“The Best Thing I Do Is Come Back”
In the 20 years I’ve worked with people in poverty, the absolute best thing I’ve ever heard about doing ministry to those in poverty, the disadvantaged, and often rejected were utter by my friend Brooks Boyett. When teaching a seminar about ministering to those in poverty, he told his audience, “The best thing I do is come back.” Because of the way the church has done ministry to the poor in the past, those in these neighborhoods are expecting us to basically show up, try to impress them with how awesome we are, and then leave as quickly as we showed up. In these situations, although well intentioned, we have allowed a consumeristic mindset to prevail, doing ministry in a way that makes us feel better but does little to no good for those who are hurting.
The problems the young men in 365 Dad face are complex, frustrating, and almost always and without fail, difficult and slow to overcome. They have years and years of negative reinforcement, providing a solid foundation for bad decision making and low self-worth. They have become accustomed to well meaning people taking an interest in them, caring for them for a time, and then giving up on them once their issues go beyond what they feel equipped to deal with. Most of these young men are expecting you to bail at some point. As a result, they can be slow to respond, to trust, and be vulnerable with you.
The best way to overcome this fear is to keep coming back. No matter how frustrating things become, no matter what obstacles your young dad throws up, no matter what kind of strange line of thinking they express, the best thing you can do is come back. When you come back, there are several things you are doing that are a witness of God’s faithfulness, a good example to your mentee, and an expression of the love of Christ that they aren’t going to see elsewhere:
1. You teach the level of commitment necessary to see true change in one’s life. Many of you have graduate’s degrees that have provided the platform for the income you now make. You know the value of perseverance and consistency. You teach that every time you come back.
2. You teach them there’s no substitute for hard work. Overcoming lifelong issues takes work. When you come back, you show them you’re willing to do the work.
3. You teach them something about God’s faithfulness. 2 Timothy 2:13 tells us that “when we are faithless, He remains faithful, He cannot deny Himself.” When you come back, you show a young man how faithful God is and how He will not give up on him.
4. You teach the foundational philosophy it takes for almost all of life. Nothing happens overnight. Almost anything worth accomplishing takes a level of persistence and perseverance. Each time you come back, you’re instilling a willingness in a young man to make the commitment necessary to succeed in all aspects of life.
I could go on and on, but by now you get the point. No matter how flakey, how disorganized, how dishonest, or just plain different your young dad’s mindset is, it will not be overcome without a consistent, persistent example of the love of Christ being set for them. Your job as a mentor is not to change him but to be the example of what it takes to live this life in a joy filled, fulfilling way. God has a purpose for your young dad but these young men lack the example that many of us have had. The single best way you can set that example is to come back.
But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. - James 1:4