Mentoring That Produces Great Spiritual Leaders
By J. Don George
It is important for those who want to be effective spiritual leaders to understand the difference between mentoring and coaching. A mentor shares what he personally knows — what he has learned. A coach assists by helping people discover answers and solutions to questions and problematic situations.
When I embarked on this odyssey of preaching and pastoring, I soon recognized my need for mentoring. I clearly understood that to achieve maximum effectiveness in ministry I would need assistance from others with greater wisdom and maturity.
Both my father, Roy F. George, a pioneer church planter in the Assemblies of God, and my brother, R. Kenneth George, current superintendent for the New Mexico District of the AG, served as my mentors. I will forever be grateful for the manner in which these men shaped me and prepared my life for effective ministry.
Mentoring — Who Needs It?
While it could be argued that a mentoring relationship is not absolutely essential to success in ministry, any minister with the responsibility of people engineering will profit greatly from developing a mentoring relationship with his staff.
People engineering can be defined as the art of recruiting, training, and motivating people. Motivators and manipulators have one significant common characteristic: both influence people.
The purpose for which motivators and manipulators influence people differs greatly. A motivator influences people for their benefit, or for a cause mutually agreed on. A manipulator, though, influences people for his benefit. The differing motives of motivators and the manipulators set them apart. Pastors and church leaders are to be motivators rather than manipulators.
The effective church leader of the 21st century can be greatly assisted by competent mentoring. The people engineers in today’s churches include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Senior pastors with multiple staff.
- Executive or senior associate pastors who have direct oversight of multiple staff.
- Solo pastors who have no paid staff, but who are responsible for recruiting, training, and motivating volunteer lay leaders/ministry partners.
The lack of adequate people skills has been the downfall of many church leaders. Chris Turner listed the top 5 reasons for more than 1,300 dismissals from Baptist church staffs in 2005.1 Failures in the area of people engineering topped the list for the 10th consecutive year. Clearly, when church leaders improve their people skills, the number of staff member dismissals will decline. Church leadership will benefit by improving their mentoring strategies and techniques.
The Model Mentor
When Jesus began establishing His kingdom on earth, He chose men from diverse walks of life to be the foundation stones for His church. His choices included highly skilled men from the professional world (a tax collector) as well as men of common labor (fishermen).
Jesus knew these men would need to be trained and equipped for the assignment at hand. Thus, He chose men who were willing to be mentored. As a result, the disciples were prepared for their ministry assignments through the mentoring process of Jesus.
Where could one find a more able mentor than Jesus? He had learned from His Heavenly Father, and He used earthly experiences to prepare men for their supreme spiritual responsibility. The model mentor of the universe is Jesus. We would do well to consider His principles of mentoring.
The Principle of Association
Jesus selected 12 men with whom to be closely associated: “And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:13,14, italics added).2
The Twelve were selected and set apart for a divine purpose. They were primarily called to “be with him” (verse 14). Jesus desired to establish close, quality relationships with the Twelve.
Jesus used this close association to teach His disciples how they should live. They learned how to deal with the most difficult people and situations by observing Jesus’ lifestyle. He invited His disciples to observe every aspect of His daily life as He reproduced himself in these 12 men.
The Master saw potential in His disciples. He saw them, not as they were, but as they could be through proper mentoring.
Jesus developed His disciples’ potential by mentoring them daily in a variety of ways. Peter was brash, impulsive, and impetuous. Through mentoring, however, Peter became a leader of the Early Church in Jerusalem.
Church leaders today would do well to adopt the mentoring style of Jesus. Followers need opportunity to associate with their leaders. It has often been said that life-changing principles and insight for effective living are more often caught than taught. The principle of association will produce positive results in the lives of our staff and volunteers.
As a young pastor at Calvary Church in Irving, Texas, I quickly recognized the powerful potential of mentoring. Although the church was small in the beginning, I realized that if the church were to experience healthy growth, I must duplicate myself in the lives of trustworthy men. I began to search for men who would walk by my side, learn from my example, and share the responsibilities of ministry.
I met with a small group of men for breakfast every Saturday for 18 months. This initial group of 30 became a committed team of 10 during that defining year and a half. I did not miss a single meeting, and encouraged those early followers to make a serious commitment to Christian discipleship.
