, to their detriment.

One other accomplishment of our trip is that we got to spend quality time with Sarah, our 11-year-old granddaughter.  The idea of the trip was initiated when my youngest son’s twins played in a soccer tournament outside of Barcelona for a week. We decided to  come along and take another of our other grandkids with us and make it into a tour of Europe – seven countries in all.

The trip accomplished several things. For Sarah, she got to see things she always wanted to see – the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Tower of Big Ben in London, Mad Ludwig’s castle in Bavaria (the one that ended up being the model for Disneyland).  Better yet, we spent valuable time together having fun.

It was a rare opportunity to have those one on one (or in our case, one on two) moments for almost a month. To walk together, laugh together, rush to a plane together, and sometimes sleep in hotels with cramped quarters.

She will remember it the rest of her life. Not just memories of the places she visited, but the time she spent with us.  You see, we were mentoring her in a very natural way. She learned to adjust to new currencies and exchange rates, and to navigate in places where the language was foreign. She learned to choose her food on menus that weren’t in English.

She learned to take care of her stuff and pack sensibly. My rule of travel when it comes to packing is that if you can’t wear it, or can’t carry it, don’t bring it. We rarely checked bags on 11 airplane flights.  Having been a travel warrior in my career, I know what a mess it becomes if your bag gets misplaced. It is even more troublesome if you are on the move and not going to stay in one place for more than a day or two.

She learned that her grandparents were not perfect, and that we all had our moments, but that we always managed to resolve them quickly. She learned to do Sudoku with Sis, she read a lot and was very engaged on what we were doing or considering options of things that we could do. We literally watched her grow up by the time the trip was through.

So now we have a template of our role as grandparents.  Taking one or two of our grandchildren on an adventure that is geared to their interests. Sarah loves travel, so that was easy. Our other grandkids all want to know where we are taking them, now that we have set this precedent. As long as our health holds out, we will continue this tradition with the others.

I did similar things with my children and my own father. I went on an Outward Bound expedition with my eldest son when he was in high school.  With my daughter (Sarah’s mom), I took her on a weekend trip to San Francisco.

It was also something I did with my own father about a year before he died. He was living in San Francisco when he met and married my mother. I remember sitting at a restaurant in San Franciso with my father and recounting details of trips we had taken together years before. He was amazed that I remembered the details, many of which he had forgotten.

I never really knew my own grandparents. My mother’s parents all died early, and my father’s grandparents lived 3000 miles away and didn’t have the resources to visit frequently. I feel like I missed some deep connection with my past. Most of what I know about my grandparents came from conversations about them with my parents, rather than personal interaction.

I have frequently said that our legacy is to leave our fingerprints on our grandchildren – all over them, for that matter. We want them to know us and what we are like (the good, the bad, and hopefully not the ugly). We want them to know our Christian values and how that plays out in everyday life.  We want to plant memories that will last a lifetime.

Our challenge is to take time away from the stresses of life and encourage others to do the same.  Make sure you spend it with family because, at the end of the day, that’s our legacy.  You may not be able to do what we just did, but you can figure out ways to do something special.  As the saying goes, you only live once, and you may not have opportunities later. It’s time to live for the moment, not the future.

MENTORING TIP: The next generation that you interact with may be struggling with depression. If possible, spend time with them doing something together so you can get a sense of their emotional well-being. Emphasize that taking time off is important.

FURTHER STUDY:  Studies by Barna and Pew Research have all consistently shown a high level of depression and suicide in the millennial generation. See my post entitled “Loneliness” which was posted on July 4, 2017.

WORSHIP: Listen to Tommy Walker sing “Taste and See

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“Unless we learn the lessons of history and ‘teach… the next generation’ (Psalm 78:5–6) they will repeat the mistakes of the past.”  Nicky Gumbel

The term millennial applies to Generation Y and iY – the first born in the early 1980’s and the latter after 1990. They are distinct from prior generations in the outlook and attitudes. I’ve described them as being a different culture which means that we need to understand them in order to be able to mentor them.

I recently went to Togo to attend a gathering of leaders from 10 west African countries. It was a profound experience in many ways.  I was asked to give a presentation on the North American millennial as part of a practical presentation on mentoring.

