I believe all leaders want to be effective. While there are many elements to being an effective leader, one in particular is mentoring. I came across an article where the writer explained mentoring as the practice of “Mentors giv[ing] themselves over entirely to engendering in their chosen pupils essential qualities of character or skills that are crucial to the continuance of a practice or way of life.
According to Forbes, “The ultimate purpose of mentoring is to enhance the knowledge, skills, and abilities of individuals so that they can increase their performance on the task for which they receive mentoring.”
Based somewhat on these concepts, I propose that: mentoring partners with God in his work in the lives of others so that they can become more equipped to fulfill his call and mission on and in their life.
Mentoring takes what God has poured into the life of a leader and pours it into the life of others. Thus, mentoring over the course of a leader’s life allows him or her to leave a legacy, for mentoring allows them to leave their stamp (or influence) in the lives of others. In other words, mentoring allows the work of the leader to outlast their life. When the leader is gone, if he or she has effectively mentored, their life and ministry live on in the life of their mentees.
In short, mentoring is important for both the present and the future. The following is an acronym I developed to help guide leaders in mentoring others.
M—inister. Effective mentors minister, or serve, others. As Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, so too were the disciples to wash the feet of others. Ministering to others includes: modeling a Spirit-filled, gospel-centered, and mission-oriented life. In addition, ministering involves encouragement. Whether it is through hand-written note cards, celebrating people’s work, or checking in periodically to see how others are doing, encouragement manifests a caring and concern heart—it manifests the heart of a servant leader. Furthermore, ministering involves seeking the Lord together through prayer and Bible study. It’s difficult to train and equip leaders for effective ministry without seeking the object of ministry (the Lord) together.
E—ducate. Leaders are learners. Thus effective mentoring includes growing together and encouraging specialized growth. When it comes to leading others—whether it is a small group, staff, or team—effective mentors lead in learning. People who learn together grow together. Learning together can take place by reading and discussing books and articles, as well as attending conferences and engaging in the material presented. They also educate mentees what to watch out for—potential dangers, pitfalls, and obstacles. In addition, mentors lead others to learn from their execution and failures. Whether it is an event a person organized, a mission trip they took, a conversation they had with another, or a mistake they made, effective mentors debrief with those they lead in an effort for them to learn from their life experiences. Furthermore, mentors encourage others to grow in their specialization. Not all mentors will be fully knowledgeable about every field. Thus, they encourage their mentees to seek other mentors that will help them grow in their area of passion and expertise.
N—udge. Mentors nudge mentees in at least three ways. First, they nudge others to pursue excellence in all they do. Not to discount the importance of celebrating wins (ever how small they may be), it’s important to nudge others towards excellence by asking inquisitive questions on how they can improve. For instance effective mentors may ask: “How can you do that better?” “What can you improve?” “What do you need to stop doing?” “What do you need to start doing?” “How can you communicate better?” The truth is, that on this side of glory, there’s always room for improvement. The minute we stop improving is the minute we stop pursuing excellence and stop growing. Second, mentors nudge others to get outside their comfort zone. This is what I refer to as nudging others towards being uncomfortably comfortable. Nudging one out of their comfort zone could include challenging others to: share the gospel with others, have a difficult conversation, or give generously of their time, talents, and treasures. Third, mentors nudge others to also be mentors. Mentoring should be reproducible.
T—ogether. Mentors do life with those they lead. It’s near impossible to mentor others without having a relationship (although it is possible based on some mentoring formats). Through togetherness, mentors build the bonds of love, loyalty, and longevity with those they lead. For mentors and those they lead, togetherness can include praying, reading, eating, playing (example: bowl, golf, etc.), and retreating together. Not only does togetherness build a relationship and community, but it also creates an environment of interdependency where the mentor learns (just as much, if not more) from those they lead.
O—bjectives. Mentors lead others towards establishing objectives, or goals, in their life and ministry. They lead others to get up every morning with passion because they help them craft goals and objectives that they live towards. I believe that if we are not working towards anything we will hit nothing every time. In other words, if we don’t have any goals or targets, then we spin our wheels and fail to go anywhere.
R—est. Effective leaders who have sustained longevity know how to work hard and play hard. Or another way to state it: they know how to work hard and rest hard. In other words, they know how to “sabbath.” Thus, they teach those they mentor the importance of physical and ministerial (or vocational) rest. Rest can help prevent ministry burnout and succumbing to a variety of temptations. Rest includes adequate sleep, days off, recreational outlets, and vacations. By teaching others how to rest, mentors teach others how to recharge their bodies.
Hopefully, these six elements of mentoring help guide leaders in what they are trying to accomplish as they pour their lives into others. While there certainly could be more added to the list, I believe these provide a solid foundation. You may ask why these? In short, these are all things Jesus did as he mentored his disciples. And look what they went on to do!