Youths Mentoring Youths


Marvin Jacobo is Associate Minister of High School Ministries at First Baptist Church of Modesto, California, and ministers to 372 high schoolers weekly in small groups. First Baptist also has 225 junior highers and 125 young adults (college age) weekly in small groups. Marvin and his wife, Cheryl, have two daughters, Dayna and Danyel.

Brett Butler, the all-star center fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, thought he needed a tonsillectomy. He discovered he had throat cancer. He was forced to quit baseball for the rest of the season and, eventually, his career. Though the LA Dodgers lost a star player, they didn’t need to trade. Months before Butler discovered he had cancer, he took Roger Cedeno and mentored him. During spring training, Butler was at Dodgertown at 8:30 every morning coaching Cedeno. When Cedeno had his break, he did not forget who trained and prepared him for the task. USA Today quoted Cedeno in their May 1996 issue saying, “Maybe someday, if I have been around that long. I can help a young player like he helped me.”

Much like Butler’s dedication, it is the dedication of youths mentoring other youths that is the life blood of youth cells. We are only as good as our transfer of leadership from one person to the next. Youths must seek the best way to raise up future leaders. What steps can you, as a youth leader, take to bring an individual from participating in a cell to leading one?

Spot (Matthew 4:18)

The first step in this transfer of leadership is to pray and identify those peers and youths who are likely candidates. You must look for those into whom you can pour your life – a “Cedeno.”

You can spot a “called” one by their ability to connect seemingly unrelated ideas to life with Biblical truths and revelations. These
individuals are excited about cells and able to see the “big picture.”

They attempt to understand the goals in the cell and are curious about why the youth leader does what he does. These individuals encourage the leader and contribute positively in the cell instead of distracting or disrupting. They are usually creative, helpful and passionate. They want to take risks and are not afraid of failure. In fact, they see mistakes as opportunities for growth. They are available and make time for the leader and for discipling.

Once you identify such a person, the next step is to coach them.
Develop a relationship with a disciple-making direction.

Invite (Matthew 4:18)

Invite your prospect to come and work with you. Give them a vision of what they can become for Christ and His Kingdom. “Follow me, and I will show you how to lead a cell.”

Be Transparent (Matthew 26:36-46)

Your disciple will only be as honest about his life as you are about yours. If you share with him, he will feel free to share his life with you and deal with real issues. Model a healthy and Godly living in school, family and relationships with friends.

Build Up (John 14:12)

Work with the unique strengths of your disciple to help him succeed. Do not force your disciple to be like you; rather, make him to be like Jesus Christ. Do not allow insecurities or pride to keep you from allowing your disciple to do greater things. Force them to stretch their limits!


In love, show your disciple where he needs attention in his own life. Galatians 6:1 says to gently restore him with humility. Remember that there but by the grace God go you. Use the scriptures to help him see his faults and weaknesses (2 Tim 3:16-17) and help him learn from them. Don’t “rescue” them; allow them to fail – and grow!

Communicate (Mark 3:13)

More is caught than taught in the learning process. What you need to develop is a relationship. This takes commitment on your end to spend time with your disciple and explain why you do what you do in your cell. Share your heart with him. Allow him to see the vision God has given you. Communicate your passions. Jesus called his disciples to “be with Him,” so take your potential leader with you as much as possible.

Accept (John 21:15-23)

Jesus accepted Peter even after Peter denied Him three times. Give that same love and concern for your disciple as well as the freedom to fall. He will learn more from mistakes than from victories.

Be Patient (Luke 22:31)

It takes time for people to change. Your disciple will not grow according to your timetable. Allow God the time to do his work in
changing your disciple. Care about him as a person and not a project. Discover where the Holy Spirit is working in his life and focus your attention there. You will be more successful with him when you allow God to change him rather than forcing him into your preconceived ideas of success.


Protect your disciple from dumb choices that will hurt him. Protect him also from others who will try to discourage him. Others will attack him for making mistakes, and he will need you to defend and support him through these difficult times. Give him the benefit of the doubt, that his motives were pure. Don’t “save” him, but allow him to “handle” the situation with your support.


After you have done your role to disciple, seek God about His timing to release him. At some point you need to trust God and let them go. If you see consistent growth in your disciple’s spiritual appetite – in reflecting the fruit of the Holy Spirit and in personal integrity – it may be time to release him. Your disciple may think he is not ready, but you need to encourage him. Brett Butler was effective through his humble investments in the lives of others. In this same way, the only way for youths to effectively pass on the mantle of leadership to another is by investing in the lives in their disciple. Develop these relationships, and have fun!