I had the pleasure of enjoying fellowship with a small group of women this weekend. We talked about “Mentor for Life,” the church and culture, learning how to love, and the importance of training leaders. Several questions came back to this basic concern, “I want to follow Jesus, and those around me want to follow Jesus, we just don’t know what to do about making disciples. We don’t know how to encourage or equip others to follow Jesus.”
Their hearts’ passion and concern reminded me of a question I received when hosting a recent webinar:
My church has attempted to start a mentoring or discipleship ministry several times, and we have failed miserably. How can I convince them to consider the “Mentor for Life” ministry model?
Dear Concerned Jesus followers,
Launching, reestablishing or redirecting a mentoring or discipleship ministry is not a small undertaking. If your church has tried this in the past, my first recommendation is to complete or review your evaluation of the former ministry. Who was the ministry leader? What was that person’s observations? Reach out to several people who were involved in the ministry to get their feedback. What worked and what didn’t? At what time did you offer the ministry, and were the time slots compatible with the life styles of the congregants and community you are called to serve? Was the church leadership supportive of the ministry? How was this support shown or realized? Perhaps the most important question of consider is: How clear was the vision, purpose, and expectations of the ministry, and were the ministry leaders effectively trained to carry out the work?
When undergoing seminary studies, there is the repeated phase “context is king.” In other words, understanding the proper context of the biblical text leads us to a more accurate interpretation of the text. Likewise, effective leaders must understand the context or environment in which they have been called to serve. We must learn to adjust our leadership skills accordingly to effectively serve in different capacities. I do not disciple or communicate with my nine year daughter in the same way that I disciple a millennial, a young man, or elderly woman. I bring my whole self authentically to each mentoring relationship, while discerning where each mentee is on their spiritual journey and then began to encourage and equip them along the way. In the same manner, you must discern first discern the spiritual health of your congregation, assess what ministries and learning opportunities are currently being offered, and then determine what will work best for your ministry context.
Start small. I understand the temptation and excitement of having a vision, wanting to tell everybody immediately, and to jump right in with both feet. I have learned however, that wisdom requires that we temper our enthusiasm so we can be effective over a long period of time. One of my mentors once told me that she has learned to bridle her passion so it is useful. I keep that quote in front of my computer as I continue my daily work. Trees that are healthy and stable have roots that grow deep. We must learn to focus on the simple tasks of planting seeds, watering, tilling the soil, and pulling up weeds. Effective ministries require this kind of thoughtfulness, preparation, and care.
Pray first. Then select a small group of potential leaders to share your vision and ministry expectations. Provide those leaders with the necessary training. Once they understand the vision, mission, and expectations, and once they have been trained well, then release them to share their passions and “recruit” others to get involved in the ministry.
Some of us will plant. Others will water, and ultimately God will provide the increase. We must be willing to trust God to fulfill the good purposes of his ministry work, and the good plans he has for his own people. We don’t need to go out with a bang or make a big splash to have a great kingdom impact. What we devote to the Lord, and do consistently and faithfully will withstand the test of time.
Evaluate your heart and ministry context.
Pray and gather a small team.
Layout a clear vision and offer training to equip the team for success.
What are some effective ways you have ministered in a difficult church context or working climate?
If you need help with effectively training leaders, check out my mentoring coaching and leadership consulting packages.
Blessings, © Natasha Sistrunk Robinson