No one becomes a leader instantly, or through a quick seminar or weekend retreat. It’s a process that requires lots of development over time. Jesus recognized this, and He took the time to mentor His disciples for leadership.

Mentoring is the way to build strong leaders, whether you’re helping someone else or someone is helping you. Here’s how you can mentor emerging leaders or find the mentoring you need to sharpen your own leadership skills:

* Increase your awareness. Realize that leaders need to clearly understand who they are (especially their identity as God’s children through Christ) and why they do what they do. Find a “soul friend” – someone who is close enough to you to love you unconditionally, yet still challenge you and hold you accountable when necessary. Go through the process of asking and answering tough questions to be honest about your thoughts and feelings. If you’re the mentor, draw upon your similar experiences to provide encouragement and confidence. Build free time into your schedule on a regular basis to use for reflection and contemplative prayer. Ask God to give you the peace that only He can give. Be on guard against seven common ways evil can attack people in ministry: pride, sensuality (trying to meet emotional needs through unhealthy behaviors, like addiction to food, alcohol, or sex), spiritual excess (an excessive craving for consolation or the constant need to confess something), spiritual lust (craving after spiritual things because of the feelings attached to it), fatigue and sloth, busyness, and complacency. Watch out for these other danger zones: relying on your own gifts, a compulsion to please people, perfectionism, avoiding conflict or not knowing how to resolve it, a lack of accountability, ignoring evil or not understanding how evil works, not knowing how to guard against sexual misconduct, empire building, a need for recognition, a need to control, not trusting God and not spending enough time alone with Him to build intimacy, an inability to say “no” and set boundaries, an inability to delegate, and a lack of discernment. Realize that God doesn’t care nearly so much about what you’re doing as He does about who you are. Focus on character and seek to become the person He wants you to be. Pray for His strength to flow through you, rather than relying on your own limited strength.

* Find freedom from the past. Think and pray about past experiences that may be hindering you from leading well today. Together with your mentor, explore any areas from which you need to be freed up in order to continue to develop. Consider such issues as your family dynamics growing up, any trauma or abuse you may have suffered, past involvement in non-Christian spiritual practices (confess and renounce these), and addiction to power and control. Pray vigilantly, seeking God’s healing for your wounds. Trust Him to meet your needs in every aspect of your life.

* See a vision. Discover and focus on God’s purpose for your life and ministry – or, if you’re the mentor, help the person you’re mentoring discover God’s vision for him or her. Understand that leadership truly begins when the vision emerges within leaders. Find out what you feel most passionate about. Let that passion percolate up into a vision as you think, dream, and pray together. Get to know yourself inside out, including your interests, natural talents, and spiritual gifts. Know your ministry environment and circumstances well. Know God through prayer, worship, and reflecting on His Word and principles. Spend time in solitude and silence. Ask God to give you a clear mental image of the future He envisions for the people and ministry you lead. Test the vision and get feedback on it from people you can trust.