I met with my mentor yesterday. Bryce Jessup, President Emeritus of William Jessup University, has kindly been my mentor for many years. There are three other men who mentor me as well, my Dad, Roger Gibson, senior pastor during my first full time church ministry, and Dean Pense, who walked with me through growing a church planting organization. At earlier periods of my life I had professors who were my mentors and my first boss—all gone to be with the Lord now.
I am convinced that most leaders do not find mentors and so lose out on many blessings in life. We are made for community and some of the most precious community we can find is in our mentors.
Assuming you have a mentor presently, it will not be your last. Let me make a few observations on finding a mentor.
- Mentors are not forever. Some will go to be with the Lord before we are ready. Others will move out of relationship either by choice, by neglect, or sometimes by changing situations. So, it is wise to always be looking for your next mentor. (Like Jell-O©, there’s always room for more.)
- Mentors will believe in you more than you believe in yourself. One of my mentors emerged at the lowest point in my life and gently encouraged me back to health. Another emerged at a time when I was facing the biggest opportunities and encouraged me to move to the next level. My Dad called me every Sunday night for the past 40 years. There were weeks when I lived for the Sunday night phone call.
- Mentors will let you make your own mistakes. My predecessor disagreed with some of my leadership decisions but has stayed connected to me and when I needed counsel, was always ready to share. How much poorer my life would have been had I chosen to walk away just because he disagreed with me.
- Mentors won’t let the big things slide. At a time when I was starting to sell out to success, two of my mentors called a meeting with me and warned me that my integrity was in question. I didn’t like it, but it was true and someone needed to say it.
- Mentors will help you think through multiple options. I have just begun a new ministry. At the outset I had 9 options. During a 2 hour lunch with all four of my mentors, they helped me quickly eliminate 5 that just didn’t fit.
So, find a mentor if you value your life and ministry. Find someone who will love you, tell you the truth, and believe in you. And, stick with them for as long as they will walk beside you.