Mentoring New Leaders Like Jesus
I can’t stress enough how important it is to set expectations for leaders. Say I’m a small group leader, and I'm hearing over and over that I need to have an apprentice who I’m investing in. The expectation is that I need to reproduce my group. Say I identified Tony as my apprentice because he’s demonstrated the three characteristics I’m looking for—teachability, spiritual velocity, relational intelligence.
Every leader should have a set of expectations. That’s how it works in the military and in the business world, but in ministry, it gets a little fuzzy. What I mean by leadership expectations is this: if I invite Tony into an apprenticeship, I need to be very specific with him about what that apprenticeship is going to look like. Tony needs to be given expectations about what his side of the bargain is. Here is what that might look like in a conversation:
Patrick: “Tony, I see in you teachability, spiritual velocity, and relational intelligence. Would you like to be my small group apprentice?”
Tony: “What does that mean?”
Patrick: “We’ll meet together for six months or so, once a week, and we’re also going to lead a small group together. Our small group starts in September and we end in December, so in December, we’ll talk about what the next leg of the journey looks like. How’s that for you, Tony?”
Make the Commitment to Invest
Just like Jesus did with his disciples, I’m going to spend time with Tony and invest in him. When you apprentice somebody, you need to be willing to spend time with them. This is not a transaction; this is a human being. Leadership expectations are like a contract that you both have in which you agree to a mutual commitment. At my church, we actually have a document that we give all new leaders, and we ask them to sign it. It’s not a formal membership or anything; just a commitment of "this is what it’s going to look like for us."
Leaders want to know what is expected of them. When expectations aren't set, they get really bored and confused trying to figure it out, and eventually they walk away.
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Action vs. Information
Apprenticeship can be like a form of discipleship, but for me, apprenticeship implies actually doing something. Discipleship is great, I’m not going to argue that. But for a lot of us in the American church, it’s become a lot about head knowledge. It’s not about doing. If I’m going to apprentice Tony, it automatically implies that he’s going to do what I’m apprenticing him to do. We’re after action, not just more information.
We get this reproducing principle right out of 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”
Looking at Paul’s example to Timothy, you notice there is some kind of generational planting going on with the seed of leadership, and it goes back to the Spans of Care schematic, starting with an apprentice.
Once I apprentice Tony, he’s going to lead a small group. The ultimate goal for Tony in season 1 of his leadership development is to start a new small group. Whether I leave the group and start a new group or he leaves the group and starts a new one, it doesn’t matter; we’ll figure out what that looks like.
It’s all about when he thinks he’s ready to reproduce and when I think he’s ready to reproduce. And because we spend a lot of time with each other, we’ll know.
Remember, investing in people through leadership development should always be highly relational. Mentoring like Jesus means setting expectations and walking alongside new leaders so they can achieve them.
Patrick O’Connell is passionate about helping people start new things for the Kingdom. A man who didn’t grow up in church, he dabbled in atheism and was a committed agnostic for many years. He eventually found his way back to God. O'Connell helped plant a network of churches in Kansas City, and it was there that he began coaching and training church planters. He wants to leverage his knowledge, experiences and understanding of church planting and Kingdom to help people find and follow Jesus. Today he does this as Director of NewThing. Patrick has served in the U.S. Army, graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and received a Master in Missional Church Movements from Wheaton College. He’s married to Nancy, and they have three kids. He likes to run, read, and hang out with friends and family.