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“How many folks here have a mentor?” I asked. Of the 22 church leaders in the room, less than half raised their hands. Ironic, because each of the participants in this Leadership Development Network session was a mentor to an emerging leader from his or her local church. I am still surprised by the results of my informal survey.

I told the group that I have a mentor, a spiritual guide, and a coach. “I really need help!” I said. Many in the room nodded in thoughtful agreement. If you’re in any leadership role, you need a mentor to walk beside you. That’s true for pastors and ministry leaders, and it’s true for elders and deacons.

Leaders Begin by Being Disciples

Officebearers are called by God to provide servant leadership in the context of their own discipleship journey. At the heart of discipleship is spiritual formation. The equipping of officebearers begins with nurturing their person and character rather than with teaching them. New and returning officebearers benefit greatly from the practice of spiritual disciplines.

Another very fruitful activity is participating in a discipleship small group. For example, at Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Brighton, Ontario, pastor Rick Nanninga takes eight to 10 new or returning leaders through a discipleship program using books such as Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden to guide them.

Leaders Grow Best with a Mentor

Church officebearers touch the lives of the people they serve, affect the discipleship journey of the congregation, and give shape to the mission of the church. If their ministry is going to be fruitful, it can’t be done alone. Officebearers learn best how to minister with people by using the “buddy system.” Pairing up new officebearers with a mentor helps them feel comfortable with their work, and they’re better able to ask questions and share struggles. These mentoring pairs flourish even more when they join up with another pair for mutual learning.

In several churches this buddy system has worked especially well with deacons. Consistories that are larger than seven people break into small groups of four to pray for each other, share about their ministry, and brainstorm new ideas.

Leaders Flourish When Churches Cultivate Them

The church needs to develop a leadership culture. It must work hard at discovering leaders, recruiting them, and orienting them. It also must provide feedback, evaluate, and celebrate them!

Each church should have a team whose responsibility it is to nurture emerging leaders and equip mentors. Such a team ensures that each person with significant leadership responsibility meets regularly with a mentor.

In the book Building Leaders authors Aubrey Malphurs and Will Mancini emphasize this point: if we do not create leadership growth opportunities, our leaders will always be splashing around in the shallow end where no diving is allowed! Churches must be intentional about moving leaders to “the deep end.”

So let me ask you a question. Do you have a mentor?

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