What surprised me was my profile of the North American millennial was not limited to the next generation of North America.  Almost all the attributes are true of the next generation everywhere – even in Africa.

As I went through my presentation, heads of the leaders were nodding in assent to what I was saying.  Since about half of our audience spoke only French, I am going to have the presentation translated into French for their use.  Fortunately, we had a translator as I went along who translated it into French.

I had shown my power point presentation about 18 months ago to a friend of mine in Cameroon.  I was just going to show him a picture in the presentation, but he and his wife both asked for me to go through all the slides.

As we went through them, they confirmed that the profile was largely accurate of the African millennial, save the attribute of having college debt (the slide notes that 20% of millennials have college debt).

Recently, my friend used the presentation with a group of leaders in Cameroon and said it was very well received and accurate.  That caught me a little off guard, but I have now learned that millennials in all parts of the world have almost universal interests, priorities and desires.

When I put the presentation together, I had just read almost 30 books on mentoring.  That doesn’t make me an expert, by any means. In fact, much of what I post on is not from all those books, but is inspired by my own personal experiences.

My personal takeaway is that I have observed that the current millennial does not trust any institution, including the church. If the typical millennial isn’t going to come to the church, then the church has to pivot and go to them.  It’s a total reversal of the priorities of a church which is often more inward focused, not outward of reaching the next generation.

So, here are some of the attributes:

  • They are spenders, not savers.
  • Asian in outlook – values are formed by their peers
  • Delayed entrance into adulthood – late 20’s or early 30’s
  • Delayed marriage into late 20’s (average age is now 27 up from 24 a decade ago)
  • 40% live with parents through early 30’s
  • 20% have college debt (U.S. only)
  • Distrust of all institutions – church, government, education, business
  • Have grown up in post-Christian era
  • Most would like to be mentored
  • Truth is relative; No absolute truth
  • Indecisive – they shun making decisions
  • Digitally obsessed on social media
  • They don’t read, hence have shallow critical thinking
  • Short attention span – shorter than a gold fish (8 seconds vs. 9 seconds
  • Self-centered and self-absorbed – hence taking “selfies”
  • They are impatient – often without a context for having reasonable expectations
  • Many feel lost – loneliness, anxiety and depression are high, as is the suicide rate
  • Many have grown up protected and haven’t faced failure
  • Poor interpersonal skills – they don’t deal with conflict well
  • Desire for instant gratification which does poorly in business world
  • Accustomed to rapid pace of change
  • Almost 40% have grown up in single parent homes (US)

I am happy to share my PowerPoint presentation with anyone that wants it. I have converted it to a .pdf file so you don’t have to have Powerpoint to look at it.

My presentation is entitled “Sensei” which was inspired by my daughter who suggested that everyone has seen the movie “Karate Kid” in which an older man takes on a young man to teach him karate. The older man is a visual image of a Sensei, which literally means “one who has come before another” in Japanese.

Our challenge is to reach the next generation.  They will be our leaders. They have been described as being “lost”, and part of that is not entirely their fault, but the fault of our culture and often poor parenting skills. They might have been dealt a bad hand, but at least we, as mentors, can help guide them through some of the pitfalls of life by walking besides them.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  While not every millennial will have all of the attributes in the above profile, they will have some of them. It is instructive in understanding them in order to walk beside them and communicate with them in terms they can accept.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Desert Song by Hillsong United

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 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

I would have never guessed that I would write a post on loneliness of the next generation, but research and studies consistently show that this is a problem. And it’s a problem not just the millennials, but also Generation Z, the oldest of whom are now just finishing high school.

I recently participated in an email dialogue about this topic based on a study in the U.K.  The friend that sent it, Fred Berkheimer, said he was absolutely “shocked” at the results.

Studies by Barna and Pew Research have all consistently shown a high level of depression and suicide in the millennials. So, it is not entirely “news” that the next generation is one of the loneliest and lost generations.

They would rather sit next to each other and text one another than have a relationship with a face to face conversation.  So much is lost in the digital world, including body language and personal interaction.

What started the email conversation was a recent study by a British department store that does marketing research on its customers to see what brands are relevant.  They initially did a study of 800 of Generation Y (also known as the millennials).  They found the results stunning.

