New Year’s Resolutions

The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for examining the past and resolving to make improvements in the coming year. Being involved in the ministry full time, I find that my evaluation of the previous year always finds me lacking. There is always more that I could have done, opportunities that I did not take, people to whom I did not serve. My assignment on staff at King’s Grant has three main areas: small groups, assimilation and leadership development. With the worthiest of intentions, I resolve to do this better in 2010:

I will be more of an equipper and less of a doer. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that the purpose of leaders in the church is to equip the people to do the ministry of the church–not for the leaders to be the ministers themselves. So I will seek to spend more time consciously empowering others in ministry. My first chance in 2010 is a meeting on January 3 with my Sunday School Director, Adult Department Director and Outreach Director to go over a proposed strategy for outreach, guest assimilation and member involvement in the church.

I will stop treating Christian service as optional. Jesus called his followers to complete life change, which is total spiritual transformation. In fact, he went out of his way to make sure people understood how much he demanded of them before they became his followers. Jesus made it clear that he expected people to be actively serving him. I like what Paul wrote in Romans 12:1, 2 and Ephesians 2:10. We are created to be different and to do good works. My Bible study beginning on Wednesday January 6 is on the sermon on the mount, which is probably the best “Jesus Manifesto” on what the Master wanted His followers to be and to do. For Christ-followers and church members, giving time to serve in ministry is not optional.

I will be an encourager. In a world full of negative attitudes and criticism, I will demonstrate Christ’s love by celebrating the accomplishments of others. I will give personal, meaningful affirmation. If someone fails to show up, my first reaction won’t be frustration that he or she let me down; it will be concern that something might be wrong. I will take more pleasure from their successes than my own. I will seek ways to publicly praise them. My goal will be to be an example of Barnabas, the one who was called the “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36, 9:27).

I will challenge people to serve with boldness. Rather than fill slots with people, I will boldly invite them to contribute their time, energy and efforts to the most significant cause in the universe. In John 6, Jesus called people to radical commitment and many turned back and no longer followed him. He then turned to the disciples and asked if they too will be leaving. I love Peter’s answer, “To whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). If Jesus’ focus was on the level of commitment people were willing to make, rather than the number of people who followed, then I will not be shy in asking people to give more of themselves.

I will devote resources to developing leaders. Equipping people for ministry is more than just giving encouragement. I will give people constructive feedback. I will pay their way to appropriate training events. I will purchase the tools needed for them to flourish. God has blessed this church financially, and we can find the appropriate seminars and training that people need to be successful in their service.

I will forgive myself for last year. Because I take ministry so seriously, it is easy to pile on guilt for the things I have failed to do or did wrong. But God chose to do this ministry through me, knowing that I’m a broken vessel. I will spend time now consciously determining what I need to learn from my mistakes, and then I will join God in casting them into the Sea of Forgetfulness.

I will remember the one thing. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus reminded Martha that while all her attempts to serve him were good, the one thing most important was developing a growing relationship with Jesus. I will remember that ultimately it is not about my ministry or my church. It is about me and all those around me developing a growing relationship with Jesus. With the Bible in 90 Days Challenge, I hope that I meet with God through the pages of His Word, more than accomplishing a goal of finishing the Bible in three months.

And perhaps I should add one more: I will keep these resolutions longer than the ones about dieting and exercise.

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Assurance of Salvation

This section is part of a class that I am teaching called Discipleship 101, the Lost Art of Disciple Making, where we are going to cover the basics of the Christian faith. I have in my class those who have never been discipled as well as those who have been with Christ for a long time, but are seeking tools and strategies for helping or mentoring others toward becoming disciple makers.

This is a brief section of reasons to believe and trust, and several verses to look up, which is done easily on this site.

Assurance of Salvation
We find direct statements in God’s Word: John 5:24, 1 John 5:13, Titus 1:2

But can We Believe the Bible?
The Bible claims to be the Word of God: expressions in the Bible, like “and God said…” or “Thus says the Lord…” and “God spoke to Moses…” – Genesis 1:3, Exodus 20:1, Joshua 14:5, Luke 24:27, 44, John 10:35, Acts 1:16, 17:2, 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21

The Bible is proved to be the Word of God.

  1. Unity: recorded over 1600 years, three languages, men and women from different countries and ages, with a unified message, it is one Book.
  2. Fulfilled Prophecy: hundreds of Old Testament prophecies about Jesus, the Jews, the Gentiles.
  3. Archaeology: always proves the Bible’s story, if it hasn’t, just wait.
  4. The Test of Time: through sword and flame, atheism and paganism, cold indifference and false prophets, it’s still here.
  5. Universal Demand: the world’s bestselling book.
  6. Denunciation of Sin: evil is never tolerated, but is dealt with openly, nothing in secret, characters are recorded as fallen, never perfect (Exodus 17:5-7, Numbers 20:7-13).
  7. Power to Change Lives: George Muller of Bristol, as an example.

