Mentoring Leaders: Investing in the future

Bookstore shelves today are lined with volumes on the subject of leadership. They are addressing an important need – or perhaps better, a desperate need. The post-World War II Christian leaders who emerged on the international scene with such vision and energy in the 1950s have largely moved off the stage today.

Dr. Ted’s death in June 2006 brought a sense of joy to me from the standpoint of him being united with Jesus in new and intimate manner. I also felt deep loss as Dr. Ted was one of my mentors and represents the generation of leaders I describe above. Until the final days, Dr. Ted was breathing life and wisdom into younger leaders around him. One of the best books written on the subject of mentoring is his “The Fine Art of Mentoring” and he mentored others until the week he died.

One memory remains of his impact in my own life. At Arrow Leadership, we seek to identify leaders with potential – not potential leaders. We then bring them together for a two year period of an intentional infusion of wisdom through four one week residentials, peer clusters and intentional mentoring. At the residentials we expose the Christian leaders to some outstanding role models and leaders. I invited Ted Engstrom to come and be one of our first trainers when the Arrow Program began in Canada and specifically to teach the module about mentoring.

“Carson, I will be happy to come and help you and Arrow!” I was thrilled as I heard him say this, and then he added, “However.”

Now whenever you hear ‘however’ leading off a new thought, it usually is the prelude to a soft rejection. But that is not what Dr. Ted had in mind.

“I’ll come and teach the mentoring module with two conditions. First is that you teach the module with me. Secondly, I will share my material with you and I want you to teach the module in subsequent classes.”

Little did I know that those words would propel me into a life ministry of mentoring Christian leaders – but that is exactly what has happened. Ted was modeling good mentoring practice. I did teach the module for several years in the years to come and now one of our Arrow graduates is our trainer and continues the legacy of Dr. Ted.

This is but one story of the ripple effect of mentoring, and the other stories in this edition of Mosaic continue to ripple out. Barry, Elisabeth and Cliff are all graduates of Arrow Leadership Program, and Roy has been a mentor for Arrow – undertaking the continuing ministry of investing in others. [See following articles]

Mentors Increase Leadership
Denominations, churches, parachurch organizations, and other ministries require a high degree of leadership competency. Yet, there are not many young leaders rising up with the capacity to take on this role, and intentional mentoring can help the situation. If you have ever been on a search committee seeking a new pastor or Christian leader you have experienced the leadership void – they are not in plentiful supply. Why is that? There are three primary reasons:

First, few are actually called to be leaders. Those who are must be nurtured and developed one person at a time. To develop –really develop – transformational leaders, the process must be highly personalized. I am convinced that their leadership will take the right mix of calling, character, and competency. The long-term results of large scale leadership or motivational events and seminars show little depth in the developing of anointed leaders. Jesus did not do it in a weekend!

Secondly, Christian pastors and leaders are always on the top of the list for the evil one and as such they endure not only the pressures of doing the increasingly difficult job of leading a church today but the invisible spiritual pressure of front line attacks. Many don’t make it. The support networks are simply not strong enough to uphold our leaders. Never before have we faced the vast ethical and leadership challenges that lie before us today. Those leaders who guided the moral fabric of society up to this point are coming to the end of their leadership careers. New leaders must be empowered to take their place.

Thirdly, we have failed to provide consistent, intentional mentoring – calling men and women leaders to rise up to the next level and as a result most denominations find that our lack of identifying and mentoring God’s anointed ones leaves us lacking over the years. The heart of Jesus’s leadership was putting his Spirit in his disciples by mentoring and teaching, and then setting them free to pursue vision, for God. Who is going to accept the call to invest and develop emerging leaders through mentoring?

entoring is holistic discipleship and a very Christian practice. Mentoring – the concept, even the word, evokes a variety of responses among Free Methodists. Some are envious that they did not have a mentor in their earlier years and wish in hindsight that they had. Some are drawn to the idea of being a mentor – but question their ability to actually be a mentor to others.

Emerging leaders have questions about mentoring too. Most seek to have a mentor in their life, but when I speak to them about this they respond with doubts regarding the process:

  • “How do I go about finding a good mentor?”
  • “How will I know what to do with my mentor?”
  • “How will my mentor know what to do with me?”
  • “Is there a particular pattern to the mentoring process?”

Five Phases of a Mentoring Matrix
There is a pattern and flow of developing leaders in a transformational manner that I describe as a mentoring matrix. It is something that we have observed with over 1100 leaders from the Arrow Leadership Program and consists of five themes that can guide an intentional mentoring relationship over a period of time.

So let me share a process of mentoring that can help to inform and guide your thoughts as you consider being a mentor, or being mentored. I illustrate it like this:

Phase One: Awareness
Self-awareness is at the very core of your development as a leader. You must have an accurate self-awareness, not simply of your abilities, gifts, and skills, but also of the shadow side of your life as a leader. Most importantly, leaders must have absolute clarity on who they are as children of God. Self-awareness is about finding and being secure in your identity in Christ.

This is the hub of the mentoring matrix, around which everything else revolves. The spokes of the matrix revolve around this hub. To have an effective mentoring experience, and to develop as a leader, you must start with an extremely clear awareness of who you are and why you do what you do, and a solid theological foundation for your identity in Christ.

Phase Two: Freeing Up
The second phase of the mentoring process is one of freeing up. Because of our increased awareness of the self, we usually become aware of some things that have been holding us back. It is during this phase that we explore together any areas of life, experience, and history you need to be freed from in order to continue to develop. During this time of discovery together, it may be recommended that you talk with a professional counselor, or engage in prayer counseling with others.

