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.

* Implement the vision. Walk alongside your mentor or mentee to help strategically implement the vision in meaningful and measurable ways. Write down the vision God gave you and pray about what specific steps to take – and when to take them – to fulfill that vision. Admit your fears and embrace the risks involved in moving forward. Communicate the vision to others and discuss it, emphasizing your ministry’s core values and purpose as you do. Integrate the vision into as many communication channels as possible, such as meetings, e-mails, newsletters, and signs. Build a team to accomplish specific goals at specific times, and realize that a leader is just as accountable as other team members. Work with your mentor or mentee on the basics of getting along well with people, such as listening skills. Ask God to help you inspire people through the vision and mobilize them into action. As a mentor, be careful not to become too controlling and tell your mentee what to do. Instead, focus on simply equipping him or her to figure out a plan. Realize, as well, that any plan needs to be flexible enough to account for midcourse corrections when circumstances change or God leads in a new direction. Help your mentee budget time and money wisely so there will be sufficient resources to accomplish all the goals. Work together to make sure that all the people involved are able to balance their lives in healthy ways (not becoming too consumed with work) while also being productive. Help your mentee evaluate the ways in which he or she spends time, to ensure that truly reflects the right priorities. Review and assess the financial budget together as well.

* Sustain the vision. Encourage the person you mentor to maintain zeal for his or her ministry. Reorganize the team to keep up with changes as they occur in the ministry. Evaluate the staff and their roles, the method of ministry, and systems that can improve capacity to fulfill the vision. Help your mentee deal with ongoing challenges that can hinder his or her work, including: fear, loneliness, fatigue, physical limitations or ailments, an uncooperative spouse, a difficult deacon or elder, and a lack of either time or money. Urge your mentee to persevere and ask for help in specific ways when needed. Help him or her learn how to manage stress well and take breaks to recharge. Continue your mentoring relationship over time and build a close friendship in which you: affirm one another, are available to one another, pray with and for one another, are open and honest with one another, treat each other sensitively, keep your discussions confidential, and hold each other accountable.
 

Adapted from Mentoring Leaders: Wisdom for Developing Character, Calling, and Competency, copyright 2005 by Carson Pue.  Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerbooks.com.    

Carson Pue is president of Arrow Leadership International Ministries, a ministry founded by Leighton Ford and committed to mentoring church and ministry leaders. An ordained Baptist minister, he has had a varied career in business, the pastorate, and parachurch ministry. He was executive director for Chuck Swindoll’s Insight for Living radio ministry and has spent more than 20,000 hours mentoring Christian leaders over the past 15 years.