To assure that they had not gotten a bad sampling, they redid the study with yet another 800 participants. The results were identical.

The findings showed an increasingly lonely and lost generation, who had lots of “friends” on social media platforms, but few if any real relationships. They noted that more people live alone than in any time of our entire social history.

The average digital usage of the millennial approaches over 6 hours a day. “Many who were interviewed view work as something that they fit in between Facebook and lunch.”

One of the participants in the email was Dr. Jolene Erlacher, an educator and author.  This summer, she has been teaching continuing education courses for teachers of K-12 (these kids are Generation Z). From these teachers, she has learned some disturbing facts.

For one, kids are having a hard time working in pairs. The either “get nervous talking to one another, or just don’t talk.”  She continues: “However, if given devices, they can communicate easily via the devices sitting next to each other in the classroom.”

The other phenomenon is what is described as the “silent” cafeterias, where students are engaged on their cellphones rather than speaking to one another. My recollections of lunchtime in school was always a noisy place with conversation going on constantly. Not anymore. “Students now sit in silence, chatting with their friends around them via their devices.”

Effectively, these kids are totally isolated from one another, even if they are three feet away. Instead of talking to each other, they are texting each other. And, it doesn’t stop in the cafeteria.

My daughter, Liz,  recently gave me a book to read (not keep, mind you). It’s by Andy Crouch and is entitled “The Tech-Wise Family”.  In reviewing this book, I was impressed by his thoroughness.  He cites Barna studies, where almost 80% of parents believe that bringing up children today is more difficult than ever.  65% of parents also rate social media/technology as their biggest concern.  So, if you are a parent reading this, you are not alone.

Perhaps the scariest statistic in the book was the revelation that only 53% of millennials say that families make up a “lot” of their identity.   That’s almost half.  When we talk about the breakdown of the family, a statistic like this shouldn’t be shocking.  Almost 40% of children are being brought up in single parent homes.

Crouch sets forth several principles, one of which bears repeating: “Technology is in its proper place when it starts great conversations. It’s out of its proper place when it prevents us from talking with and listening to one another.”  Can I get an amen?  The book contains practical steps for putting boundaries on technology in our lives.

By the way, the book is a short book.  I generally only recommend short books, you’ll be glad to know. Parents chose four areas as the most difficult, with the top choices being:  1) discipline, 2) time management, 3) helping their children develop good moral character, and 4) monitoring technology and social media.

One of the premises of the book is his discussion of the “nudge”.  In simplest terms, “nudges are small changes in the environment around us that make it easier for us to make the choices we want to make or want others to make.  Nudges don’t generally make us do anything, but they make certain choices easier and more likely.”

Studies show that we have a limited amount of willpower. “Nudges help us make some of the right decisions without having to use up that precious limited supply of willpower. “

He goes on to say that the makers of digital technology are absolute masters of the nudge. Even if you put your cellphone down, there is a constant noise accompanying a notification that you have an email, or a text waiting for you. It’s addictive.

He concludes by saying that nudges will never be enough to build the wisdom and courage we need. “We need something inside of us to develop the strength to make good choices, even when everything around is nudging or pushing us in the wrong direction.”

I won’t attempt to paraphrase the book, but I will recommend it to any parent, or even a mentor, to help their children or mentees develop stable habits when it comes to technology.

One concept that Crouch recommends is that at least one hour of every day, one day a week and one week a year, you should have the discipline to turn off all devices, and replace them with other things like play, feasting, worship, family time.

Continue reading “Loneliness”



Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6

 In previous posts, I have described the FOMO effect (Fear of Missing Out) and the harsh reality of what living in a digital culture has done to the minds (and hearts) of the next generation.  Recently, I because aware that my description of the insidious attraction of social media has expanded to the parents, too.

Digital obsession has lots of downsides, not the least of which it hampers face to face conversations.  When you walk into a restaurant and see everyone at the table not talking to each other, but instead, looking at their phones, you realize that this is something that has gone terribly wrong, and it’s not just some phenomena of the next generation.

A recent survey of 2,000 secondary school students responded that they thought their parents were overusing their mobile devices. I could say that is the pot calling the kettle black, but as I look around these days, it’s not just the next generation that are glued to their cellphones.