There is nothing to be ashamed of here. Our desire is to see you free to lead, as God would have you lead. We believe God is calling you to godly leadership. We also recommend being vigilant in prayer – asking the Lord to reveal to you any specific areas where you may be held back in your development by chains of bondage attached to circumstances, unhealed wounds, or spiritual wanderings.

The freeing-up stage of the mentoring matrix is really all about satisfying needs. It is searching for and understanding your core needs as an individual and as a leader. We try to help leaders understand these needs, and evaluate where they are turning to have these needs met. Many of us try to meet needs ourselves rather than turning to God and allowing him to meet our needs.

Phase Three: Visioneering
“Visioneering” – is a word that was introduced to me by Andy Stanley. This is one of the more exciting phases of the mentoring process. In fact, it is so exciting that many people want to skip quickly to this phase. I find that men in particular love to get to the visioneering stage. This is a temptation for both the mentor and the mentee. Let me state this strongly: You cannot skip steps in this process without making the mentoring somewhat shallow. In fact, if you jump to visioneering without having a clear understanding of self, or things holding you back, you may be wasting your time, or even damaging your training if the vision is implemented without a solid foundation. If we encourage a vision, when the leader has not dealt with the character and spiritual dimensions of being prepared, we can actually create a dangerous weapon that ultimately hurts the church and divides God’s people.

There’s something very energizing about visioneering. I understand why it is exciting, and I personally love mentoring leaders in this phase. Nevertheless, I am not naive to the risks of moving through mentoring too quickly. I have come to see again and again how important it is to ensure that a leader has a very clear understanding of the first two steps in the mentoring process. Within the Arrow program, we walk alongside leaders for a two-year period, and I am happy and willing to spend eighteen months of that time dealing with the first two stages. I find that if we spend the time up front, the following steps will flow rather quickly – the vision becomes much sharper and focused because of a firm foundation.

There are few things more fulfilling for a mentor than to see the eyes of the mentee when they begin to gain clarity and focus of God’s vision for the mentee’s life. There is a change in the mentee’s spirit, countenance, and energy level, and it is often exemplified by a renewed passion. We want every leader to get to this place, and it is a fun time of mentoring – but we must not short-circuit the process.

Phase Four: Implementing
The fourth phase of the mentoring matrix is that of implementing. This is the stage where we walk alongside leaders and help them strategically begin to step out in leadership toward the, now focused, vision. The mentor is assisting with organizational design and development, with leadership skill and strategic planning. This stage also involves team building and team strategies. It is often important to help younger leaders see the incremental steps required to fulfill a vision. Many young leaders are too eager to get to the finish line without appreciating the importance of taking one step at a time. I am a great believer in incremental steps.

Phase Five: Sustaining
In the fifth stage, “Sustaining,” the focus is on assisting the leader to know how to lead and continue to sustain the vision. Often it is at this stage that leaders once again have a difficult time. Once we are past the excitement of visioneering, and the strategic implementation of the vision, it seems as though sustaining is simply not as exciting. The entrepreneurial leader and even those who are less entrepreneurial have a desire to move on. Restlessness sets in.

This restlessness often leads the mentor, and the mentee, back to the core of the mentoring matrix. For you see, after walking through this matrix, leaders learn a great deal more about who they are. Their self-awareness is increased, and as a result, they may find additional things in their person or spirit that need to be freed up.

What I am indicating is that once we have walked through the mentoring matrix, we frequently begin the process again. It is possible for the mentor and leader to walk through the phases of the mentoring matrix several times. It would be better illustrated with a three-dimensional model-one that showed us growing closer to God with each cycle through the mentoring phases.

Five Misconceptions about Mentoring
1. “I can ‘mentor’ people from the pulpit. » While a lot of good teaching can happen in church on a Sunday morning or in a Sunday School class – it is often far to general and does not reach the specific needs of people.
2. “Mentoring just happens. » It doesn’t! While we can pick up tips from watching those around us, true mentoring works personally and lovingly and is willing to get in close and ask the tough questions – all for the purpose of furthering the mentee’s walk with the Lord and pursuit of their calling.
3. « I’m not ready for mentoring yet. » In fact mentoring is a process that should take place throughout our lives. We need different mentors for various seasons of life, but whatever you are facing today – there is someone who can help you to grow and thrive in the season.
4. « Mentoring is a program. » Mentoring is much more a lifestyle than a program. It is possible to do group mentoring, but seldom with more than 12 people effectively.
5. « Mentoring is only for leaders. » In fact, Christ wants us to mentor one another in each aspect of our lives from our marriage, parenting skills, finding your first job to handling finances. There is no area of life where you cannot benefit from having a mentor.

Get a Mentor, Be a Mentor
If you are looking for a mentor – start by carefully assessing where you are at, and what specific areas you would like mentoring in. Pray and ask Jesus to bring to mind someone who has the obvious skill set to help you in these areas. Then meet with them and ask if they might be interested in helping you in these areas. So let me encourage you by saying that everyone has the ability to mentor others. There are always those who are following a little behind you on the road of faith and life. Resources exist to help get you started and improve your skills at mentoring. So make a difference. Your deep investment into the life of another can help them to step over the speed-bumps in life and be raised up to be a leader for God’s purposes.

Rev. Dr. Carson Pue is president of Arrow Leadership and author of “Mentoring Leaders: Wisdom for Developing Character, Calling and Competency” by Baker Books 2005.