The Witness of the Holy Spirit – Romans 8:16.

  1. What That Means:
    1. He is a Person, not a force.
    2. He is a Trinity, co-equal with the Son and Father.
    3. We are His temple, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 1 John 4:13
  2. How This Happens:
    1. He is the believer’s teacher – John 14:26, 15:26-27, 16:12-15
    2. He is the believer’s comforter – John 14:16, paraclete, John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7
    3. He is the believer’s guide – John 16:13, to lead the way (Matthew 15:14), Romans 8:1, 14
    4. He is the believer’s helper and intercessor – Romans 8:16
  3. A New Life – Transformation, 2 Corinthians 5:17
    1. A new attitude toward sin: Romans 7:19-20, they hate it, a new heart.
    2. New desires and new friends: new primary fellowship, community and growth.
    3. Fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23, Matthew 7:20, Acts 4:13
    4. Assurance through Christian growth: Titus 3:5, Philippians 3:14, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

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Accountability in Mentoring

Mentoring requires people to be in communication, to be connected, in order for it to work. Perhaps an obvious fact, but I suppose many people feel that they can be mentored by remote control. It is true that we can be mentored through reading books, because there is a lot of information that we can learn from authors that we respect or have been in business for a long time, or model the type of spirituality or theology that we want to become more like them. But if we want real life transformation, we need to become accountable to another person that will keep us focused on our goals, and get in our face when we fall short.

I imagine that most Christians have no argument about being accountable to God. After all, He is our heavenly Father, He is perfect and He has the right to check up on us to see if we are on course. But these same people think being accountable to someone on earth is, to say the least, a touchy matter.

When you think about it, calling someone to account is an act of love. Forcing a protégé to open his life to a confidant who has earned the right to be heard can save marriages from divorce, churches from division, organizations from financial distress, and careers from ruin.

Mentors are also accountable to themselves. It requires that they become vulnerable, not hesitate to show weakness, admit when they are wrong, respond quickly to reproof, and even set an example to those on the outside who are watching.

What about accountability in the Bible? Take a look…

  1. Joseph was accountable to Potiphar.
  2. King Saul was accountable to Samuel the prophet.
  3. King David was accountable to Nathan the prophet.
  4. Daniel was accountable to God before his accountability to the king.
  5. Nehemiah was accountable to Artaxerxes the king.
  6. Jesus was accountable to the Father, and demonstrated it by submitting to the Father’s will.
  7. The Twelve were accountable to Jesus and also to each other.
  8. Paul and Silas were accountable to the church at Antioch.

When I think about accountability, I believe that we all need (at times) someone close enough to get in our faces and tell us what we need to hear. It may not be what we want to hear, but we need it to get back on track. Sometimes the truth hurts, but the truth in love is what we are called to do (Ephesians 4:15). A mentor’s wounds are those of a faithful friend. Not everyone has the right to climb into your life and offer rebuke; it is for those who have built this love relationship ahead of time.

I believe that people who are accountable to a mentor are serious about changing their behavior. I read about a study showing that employees who know they are being observed demonstrate a higher quality and quantity of work, knowing they will be held to account.

It’s not easy, mentors need wisdom in dealing with a variety of issues and problems. Remember that you don’t mentor alone. A mentor who sees his protégé stumble must invade that person’s private world.

  1. One to guide and encourage.
  2. One to also get in your face when you mess up.
  3. One who loves you too much to let you play with fire.
  4. Wisdom from the Proverbs 13:10, 13:14, 13:18, 13:20, 15:31

[ Here’s more on mentoring ]

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Ten Commandments of Mentoring

Seems there are Ten Commandments for most any organization, which obviously started in the Old Testament, but I found these two lists of the top 10 relating to mentoring. The first is a classic list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for effective mentoring, written by John C Crosby of the Uncommon Individual Foundation.

  1. Thou shalt not play God.
  2. Thou shalt not play teacher.
  3. Thou shalt not play mother or father.
  4. Thou shalt not lie with your body.
  5. Active listening is the holy time and shalt practice it at every session.
  6. Thou shalt not be judgmental.
  7. Thou shalt not lose heart because of repeated disappointments.
  8. Thou shalt practice empathy, not sympathy.
  9. Thou shalt not believe that thou can move mountains.
  10. Thou shalt not envy thy neighbor’s protégé, nor they neighbor’s success.

This second list of questions is designed to evaluate the mentoring relationship, written by Paul Stanley and J. Robert Clinton from Christianity Today. Ask the question and rate yourself with: Fully, Partially, or Didn’t.

