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Summer 2009 Rapport—web only content:
Reverse Mentoring

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byEarl Creps

Earl Creps, a former pastor, ministries consultant and university professor, is a sought-after speaker and innovative leader. He is currently a church planter in Berkeley, California. He is the author of "Reverse Mentoring: How Young Leaders Can Transform the Church and Why We Should Let Them" released September 2008 byJossey-Bass and Leadership Network.

 

I began practicing the discipline of reverse mentoring by accident. Years before ever hearing the phrase, I noticed that younger people seemed to know things about the world by instinct that I had to read books to discover. At first the differences between us seemed confined to things like clothing, music and iPods. But I was curious so I began asking them questions about what they knew that I did not, and my life and ministry began to change.

Through relationship with young leaders, I realized that they were natives of a new world in which I am only a visitor. Think of it this way: my parents were radio people, I (a Baby Boomer) am a television person, members of Generation X are computer folk, while their young siblings (the Millennials) are an internet tribe. When the reality of my “immigrant” status in this new world comes to light, the natural reactions are to deny it or to become angry about it. But both these choices squander a precious opportunity.

Rather than backing away from this challenge, I found myself enjoying knowing these younger people so much that I continued buying coffee and asking them questions at every opportunity. While conventional mentoring emphasizes the contribution of the older and more experienced to the younger (and rightly so), reverse mentoring adds a new dynamic—the younger person is actually more experienced in the ways of this new world and is in a position to help the older understand what it takes to minister in it. The mentoring is “reverse,” not because anyone involved is better than anyone else, but because the relationship is unlikely in some way. In other words, reverse mentoring is a discipline of cross-cultural learning.

My reverse mentors have changed my life and ministry in countless ways. Beginning by teaching me how to send text messages, start a blog, and create a Facebook profile, their instruction evolved into helping me understand and respecting the culture of younger adult. Reverse mentoring is easy, free, and the most fun you can have in the ministry. All it takes is a little cash to buy coffee, the courage to ask the first question, and the self-control to listen rather than make speeches. The rest can change your life.

Updated: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 12:43 PM

 
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