Passing the Torch: The Importance of Mentoring

Almost 25 years ago, I had just left my secular job and was praying about joining Prison Fellowship International (PFI). One of the first things that attracted me to PFI was the mentoring style of Ron Nikkel. During a weekend visit with Ron, I noticed how much he seemed to really care about my spiritual and professional growth, and the well-being of my family. He had a passion to “impart the ways” of leading an international ministry to me. As a new ministry executive with no training, this was a gift!

Unlike Ron Nikkel, I have noticed many influential leaders in ministry fail to reach out to younger men and women with their time, talent, wisdom, experience, and treasure. Leaders haven’t conveyed their excitement and awe of what Almighty God can do in and through an organisation that is set on advancing His kingdom.

In the Bible, Joshua watched Moses. Ruth watched Naomi. Timothy watched Paul. Mary watched Elizabeth. Peter watched Jesus. Each young man or woman wanted to become like their role model. And we see how God used each individual to further His story of grace and salvation through their unquenchable zeal. Mentoring is serious, deliberate, and time consuming. We need more leaders who desire to impart to others the importance and eternal significance of contributing to the glory of God and His church.

Mentoring isn’t just teaching—it’s actually mostly modeling. As leaders, we should evaluate how we model managing skills, communication techniques, staying current with business and technology trends, and even investing one’s time and finances in nonprofits. For example, younger generations have a different mindset and approach to giving of their finances. They care about issues, not necessarily organisations. However, if a ministry offers an answer to their heart’s concern, then they’re all in. Once they are convinced of the effectiveness of an organisation, they take their involvement very seriously. And once mentored and entrusted with responsibility by a leader, these young people embrace the position and strive to be excellent.

Understanding and communicating with these “youngsters” can feel like learning a foreign language and culture. But that should not stop us. With the work PFI is doing around the world, there’s much we can offer to younger men and women. We can turn these trends around.

We need to aggressively show how our work demonstrates the power of the Gospel in undeniable ways in order to excite the next generation. And nothing demonstrates the power of the Gospel more than the changed life of the people societies have declared unchangeable—the prisoner, ex-prisoner, and their families.

Today’s young Christians need to see a level of excellence and energy that will inspire them to get on board in advancing the Gospel to the ends of the earth—just like Ron Nikkel did for me 25 years ago. And now, as that mentoring bears fruit in my life in ways neither I nor Ron could have anticipated, I want to encourage you to mentor the leaders of tomorrow. We can’t take this responsibility lightly. May the Christian leaders of PFI have an eternal effect on this next generation, so our mission continues for decades to come.

Article originally published April 2, 2016, in Prison Fellowship International’s PFI RoundTable.

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