The kids are now asking their parents to park their urge to be connected at meal time, instead of the other way around. A report by the BBC confirmed that a third of 11 to 18-year-olds students had asked their parents to stop checking their mobile devices. About 12.5% of young respondents reported that their parents were on their mobile phones at meal time.

What’s disconcerting is that the parents haven’t faced this reality yet. Only 10 per cent of parents think that their use of mobile phones is a problem. (They were polled separately.) What a reversal.  The parents have caught up. My earlier discussion was by parents complaining that social media obsession of their children was harming family life.

Solutions from the younger generation are not surprising.  Some 80% want to have meal times mobile device free. Over a third had asked their parents to put down their phones, and 20% said that their parents (mis-)use was encroaching on family time.  Of those that asked their parents to put down their phones, less than half of the parents complied.

The study also showed that 37% of parents were on-line at least 3-5 hours a day during the week, and it could be almost 15 hours a day on a weekend.  Wow. Something is tilted here.

There is now a trend reported by the New York Times recently in an article entitled “Coffee Shops Skip Wi-Fi To Encourage Customers to Actually Talk” where HotBlack Coffee shops decided they didn’t want to be an office. The owner, Mr. Bienenstock, said ““People have socially taken for granted that the coffee shop is a workplace. We don’t want to be an office. We wanted to do it old school and be a social hub.”

On a recent cross-country trip with my wife, we stopped in to a restaurant in Morgantown, WV for lunch. I inquired what the password was for the Wi-Fi which popped up on my smart phone.  One of the staff said the password was “talktoyourwife.” I loved it. Point taken.

So, the lessons here is that there is a disconnect between what parents think their social media habits are, and what their children see.  Sadly, like other things, until one sees it as a problem, behavior won’t change, as is shown by the 44% of the parents who ignored their children’s plea to not be online during mealtime.

If you are a parent, I would ask you to inventory your cellphone use when you are around your children. Does it distract you?  Nothing speaks louder to a child than for you not to be attentive to them.  If you are scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram messages during family time, it sends a message to them that they are not important.

As mentors, we have an opportunity here with the next generation. We can model appropriate boundaries of cell phone usage, particularly at mealtimes. What the next generation really wants is quality time on a face-to-face basis.  They crave this, but unfortunately for some, they are not getting it.  Put it another way, there is no social media message that you can read that is more valuable than spending time with young adults in vesting in their lives without the distraction of being on-line.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Ask your mentee if mobile phones are getting in the way of valuable family time. If so, encourage them to be vocal about it with their parents.  Life moves so quickly that it is almost criminal for relationships to be derailed by a distracted parent or adult searching social media at the wrong times.


New York Times Article on Coffee Shops without Wi-Fi:

WORSHIP: If parents aren’t listening, consider the lyrics of this Mat Redman song:


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Just Dive In


 “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?…. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25,27

One attribute of the millennials and next generation is indecisiveness.  They have a hard time making decisions, particularly about life choices:  What school should I attend?  What should I major in?  Should I ask a girl out for a date? What do I do if she says no?  Should I live with my parents?  Should I strike out on my own? What career should I pursue?

A person makes an average 35,000 decisions every day. That’s a lot of decisions, although most of them are very small and inconsequential.

While the phenomena of indecisiveness are not new, by any means, it is particularly acute in the next generation who seem to be paralyzed when it comes to making life decisions.  To some, particularly Christians, the added complexity is whether a decision will be the “will of God”.  This is a red herring.

One of my friends is a golf professional at our club.  A millennial himself, he has observed this trait first hand.  He says that he finds that too many millennials are afraid to make a decision.  They are afraid it may be the wrong decision, and that fear keeps them from making any decision, which, by default, is a decision to do nothing.

My wife was an aquatics instructor, and she ran the swimming program at St. Mary’s, a private boarding school in Raleigh. In her youth, she was a junior Olympic swimmer and diver and taught swimming lessons through college.  I’ve watched her over the years work with our children first, and now with our grandchildren, teaching them to swim and dive.

When it comes to diving, there is often a reluctance that comes from not having done something before. Kind of the fear of the unknown. She gently coaxed them and assured them that going into the water head first will be fine.