Each Saturday we fellowshipped during breakfast; afterward I taught principles of discipleship. It was exciting to observe the spiritual growth and development in these men who were truly committed to the purpose of God. From that humble beginning came the first group of lay leaders for our fledgling church. The core of that small group that came together 35 years ago is still active as lay leaders in our church today.
More than three decades have passed since the birth of that first men’s discipleship group, and I am still committed to the process of mentoring. Each week I meet with two small groups of men as I continue to mentor for ministry.
The Principle of Assignment
Jesus gave specific assignments to His disciples: “He ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:14, italics added). “And he … began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits” (Mark 6:7, italics added). “And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them” (Mark 6:12,13, italics added).
Jesus understood the need for plurality of spiritual leadership. He also recognized that He needed to give the Twelve a detailed description of their responsibilities (Mark 6:8–11). Jesus told them precisely what He expected of them. The disciples understood and accepted the responsibility of ministry that Jesus gave them.
Some of Jesus’ disciples may have felt incompetent to fulfill the task they were assigned. But by providing good instruction and loving encouragement that would counteract their feelings of insecurity and incompetence, Jesus gave His disciples the best opportunity for success.
Today’s wise church leader will apply this principle of mentoring in the local church. Mentoring pastors need to be aware that staff pastors and lay leaders may at times feel insecure or inadequate when faced with a daunting responsibility. In most cases, a definitive job description will allay negative feelings.
It is also important that the person being mentored be made aware that he has the complete support, encouragement, and covering of his mentor. Church staff members and lay leaders need to know that their senior pastor believes in them. Their insecurities will be alleviated through positive input from their mentor.
An effective mentoring pastor will focus on strengthening the confidence of his staff and volunteers. Those being mentored need to hear their mentor say early and often, “I believe in you, and will do everything in my power to help you succeed. Never fear failure. Always expect God to give you sufficient strength for the size of every task. You and God are a winning combination.”
The Principle of Review
Following a period of ministry, Jesus called His disciples together and asked them for a report of their ministry activities: “And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat” (Mark 6:30,31, italics added).
The review process is an essential ingredient in the growth process for those being mentored. I often tell my staff that a leader should never expect what he does not inspect. All ministry should be inspected and approved by spiritual leadership. The servant who serves well will desire to give a report and have his service reviewed by the leadership to whom he is accountable.
Those being mentored will become weary with going the extra mile and striving for excellence when their mentor demonstrates a lack of interest and an attitude of unconcern by failing to review and evaluate the effectiveness of their ministry.
Mentors must review the ministry of those who serve under their oversight. Disappointment, disillusionment, and disinterest result when mentors fail to demonstrate interest in the manner in which ministry assignments are completed.
Mentors must become involved in the lives of those being mentored. The attitude that says just do your own thing and do not bother me with questions or details is detrimental to spiritual growth and emotional health. Mentors must demonstrate that they care and that they desire to be involved in the process.
Jesus used the time of review as an opportunity for teaching and imparting a higher principle to His disciples. On one occasion Jesus sent forth 70 disciples to preach the gospel “into every city and place, whither he himself would come” (Luke 10:1). When the 70 returned from their mission, Jesus asked them for a report.
The disciples rejoiced and said, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name” (Luke 10:17).
Then Jesus taught them that it is better to rejoice “because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
When the Good Samaritan took the wounded man to the inn and arranged for his care, the Samaritan made an interesting promise to the innkeeper. He said, “Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee” (Luke 10:35). In making that promise, the Samaritan was holding the innkeeper accountable for the care of the wounded man. The Samaritan was also demonstrating a high level of concern for the wounded man by promising to pay for the full cost of his care.
Jesus, the disciples’ Mentor, also observed that they were in need of rest and renewal. He recognized the pressures of ministry and the many demands made on them by the multitudes. Knowing that the disciples had labored for a long period without time for leisure, Jesus informed them that it was time to rest.
An effective mentor will also create a culture of care for those whom he mentors. He will demonstrate love and concern for their physical and emotional well-being. Church staffs and volunteers serve with greater enjoyment and productivity when they serve within an atmosphere of peace, respect, and appreciation. It is the mentor’s responsibility to foster a culture of relaxed effectiveness.
