As a society we lend our ear to those who are dying, especially if they are close to us. We want to know and experience their final moments, final words of advice, wisdom, or assignment. In the Bible we have some words from a man, who doesn’t have long to live, to a young pastor. The man is the apostle Paul, and he writes two letters to a young pastor named Timothy. Those two letters cover various topics from personal life, church life, and how to deal with adversaries to the gospel. But what I found interesting and impacting is that Paul encourages Timothy to develop a leadership pipeline. In 2 Timothy Paul says to Timothy “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:1-2)
One of Paul’s dying exhortations to a young pastor was, pastor, develop a leadership pipeline. Among the many concerns the Holy Spirit addressed to Timothy, through Paul’s writing, one of them was for the pastor to select faithful men who are able to teach others and entrust them with everything I have taught you. Paul was issuing Timothy a pastoral charge to develop, mentor, and produce leaders who will in turn develop, mentor, and produce leaders. The question is “how.” How does a pastor do this when he finds faithful men?
As I thought about this, I could not help but think back to those who have pastored me. I have had some faithful pastors, from the time I was saved at 16 until now who, knowingly or unknowingly, developed and mentored me as a leader. But I can pick four men who have mentored me and who continue to mentor me to become a godly leader faithful to the gospel. I would like to encourage other pastors and give them ideas on how they can develop a leadership pipeline with those in their church.
Defining The Terms
When a pastor makes a decision to develop a leadership pipeline, he is making a decision to mentor. Robert Clinton defines mentoring as: a relational experience in which one person, the mentor, empowers another person, the mentoree, by a transfer of resources. Those four men who have mentored me entered into a relationship to empower me with new habits, skills, desires, knowledge, values, and connections to further resources of growth, and I could go on. Developing a leadership pipeline is mentoring potential church members into leaders in order that they can repeat the process with others. With a working definition of mentoring and developing a leadership pipeline, I want to highlight some areas I myself have been developed by these four men.
Have High View of Scripture
Pastor, when you are developing your leadership pipeline make sure one of the resources you are transferring to the leader is a high view of scripture. The Bible is the primary source from which all other resources will flow. When Paul was mentoring Timothy he left him a high view of Scripture, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). Do you want your leaders to be complete and equipped for every good work? Then teach them the Bible, teach them how to read the Bible, interpret the Bible, teach the Bible, and live the Bible. I recently had the opportunity to be around two of the men that mentor me, and I bumped into them early in the morning and you know what I found them doing? Reading the Bible. As a pastor/mentor you must not only teach them the Bible but exemplify a high view of Biblical faithfulness in your life.
Pastors, invest in your leaders. Invest time, talents, and treasures into your leaders. When you invest time being with your leaders, especially in leadership situations; you are showing your leaders how to become one. The person you are mentoring has a front row seat on how to lead by watching you lead. When you invite him around your family, he becomes aware of how a godly man leads his family. Invest the gifts and talents God gave you in your leaders to grow them. Finally, I cannot express enough how grateful I am to the four men who have invested resources, books, conferences and teaching seminars to help me grow as a leader. I am the man I am today because God used a youth pastor to reach out to me and disciple me, I still remember the first book he gave me, J.I. Packer’s The Apostle’s Creed—a resource I still use today.
The leaders you develop will make mistakes. They will frustrate you. I know of a pastor who has a head full of white hair and it may be because of me in my younger years. But he was patient and encouraging and continued to mentor me. He treated me like a son. I know if I needed anything I could send him an email or give him a call and he would be there for me. He is encouraging, always pushing me to pursue after God, His Word, and His mission. Pastor, nothing will speak louder than your encouragement to those you mentor, especially when they are facing a hard time 10 years down the road, they will have encouraging words to draw from.
Provide Opportunities to Grow
In order to train up leaders, eventually you have to give them the opportunity to lead. When you give them leadership assignments, you give them opportunities to grow. Those you mentor need opportunities to develop the talents and treasures God has given them and you are helping them to refine those talents and treasures when you provide opportunities to teach a Bible study, lead an event, preach a sermon, serve on a board, or lead a mission trip. Leaders will not fully develop unless they are given opportunities to lead. If no opportunities are given, they will remain in leadership adolescence.
There are times to sit down and have those hard conversations. Those hard conversations are critical and vital to leadership growth. Those you are developing will make a mistake, will need correction, and will say something or do something they wish they hadn’t. Can you imagine the Apostle Peter without correction? He probably would have died a depressed fisherman. But the Lord corrected him and reissued the call, “feed my sheep.” The Lord admonished Peter many times before his death and even after his resurrection. People grow out of struggle, fear, and mistakes and will grow more when there is someone there admonishing and directing them. When admonishing your leaders, admonish like Jesus—speak the truth in love. Jesus spoke volumes when He confronted Peter after the resurrection on the shore. “Peter, do you love me?” Can you imagine being asked that three times after you denied him three times? Yet Jesus didn’t leave the conversation there. He continued it with “feed my sheep.” When you admonish your leaders speak the truth, it will hurt. Then build them up and reissue the call.
Pastor, I pray this encourages you and gives you some ideas on how to develop a leadership pipeline. When you are mentoring and developing leaders intimately, you are mentoring like Jesus. The work isn’t always easy and immediately rewarding, but it is definitely worth it. Be reminded of a man’s dying wish “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).