Five Tips for Creating a Mentor Program
The key to cultivating exceptional leaders
Things change continually in ministry, for better and worse. One area that seems to have improved drastically over the past 15 years or so, though, is the emphasis placed on mentoring and its role in creating fully engaged employees.
Being good stewards of resources goes far beyond just dollars and cents. Mentoring allows us to be good stewards of one of the greatest resources we have in ministry—people.
Mentoring is the practice of connecting an individual with someone who has “been there and done that.” It can play a key role in the development of a staff member into an exceptional employee or leader. Many people spend more of their waking hours at work than anywhere else, and this can be especially true in ministry. If people only learn how to technically perform their job, they are missing out on a much more balanced, well-rounded approach to their role.
Here are five tips for a successful mentoring program:
1. If it’s just going to be a program, don’t even start it. Doing this right requires commitment and a true concern for staff. Any other motivation will quickly become apparent and may sabotage your efforts.
2. Make sure it’s a good fit for the employee. Arbitrarily assigning someone a mentor may hinder open dialogue. Instead, identify potential mentors and allow individuals to select who they would like to be paired with. Mentors need to be individuals who not only have experience, but are also committed to the organization. Mentors will impact the people they mentor and should care about them personally while also helping them understand their role and potential growth in the ministry.
3. Mentoring relationships should always be same-gender. Not everyone would agree with this position, but it is a distinguishing characteristic between coaching and mentoring. Coaching is focused on the job and its tasks and could result in a male/female pairing, since the focus is solely on workplace issues. Mentoring, however, is more role- and life-related. It would be inappropriate for a female employee to share with a male mentor that she is having difficulty managing the responsibilities of work and home life, and that this is causing a strain on her marriage. For a mentoring relationship to be fully effective, life issues need to be discussed. Mentors are entrusted with trying to help employees grow and develop personally and professionally, and you need to make sure no one is put into a position that could cause them to stumble and damage any of the relationships they are trying to nurture.
4. Make sure both individuals are committed to the process. Mentoring requires a time commitment, and each person needs to be willing to invest in it. If mentors don’t make time to meet consistently, it will be apparent to the individual being mentored that this is not a priority. Likewise, if the mentor doesn’t feel that the individual cares about the process, it can seem like a waste of time. If both parties are committed to the process, the likelihood of success is high. This commitment should be reevaluated annually and any necessary changes, such as new mentor, made at that time.
5. Not everyone is a mentor. Keep in mind that not all individuals—including those in leadership—are designed to be mentors. If mentoring seems like a chore to someone, they probably shouldn’t be involved, and that needs to be acceptable. We don’t all preach. We don’t all handle finance decisions. We don’t all work with youth. We won’t all make good mentors.
The actual specifics of a mentoring program can, and should, vary. Some people find it helpful to have a specific agenda, and may choose to work through a book or study. Others may prefer to just have time set aside to reflect and engage in a genuine conversation. Mentors need the flexibility to determine what is best in their particular circumstances.
Finally, those in leadership positions often find it difficult to identify a mentor. This is especially true for women in ministry leadership, who may be blazing a trail with no one really ahead of them in their organization. If you find yourself in this position, you can identify someone in another organization or through your church who has experience and characteristics you can learn from. Most people will be honored to help someone in this way.
As we serve alongside each other, we can use the gifts and experiences God has given us to help some and accept encouragement from others. How could mentoring work as a way for your ministry team to be more engaged in developing new leaders?
Vonna Laue is a CPA and partner with Capin Crouse, a national accounting firm for churches and nonprofit organizations. She has put her considerable skills and gifts to work in building the Kingdom both professionally and in her church. Vonna is an editorial advisor for Church Law and Tax Report and Church Finance Today, both sister publications of GiftedforLeadership.com, and she is the co-author of Essential Guide to Church Finances (Christianity Today International).