Experiences are a part of the fabric which informs and defines our lives. We collect them and interact with them along our journey. Experiences are the platform for lessons to be learned, wisdom to be gained, and character to be developed. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 4:7, “wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom: and with all the getting get understanding.” It is through the lens of God’s character and His internal work in our lives that our experiences turn into resources for our own lives and the lives of others. It’s all a part of God’s economy!
As a seasoned leader in ministry, I think about the many experiences I have had and the lessons which have impacted my life. I am grateful for the skills I have developed. Now, I find myself in a season of investing in a younger generation of leaders. I find myself in two roles: one of a Steward and one of a Mentor. As a Steward, I accept what has been invested in me with a sense of great gratitude and responsibility. As a Mentor, I have an incredible opportunity to share what I have learned to encourage and develop younger leaders.
I remember as a young leader when I was first asked to share my Jesus story. I was mentored on how to do this. I remember being taught how to study the Bible, have a personal devotional life, and grow in my prayer life. I was given the opportunity to serve on a ministry team. More experienced leaders taught me how to lead a team and develop leaders. I remember being reminded of God’s goodness, His faithfulness, and trustworthiness. I remember, as well, learning from mistakes, failures, and regrets.
So, the question arises, “How do we leverage our experiences in such a way to encourage younger leaders?” If you are in a church community with a mentoring ethos in place, find out how you can become connected. Don’t be shy. Be a Steward of what God has invested in you.
If you are not in a mentoring culture, prayerfully consider how you can create a space to leverage your experiences. Believe me; younger leaders are waiting. Let me offer three suggestions: Host a Meal, Plan a Book Discussion, and Offer an Invitation.
Host a Meal
Invite some younger leaders over for a meal where you can talk. I have found that many times, younger leaders may not know how to open mentoring conversations or even know what questions to ask. Have a variety of preplanned leadership questions scattered around the table. The questions will open discussion and give you an opportunity to leverage your experiences; to share some of the lessons you have learned throughout your ministry leadership.
Plan a Book Discussion
Invite a few young leaders to join you in a book discussion. Select a book or ask for their suggestions. This could be in person or through a zoom-type engagement. Keep the commitment short. As the chapters are read, this gives the framework for discussion and opens opportunities for you to share from your life. The contents of the book create the space for meaningful mentoring.
Offer an Invitation
Younger leaders are always in need of encouragement. As God gives direction, approach young leaders and ask how you can be praying for their ministry assignments. This may open the door for future mentoring relationships. If any leaders are open, invite them to call you at any time they may need ministry help or encouragement. A simple initiated invitation goes a long way. Whether you open an ongoing relationship or the invitation is a one-time encounter, you are being faithful as a steward and mentor.
On a Personal Note: I am of the Baby Boomer tribe. I have years of ministry leadership experience. If you are of this tribe, so do you. Let’s not shrink back! Let’s invest in the upcoming generation of leaders. However, let me add that age is not a determining factor. If you have ministry leadership experience, consider yourself a steward, and mentor less experienced leaders.
One Final Note: Prayer is the foundational platform from which experiences are leveraged. It is God who directs the work of a faithful Steward and Mentor. He knows you; He has invested in you; He knows your capacity; He knows your season; He is with you where you are. So, mentor freely and steward well.
Pam Neighbour is a speaker, mentor, educator, and public advocate for women’s issues locally and globally. Pam serves on the CSBC Women’s Ministry Vision Team and is a certified coach. She is married to Ralph Neighbour, CSBC Church Matters Initiatives Team leader. She has 2 adult children and three (soon to be four) grandchildren. She and Ralph share over 40 years of ministry leadership experience and are passionate about “defying” retirement and helping mobilize people to navigate life beyond 50.
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