Who Are You Mentoring?

Who Are You Mentoring?

As I visit local churches and hear their struggles, one thing I hear consistently is: “we don’t have enough leaders.”

Is there a lack of leadership in our local churches? Yes and no.

Yes, it is true that as churches get smaller there are fewer leaders. If a church had 100 people in worship a decade ago but only 50 now, fewer leaders would be one result.

But as I have listened, I have realized that it isn’t just having fewer people that fuels a decreasing pool of leadership. My hunch is that a contributing faction in our leadership decline is that for the past 10 years most of our current leaders haven’t apprenticed new leaders.

Recently I visited a church where every leader was over 70 years old. There were younger members in church but I was told they were too busy or uninterested in leadership. Maybe. But maybe there was a bigger issue – the church leadership didn’t have a process of mentoring.

What is mentoring? Mentoring is an approach of raising up a new generation of leaders. It requires current leaders to prioritize their time toward teaching upcoming leader.  In other words, it requires a leader who will invest in someone else and then let them do the ministry in the new leader’s way and style.

Mentoring matters.

How do you mentor? I like Mike Breen’s work on this – he uses the visual tool of a square to teach the concept, which has four steps.


The key to understanding this process is to start at the top with L1 (Leader at the beginning of the mentoring process) and D1.  “D” stands for disciple as discipleship is about training up new leaders for ministry. Here is how it works:

L1/D1: When a current leader notices a bright eye person who is not yet in leadership, the L1 leader recruits him or her. Early on, the leader is directive in their leadership style.   That means the L1 leader needs to give clear direction saying, “do this,” “this is how you…” etc.

This can be a challenge for many since this style of training may feel bossy or domineering. But the reality is, strong leadership is needed early on. Weak leadership at this early stage slows down the mentoring process. Early on the D1 newbie feels confident in their new role (they don’t know enough to know the complexity or challenge) yet they are incompetent – meaning, they don’t know how to lead the ministry. This is where we begin.

L2/D2: We all know D2 even if we have never heard the term before. D2 is that place when the new leader feels overwhelmed & out of their league. They want to give up. The D2 mentee is starting to see that there is much to learn, that they are truly at the start of that learning, and that this will take their time, commitment and focus. The L1 leader, responding to the overwhelm and the anxiety of the mentee speaks of the larger vision. This might look like the outgoing finance chair sharing what God is doing through the income the church receives and manages. Or the new small group leader learning not only how long it took the outgoing leader to feel confident but what God had done in her heart as she grew in leadership.

This is often the place we stop mentoring. It demands so much time, energy and vulnerability on everyone’s part that those being mentored may give up and the one doing the mentoring may not make the time needed to really invest in the new leader. Clearing one’s schedule and spending time together makes the difference here – we need to believe in each other and what God can do through our willingness to surrender, to grow and to step into leadership.

L3/D3: If we invest the time and energy, we will begin to see fruit. The mentee disciple feels a growing confidence (“maybe I can do this”) and the L1 leader has a chance to encourage a more consensus style of relationship (“how would you improve this? What are your ideas?). Here the new leader takes on more responsibility as the outgoing leader shares responsibility. A shift is happening.  The outgoing leader needs to begin to let go and trust the new leader.

L4/D4: Here the mentee becomes the leader. She has confidence and skill. She has come through the anxiety of seeing her own lack of wisdom and has learned to lean into God’s. She is not only ready to lead but she is ready to mentor.  She has someone to turn to when things get tough and she sees the wisdom in the mentoring approach.  The outgoing leader is able to step back.  He trusts that she is ready and knows that even though leading will be done differently, that is part of the process.

To summarize the flow – it begins (L1/D1) with “I do, you watch.” Then (L2/D2) it becomes, “I do, you help.” As we round the corner (L3/D3) it becomes, “You do, I help.” And finally (L4/D4) it becomes “You do, I watch.”

Want to know more? Watch. Read. Share your wisdom.

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