Periodically, I ask pastors to give me a hand thinking through things, and I'm thinking through things again. Right now, I'm considering how to connect experienced Christians with inexperienced Christians for mentoring and discipleship. At the moment, churches barely do this and it happens by accident most of the time when it does actually happen.
For those of you who know me, and know that my passion is developing people (mentoring), then you know I'm not going to be satisfied with the status quo. So, here are my thoughts:
Inside the collective church exists two wasted assets. The first is youthfulness. We make young professional adults, all the way up into their 30s, figure life out on their own. This leads to unnecessary mistakes, some of them catastrophic. The second wasted asset, and perhaps the most important one, is that of the older generations. Let the world pass on the experiences that elders have, but let that not be what the church does. Those same mistakes made by those with youthful vigor could be avoided if the wisdom of the experienced were used. Regardless of what area of life the mistake is made in, most could be avoided or the consequences eased and dealt with if the inexperienced could seek the experienced.
That is where my business comes in to play. It is my desire to create a business that will connect inexperienced people with a pool of experience within the church in a variety of subjects. Let's say a recent MBA grad is just starting a new position at a company and needs some advice. He would come to the website, create a profile and list the area(s) he needs to be mentored in (in this case, it would be business). Then he might search the profiles of our experienced members and put some information on the message boards and find someone he thinks he could work with.
It would be my goal to sign every single Christian in America up for this service. As long as ads made enough money then ideally I'd never charge a membership as the goal is mentoring. I would need to be sure that ads and possibly affiliate sales would generate income in this situation as well in order to keep fees down. If I can somehow help others avoid problems and realize success through mentoring, then I've succeeded. If I can do it with a profit to me, then all the better.
Basically, what I think I'd need is a social networking-type website that allows the creation of profiles and lets people search those profiles out according to needs. Mentoring relationships can then be realized on their own, or with assistance (perhaps for a fee?).
I'd handle marketing mostly through my personal contacts at first, essentially as a favor initially, to help build a base of knowledge for the first few months, then I will make a plea for them to help expand to their social networks as well, particularly through those that blog and make extensive use of Facebook, Twitter, etc. The big push after that has run its course is to work through local churches. I'd start here in the Chicago-land area first, and then expand mostly in areas I know, like San Diego and Little Rock. Obviously, I would name the business and blog in order to build some SEO work and if money starts coming in, I'll run a few ad campaigns.
I understand that this may not work, or at least may not work fast. However, I believe the idea could work, and is actually needed, even if it takes a little while to get things moving.
In a nutshell, that is the plan. I have many ideas along these lines that can be shared in more detail, but this is the base line. Thoughts?
The plan is awesome. The devil is always in the details though. I would sign up in both aspects, as a mentor and as a mentee. Being 43 gives me some knowledge up, but I’m also listening for good ideas from those with a full set of grey hair, not just salt and pepper like me.
The first thing that comes to mind is cost. Many of the people you describe, in my experience, would balk at a monthly fee or even an annual cost. Don’t get me wrong Dan. The service you are offering is incredibly valuable. My mentoring groups (I mentor 20 somethings from our men’s ministry) always look at the cost of the next book. I’m like, “Guys! You can get a whole lifetime of knowledge from somebody like Zig Zigglar, or John Maxwell, for less than thirty bucks! Be for real.”
But I also know these guys are supporting families and are still making their careers, so I try and stretch our book studies out as far as I can.
I think it is a much needed and often overlooked ministry. Go for it, Brother! Let me know how I might help. (Anything non-geeky would be best! I still think Linux is a Peanut’s character!)
I know that cost is important. It's unfortunate that Christians think that anything done for or within the church has to be free. Anyway, I don't need to make much, as long as it covers itself and a little for my personal work effort.
I think you're spot on with the idea of having an area for mentoring and an area for being a protégé. I've considered that for sure and now that I know someone else likes the idea, I'm definitely game.
Surely I can use some help with the project. I'll let you know as things move forward. You've already done one of the biggest things for me, and that's replying with your thoughts!
Okay, I agree with Steve about the fee. You may run into somewhat of a roadblock on that one, but the idea is awesome! I bet you could generate a fair amount of income with the ads, and maybe you could consider charging a fee after a certain number of posts or relationships....that way you can get people involved and interested (set the hook so to speak), and then after they have made a certain number of relationships or posts you can charge them to continue using the site? What about offering some kind of discount for an individual as more people sign up after being referred by that person. If you have moderators or people that help you out, you could waive their fee...just some suggestions to get past the fee part of it. What kinds of contacts or connections will you have? Sounds awesome! I have a friend of mine that is over the street team at my church, and he builds websites and hosts them for a very reasonable price. I can give him your info if you would like....maybe you guys could work something out. Let me know! Run with it bro! Love the idea!
I've decided to have no fees. If God wills it, then I'll make enough money from the website itself to make it work. If not, then I'll just shut it down. I'm determined not to charge a fee and not to ask for donations. Donations are for ministry and missions. This is a business that provides a desperately needed solution to the problem of mentoring (or lack thereof). I appreciate your feedback, Mark. I've had some great ideas coming my way today, and yours was a good set!
Not sure about the designer yet. Working on that issue and saving my lunch money right now. I'm not short on elbow grease or ideas, but unfortunately short on capital. Once I know more about how much money I've got available, I might start looking into design options.
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