Every leader needs a mentor.
The Bible tells us to listen to people who are a little further along in the faith and learn from their example. We see the importance of learning from others throughout the Bible—from Jesus, to Paul, to Solomon.
- Jesus: “I have given you an example to follow: do as I have done to you” (John 13:15 TLB).
- Paul: “You became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (1 Thessalonians 1:7 NIV).
- Solomon: “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success” (Proverbs 15:22 NLT).
One of the most important aspects of ministry is mentoring the next generation of leaders. Any pastor can do this. In fact, there are four specific ways you can help young leaders grow.
- Encourage continuous learning.
I’ve told my staff, “All leaders are learners.” You can’t lead without learning. You will never learn everything you need to know about ministry (or any other area of life) in one set period of your ministry. The moment we stop learning is the moment we stop leading.
The discipline of lifelong learning isn’t just taught—it’s caught. Model a passion for learning with those you lead. Talk about what you’re reading. Describe a new skill you’ve been practicing. The leaders you shepherd need to know that you value learning.
Proverbs 15:2 tells us, “When wise people speak, they make knowledge attractive” (GNT). To help young leaders grow, ensure they seek to grow long after you’re no longer in their lives.
- Help them broaden their perspective.
Perspective is seeing life from God’s point of view. None of us do this by default; it’s not natural. God tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (NIV). But we can and should learn to see the world from God’s perspective.
Knowledge helps us understand what is happening in the world. Perspective helps us see why. The more you understand God’s perspective, the better you’ll understand the “why” questions that invariably come up in ministry.
For instance, how will the young leaders in your church respond to people who try to hurt them in ministry? We all know that happens in ministry. The natural response is for us to hurt the person back. That’s not God’s perspective, though. God says to return good for evil.
Your experience really helps here. One of the benefits of growing older is that your perspective broadens. You’ve seen God at work and can better understand why he is doing what he is doing. The more you can pass on your perspective—and introduce young leaders to the perspective of other wise people—the better.
But ultimately, it’s the Bible where we get God’s perspective on ministry (and all of life). Don’t fall into the trap of focusing all your time on the mechanisms of ministry. Study God’s Word with those you lead. Help them see how you go to the Scriptures to learn God’s perspective on the ministry challenges you face.
- Empower them to stand firm in their convictions.
Convictions are not simply opinions. They are the deeply held beliefs we’d be willing to die for. Our convictions guide our ministries.
Paul’s convictions guided his ministry. That’s why he told the church of Corinth: “Hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute” (1 Corinthians 16:13 MSG).
The Christian leaders—like the apostle Paul—who have made the most significant impact on this world weren’t necessarily the smartest, the most skilled, or the most educated. They were the ones with the deepest convictions.
Leaders need strong convictions. Because most of the world is so wishy-washy about what they believe, people with convictions attract others.
How can you help younger leaders develop convictions?
- Share your convictions passionately. They’ll catch your convictions when they see your passion for them. Before they’ll be willing to die for their own convictions, they need to know that you’re willing to die for yours.
- Model your convictions consistently. You’ll never be perfect in living out your convictions. All of us make mistakes. But when people see that you consistently live what you believe, they will know those beliefs are important.
- Nurture their skill development.
We need to show young leaders how to minister. You’ve honed skills over years of ministry. You’ve learned to teach, lead, shepherd, and serve the needs of others. Young leaders need to develop those skills as well.
You’ll never mentor a young leader who will be a replica of you. Each of us has a unique mix of gifts. Start this journey by helping them discover their unique, God-given SHAPE for ministry. Find out what they’re good at and help them develop those skills even if they’re different from your own.
Once they figure out their God-given SHAPE, help them practice it. Give them opportunities to teach, counsel, lead, and serve. Paul encouraged this in Philippians 4:9: “Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and saw me doing” (TLB).
Finally, let go and trust them with responsibilities that align with their God-given SHAPE. They’ll certainly make mistakes when you do this, but they will (hopefully) learn from those mistakes. Leaders respond to responsibility.
No matter where you are in your ministry, you can do these four things and help young leaders grow. Imagine what God could do as you invest your life in leaders who will outlast you!