Mentoring young leaders is top priority. If the crush of life squeezes that out, then we’d better reevaluate what’s truly important. Dare I say it? Jesus placed mentoring young leaders as his top ministry priority. So should we.
I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside many young people as they follow Jesus. It’s one of the most influential things I’ve done.
Most recently, I’ve walked alongside one young follower of Jesus, from her pre-teen years through to college. Her name is Maddie.
How did the mentoring start? Not as mentoring, I assure you; it emerged from normal life. Our families are friends, and I connected with this little girl, just like I’d do with anyone. In 2011, I had the privilege of baptizing her into Christ. As she became an early teen, we chatted about books we loved and shared favourites.
As a violinist, Maddie has faithfully served our church, first as a budding, and now accomplished, musician. Our friendship grew, and in conversations with her, I saw a growing interest in science and faith, as she considered science for future study. Knowing how critical the integration of science and faith is for students, I asked if she wanted to meet for a coffee once a month to discuss some reading. Yes, she did. And so, mentoring began more formally.
After some time in the early chapters of Genesis, we dove into Ephesians. Why Ephesians, you ask? My vision for her was larger than just science and faith. To grow, she needed to know how to read and receive God’s living word into her life. She was eager for that, too.
We then read and discussed a couple books on the topic of science and faith. Our conversations ranged from science and faith and into life, relationships, future plans, work struggles, God’s work in her life, her ministry in the church, and her family.
Seeing her deep engagement in Scripture and her passion for Jesus, I asked Maddie to preach during our summer 2015 Proverbs series. Initially taken aback (she was 16 at the time), I saw the passion flicker in her eyes. She leaped at the opportunity. Along with my close coaching, she chose her Proverbs theme, researched, prayed, studied, wrote, and then practiced her message delivery, many times. And then she preached it! It was a powerful experience of growth and development for her, for me, and for congregation. (You can listen to her message here.)
That preaching experience confirmed something that God had been growing in her–a desire to give herself fully to God’s kingdom work, using her spiritual gifts to help people grow in their relationship with Jesus. Where will that lead her? God only knows, but his path is beginning to unfold as Maddie leaves college science to pursue theological studies this fall. Wherever Jesus leads her, being invited into a mentoring relationship, being coached, encouraged, trusted, and affirmed by her community–all of that has shaped Maddie’s understanding of God, of herself, and of God’s passionate call on her life. I’m thrilled with her and thankful for God’s work in her.
Can you see why it’s such a privilege to walk with young leaders?
As I reflected on our mentoring experience, some principles emerged. While happening naturally and intuitively, there are 10 actions I took when mentoring Maddie. I hope these encourage you as you walk alongside young leaders, too.
10 Actions You Can Take To Mentor Young Leaders
- You look for promise. Ask the Spirit to give you eyes to see the potential that lies in the person.
- You commit to guide, gently. I wouldn’t rush this. Don’t be overbearing. Let it develop slowly. Be present. Be encouraging. Build trust.
- You look for response. At certain points, response is needed. They must take initiative. This is important. Maddie said yes to reading and meeting for coffee.
- You provide opportunities for leadership, service and growth. If there’s no interest in serving or growing, they aren’t ready. That’s okay. Stay present. And keep watching.
- You speak life into them. Tell them what you see. Encourage them, notice what is happening, fan the flames of their gifts. Cheer them on.
- You step out and call them deeply, onto risky paths. And then, because of trust, moments will arise when you can challenge them. I invited Maddie to preach; later, I raised the question of God’s call on her life. For each young leader this will be unique. But the challenge should be something that, though stretching for them, is within the realm of their developing gifts.
- You pray for them. Yep, lots. And their family, too.
- You help them grapple with possible paths. The future can look daunting, but having a guide to define and describe what a few possibilities might look like helps. A few months ago Maddie asked me to help her envision a couple future possibilities. It was exciting and I think she found that guidance helpful.
- You let the Holy Spirit lead. This is so crucial. We are not the ones leading a young leader’s life–the Spirit is. Our role is encouragement, support, cheer and challenge, helping them learn to follow the Spirit’s lead.
- You stay connected. Young leaders usually move on. But we still play an important role in their lives. Over the last year, Maddie and I haven’t met regularly as she’s been away at community college. But we stay connected through social media, as well as on weekends at church, and I keep encouraging her (and she keeps encouraging me!) as we follow Jesus.
Mentoring young leaders is top priority. So many things demand our time and our energy but none so important as this. Young leaders are worth making sacrifices for, so they become all that God has created and called them to be. Are you in?
How can we make sure young leaders are being mentored as they grow up?
What would you add to this list of 10 actions?