“What is the one resource you would recommend to young leaders?”
This question was posed to me by a seminary student during a pastor’s roundtable I hosted last year.
“Lifeway doesn’t sell what you need most, which is a mentor who is about ten years older than you.”
My answer was well received that day because Millennial pastors in general are eager to have mentors. This trend is encouraging because healthy pastors will surround themselves with mentors like Paul, friends like Barnabas, and mentees like Timothy. The Rainer on Leadership podcast addresses six areas where Millennials are asking for help.
If you are interested in initiating a mentoring relationship, consider these six important components:
- Humility. The mentoring process begins with a conviction that you actually need a mentor. Barnabas mentored Paul, who mentored Silas, Timothy, Titus and many others. Pastors usually start their ministries as eager learners, until subtle pride slips in and convinces us that we have more to teach others than we need to be taught. We are hardwired to help others and can sometimes be resistant to receiving help. The result of our resistance will be an absence of learning and growth.
- Initiative. The initiative for mentoring usually starts with the mentee, not the mentor. I regret making the arrogant mistake of not pursuing this important relationship during certain seasons of pastoring when I needed mentoring the most. I often justified my lack of initiative with excuses of busyness or exhaustion. Ministry leaders make time for the people who are important to us. Mentoring requires energy that we are often in short supply of, but it also provides energy that we so desperately need.
- Simplicity. A fluid agenda and schedule gives room for mentoring relationships to grow naturally. Men are particularly slow to let our guards down, so resist the temptation to over plan with a formal agenda. At its root, mentoring is a discipling relationship which can be developed in a coffee shop, a fishing boat or just about anywhere.
- Consistency. Monthly meetings are ideal, but the key is to stay flexible. If you live very far apart, don’t hesitate to meet quarterly and adjust the frequency as you go. My current mentor lives in another state, so we meet annually in different cities. Whatever challenges you face, I doubt they compare to those of the Apostle Paul and his mentees.
- Transparency. Be prepared to switch roles along the way, because if the relationship grows, it will eventually become reciprocal. Just because you are the mentor doesn’t mean you will always be the strong one.
- Trust. There is no reason to rush into the deep-end immediately. Let the friendship evolve to where your guard drops naturally over time.
I am currently mentoring a half dozen pastors and three laymen. In the last three decades I have been mentored by seven big brothers in the ministry. The older I get, the harder it is to find someone who has more birthdays and ministry miles than I do. It is worth the effort, however, because ministry is too hard to do alone.
Part one of the three posts on mentoring is Every Pastor Needs a Barnabas.