The word “mentor” is defined as “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” Throughout my over 30 years of pastoral ministry, I have had many trusted teachers who have counseled me, encouraged me, corrected me and redirected when I had made some poor decisions. In similar fashion I have made it a point to avail myself to young women and men to help prepare and equip them in ministry.
In the church I founded and pastored for over 20 years, we grew from 14 to over 1200 adults and children in average weekly attendance. Though I believe that was a tremendous accomplishment, the thing that I am most proud of is that when I retired, all seventeen of the full and part time staff members, including my successor as Senior Pastor, came to the church as a first time guest. They all caught the vision for ministry I casted and were open to be mentored by me. In addition, there are over a dozen other men and women who I mentored who are currently serving in church ministry and missional positions throughout the country.
Although “mentoring” does not appear in the Bible, Scripture does give us numerous examples of it. Some biblical examples of mentoring are Jethro to Moses, Moses to Joshua, Eli to Samuel, Elijah to Elisha, Mordecai to Esther, Jesus to his disciples, Barnabas to Paul, Paul to Timothy and John Mark, and Timothy to all the faithful Christians who mentored others. This mentoring chain equipped believers to carry on the work of God. Jesus chose to use dedicated followers, his disciples, to carry the message of salvation to all peoples of the world.
Every pastor needs a spiritual mentor. The question is whether pastors will reach out and seek the counsel and guidance of a mentor. I am often surprised why pastors choose to not reach out to someone who can offer wise counsel because at some point in their lives, they will need to learn how to overcome a challenge, learn new skills or expand their leadership abilities. In every one of these scenarios, a good mentor can guide a pastor through whatever they need to learn in that season. The benefits of having a spiritual mentor can be invaluable and provide a lifeline in the sea of life that has far too many storms. A pastoral mentor is someone who can be a role model for you, provide encouragement and hold you accountable. A helpful way of thinking about one-on-one ministry is to focus on three Biblical characters: Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy.
Paul represents that person in your life who mentors, leads, and directs you. This is a person who comes along side you to disciple you along the road of faith and life. This is someone who has traveled further down the road of faith and life than you.
Barnabas is someone who encourages you and holds you accountable in your faith and life. This is a mutual friendship, or what is called in the world of spiritual formation, a “spiritual friendship.” In the book of Acts, Paul and Barnabas traveled together side by side. Barnabas was a key person in Paul’s life, especially at the beginning of his walk with Christ as he introduced Paul to the Christian community. Their relationship then became one of mutual encouragement, ministry, and accountability.
Timothy is the kind of person who you help guide along the road of faith and life. This is generally someone who has not traveled as far as you have in your walk with Christ. Such a person is marked (or should be) by an eagerness to grow in their relationship with Christ and is humble and teachable enough to receive what you have to share and to interact with you on the things of faith and life.
Having these three types of people in your sphere of influence can help you make significant strides in your life and leadership.
One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was when I put myself into a coaching relationship with the Effective Church Group. They came alongside me then … and they’re still coming alongside me now as we journey together in the Growing Church Network.
If you’re ready to take your church to the next level, you’ll need a mentor, a coach, some specialized training, and an accountability partnership. We’d love to talk with you about that. If you’re a pastor who’s committed … really committed … to growing your church, set up a Get Growing Conversation with us. We’ll help you get clarity about what you want to accomplish over the next 12 months – and what’s getting in the way. And then we’ll share how we can help you get there.
Fill out the questionnaire now and let’s have a conversation.