Newsletter #498 – Building Next Generation Leaders

When I looked for mentoring books on the Amazon web site, almost 7,000 titles appeared. Undoubtedly most of these are helpful but I wonder if they all say pretty much the same thing. In contrast, Steve Saccone and his wife Cheri bring a fresh approach in their recent book Protégé: Developing Your Next Generation of Church Leaders. Saccone is a pastor who mentors young spiritual leaders but this approach could apply far beyond the international and emerging church leaders who are participants in the Saccones’ pioneering mentoring work.

For example, the book begins with insightful discussions of “the four deadly sins of emerging leaders: envy, self-reliance, foolishness and greed.” Leaders who read these four chapters (coaches, counselors, pastors and professors included) are likely to see variations of these tendencies in themselves. They’re common dangers that can emerge at any age to undermine one’s best leadership efforts. Mentors and protégés also are likely to recognize themselves in the chapters on over-commitment, handing conflict, effective communication, and the need for missional perspectives and entrepreneurial thinking.

Like any teaching relationship, mentors and the people they mentor (the protégés) have unique learning styles and world-views. Some mentoring (and academic training approaches) provide a set formula for growth and expect everyone to go through the same exercises or scripted mentoring programs. Like the younger people with whom he works, Saccone resists this top-down leadership approach and focuses on mentoring as relationship development. “Never make mentoring only about production, tasks and performance,” he writes. Mentoring “must be relational, and people must know you care about them as a person….No one wants to be a target of someone’s agenda…. No one wants to be a project.”

Most of my adult life has involved working with next generation and other leaders but I tend to take an informal approach and talk about “journeying together” rather than about mentoring. I’ve never read a book together with someone who sees me as a mentor or coach. But I might make an exception and suggest that others read and apply the  tested approaches described in this book.

What is your experience as a mentor or protégé? What have you discovered that could be of help to the rest of us? Please comment.

8 Comments

  1. Sorry, but I am not interested in a warm relationship with my mentors, for I get plenty of human support elsewhere.

    I want coaches who can help me achieve agreed goals and prove increasingly productive in extending the Kingdom of God.

    It may be my sinfully-suspicious nature, but feel that American clergy remain more focussed on maintaining their privileged class than on empowering many others out in the ‘harvest’.

    Not to demean good character, whence come near-term vision and related skill training?

    Reply

    1. Galen, Thanks for your comments. Almost always you bring a fresh perspective. Of course there are individual differences but I find real benefits in the “warm relationships” have wit the people I mentor. Furthermore, they teach me from their perspectives that often differ from mine. Duane Hanson’s comment that followed yours is a good example.

      Reply

  2. When I was with Campus Crusade, in the 1970s, my job was to train students to have an effective ministry of multiplying discipleship. During my time on CCC staff, I had 9 kids whom I discipled. They, in turn, ENJOYED developing other students. My kids were also my closest friends, and I still stay in touch with them on Facebook and through emails. 7 pf those 9 kids chose, without any challenge from me, to go into full-time Christian ministry and the other two are active laity, leading home Bible study groups.

    I had a task to perform: I wanted to help them grow in specific ministry skills and in godly character. But I also loved them. They were “my kids” and they liked me. A balance is needed. There needs to be a good relationship, but if a person is going to grow, the mentor/discipler must have some concrete goals of where he wants to take the mentoree/disciple. I saw some CCC staff who loved their students, but didn’t know what they were doing in terms of producing multiplying disciples. The students didn’t need another friend. They already had enough. They needed somebody to show them how to have an effective ministry.

    Reply

  3. Gary, Sunny Hong has written an excellent article on Cross-Cultural Mentoring. I’ve posted a link to it on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/groups/CrossCultural-Mentoring-4612999). She compares mentoring in individualistic cultures like ours to mentoring in collectivist cultures (like much of the rest of the world…) The comparison helps us rethink what are the true values and goals of a mentoring relationship, and what are mere extensions of our culturally conditioned expectations.

    Reply

  4. God is Love. Love can take many forms – from sharing skills and knowledge to having a warm, encouraging relationship. I have found that they most often go together. No matter how focused a mentor or protege/e may be on goals, the protege/e will normally learn much more from who the mentor is than what s/he says.

    Reply

  5. An added thought. I think the author may be making an artificial distinction between having goals for a protegee and having a good relationship with him. Both are necessary. He also says that nobody wants to be somebody’s “project” or their “agenda.” That’s not true. When I became a Christian, I developed a friendship with the Campus Crusade staff person who was working with me. But I WANTED him to teach and train me how to have a Quiet Time, how to understand the Bible, how to know apologetics, how to share my faith, how to lead a Bible study, in essence, how to be like him. I aggressively sought this from him. I did NOT want him to be JUST, or even primarily, my friend. As I look back on it, I selfishly wanted to USE him to gain knowledge for my personal benefit. BTW, I still am in contact with him, through Facebook, 40 yeas later. Obviously, he was also a friend.

    The author seems to be concerned that we may use a top-down, “cookie-cutter” approach where we treat all people in exactly the same way in our programs. That is a realistic concern. We must recognize people’s individual interests and giftedness. I think that churches have gotten better in that regard, by using the S.H.A.P.E. programs of WillowCreek and Saddleback. When I disciple students, I look for individual differences and adjust accordingly. Anyway, these are just my thoughts based on my experiences.

    Reply

    1. This is a great observation Duane. Especially when we are learning something new (like how to be a Christ follower, a leader, or a counselor) we look for models that we can emulate. I think Saccone is saying that proteges do not want to be manipulated – but your perspetive is still valid. Thanls for your comment.

      Reply

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