Remembering your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and now, I am convinced, is in you also. 2 Timothy 1:4-5
Timothy first being discipled by his mother and grandmother and then by Paul is one of the most riveting mentoring relationships in Scripture. It clearly shows us the win of family discipleship followed by the value of strategic ministry discipleship.
Beautiful, isn’t it? But here’s the problem: far too many of us view mentoring as icing on the cake instead of as a core part of our ministries. The tyranny of the urgent pushes mentoring to the margins as “wishful thinking” or “idealistic.” Who has time for that?!?!
While not many of us have extra time to spend mentoring, it is perhaps the one ministry activity that we cannot afford not to do. Raising up future leaders is that important. Right now there are leaders on your team who have the potential to step up as leaders, but they need to be mentored. At the same time, there are people in your church who may not be on your team now, but who also have leadership potential that needs to be developed. Not many things position a ministry for the long haul as mentoring does. That’s why it’s so important. You can build the best kids ministry around, but if you don’t raise up leaders to keep it going after you, you haven’t built it to last.
Here are five tips for developing and maintaining a mentoring culture in your ministry:
- Be selective. This may feel completely wrong at first. We usually want to include everyone and treat everyone the same—fairly. But that’s the problem. The same is not fair because people are different. God has wired us differently and that’s a good thing. Not everyone has the same abilities, aptitude, skills, and interests. So it would be wrong to treat everyone the same way under the guise of fairness. When it comes to mentoring, look for people who you feel have the greatest leadership aptitude and then build into them. Sure this means that you will spend more time, energy, and resources on these people—and that may not feel “fair”—but remember, even Jesus had an inner circle who were treated differently from others.
- Be realistic. Mentoring does take time. There is no way around that. You will have to carve out regular time—time you cannot spend on other ministry tasks. Mentoring isn’t always glamorous as well. It’s not always us pouring wisdom into willing sponges. Sometimes the people we mentor won’t listen. Sometimes they will do silly things. Mentoring can be challenging and frustrating at times. Know that going into it.
- Have an intentional plan. Establish a mentoring plan—don’t wing it. Think about how long the mentoring will last, what you want to accomplish, how often you will meet, what you want to read together, what you want to discuss together, what you want that person to observe you doing and what you want to observe that person doing. Develop the plan ahead of time and share it with the person so she knows to what she is committing.
- Gradually release. Just like in delegating, gradually increase the person’s responsibility in ministry. Give them opportunities to own more of the ministry—even if it is just for the short-term during the mentoring process. A big part of learning is doing.
Multiply the mentoring. When someone completed the mentoring process, consider whether he is able to mentor others—whether in a full-blown mentoring relationship like he just completed or a scaled-down version of more targeted mentoring. Make it a goal to mentor future mentors.
Brian Dembowczyk is the managing editor for The Gospel Project. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his family live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.