I’ve recently been considering how important it is for us to invest our knowledge, wisdom and experience in the next generation. I cannot overstate how important this concept is. If you are an adult and you have some semblance of a well-structured life, you OWE it to those coming behind you to impart what you know.
Specifically, I am considering Christian leaders. If you are a pastor of or a leader in a church, you simply must identify someone (or several people) to mentor. It is your spiritual responsibility to invest in those who will carry on the work once you are gone (and help you to carry it out right now).
I see a few necessary steps in this process:
Identify: Use your discernment. Observe behavior, attitudes, habits. When you sense that the Holy Spirit is calling a younger person into service – call them out!
Grace: Don’t look for the perfect candidate. No one is perfect. You must look with eyes toward redemption. The people you are observing are not yet fully developed. Part of your responsibility is to develop them.
Time: If you are too busy to spend time with younger folks, you are too busy. Farmers are not too busy to plant seeds.
Find your replacement: This is scary for some. But here is a news flash – you won’t live forever. If you leave your post and do not consider your replacement, you are negligent. And if you are intimidated that this person may take over before you are ready, well, you are already in serious trouble. Insecure leaders aren’t leaders.
They may leave you: Some do not invest in others because they don’t want to waste their time on someone who will leave. This is shortsighted and close-minded. If you train up a leader and they leave, your influence only grows.
Train but don’t dominate: Your responsibility is not to make a clone. Invest but allow freedom for your protégé to be their own person, their own leader.
Prepare to be disappointed: Some, perhaps several will abandon you. You cannot control the decisions of others. But neither can we fail to invest in others because of the decisions of some to depart.
Pursue: Don’t sit and wait for a young person to approach you, odds are they won’t. You are the leader – take the lead!
Expect them to go farther: When we invest, we expect growth. Our replacements had better be capable of taking the work farther than we ever could. When they succeed, celebrate! There is no room for jealousy – only celebration!
We simply must stop starting over. Too many of our key roles and positions are being left to the wind once the leader departs.
Two final thoughts: 1) Mentoring is a matter of spiritual stewardship. We have been given leadership gifts. God never gives us gifts so we can hoard them – He expects us to invest those gifts in others who will produce. 2) Paul sets the perfect example in II Timothy 2:2, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Share what you’ve been given with those who will share what they’ve been given.
Leader, I am challenging you. Regardless of your age, look back. Who is coming along behind? Please connect with them and bring them forward. The future of the Mission depends upon it. And if we fail to raise up the next leaders, we are culpable for its demise.