Discerning Mission

Youth Accompaniment: Mission through Mentoring

By Allison Tunseth, Master of Arts Student in Children, Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary

Brenda Olson’s workshop presentation for the Missional Church Consultation 2011 and article on faith formation and the urban church, unpacks the theme of relationships by engaging the idea of ‘accompaniment.’ Olson defines accompaniment in the urban church as, “a joint venture in which collaboration and community building serve the margins of our society to develop a new generation of leaders ready to change the culture of our churches and our neighborhoods and serve the common good.”

For Olson it is clear that ‘accompaniment’ with youth is not necessarily just about getting youth to come to confirmation or hanging out with them at a youth program. True commitment of walking along side our young people on their faith journey is ultimately about missional accompaniment. What would it look like if we as leaders served youth with the idea that we would go to them and seek them out instead of creating a program for them come to us? What would it mean as leaders if we had to gather kids and give them rides ourselves in order to even have a ‘youth group’? How would the faith formation of our youth look if we based our leadership practices around compassion instead of commitment or numbers?  

Examples of Mentoring Programs in Urban Contexts:

Kinship is a community-based, one-to-one youth mentoring program.

From Kinship: Studies show that mentoring reduces drug and alcohol use, school drop outs, teen pregnancy and violent behavior.

Treehouse is a faith based, non-profit organization offering hope and guidance to hurting teens during difficult times.

From TreeHouse: The evolving TreeHouse program model is supported by the principles of Bonnie Bernard’s resiliency model, which demonstrates that teens thrive if provided: 1) support, 2) high expectations and 3) meaningful opportunities to contribute.

Youth Farm and Market Project provides year-round, youth development programming for youth, utilizing experiential education and training, urban agriculture, gardens and greenhouses. We build youth leadership through planting, growing, preparing, and selling food.

From Youth Farm: By working to effectively empower youth to make positive change in the community in which they live, YFMP helps create space for youth to define their own success and challenges, many of them being measured through the food and food systems work that is done at YFMP.

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