First National Faith-Based Mentoring Forum Slated for Washington

There are an estimated 400,000 kids currently waiting for a faith-based mentor, and a website created by the National Network of Youth Ministries in conjunction with the United States Department of Justice has been serving that need for almost one year. With the hope of increasing awareness of the large need for mentors, the first 'National Faith-Based Mentoring Forum' was set for the date of the Forum's first-year anniversary to take place in Washington, DC.

On May 5-7, the Forum will strengthen faith-based mentoring programs in churches and community-based organizations through training, roundtable discussion, relationship building, and networking.

According to the new initiative's press release, "Mentoring is a proven method of building into young people; helping them stay focused and make better choices, while offering hope for their future." 

The 2004 Federal Budget earmarked 100 million dollars for mentoring programs nationwide.

There is no lack of youth needing these services, but a lack of adults signing onto the program, according to Lynn Ziegenfuss, Mentoring Project Director.

"We need more mentors," said Ziegenfuss.

By providing a Forum, they seek to strengthen existing faith-based mentoring programs. "We can share our best practices," said Ziegenfess. Mentoring is a "trend," and "it really works."

Meanwhile, the NNYM and DOJ have created a website, www.mentoryouth.com, which connects the 4100 faith-based mentoring programs with churched adults.

Other than the Forum, "Mentoring Ambassadors" will also increase awareness.

These "ambassadors" are local church members who will willingly find five to ten mentors from their church and connect them to a faith-based mentoring program in their area. Already, 4000 ambassador kits were sent out.

Big Brother and Big Sister, two faith-based mentoring programs, have mobilized altogether 220,000 mentors, though the great need still remains.

"For decades, the Christian ministry stream of the faith-based world has practiced mentoring through the coaching and care of teenagers," states the website. The National Network of Youth Ministries is especially "well-established" to "mobilize large numbers of adults in 100,000 churches that are reached by the Network, because of its connection - built up over 24 years - with various faith-based organizations.

This Forum is a faith-based spin-off from MENTOR, the National Mentoring Network, one of many initiatives of the Office of Juvenile Justice & Deliquency Prevention (OJJDP), an office of the U.S. Department of Justice.

With the support of OJJDP, the Network improved its infrastructure and increased its capacity to recruit and refer large numbers of adults from among 72 cooperating national organizations and 650 local affiliates. Also, the NNYM has 10,000 church-based youth worker members who can become potential recruiters of mentors.

Doug Tegner, Executive Director of the National Network, said, “Imagine the positive influence we could have on this entire generation of young people if thousands of caring adults caught the vision to invest a little of their time as mentors.”