Ultimately, they overcome their fears and try diving headfirst. The second dive is easier, and they don’t need much, if any, coaxing. The solution to resolve their fears is to just dive in.

I don’t think I have the magic answer to this dilemma, other than to encourage millennials to do what the Nike ad slogan which says: “Just Do It.”  That might not be too helpful for a millennial, so perhaps I should unpack some of the reasons that the next generation has difficulty in making decisions.

One of the reasons the next generation is indecisive is that they have so many options presented to them.  In rural life, back in the 20th Century, options for jobs, friends, marriage and careers were often limited by geography.  Many grew up in small towns and never left.  People living on a small income don’t have that many choices to make.

Today, we are more urbanized, and social media has dominated the dating scene.  This next generation has grown up in a world where the pace of change is dramatically faster than at any time before. Before 1985, very few people had cell phones. Now, there are 7 billion cell phones in the world, and it is hard to imagine what life was like without them.

To illustrate how life has become difficult in making choices, just go into your local grocery store and count the number of choices of cereal that they have. Look at the number of sports drinks.  When you count 150 types of lipstick, 360 types of shampoo, 64 types of barbecue sauce, or even 230 different kinds of soups, you get the idea. This illustration comes from a book by Barry Schwartz titled The Paradox of Choice.

In many countries, there aren’t that many choices, but in the western world, we have too many. One has even suggested that we would be better off with fewer choices.

Technology has changed the landscape, especially the parental controls (or lack of them) over the internet and cellphones. I was on a father-son ski trip with my two sons some years ago, along with a former law partner from San Francisco who had teenagers. At dinner one night, the discussion by my sons and this man centered on finding the right solution on how to control your child’s use of a mobile phone in the digital environment.

I must say that I didn’t have a lot to offer, and found the conversation illuminating.  These were not issues I faced when my children were growing up, so I was fascinated at listening to the next generation dealing with an unfamiliar issue.

Another reason is that many in the next generation are inwardly focused. Some call them the “me” generation.  That inward focus has some drawbacks, particularly when it comes to a career. Many have seen their parents work in occupations that are perceived as not fulfilling, and they want to have a job or career that is fulfilling.

That’s all well and good, but they want a career that is “perfect” fulfillment, and are willing to sit on the sidelines until they find it. I think the quest for the Holy Grail might be easier.  In prior generations, the young adult moved quickly into the workplace, gaining experience and, in many ways, a resume for future endeavors.  They might have switched jobs, or even occupations.  There’s not a lot of risk when you are young.

For the millennial Christian, another consideration becomes front and center:  doing the will of God in your life. In a short book by Kevin DeYoung titled “Just Do Something – A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will”, the author takes on this topic with humor.

His subtitle is “How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc.”  I can’t do justice to the contents of the book, but he makes several points which bear repeating.

The first is that the Bible gives a lot of instruction on morality and character.  Yet, the next generation often is looking for God’s will for “non-moral” decisions.  As DeYoung notes, “Scripture does not tell us what to do this summer, what job to take or where to go to grad school.”

His point was that while God cares about every detail of our lives, what we consider to be the most important decisions of our life are not the most important to God. “Too often God’s people tinker around with churches, jobs, and relationships, worrying that they haven’t found God’s perfect will for their lives.” His advice? Give up on hyper-spiritual approaches to finding God’s will and “just do something.”

One thing I have noticed and which I fight against, is the view that getting a secular “job” is often not perceived as rewarding or fulfilling as working for a non-profit. Books have now been written on this topic, including ones by Tim Keller (Every Good Endeavor) and Tom Nelson (Work Matters), which debunks the impression that your work doesn’t matter to God.

I had to fight this tendency myself when I became a believer at the ripe old age of 38. It turned my world upside down and I felt a call to ministry and possibly seminary as a means of advancing my ministry. Then, someone wisely noted that sometimes God wants you to grow where you have been planted.  That was profound, and it caused me to retool my thinking into developing ways that I could serve God as a Christian lawyer.

The challenge here is to come alongside the next generation and help them weed through the many life choices that they face. They need someone to help them get off the edge of the pool and into the water headfirst.  A mentor can help provide the mentee make better decisions in their lives by providing wisdom that comes from experience.

