Unwilling To Retain Power: When Mentoring Works

IMG_1808It is the ongoing responsibility of every aging generation to raise up those that are younger. It is also the ongoing incapacity of leaders to use their functional power to serve the high value of mentoring and releasing younger and less experienced leaders entrusted to their care. When we as leaders can release power from a stable identity, mentoring works.

Spoken In Secret, Proclaimed Into Younger Hearts.
Releasing and affirming younger generations is an idea gaining fresh momentum today. This is not an idea generated by the music or film industry’s fascinating with youth, from parenting or even the Church’s need to pass on the faith to succeeding generations.

Rather, it is God’s spoken intention that that those things spoken to us in the secret – the secret place of experience, struggle and character transformation – are to be shouted from the rooftops for both hearing and response. It is in the shouting (or whispering), the hearing, and then the interplay of proclamation and dedication to see those truths incarnated in the hearts of younger leaders that true mentoring can begin to occur.

An Object Lesson – Grand Rapids Vineyard North.
This past weekend I spent time with a wide range of creative leaders of faith, many being in the age span from the teens to the twenty-somethings. I was deeply aware that someone in their lives held dearly the value of passing on wisdom, faith, passion and even resources (a challenge for every generation). Before my eyes, young leaders I had the privilege of investing in over 12 years ago in other incarnations of the training I do now, were showing themselves to be strong and courageous leaders of the generations following them.

On a daily basis, someone was championing them behind the scenes, investing in them, affirming them even through their messy maturation process. Someone was unwilling to hold tightly to the reigns of their own leadership and maintain their own platform, position and function. Someone invested time in them, hope in them, prayers in them, money in them – someone was thinking ahead.

Good friends Ray and Carol Befus, I know, are behind most of this energetic formation of young leaders. I am sure, from watching the motions of friendship and relational communication during the event we just shared at their conference, that others have taken it upon themselves to see other generations succeed within their community. The life to life exchange going on was tangible, and they and their city are richer for it.

I worked with a worship team made up of such young, passionate leaders, and felt their internal courage that they had a part to play in the healing of the world exuding from them. I was inspired by the fire in the eyes of so many young leaders, creatively using the gifts God has invested in them – because someone said they could.

Another gift follows this kind of “power divestment.” When we proclaim our weakness and strength in a mature process of life to life exchange with those who have yet to experience aspects of life familiar to us, we renew ourselves and energize the succeeding generations at the same time.

The strength in us falls like seed in another life, and the privilege of watching a young man or woman grow far outweighs the privilege of maintaining our own platform or visibility. In other words, it is simply more satisfying to live this way as a leader. After 20 years of intentional mentoring, I believe this to be true.

Unwilling To Retain Power.
It is this unwillingness to retain positional power that empowers functional leadership, and enables it to emerge in settings like a local church. Jesus’ capacity to empty himself of power, and then to influence by love and empathic visionary leadership created a fertile soil in which the disciples could grow.

When we disperse our influence into others by a life to life exchange, then create spaces for them in which they can both succeed and fail in leadership with care and covering (sometimes stepping aside from those places ourselves), we are fertilizing the soil for the new growth of another season, one that will yield empathic and visionary leaders for generations to come.

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