There are several things I would have done differently in my life – had I known then what I know now. Life is a valuable teacher. When we go to churches which are having a hard time, we ask this question in several different ways. What went wrong along the way? What were you unprepared for? In your early years pastoring what do you wish you had learned? What was missing from your schooling? What do you need to learn now? What happened before you came to this church that contributed to its declining health? What has happened since you got here? Are you where you want to be? All of them lead to finding missing links, things to learn, things to correct, mistakes to learn from.
One of the things we hear most from pastors is that they were not properly equipped for the ministry in the first place. As you know pastors often hold their degrees and credentials in high regard but when push comes to shove more often than not they don’t feel that enough mentoring and on the job training takes place. Many a response involves wishing that the pastors they worked for took them under their wing more, mentored and taught them the things school does not teach.
I am not a well learned person, oh I did well enough in school achieving high honors but my life did not involve a lot of higher education and I don’t doubt now that God chose it to be that way. But let me tell you – I have no idea where I would be without the mentors I had in my life.
I had a Big Sister (from the group Big and Little Sisters) from the time I was 9 until I was too old to have one and then some – we have kept in touch over the years. This woman taught me to overcome tragedy, to stand against bullies and to triumph over fears. She walked with me through my teen years hand in hand, guiding me with her own experiences. I know without a shadow of doubt that without her investment in my life, her mentoring and guidance I would have strayed far if I even survived. God directly used this person to help me find a life worth living.
The first year after our marriage I met the next greatest human mentor of my life. She lived in the apartment below us, had beautiful silver hair, her eyes shone brightly and her face was framed with wrinkles. I lived there for only one year and enjoyed Audrey’s friendship for only 2 more years before she passed into glory. I spent countless hours sitting on her sofa listening to stories of how she raised her kids, loved her husband and served the Lord. She shared her life lessons straight from her heart, often with laughter, often with tears. I learned sitting at her side who I wanted to become and the strategies I needed to move in the right direction.
The amazing thing about mentoring is how it not only blessed those you mentor and invest in but it truly blesses the giver as well. I knew how much I loved Audrey and I knew that God had placed her in my life for many reasons but I could never imagine why she always opened the door and let me in, why she wrote me lovely, wise letters when I moved away, why she spent so much time giving to me. When Audrey passed away she gave me one last life lesson. “…remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35
The day of Audrey’s funeral her family came to me and said that they were so thankful that I was in their mother’s life. They went on to tell me how Audrey came to life when she spoke of our visits and told her children how much her stories meant to me. She told them how much I was growing and how eager to learn and love God I was. It meant so much to her and so much to them that they asked me to go through her apartment before any of them and choose ANY 3 items I wanted to have to remember her by. It is one of the single most precious gifts I have ever been given. In that moment Audrey taught me to give without holding back, to love at all costs and to never miss either a learning or a teaching moment in my life.
People were in my life teaching me compassion, demonstrating grace, sharing nuggets of wisdom about parenting and being a wife, showing me how to connect with others, care and listen. If it weren’t for the encouragers who took time out to spend with me, sharing the things they had learned years before, imparting their wisdom, I would not just be lacking formal education but I would be lacking wisdom.
Knowledge comes from the books, it is taught by the teachers, wisdom comes three ways;
- Through your own personal experience and the desire to learn from it.
- Through watching or listening to others experiences and absorbing the lessons to be taught by them.
- Through the Holy Spirit. God-given wisdom that can’t be explained any other way.
When you take the time to mentor others you are deeply investing in the Kingdom of God. When you teach a young pastor how to connect with congregants, when you walk them through conflict with integrity, when you instill in them a passion to serve Christ first and the church second, you are giving a precious gift. These are the investments that count. They cause lasting change. Their ripple effects will go on forever as the ones you mentor become mentors.
This was the way of Jesus, if we study how he taught the disciples we will see – He took them with Him, He gave them His time and attention, He answered their questions, loved them and led them through crisis.
What are the things you’ve learned, what would you do differently, what can you teach a young pastor, a new convert, a younger man or woman, a teenager – what do you have to offer and share that no book can teach? Will you determine to actively mentor at least one person at all times?
Please share with me some of your mentoring stories or life lessons here. I want to hear your comments.
- What You Do MATTERS (bluechippastor.org)
- Growing At Church: 8 Ways to Lean On Your Leaders (artofthechristianninja.wordpress.com)
- Who are you mentoring? (waytolead.wordpress.com)
- Pastors Need to Learn How to Accomplish More By Doing Less (joebuchanan.wordpress.com)
- Honor: The Serving Secret That Will Sentence You To Success! (gregmauro.com)
- What Christian Leaders Say About “The Blessing of Serving Another Man’s Ministry” (gregmauro.com)