That’s what a mentor does – he or she can be a sounding board for someone who is struggling to make life or career choices. Procrastination results in no choice, possibly to the detriment of missing out on what God wants for them.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The mentor may be the first line of offense for a millennial stuck on making life decisions or finding fulfillment in their careers. They need your counsel.

FURTHER STUDY: John Maxwell, a wonderful communicator, has a new audio series entitled “The Mentor’s Guide to Decision Making”, which includes topics such as “missing an opportunity because of procrastination.”

A good read in this area is a short book by Kevin DeYoung entitled “Just Do Something” which gives an enlightening look at how to use scripture in making decisions. Available at Amazon:

WORSHIP: Listen to Paul Baloche sing “Today is the Day

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Back to the Future


Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  Matthew 28:19,20

I feel like I’ve had an epiphany.  To me, an epiphany is one of those breakthrough moments when you have this intuitive realization of the reality of something.  I’ve had one of those, and it resulted from my recent trip to Togo.

After studying the millennials and the topic of mentoring for several years, as well as writing over 100 posts on the subject, I learned something that, to me, was so profound, that it was a verbal “Aha” moment.

One of the leaders guiding one of our sessions made the following statement: “Christ didn’t start His church with members.  He started it with disciples who made disciples, who made disciples.”

That, my friends, is profound.  Many churches in the world have it backwards.  Their focus is on members.  It is a laser focus, which excludes all else.  The incentives are all there, too. Pastors get paid more when they have more members.  Their status as a pastor is tied to the size of their church.  Voila!  I rest my case.

Most churches and denominations keep track of statistics on members, and other things like conversions, marriages, baptisms, etc. These are the standard metrics for measuring the success of a church, and indirectly, the success of the senior pastor.

Put another way, churches are good at creating programs and maintaining an institution, but not so good at creating a transforming relational community.  The latter only occurs through relationships.

For fear of offending nearly everyone, I have to say that this priority is all backwards.  I’ve come to realize that the modern church is stuck in a rut trying to appease the desires of the members by adding program after program to appease the interests of the members.

Jesus could care less. He didn’t ask us to go make “members of all nations”. He asked us to make disciples of all nations.  I don’t think there are many churches in the world that keep track of the number of disciples they have made.  They only track members.  Members don’t make disciples.  Disciples make disciples.

How did Jesus make disciples?  He didn’t send them to seminary or a bible study, that’s for sure, although there is nothing inherently wrong with a bible study.  Nor did he sit them down and lecture them daily.  He mentored them by walking besides the disciples for 3 years. He did very little preaching to them.  His advice as recorded was giving them kingdom principles which came out of teachable moments.

We have an opportunity. A golden opportunity.  In a “Back to the Future” kind of moment, the next generation of leaders are begging for someone to walk alongside them.  As Sam Eaton recently said, “Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck.”

They don’t want to be preached to and they shun the institutional church.  But they are reachable through a relationship – one with someone older who is willing to invest in them and someone they have learned to trust.

Our challenge is to get it right and reverse the trend of trying to grow the church through members.  Jesus told us to make disciples, and he showed us how by investing in twelve men by walking beside them for three years.

It’s not rocket science, but somehow, the seminaries that crank out our church leaders haven’t figured it out. As I have said before, no seminary (either protestant or Catholic) has any courses on leadership – the leadership exemplified by Jesus. Sad, but unfortunately, so true.

This is a back to the future moment is for church leaders and mentors. The question becomes how do we stop the exodus of millennials from the church? Tim Keller is someone I have a high regard for put it this way. In context, he was talking about the millennial that won’t darken the door of a church.

Keller suggests that we stop trying to get them into the church (at least initially).  He said: “We have enough churches in America.  What we need are more Starbucks.”  That’s where they are, and that’s where we need to be to interact with them.

As a believer, we don’t have to wait for guidance or direction from your pastor or minister to reach the next generation of leaders. You can take up the slack by being open to mentoring. It doesn’t have to be sponsored by the church.  It just needs to be done, and the millennials are begging for it.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  For the older generation wanting to make an impact for Christ today, the opportunity is at your doorstep by mentoring someone in the next generation.

