I believe the most difficult part of this process is Trust. There simply comes a time when you must turn responsibility over to the other person & surrender control. This can be tough, especially if the project is one you started from scratch. When we birth a project & develop it, we have specific ideas how it should be done. We have to accept the fact, for our idea, our project to continue after we tue it over to someone else, it needs to evolve. Nothing survives in a stagnant environment & this is especially true of ideas. They need to develop & grow over time, having a fresh approach added to the mix in order for them to continue & survive.
Let’s look at the example Jesus set for us. No matter what you believe happened to Jesus after He died, we can all agree, He eventually had to turn things over to His followers & leave. We have a record of the events that followed & not just from the Bible. The apostles took the things they were taught by Jesus & built on them. They organized the church. They created other roles in ministry. They began training new leaders. They wrote down an account of the things they had seen & the things they were doing. They defined the role & responsibilities of the church & the people in the church. The list goes on & on.
The apostles took the lessons Jesus taught them, they took His message, they took the things they learned while studying under Jesus & they expanded on them. Things were changing around them & they adapted & developed with the changes without sacrificing the message or lessons Jesus had taught them. And Jesus had to trust them to continue in His absence. He had to surrender the work to those that followed. And over 2000 years later, the work Jesus began continues, different than it was back then but still the same at its heart.
Mentoring can be a rewarding experience for both the mentor & student. It makes the transition of power on a project or organization smoother & increases the chances of things continuing into the future. Never let your fear of change prevent you from turning the reins over to the next generation of leaders. Insure continuation & growth by choosing & mentoring your replacement. Then relax knowing you have placed things in qualified hands.
Your mentoree has watched you in action. You have explained to them how you do things & answered their questions about your techniques. You have given them the opportunity to try to do it themselves & had them tell you about the experience. Now it is time to train them to do it better.
I would like to differentiate between teach & train for the purposes of this material. When I talk about teach someone, I’m referring to more of a lecture type situation. You explain a subject in detail & take questions from the students. At this point, they may have no practical experience on the subject. Training comes after the student or mentoree has had the opportunity to apply the lessons they have learned through your teaching. Now they have practical experience however, they need their abilities refined. They are more apprentices than masters in the field. To give a broad example, medical school teaches students about medicine. They have the opportunity, through internships, to test what they have learned. Eventually, they move on to a residency where they receive more detailed training to refine their skills & abilities.
When the disciples would return from the mission trips Jesus sent them on, Jesus would take time to debrief them. He listened as they told Him what worked & what didn’t. They told Him about any problems they had. This debriefing is more for the mentor than the student. It gives the mentor the opportunity to discover areas that need more focus or topics that are confusing. It also helps the mentor understand things that simply don’t work anymore. If the mentor has been doing a task for years, there may be a newer or at least easier way to do it nowadays. You always need to listen carefully to your student. Your task as a mentor is to turn a job, position, etc. over to them. Unless you want to keep on doing it until you are gone, you need to help them discover the way that works best for them. That means combining your way & their way.
Training allows you to break bad habits before they begin, strengthen good habits & help your student discover the best way to do it for themselves.
One more step in the process & you’re ready to begin!
The second biggest mistake mentors make, after not mentoring new leaders at all, is failing to test them. We tend to be too quick turning things over to the newbie before we are certain the are prepared. Offering them a short period of time to shadow you & then giving them only a bit of teaching before handing over the reins is worse than no mentoring at all.
When we drop everything into the newbie’s lap too soon, they may become frustrated when things fail to go well. Even worse, they may become embarrassed, believe THEY are to blame for their lack of success when the mentor is the one responsible.
Rather than quickly giving them the responsibility of their new assignment, take time to make certain they are ready. And the best way to do this is to test them. No, not a written exam! Instead, give them responsibility for an assignment while you are still there to offer guidance & advice.
Early in their training, Jesus sent the disciples out into neighboring towns to do ministry. He sent them out in pairs so they could support & encourage one another & to hold each other accountable. When they returned, Jesus talked to the disciples about their experience. What worked? What didn’t? Where did they have problems?
These mission journeys gave the disciples to practical experience, like an internship. They were able to fail on a small scale while Jesus was still available to offer them guidance & advice.
Nothing discourages a new leader faster than failure. It takes less time & effort to retrain them to overcome their mistakes & weaknesses than it does to start all over with a new person when your current new leader quits in frustration.
Take the time to do the job right!
The disciples first had the opportunity to watch Jesus talk to large crowds & smaller groups, seeing Him share His message. These moments gave the disciples the chance to see Jesus model the behavior He wanted them to imitate & to hear the lessons He was sharing as He spoke to the public. This, however, was not enough. Jesus needed to be sure the disciples understood the lessons so they would be able to teach them later.
For this reason, Jesus always sat down with the disciples after these events & asked them if they understood the lesson He had taught. He would go over His message in detail, answering their questions until He was sure they not only understood but would also be able to share the message later.
It’s important for the new leaders you mentor to watch you perform the work they will need to continue when you turn it over to them. It is also very important that they understand the work they are supposed to do. For example, they may think an aspect of the work is minor without realizing how vital that small step is to the whole process.
A woman once spoke to me after I finished teaching a Bible study to a large group of women. She lamented her inability to do what I did, minimizing the gift of hospitality she had been given. Every week, she & her sister stood at the door, greeting every woman that came in & giving them a hug to make them feel welcome & at home. They performed this same task every year during our huge women’s conference. I told her I would probably be speaking to an empty room if not for the warm welcome she & her sister offered women every week.
If a new women’s ministry director had taken over without know the importance of this seemingly small task, she might overlook inviting the sisters to greet during Bible study & the conference. This task might seem small but it set the tone for every event the women hosted during my time working with the ministry.
New leaders must not only see the process in action, they must have it explained to them so nothing, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is overlooked!