Harold Davis is on a mission. An associate pastor of a growing urban church in Champaign, Ill., Davis has a vision for mentoring the next generation of African-American youth.
Harold and his wife, Ollie, are raising four children of their own. But Harold is also meeting regularly with three teenage young men who have been raised by their mothers. Together, they talk about character, manners, alcohol, and drugs. He teaches them how to properly treat a woman, how to find and keep a job, and how to cope with peer pressure—the practical things they've never heard from a father.
To aid in the mentoring process Harold has written a book, Talks My Father Never Had With Me. When I interviewed him for our radio program, "FamilyLife Today," he made a profound observation: "A nation begins to fall apart when the older generation of men do not reach down and call the younger generation to step up to manhood and maturity."
Yes, mentoring is urgently needed in urban America. But young African-American men are not alone in their need for a mentor. The truth is that Harold's words ring just as true for suburban America, too.
Recently FamilyLife hired a firm to help us form focus groups that would help us learn how we could strengthen families better. The results of the research were startling.
We asked the individuals in the groups what they wanted to make their marriages and families successful. One by one they agreed: They want a mentor. Someone who has already been through their phase of life and can guide them.
They wanted a real, live person whom they could ask questions—about spanking, about babies sleeping through the night, about romance and sex after you start having children, about balancing the demands of work and family, about solving sibling rivalry.
In the midst of the crisis that swirls around family issues, the Church is sitting on an untapped gold mine. Two veins of ore need to be mined:
An enormous number of young married couples would love to have older couples guide them through the formative years of their marriages and families. These couples are young. Scared. And teachable. Many are the products of broken families—they know they need help.
An equal number of older married couples need to be challenged to pour their lives into younger couples. But they lack confidence—they feel that they have nothing to offer, or that their mistakes disqualify them from teaching others. They just need a passionate challenge and a little training.
I believe that the churches in the 21st century that put a halt to this culture of divorce will be those that somehow bring these two groups together.
This month I've got several possible action points for you:
- If you are a newly married couple, prayerfully consider going to an older couple and challenging them to invest in your marriage once a month for a year or two.
- If you've been married for 5-10 years or longer, consider challenging newly married couples in your church to meet with you monthly and go through some of the material in the HomeBuilders Couples Series®.
- Write me if you know of a church that is successfully enlisting, equipping, and utilizing family mentors. I want to find out what is working and I want to tell their story to others. We must find those churches that are doing a great job of strengthening families and then share their success with every church that will listen.
- Get involved in mentoring young men who have grown up without a father. This is one of the most urgent needs in our culture today.
Mentoring is not a luxury, but a necessity. The Christian community's marriages and families are in big trouble. If we want to see the state of the family reformed, those of us who do know the answers must share them with those who do not.
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