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The Importance of Mentors in the Local Church

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an older man mentoring a younger man
Pastor Kevin Conklin shows us practical ways pastors and church leaders can invest in their congregations through mentoring. Not only can pastors be great mentors, but we also need mentors ourselves in order to grow and flourish.

Mentoring is a popular word, but it’s been around a long time. Many write about it (like me right now), and speak on it, and even have conferences on it. There are different types of mentoring (professional, personal, spiritual, marriage, parenting, etc.), but I’d like to take a couple of minutes of your valuable time and write about the need to have ongoing mentors in your life, as well as being a mentor to someone who can use what you have. Please keep reading because you’re never too smart to learn something new from someone else, even me. Thanks.

Assuming you’re already proficient at knowing yourself enough to prescribe growth (and I hope you are), let’s talk about the need to be mentored on an ongoing basis. If you’re not growing, especially in areas where you may be weak or behind the times, you’ll become less effective, and you won’t be fully used by God. But it’s never too late to face your fears or lack of knowledge straight on. Being frozen in fear isn’t where anyone needs to agree to stay.

Knowledge and technology are so readily available today, and the reality is we all need to continually grow emotionally, spiritually, physically, professionally, and intellectually. You get the idea; we have several areas we should be working on to continually sharpen ourselves, and thankfully, several options on how to do it:

Speed Mentoring

Speed Mentoring is where you find someone who does what you do, but does it better and maybe even on a greater scale, and you observe them doing it. I’m amazed at the simplicity of this! Schedule a time for coffee, call or email them, and ask if they would be willing to teach you what they know and how they got there. So many people are eager to share their skills, knowledge, and tips with you, but you have to ask. Rarely will someone turn down the opportunity.

Informal Mentoring

Podcasts are another great tool. My wife, Karyn, rocks at this! When she gets ready in the morning, she puts on headphones or turns up the volume so I can listen in as well while we’re both getting ready for work. Listen in your car, on a walk, or schedule it into your week as an appointment.

Books are a great way to be mentored! Make sure you read for well-roundedness and not just in an area where you’re already well-versed. I admit I need to grow here, how about you?

Websites/Blogs are just too easy to pass up. I schedule time once a week for an hour or so to search out what others are doing. You can do this, and you’ll be so glad you do on a regular basis.

Choosing Wise Mentors

I have a few men/mentors in my life that I know I can count on. I consider them my “Life Counsel” (thank you, Jim Russell, John Enderby, Byron Meyer, Tim Popadic, and Dick Walker). They’re wiser, smarter, and more proficient than I am in most areas of my life. Calling on them on a consistent basis not only helps me become wiser, smarter, and more proficient, but these are some guys that I have strong relational bonds with as well. Isolation is the worst place to be for any of us in leadership, especially spiritual leadership. Can you name a few people you’ve counted on, or could, as your Life Counsel?

Becoming a Mentor for Others

Besides having mentors, I want to bring up the importance of being a mentor to others. Whether it’s one-on-one or 1 on 2/3/4, we should be bringing other younger men up. This is one way we get to leave an imprint and a legacy beyond ourselves. Believe it or not, just as you’re thankful for the men who have poured into you, there are younger men thanking God for you. They need you and you need them. I say that because I believe as I’m preparing to mentor others, I’m the one who gets the most benefit out of it. I’m always in a learning mode to teach them. I also know if I’m going to say something is true about me, it better be true. If it’s not, I better get a grip and do what I do and not just what I say.

Anyway, look around and see if there is someone that looks like he has potential, or look for someone who isn’t even a Christ-follower yet. But look around you. Whether smooth or very rough around the edges, there are men out there longing for someone to see value in them and be made better because someone made an investment in them.

What to Look for in a Mentor/Mentee Relationship

There are plenty of books and articles on this, but for the sake of your continued reading right now, here’s what I do:

  • I look for faithful men. If they can’t be faithful, they’re not ready. Are you ready to be faithful to become a better person, husband, pastor, person?
  • Available men. Simply put, if they’re too busy, they’re not willing to do whatever it takes. Are you?
  • I look for teachable men first. If they’re teachable, they can be taken anywhere, but if they’re not, you can’t take them anywhere. The same can be said about you if you truly want to be mentored. Are you teachable?
  • Trustworthy men. I believe that when Jesus chose the12, He did so on the basis of these character qualities. Are those you’re looking to mentor trustworthy to do what you ask of them? And of course, the same can be asked of you, are you trustworthy?
  • I look for enthusiastic men. Nothing drags others down more than someone who isn’t really into it, whatever “it” is. A person who’s just along for the ride will fade away at the first or second sign of trial. You want someone who’s up for the challenge. Enthusiasm goes a long way when the way is long!
  • Finally, I look for men who can respect authority. This is critical. Don’t miss this. It sort of goes along with being teachable, but it sits alone. Do those you’re mentoring respect you? Chances are they didn’t say “yes” to your invitation unless they did, and make sure you sense the same thing with someone whom you would like as a mentor.

Being Intentional about Mentoring

I got this list of character qualities from Dr. Dann Spader back in the mid-80s when he led the Sonlife movement in student ministries. Though he didn’t personally mentor me, his teaching and modeling did. I could say that of many people, up close and from a distance. I also want to be intentional enough in other men’s lives so that they would one day point to me and say the same thing. Not for my glory, truly for God’s.

I decided one day to make a list of all who made a significant impact on my life. The list was long. When I was done, I thanked them directly either by telling them, calling them or writing, and telling them. It was a wonderful experience for me and, I think, for them. I also made a list of those that I’d very intentionally mentored. I was shocked! Not because the number was large, but because God would use me even if it were only a little. Now, go be intentional.

I leave you with one of my favorite sayings to inspire others that no matter how much they have to offer, it may be enough to make a huge difference – “I don’t know much, but what I do know, I am always willing to share.”

Many in my life would agree for sure with the first part, I don’t know much. But I’m also responsible for the second part. I will share it. How about you?

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