Hopefully when mentoring becomes a more established norm for pastors, a standard term will evolve. Until then, we will continue to use awkward terms like protégé, mentee, or disciple to refer to people being mentored by an older and/or more experienced person.
Mentoring is already the established norm in Scripture, even though the term is never used there. Moses prepared Joshua to fill his sandals, Elijah walked Elisha through the paces of a prophet, and Paul wrote the pastoral epistles for Timothy, Titus, and other pastors he was equipping.
Even though the Bible has a lot of examples like these of mentoring, it does not articulate a clear game plan on how to pull it off. When pastors don’t know what to do, they typically freeze up and do nothing. I am praying that this post will inspire you to take your first few steps toward mentoring.
Initiate a Casual Meeting
Online dating is something I have never experienced since my first date with Janet was in 1985. I have talked to several singles who use these popular sites to save time, money, and heartache on the sometimes painful process of dating.
Perhaps Lifeway will create a mentoring matchmaking service that will save you lots of time and energy! Just in case that doesn’t happen (it won’t), take a non-committal first step of sharing a cup of coffee or a sandwich. Wait until after your first meeting to determine whether God is leading you to invest in that person regularly.
Help Them Get an Early Win
I can’t tell you how many times I have made the mistake of leading without first listening. After carefully listening to what this younger leader’s greatest challenges are, help him/her overcome one of those particular challenges.
One church planter I am mentoring asked me to give him feedback on his sermons because he is relatively new at preaching. Sometimes mentees need equipping, and sometimes they simply need encouragement. A mentor is both an encourager and equipper; a coach, uncle, even father figure – depending on the age dynamic. You don’t need to be a genius to help someone through the challenges that arise in life, home, or church.
Put Them on Your Calendar
I suspect that most pastors do not initiate mentoring relationships because they already have too many people who need them. I understand and respect that concern, but also want to assure you that you will experience more of a charge than a drain from mentoring.
I do not have a standard schedule for all of my mentoring relationships. I would suggest you put them on your calendar for either monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly get togethers.
Have Realistic Expectations
Young pastors need someone to love them unconditionally “in season and out of season.” Mentoring is not the same as counseling, so if you discover that your mentee needs medical or clinical help, you may need to leave mentor-mode and go into triage-mode. I’m not trying to get you off the hook as much as I am trying to get that pastor the right kind of help.
My parents did a great job of parenting me, but they thankfully did not try to be my doctor or dentist. These rich relationships are not always easy to find or quick to take root. Know that you can customize your mentoring menu based on the particulars of each relationship.
Start With the End in Mind
We first meet young Timothy in Acts 16 when Paul stops in Lystra to pick him up on his second missionary journey (Acts 16). Paul initially addresses him as his son in the faith (1 Tim. 1:2). After Timothy has became a seasoned pastor, Paul referred to him as my fellow worker (Rom. 16:21), brother and coworker (1 Thess. 3:2). As with Barnabas, Paul’s mentoring relationship with Timothy evolved into a peer relationship.
I experienced that with my childhood pastor Dr. Paul Powell. Like Timothy, Titus, and John Mark – I went from being Dr. Powell’s son in the ministry to a peer. This year we are publishing a funeral sermon book together which will come out later this year.
My current pastor in Nashville is Dr. Robby Gallaty, who rightly sees mentoring as a discipleship strategy. He once said,
The discipleship process is not complete until the mentee becomes the mentor or the player becomes the coach.
I hope this post encourages you to make room in your life for a younger pastor or leader to mentor. This was the last of a three part series about mentoring. The first two posts talk about why a pastor/leader needs a friend like Barnabas and a mentor like Paul.