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.
Mentoring matters because we need help! As individuals, we need help in finding a meaningful place where we can invest our lives. Potential mentors need help because they can’t accomplish everything on their own. The culture needs help to make this world a better place in which to live.
Mentors serve others as coaches, advisors or trainers. We provide ideas and encouragement. We help other people develop their strengths and improve on their weaknesses. Families, organizations and communities benefit from the work of mentors. Many of the greatest leaders on earth enjoyed the advantage of having someone personally train them.
John Maxwell said, “One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.”
Not compelling enough?
If no one serves as a mentor, everybody starts at ground zero and has to learn everything by him or herself.
If no one serves as a mentor, organizations are left to start from scratch when there is a leadership transition.
If no one serves as a mentor, vision and wisdom dies when the leader dies.
If no one serves as a mentor, emerging leaders miss valuable training and struggle unnecessarily.
If no one serves as a mentor, organizational progress is stymied – we all pay the price.
The world is a better place because of mentors. Among some well-known mentor/mentee relationships are General Colin Powell: mentored by his father, Luther Powell; Dr. Martin Luther King: mentored by Benjamin E. Mays; Henry David Thoreau: mentored by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Quincy Jones: mentored by Ray Charles.
I want to encourage you to be a mentor. Regardless of your age, skill level or experience, you know more than someone else. Regardless of your field of service or expertise, you have something of value to share. You have the responsibility to share your knowledge with others.
Here are few ideas on becoming a mentor:
Identify: How do we find the right person to mentor? If they are open and teachable – there’s your person. Talk with them about your idea and see if they have interest.
Idealism: forget about finding the perfect person to mentor. You’re better served to find someone who is already close to you and who trusts you.
Improvement: those who enjoy the tutoring of a mentor increase their performance. Training pays off!
Investment: like a great stock, infusing others with valuable resources such as knowledge results in great dividends for everyone involved.
Intentionality: You must make a commitment to make mentoring happen. It will not just occur automatically.
Innovate: don’t feel like you must follow a curriculum or be bound to a program developed by others. Be yourself and go with the flow.
Inspire: be sure that your goal is to make the life of the other person better. Motivate them, challenge them and help them to grow. Of course, you will also grow through the process.
Influence: when a friend knows you care enough about them that you are willing to mentor them, you will influence them to be the best they can possibly be. Who knows, perhaps you can alter the direction of someone’s life.
Mentoring matters. It’s worth your effort. Someone is waiting for you.