  1. Establish a strong relationship. The stronger the relationship, the greater the empowerment. As you look for potential protégés, keep compatibility and chemistry in mind.
  2. Agree on purpose. A basic rule in planning is “begin with the end in mind.” When mentoring proves disappointing, the problem usually points back to differing or unfulfilled expectations. So at the very beginning, agree on what you’re both hoping to achieve.
  3. Determine contact frequency. Intensive mentoring works best with at least once-a-week contact, either face-to-face or by phone.
  4. Decide on the type of accountability. Will you use written reports, scheduled phone calls, probing questions during meetings, or a planned evaluation time?
  5. Set up communication mechanisms. As mentors, we have always asked our protégés, “If I see or learn of an area of concern, how and when do you want me to communicate it to you?”
  6. Clarify the confidentiality level. Make it clear when something you share should be treated as confidential.
  7. Set the relationship’s life cycle. It’s best to avoid open-ended mentorships. Better to have short periods, evaluation, and closure points with the possibility of reentry than have a sour relationship for a long time that each fears terminating.
  8. Evaluate regularly. See where progress has been made, where there are problems, and what should be done to improve the mentoring. Joint evaluation is always best
  9. Modify expectations as necessary. After a time of mentoring, bring expectations down to what is more likely going to happen—and give thanks for it.
  10. Bring closure at the right time. Vertical mentoring that has no clear end in mind will usually dwindle to nothing with uneasy feelings on the part of both people. A happy ending requires that both parties be involved in evaluating and mutually ending the mentoring relationship.

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Steps to Effective Mentoring

The Bible challenges us to make every moment count (James 4:14), so taking steps toward becoming more effective are positive ones. If you want to enjoy the mentoring experience, consider these steps:

  1. Select a mentor or protégé whose philosophy of life you share. The greatest mentors are also our role models. In the church, who is it that you sense has a close walk with God? What qualities does this person possess that makes them a hero in the faith for you?
  2. Choose a protégé with potential, someone you generally believe in. Then you help that person get to where he wants to go. Sports scouts do this all the time.
  3. Evaluate the protégé’s progress constantly. Remain objective and correct when necessary or encourage him to stay on course.
  4. Be committed, serious and available to your protégé. This person desires to learn from your life, not just your information.

Every mentor should also have a mentor. Mentors are not just wise older people passing on a lifetime of knowledge and experience to a younger person. It looks that way on the outside but after a closer look, the mentor also should have his own mentor from whom life, knowledge and experience have come. In the past is one thing, but it is also good to maintain a mentoring relationship of their own, someone to whom they are currently accountable.

Part of the mentoring process is to help your protégé ask the right questions, search in the right places and stay interested in the right answers. Sometimes the protégé has no clue where he needs to go much less how to get there. But you’ve been there and know where they need to go. Ask the right questions and help the protégé ask the right questions to discover their next steps.

Decide on the level of excellence or perfection you expect. Remember the goal of mentoring is improvement, not perfection. How many of us would step into a mentoring relationship if perfection was required!? We would not even seek a mentor since no one is perfect. If we expect perfection in a protégé, we will be very disappointed.

As a protégé, accept a subordinate, learning position and keep your ego in check; don’t let it get in the way of learning. Don’t try to impress the mentor with your knowledge or abilities; you could be setting up a mental barrier against learning new ideas. When we have a proud, know-it-all attitude, we are not teachable. This should not be like a teacher assigning homework that the student doesn’t want to do. In teaching, it is frustrating to assign a task and the student not do it. There are some students who do the assignment for more than just a grade; they do it with an eagerness to learn. It’s like a person voluntarily going back to school after a lifetime in the business world. These people tend to be much better students than those who are there just for the degree. When you know the outcome or benefit, it is much easier to accept a learning position.

A protégé should respect the mentor but should not idolize him. This is a practical issue: respect helps us to accept what the mentor teaches, but idolizing him removes our critical ability to fit their teaching into ourselves. With an idol, we see no faults and are not objective.

Put into effect immediately what you are learning. People don’t remember much of what we say, a little more of what is read, even more of what we hear, read and talk about; but if we want real life change, we need to put learning into practice. Learn, practice and assimilate new ideas and strategies.

Set up a discipline for relating to your mentor; a time schedule, subject matter, homework. It must be more than “we’ll get together sometime” or “we will make time.” There are goals set, calendars are brought out and dates set, assignments are made and the protégé is held accountable and encouraged in them. The protégé will reward the mentor with his own progress, which is the highest reward.

Don’t threaten to give up; you have made a decision for progress and quitting is not in the best interest in the protégé. We cannot mentor only during the good times, but we should hold on to the commitments we make, and guide and direct the protégé through times of difficulty.

Make every effort to make your time on this earth count. Life is a vapor and time is short, then it vanishes away. When we get to the other side, everything but the kingdom will be irrelevant.

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