The Principle of Reassignment
It was Jesus’ practice to give new assignments to His disciples after He completed their review. Prior to His ascension, Jesus assigned a far greater responsibility to His disciples than He had previously given: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:15–18).
Considering the magnitude of the Master’s new assignment to His disciples, one can conclude that His mentoring strategy had been effective. Jesus assigned the disciples the remarkable challenge of world evangelism.
The disciples had experienced spiritual and emotional growth while being mentored by Jesus. Though previously filled with timidity and fear, the disciples launched a Holy Spirit-empowered ministry that would eventually touch the world with the message of the Cross.
After giving His disciples their new assignment Jesus “was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19). Even though Jesus was gone from this earth, the disciples continued in ministry just as they had done while Jesus was physically with them: “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20).
The principle of reassignment is one of the most important phases of mentoring for ministry. The reward for effectiveness in ministry is reassignment to areas of greater responsibility. Jesus said, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10).
This truth demonstrates the need for faithfulness and for tenacity of faith during the early stages of ministry when neither the task nor the location of the assignment gives cause for celebration. Zechariah wrote, “For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice” (Zechariah 4:10, italics added). We need to remind ourselves that every large ministry was once a small ministry; every great ministry had a humble beginning.
Today I am grateful for the mentoring I received from my father and brother. Apart from these impartations of grace into my life and ministry, I would be woefully unprepared and unqualified to fulfill my present ministry responsibilities. Mentoring made it happen.
Although I preach to thousands of people each week in the worship services of Calvary Church, I vividly remember the small congregation at my first pastorate in a small Texas town. Even though my pastoral ministry began in relative obscurity in a remote region of the country, God ultimately permitted me to transition into a large metropolitan area with unlimited potential for Kingdom growth. I believe that my present role in Christian service is the result of faithfully following the mentoring principles invested in my life by others.
Inasmuch as the disciples were reassigned to a broader area of responsibility, the Master may also desire to reassign today’s servants to new fields of ministry that possess greater opportunities for growth and development. The late foreign missionary, Charles Greenaway, told me: “Always be flexible in your ministry. God may order you to do a 90-degree turn at any time during the journey.”
Jesus, the personnel director of the Church, possesses the authority to place His servants in positions of service where their ministry skills will be most fruitful. We never know when our day of reassignment will come. Jesus knows. He will promote His servants when He is ready, and when they are prepared to be promoted.
It is good to remind ourselves that we grow into positions of leadership and responsibility. Years ago, while touring a beautiful new church facility, a young minister in the group said, “I’d sure love to fall into a pastorate like this some day.”
A more seasoned and wiser minister in the group replied, “Young man, you don’t fall into a ministry like this; you grow into it.”
Spiritual maturity and spiritual growth do not occur by accident. Spiritual growth is intentional. The one who achieves in Christian ministry is one who, while recognizing his destiny, is willing to go through the process of discipleship through mentoring.
Mentoring enables each minister to excel to his greatest potential. Mentoring is mandatory for those who are determined to serve our Master with excellence.
Several young staff members who have been mentored at Calvary Church have gone from here to into various fields of service and have excelled. My steadfast prayer and fervent desire is that I will be able to mentor at least 10 people whose ministries will surpass mine in every way.
I believe God will answer my prayer. In fact, several young ministers are now nearing or have already reached that level of ministry achievement.
I Watched Them Tearing a Building Down
I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a mighty heave and a lusty yell,
They swung a beam and a sidewall fell.
I asked the foreman, “Are these men as skilled
As the men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He gave a laugh and said, “No indeed!
A common laborer is all I need.
And I can wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken years to do.”
I thought to myself as I went my way,
Which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder, who works with care,
Building others by rule and square?
Or am I a wrecker, who walks the town,
Content with the labor of tearing down?
Mentoring will produce great leaders who will effectively build and fulfill their destiny in the Master’s service.
J. Don George, D.D., is senior pastor of Calvary Church, Irving, Texas, and an executive presbyter with the General Council of the Assemblies of God.
2. Scripture quotations are from the King James Version.