The most significant growth in my personal life and ministry ability has come through mentors. As an 18-year-old high school graduate, I moved to the south Texas coast and served as a summer youth minister. The pastor of the church, Kevin, was a friend of my family. He was a kind and caring boss who gave me several opportunities to spread my wings in ministry. While I probably was not ready for most of the opportunities, I cherished the fact that a man I respected gave me the chances he did. I did my best that summer, then moved out of state to attend college.
Kevin and I didn’t communicate much during the next several years. However, God gave Amber and me a gift as I reconnected with Kevin, and he and Kelley (his wife) invested in us as a young couple. In the paragraphs below, I want to offer a brief theology of mentoring, coupled with a few ideas of how to find the right mentor and engage in the process to get the most out of it.
Understanding God’s plan for mentoring begins with a theology of interpersonal discipleship. Biblical discipleship (as Jesus modeled) is a personal experience where a mentor engages in an intentional relationship with a mentee to facilitate his/her further development into the person God created him/her to be. King Solomon perceived the value of walking with people who are further advanced in wisdom. He instructed his sons to learn from these elders (Prov. 13:20). 1 Kings 2:1-15 describes Elisha’s relentless following of Elijah, and his desire for double the share of his spirit. Jesus called a small group of men to spend time with Him so He could prepare them to be sent as servants into His mission (Mark 3:14). For young and emerging leaders, the relationship between Jesus and the Apostle John is a potent imperative for finding a mentor and submitting to the growth process.
There is a more than reasonable chance that John, son of Zebedee, was a young man during Jesus’ earthly ministry. If Revelation was written by John in the 90’s A.D. as the early Church claimed, John could have been a teen when Jesus personally invested in him as a member of the Big 3 (with Peter and James). John’s self-identification as the disciple whom Jesus loved speaks deeply into the relationship John experienced with Jesus. Examine the themes of love and security that the Johanine writings express. Is there any doubt that John 1:14; 3:16; 14:1; 1 John 3:1; 3:16, etc. come from a man whose formative teen years were transformed by the One who personifies love and security?
If you are a young leader, you need to see Jesus lived out in the life of another person. You need the affirmation and security that a more experienced leader can give. Reflect on your situation by asking yourself, “What are the most pressing needs – that if I do not address – will keep me from reaching my full-potential as a disciple for Jesus?” Pray and search until you find someone who has really mastered that area of life. Enlist them to teach you all they have learned… Then be a sponge and soak it all in!
I asked myself the above question, when as a young man, I began to pastor Life Point Church. I realized that my quick temper and inability to live with my family in an understanding manner would ruin my attempts to raise a godly family. I knew I was on the verge of living a double life by projecting a positive public image and being a jerk in private. I needed a mentor – someone to teach me what he had learned in the area of living with his family in a loving and understanding way. By God’s grace, Kevin became that mentor. I asked him questions, watched him, and measured my progress against his actions. I won’t go into further details about my growth experience, but if you are curious, just ask Amber how grateful she is for Kevin’s mentorship in me.
Now, as a man who is aging into the realm of being a mentor more than being mentored, I look back at the Apostle John’s experience. What a blessing Jesus gave him! I am motivated to be that kind of mentor. I am not a savior, redeemer, or mediator. However, I can love a young leader and provide some of the security and encouragement he needs to pursue God’s mission with all of his heart. If you are a seasoned leader, consider the opportunities before you. You may be the missing piece to the puzzle of a young person’s development. The next generation of Christianity will be stronger and wiser because of your investment. Let’s go!
P.S. The next post will describe why established leaders need mentors too… and how they can enlist and engage them!