FURTHER STUDY:  Sam Eaton’s article on why milennials are leaving the church:

For another provocative take on Evangelical’s in the Church:

Finally, my friend Jolene Erlacher has written a book that is worth a read entitled “Milennials in Ministry” which is available from Amazon.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Michael Smith sing “Open the Eyes of My Heart”:

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Relational Mentoring



I know that my title is somewhat redundant. By definition, mentoring involves joining someone else’s life in a relationship. Jesus did it with his disciples. We should take note.

A recent article entitled “59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out—And They’re Trying to Tell Us Whyis a challenging read to anyone in the older generation trying to connect with the next generation.

The author, Sam Eaton, is a millennial, and he gives 12 reasons why millennials are having a hard time connecting to the church. Three of them bear mentioning here.  One is that church feels exclusive and “cliquey” to outsiders, where well intentioned people do not make the effort to be compassionate and welcoming to the next generation.

The second reason is that millennials are “sick and tired” of hearing about values and mission statements. They want the church to stop using Christian mumbo jumbo. Jesus’ imperatives to us can be condensed into four words: “Love God. Love others.”  With those four words, the task is complete. Mission accomplished.

Thirdly, they want to be mentored, not “preached at.”  “Preaching just doesn’t reach our generation like our parents and grandparents.”

Eaton continues: “Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck. We are the generation with the highest ever percentage of fatherless homes.”

Eaton’s conclusion is to “ask the older generation to be intentional with the millennials in your church.”  I concur, but it must be relational, not something that you can make a “program” out of.

I just returned from a trip to Africa – Togo to be exact. I brought a young man with me.   I have been meeting with him for about 6 months in Pinehurst.   He was, as a friend of mine described, my “Timothy”, only his actual name is John Mark. So, that makes me his Barnabas. He is in the picture above with his friend, Ben, who was our translator.

Our role at the gathering was to provide worship for leaders from ten West African countries.  The other mission was to spend time together and to learn from others as well as each other.

The worship was important, but the results of our trip were unexpected.  Due to a series of missed and cancelled flights, we were stranded in Morocco for 3 days until we could get a flight to Togo.

We spent three days hanging out in Casablanca.  John Mark was watching me every moment.  Most lessons of life are caught, not taught.  He saw me handle the adversity of messed up travel plans and having to improvise our plans based on our situation.

We made the best of it.  We survived. He learned that not all travel goes smoothly. He said this was the first time he had ever had an experience like this.  I told him that I’ve travelled over 4 million miles and this was my first experience, too.

John Mark didn’t have a father for the last 11 years.  In a way, he got a picture of a mentor/father that he had not seen nor experienced before.  He saw the good, the bad, and (hopefully) not the ugly. My imperfections surfaced for him to see – including trying to hold my temper at the incompetence of the airline in rescheduling our flights.

At the end of our trip, John Mark was grateful for all that he had learned, not just from me, but from the other leaders during our training sessions.  He was permitted to interact and participate, and I think it may have transformed him in a way that content transfer cannot.

In Togo, John Mark found two other young men at the gathering who quickly bonded and became friends. One was the translator in the picture above, and the other was an Anglican minister from Nigeria.

It was fun to observe them kidding each other.  John Mark said he was surprised at how quickly he had made friends, particularly in a foreign country with people he had never met before.

The takeaway from our experience was similar for both of us. While it was aggravating to get stuck in Morocco for three days and miss the first day in Togo, I am convinced that it was God’s plan for us to spend time together, taking our relationship deeper.

Had we made it to Togo on time, the meetings would have eclipsed our time together.  The meetings in Togo went from 8:30 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon with only time outs for lunch and two coffee/tea breaks. During the breaks, we spent most of our time meeting with the other 30 participants from West African countries.

The challenge here is to realize that relationships take time and effort. To build a relationship with the next generation, you may have to extend yourself into doing something together.  Going to Sub-Saharan Africa may not be possible for you, but there’s lots of things that you can do with a mentee in your own backyard to enhance your relationship.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Spend time “outside the lines” with your mentee doing something together.  It’s a way to build a relationship.

FURTHER STUDY:  Sam Eaton’s article on Millennials and the church can be found at:

WORSHIP:  Listen to a popular African song by Odegwu  song that we sang in Togo suggested by my African friends.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at

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