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Reverse Mentoring

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Thursday, December 1, 2022

Reverse Mentoring

When you think of the word “mentor,” what comes to mind? Probably an older, more seasoned individual taking a younger novice under their wing and passing on wisdom to accompany their information.

And that would be true.

But what also is true is something known as “reverse mentoring.” This is when insight and knowledge present in younger individuals, often due to being generational natives in a particular area, is passed on to those who are older. In other words, someone from a younger generation “teaching up.”

This was often talked about in the 1990s in regard to technological acumen. As highlighted in a BBC article, it is being resurrected anew in light of “hybrid working, diversity and inclusion, and [the need to] unpick stereotypes that underpin generational divides.” For example, think about younger generations teaching their managers about “everything from consumer desires to TikTok to changing attitudes around social issues and equality.”

While increasingly accepted and encouraged in the business world, I wish it was happening more in church world. Instead, I find many pastors and church leaders threatened by younger generations, often resulting in keeping them from pivotal leadership roles and opportunities of influence.

This will result in the death of many a church.

Not simply because young people will flee, but also because what they had to offer was integral to the church continuing to connect with a post-Christian, digital world.

I devoted an entire chapter to staying “forever young” in my book, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary. I wrote how in order to keep from being (generationally) a “one and done” church, you have to hire young adults, platform young adults and acknowledge young adults and their issues. This bears repeating: in our day, sometimes bridging a cultural divide is as simple as who you hire, who you platform, and who you acknowledge.

Yes, a person who is 50 should come and find points of connection and community at your church. But that is seldom the problem. Most churches are reaching 50-somethings; it’s the 20-somethings they’re missing.

And as a result, they are missing what only 20-somethings and 30-somethings can bring to the table:

… the reverse mentoring so many churches need.

James Emery White

Sources

Nicole Kobie, “‘Reverse Mentorship’: How Young Workers Are Teaching Bosses,” BBC, November 14, 2022, read online.

James Emery White, What They Didn't Teach You in Seminary, order from Amazon.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I Believe” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. 

His latest book, After “I Believe,” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. 

Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.