Yesterday I posted that Dr. John Sowers was recently honored at the White House for his work with The Mentoring Project. John gracious gave me some time for a quick interview. While I read this interview I was struct by the profundity of his call for the church to mentor the fatherless – and for the kingdom-building implications this could have in my own church if we took it seriously. I hope you enjoy this interview. – Andrew
Andrew: Tell us about how you and The Mentoring Project (TMP) got connected with the White House Office of Public Engagement.
John: I first connected with the White House in 2009 when I was invited to the White House Town Hall meeting with President Obama and others, lifting up the need for great fathers, and men to be mentors. It was a catalytic event for me, and something that definitely affirmed my calling to the fatherless. (I write more about that experience in the last chapter of Fatherless Generation.) Since then, Joshua Dubois (Faith Based Director) and I have become friends. I have been really impressed at the emphasis on mentoring.
Andrew: How do you hope God uses this honor to bless the work of TMP?
John: It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by the White House. At the same time, the real joy is seeing the fatherless conversation begin to take it’s rightful place. This is THE issue that our country needs to recognize. The next generation is our future, for better or worse. This generation is the first generation that has been willfully abandoned by their fathers. And unfortunately, for this generation – and our country – the story is not ending well. This year, the city of Chicago has had some 900 shootings … and the Police Commissioner recently said that some 80% of these shootings are gang-related. We know that, statistically, gangs are composed of fatherless youth. Fatherless boys are joining fatherless gangs and shooting other fatherless boys.
As Christ-followers, we must see the fatherless crisis and act. We must respond. God measures the validity of our faith by how we respond (or not) to the fatherless. True religion, according to James 1:27, is to look after the fatherless and widows. If we care about the future of our country and the call of Christ on our lives, we will respond to the fatherless. One way that we at The Mentoring Project are responding is by mentoring.
Andrew: What should church leaders do when they realize kids in their communities need mentors, but they don’t have the staffing or the resources to provide them?
John: The great thing about mentoring is that it doesn’t necessarily take staffing or financial resources. It does take time and relational resources, which are more valuable. Undoubtedly, there are fatherless children in nearly every congregation in our country. And there are fatherless children and single moms within walking distance of every church. What are we doing to reach them? We talk a lot about American being “post-Christian” and in some ways, this is probably true. But one area where the fields are white is this one.
Single moms and fatherless youth are America’s most reachable unreached people group.
And once we serve them and reach them and earn their trust, they will be the most loyal members of your faith community. What pastor doesn’t want new and faithful members?
Sometimes it’s actually easier for us to send money or aid to another country. But the need is right in front of us. We can so easily be like the Priest or the Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, on some important religious errand “elsewhere,” when God calls us to see and act for the person right in front of us. The fatherless are right in front of us. And according to Jesus, we are not loving our neighbor unless we love the person right in front of us.
Andrew: Any funny or anecdotal thoughts about visiting the White House that you’d like to share?
John: I enjoyed seeing the artwork and furniture and listening to the stories about who did what. One President planted magnolia trees in the lawn over 150 years ago…they are still there. Lots of amazing stories. I did get in trouble for taking “contraband” pictures of the old Presidential paintings. (I wasn’t hurting them, as my iPhone was not flashing.) No one “caught” me but a lady standing next to me called me “Rulebreaker!” in a loud voice.