Change is necessary but not often easy. It is no wonder that stretching ourselves is often compared to growing pains. It hurts! But, if we’re not changing or adapting, we’re not growing. When it comes to the organizations we work and live for, growing pains are better than shrinking pains.
You may be the head of your organization, responsible for leading and developing other clergy and staff members. Or perhaps you find yourself with one protégé with whom you have influence. No matter the situation, we simply must refine critical skills in order to develop ourselves and others.
We should always be trying to make our best even better, so careful development with good training, coaching and mentoring is necessary.
Fortunately for us, Jesus modeled five clear ways to develop the people he led.
Communications training is foundational for development. United Methodists have a strong tradition of teaching and modeling servant leadership. When we intend to influence others, our day-to-day lives serve as never-ending classrooms.
Jesus the Trainer: Jesus was a rabbi who offered plenty of instruction to his followers in outdoor classrooms all over Galilee. The Sermon on the Mount is probably the most famous. Whether speaking to thousands of hungry followers or sharing a quiet setting with Mary and Martha, his instruction was counterintuitive and paradoxical, so he spent time reiterating anything that confused his followers.
Experience is where theory becomes practice. It is about doing stuff, taking what we know and applying it to real world situations. Classrooms can only take us so far. Allow people a chance to problem solve for themselves. By letting folks take on jobs without direct supervision, we set them up to discover what they can do.
Jesus the Experience Builder: Jesus provided his followers with opportunities to grow as he sent them off to work without direct oversight. In Luke 10, he sends 72 disciples out ahead of him to represent him and his teachings. The 72 were given initial instructions but then had to figure out the rest for themselves, even as “lambs among wolves.”
Coaching is directing an individual or group with the goal of developing specific skills. Willing learners respond to teachable moments. It’s not about shaming or blaming but rather growing through success, failure and setbacks.
Jesus the Coach: With followers (like us) who didn’t always get it, Jesus had plenty of teaching opportunities. He won friends and influenced people the right way, even during those literal come-to-Jesus moments. Coming off a mountain following the transfiguration, he encountered a man with a demon-possessed son. The disciples had been unable to heal the young man. Jesus addressed the fundamental issue, healed the son and then took time to explain to his followers why they had failed. But he did so in love.
Mentoring is where training, experience and coaching all come together to develop potential. So what’s the difference between coaching and mentoring? Here are three:
- Coaching is task-oriented. Mentoring is relationship-oriented.
- Coaching is generally short-term while mentoring is long-term.
- Coaching is performance driven. Mentoring is development driven.
People aren’t always eager to stretch into skills unfamiliar to them. A caring mentor helps his/her protégé consider and approach new and challenging situations.
Jesus the Mentor: The best example of Jesus as mentor is in all the interactions with his 12 disciples. Out of a sea of followers, he recruited a select group of disciples to be his inner core. He developed long-term relationships with them through multiple experiences. Ultimately, he placed his legacy and the future of his church in their hands.
Advocacy is about offering public support with some clout to back it up. Advocates offer their voices to individuals who benefit from the endorsement. Who can you vouch for or sponsor? Think about people who have done that for you.
Jesus the Advocate: Before ascending to heaven, Jesus said his followers would receive power and his Spirit as a guide in order to be his witnesses to all places over all time. We continue that legacy today, developing ourselves and then others in his name. When we live in love, we have someone bigger than us acting as our advocate.
Check in with your people often. Help them define SMART goals to elevate their ministry. Sure, maybe someone just wants to help in a simple capacity that allows them to use their skills. What might they look to as a fun step beyond that? How might they improve one aspect of your organization if they had a say?
The most important thing here is to give your colleagues, staff and volunteers a voice. Combine that kind of empowerment with genuine interest in them as people and they will find fulfillment as you develop principled spiritual leaders.
As you change and grow, remember to have a balanced program for self-renewal as all effective leaders must. As Jesus did.