By Ken Willard

One of the best ways for a person to learn a new skill or behavior is to have a mentor to show them the way.

While mentoring has been a focus in the business world for years, we in the church world seem to be a little slow to embrace this concept.

Let’s start with a very basic definition. Mentoring is when a more experienced person shares what they know with a less experienced person. The expert is the mentor since they are further along and can share their learnings. The mentor guides the less experienced person through their challenges with encouragement, support, advice, and helpful suggestions. In most cases the mentor is either in the same role as the person being mentored, or has been in that role themselves at some time in the past.

Think about your own experiences. Have you ever had a mentor? Have you ever found yourself in a new situation where it would have been helpful to have someone more experienced guide you along?

Gone are the days of leaders “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.” Leaders today, especially younger generation leaders, are looking for and very open to mentoring.

Is your church looking to identify and grow more leaders? That may not be a fair question—so far, I’ve never come across a church who says, “No, we have plenty of leaders!”

Here is a wonderfully simple model for mentoring leaders in your church:

  1. I Do – You Watch – We Talk
  2. I Do – You Help – We Talk
  3. You Do – I Help – We Talk
  4. You Do – I Watch – We Talk
  5. You Do – Someone New Watches – We Talk

While this is a simple and very effective mentoring model, it does require a commitment of time and intentional planning. The payoff is a leader who is able to preform at a higher level and a culture of both mentoring and leadership development.

Let’s walk through an example which might help you see more details for each step. For illustration purposes, we are going to say you are the current Administrative Board chairperson and you will be mentoring your replacement.

Step One: I Do – You Watch – We Talk

You are about a year away from rotating off your position as Ad Board chair. You have identified a person on the team you feel will make a great replacement. They are open to the possibility. You ask them to start watching how you lead the meetings and begin sharing with them your process for creating the agenda. After each meeting you meet with them for a few minutes to talk. You mostly ask them questions like, “What did you notice during the meeting?” and “What questions do you have about how I put together the agenda?”

Step Two: I Do – You Help – We Talk

Once you feel they are ready, you ask them to start helping you with the meetings. You have them put together the agenda, or maybe have them lead a part of the meeting. You are still in charge and responsible, but they are doing more than just watching. After each meeting you continue to talk with them for a few minutes. Again, mostly asking questions.

Step Three: You Do – I Help – We Talk

As you get closer to the transition time, you find opportunities for them to run the whole meeting. You might help them with the agenda and maybe doing some parts of the meeting, but they are responsible. As always, after each meeting you meet to talk and ask them questions.

Step Four: You Do – I Watch – We Talk

Now they are totally responsible and have full ownership. Your role is just to observe. This phase might take place at the time where you turn over the position to them officially. The two of you talk afterwards, just like always. This time your questions move beyond just performance of tasks and into more about concepts and goals.

Step Five: You Do – Someone New Watches – We Talk

This is the phase where mentoring moves to the next generation. The person you mentored is now mentoring their replacement. They have seen you do the process, but now they are in a new seat. Your questions with them are about the mentoring process and not as focused on the role or person.

While this example used a very specific role in the church, the concepts can be translated into just about any leadership position or serving role in your church. (ushers, greeters, nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, etc.) Who do you have starting a new role in your church in the coming weeks? How might you mentor them to ensure their success?

No one likes being thrown into a new role without any training. Break the cycle, be a mentor!