“Fatherlessness creates an appetite in the soul that demands fulfillment.”
— John Sowers in “Fatherless Generation”
A faith-based organization that works to connect adult mentors with youths who need them has opened an office in Oklahoma City.
The Mentoring Project, founded in 2009 by John Sowers and “Blue Like Jazz” author Donald Miller, plans to offer mentor training sessions at houses of worships such as Frontline Church.
Recently, business, civic and clergy leaders from across the metro were invited to a luncheon at SandRidge Energy in which Sowers shared information about The Mentoring Project's goals.
In an interview with The Oklahoman, Sowers said The Mentoring Project was started in Portland, Ore., but will now expand to Oklahoma City.
Sowers, 38, said through his previous work with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, he learned how to “take the temperature” or gauge the pulse of a city. He said The Mentoring Project leaders began talking to several Oklahoma City leaders in February 2011 and decided through those discussions with the “spiritual gatekeepers” of the city that the project was needed and could be successful in Oklahoma City.
Sowers said part of that is because many people in the city area are concerned about the challenges facing young people, particularly those without a father in the home.
“Really, Oklahoma City is a one-of-a-kind place,” Sowers said.
“You have business leaders, churches, athletes, media who all care about social justice issues and who all care about this issue of fatherlessness.”
The Mentoring Project has been featured in articles in Christianity Today, Relevant Magazine and on broadcast news shows such as CNN and Fox News. In 2012, Sowers was recognized by the White House as a President's Champion of Change in the area of fatherhood and healthy families. He is the author of the book “Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story.”
Sowers, a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. (the “other OBU,” he said, smiling, in a nod to Oklahoma Baptist University), said The Mentoring Project leaders hope to help metro-area individuals learn how to become effective and caring mentors. He said the organization primarily is targeting mentors for young males because there is a huge need for positive role models for this group.
“We don't come in thinking we're the new kids on the block so we're awesome,” he said.
“We train mentors, and we're creating mentoring moments.”
Sowers said in creating The Mentoring Project, he and Miller felt a pressing need to bring to the public's attention the challenges facing children whose fathers are not in the home for various reasons.
“We have a bullhorn on the roof, and we're shouting all the time,” he said. “We want to rewrite the fatherless story right now.”
He said he grew up in a home without a father, so the issue also is personal for him.
Sowers said he thinks mentors win just by showing up in a child's life. And he said mentors often are more blessed by the experience than the youths they mentor.
The year ahead
Sowers said training sessions are planned soon at Frontline Church, led by senior pastor Josh Kouri.
He said the organization hopes to partner for an event at SandRidge in March. Sowers said SandRidge's 5k Santa Run benefited The Mentoring Project. He said he also is discussing training possibilities with LifeChurch.tv, People's Church and Skyline Church.
The organization initially hopes to serve foster children and children whose parents are incarcerated.