To put it mildly, most people have a lot of extra time on their hands right now. As a result, screen time has greatly increased – because you eventually run out of trashy documentaries on Netflix – as have searches for topics of faith. Meanwhile, the forced isolation is taking a toll mentally and emotionally. Some issues, like depression or abuse, are being worsened by isolation or being confined at home with someone toxic. Other issues, like anxiety or loneliness, are being caused by the pandemic itself.
As people around the world are searching for help with the issues that are troubling them, others are joining them as online mentors. “At a time like this, we have discovered that people are open like ever before,” says Esther O. Bello, a campus missionary with Great Commission Movement of Nigeria. Esther recently spoke at the African edition of the Indigitous Ministry from a Distance webinar.
“People are looking for trusted people who can journey with them as they try to discover who God is and how they can connect with Him,” Esther says.
the Mentor Ministry
The Mentor Ministry, started by Power to Change, reaches 119 countries in the world, with mentors from 41 nations and content in 12 languages. Esther uses The Mentor Ministry to continuing doing missions work even while not being able to go on campus.
The Mentor Ministry reaches people a variety of ways, with the online mentorship platform connected to many different websites. One typical use case is with Issues I Face, a website that has a variety of video and written stories that are sorted by topic, such as depression, parenting, and abuse. A person who is struggling with isolation during the COVID-19 quarantine may find Gregg’s story about his struggles through targeted ads or organic search. After reading his story, they have the ability to talk to a mentor about their own struggles with isolation, which begins an online mentoring relationship with someone who can walk with them on their personal journey.
Mentoring isn’t about having all of the answers or about throwing a Gospel presentation at someone at the first opportunity. “Our desire is to walk with that person from that issue or struggle, help them walk through that, introduce them to Jesus, help them come to know Him, and help them come to multiply their faith,” says Dorrie Manu, Director of Digital Strategies at Power to Change. During the North American edition of the webinar, Dorrie shared about how to get started in online mentoring.
How to become a mentor
The Mentor Center has a simple application process that includes a criminal background check and spiritual reference. Once accepted, mentors go through online training that takes about 2 hours but can be done at the mentor’s own pace.
Once they’ve been accepted as a mentor, they can begin journeying with others through a ministry that’s no more difficult than answering emails. Each mentor has access to online resources to help, including templates for common responses, and a coach to help with the process. With the comprehensive training and abundance of resources, Sheldon Kotyk, Director of The Life Project, likes to call the Mentor Ministry “evangelism training wheels.”
One great thing about online mentorship, Dorrie says, is that “people come in usually very transparent, very open, because they feel safe to talk to someone that is anonymous.” Many people who seek out help from an online mentor have never discussed their struggles with anyone else but are allowing the mentor to meet them where they are and journey with them.
Once someone comes to accept Christ, a mentor would then help connect them to a local church. “Our desire is to see them be able to move from this online relationship and be able to get plugged into community, get plugged into a local church,” Dorrie says.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably found extra time on your hands, too. Even while confined to your own home, you have the opportunity to make a profound impact on the lives of people who are struggling with issues they won’t bring to anyone else. And all you have to do is pray and respond to emails. So before you hit that next-episode button on Netflix, will you join us in online mentoring?