Last week I was in Elizabethtown, Kentucky speaking at Severns Valley Baptist Church. One of my life-long (since attending Campbellsville College anyway) friends and mentors lives about thirty minutes from E’Town. We never sat down and discussed his being my mentor nor do I believe he purchased a book telling him how to be one. There was no proclamation of roles or declaration of expectations. I simply saw a man I respected who was in my life path. I chose to watch him do life, ask him how to do life when necessary, and allow him to be one of the people I call on when life becomes confusing or I’m considering some big decision. As I climbed into my red Mitsubishi Lancer and headed down 65 South toward Nashville, I began to mull over what he has done for me throughout the span of this organic mentoring friendship. I soon realized that the ways he has influenced me is what every great small group leader should be doing for any small group member willing to allow it. Check it out…
- Model consistency. He is always the man he has always been, no matter who he’s with or where he is.
- Model calling. After exiting full-time ministry he took on some major positions for the Commonwealth of Kentucky and in retirement is on three major committees for the state of Kentucky. He was the bi-vocational pastor of a church for 15 years while working full-time for the Commonwealth of Kentucky and in retirement (while serving on these committees) continues to preach and teach and help out other ministers like myself who need words of wisdom and guidance.
- Tell the truth. No matter how much it stings he wisely gives me the straight up concerning decisions made or things I’m considering and, in most instances, does so by guiding me through questions asked. I think I’ve figured him out… he wants me to discover the truth without his declaring it to me himself. Now that’s wisdom!
- Verbalize affirmation. When he notices I’ve done something right he tells me and is wise enough to only affirm when it’s warranted. Verbalizing words of affirmation when those words are insincere or unwarranted diminishes words of affirmation when they are deserved.
- Imprint clichés that will last a lifetime. He once said to me, “Plan your work and work your plan.” I’ve been doing it ever since and will live by this principle for the rest of my life.
- Sacrifice financially to help out. He and his wife anonymously paid the down-payment for our first apartment. My wife and I eloped when we were college freshman with $50.00 in our pocket and a borrowed car. I found out they had paid for this 20 years later.
- Keep them grounded. When my ego flies too high he takes me out to his farm, drives me around in his truck, let’s me see God’s handiwork and I remember how small I really am compared to the God of creation. Oh, yeah… If he needed to he’d give me a paternal, subtle, verbal butt-kickin’.
- Let your life teach the Bible. He is one of the most authentically biblical people I know. He knows the Bible and chooses to live it and prove its truth through his actions and sacrifices.
- Be a friend. Many years ago our relationship transitioned from college student and college pastor to being peers. Having a friend who happens to be a mentor means I no longer see him as above me or walking before me rather walking beside me where I not only hear his declarations about life but I can learn from him as he does life.
Paul told the young pastor, Timothy… “… the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Tim. 2:2) Four generations of discipleship/mentorship is noted in this one sentence. Small group leaders should pass on to their small group members, and especially the apprentice of the group, what God has taught them through those who have gone before them.
Thanks, Dan the Man Flanagan! I’m doing my best to pass on to the next generation what you’ve passed on to me and I’m sure hundreds of others who have wandered into your life path through the years are doing the same!