Tag: mentor

Dat cool, Daddy?

Photo Credit: Back Drop Express

My son asked me to go outside and play football with him yesterday. Mind you, he’s 3. So football for him looks a lot safer for me now than it will in a few years.

We were throwing the ball back and forth, and he was loving every minute of it. I’d throw it as high as I could, and he’d watch it come crashing down to the ground and bounce strange directions. He’d mimic me and watch it bounce again.

He’d say, “Daddy…watch me!” And I’d watch him throw the ball up in the air and hear him squeal with delight that he did it.

Of course, when he would, I’d go nuts, making a big deal and encouraging him that he threw the ball.

Then one time, unintentionally, I didn’t encourage him. I didn’t tell him he did a good job. I watched him throw the ball, then walked over to pick it up and continue the cycle.

It’s not that he didn’t do a good job…I just didn’t tell him that he did.

And he asked me a question that caused me to stop mid-stride:

Dat cool, daddy?

He wanted to know if he was still doing it right. He wanted validation from someone who knew the ropes, and knew what a “good throw” was supposed to look and feel like. He wanted to hear from his dad that I thought what he was doing was cool.

Don’t we all have a bit of that longing inside of us?

We all want to be validated by someone who knows the ropes. By someone who’s been in our shoes and walked where we’re going. Who can shed a little light on our paths to make the journey a little more navigable.

Older leaders: we need your encouragement. We need your ‘atta-boy!’ We need your wisdom and insight. We need your gut-level response to our gut-level response.

Don’t give up on us. We need you.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13

*Photo credit: BackDrop Express


Don’t overlook the young guys

This is a series of posts where small group experts share how group life has impacted them personally.  The entire series can be found HERE.
Steve Gladen is the Pastor of Small Group Community at Saddleback Church. He oversees the strategic launch and development of their 3,500 adult small groups. His new book, Small Groups with Purpose, comes out in June 2011.  You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.


Flashback with me to 1977. While most of the living population was born, probably the readers of this blog weren’t born (as painful as that is to say). I was a junior in high school. I was also a new follower of Christ. What was high school like for me? Was I an ESPN 150 Top Pick?

Not even close.

Getting ready to attend my first prom?

No again.

I was actually a late bloomer in many ways. A scholar?

Nope. I had to struggle just to get C’s and B’s. Luckily, gym class was always there to pull up my GPA!

But, surely, I was a sought-after young Christian leader, right?

Not even close.

When I think of what phrase might best describe me during this time, it is “in the background.” I was not a part of the in-crowd, the Who’s Who, the pretty people, or those who were invited to parties. And, worse yet, I had no ideas or the plans for the future. I was clueless. My dad was in business, so I had a vague notion that I would head down that path too. And that pretty much summed up my goals at the time. I enjoyed my life and basically just took it one day at a time.

The Story Begins

Enter a man named Ron Swiger. Ron was an adult in my church who took me under his wing without me ever realizing he was doing it. Our church didn’t have small groups, but they did have Sunday School and a Bus Ministry (Google it – it was a phenomenon in the 1970’s). That Sunday School functioned much like a small group. The Bus Ministry included serving and evangelism. Although the methodologies I use today are different, I realize, now, what a powerful role Ron played in my life.

Ron made sure I was involved and gave me a place to belong. He asked me to be an assistant in the Bus Ministry on his bus. He spent time with me. He did ministry in such a way that I wanted to be like him. He was also my Sunday School teacher. He was far ahead of his time and was a master at promoting growth in his students. He taught me to pray. He challenged me to give back to God. He taught the Bible in a relevant way.

Most importantly, he modeled what he taught. That Sunday School class was probably the best disguised small group of the day. We didn’t just learn biblical facts, we learned how to live life together. We had parties, interacted with the greater church, did outreach events together, and learned to challenge each other to deal with the dark areas of our heart.

Were we perfect?  No. Did I apply everything I learned to my life?  No. But did that class make an impact in my life? Yes!

A growing seed

When Ron stepped out of the role as my mentor, another man stepped in, Bill Brown.  God used him to build on the foundation Ron had started.  During those years of high school, despite my clueless nature, a seed was planted for ministry.  That seed would not bloom for almost 8 years, but it was still firmly planted.  And I owe a lot to those two men and others who had community with me.

What’s the moral of the story? When you look across the horizon of your church, you might not see the next young leader. You might just see a bunch of “clueless” people.

But don’t overlook them.

Because two guys were willing to pour into my life, I am where I am today. Community is where people are shaped for the future. Be willing to shape those God has put before you – not the ones you want to shape.

Has anyone invested in you?

Are you investing in the next generation?



You’ve got a smell…

…and you probably don’t even know it.

Your house smells a certain way.  So do your clothes.  Your car.  Your dog.  And your shoes.

But you’ve gotten used to it.

And you have no idea whether that smell is sweet or sour.

Over time, our sense of smell dulls when we enter our own home because it becomes “normal.”  Routine.  Habitual.

Which can be incredibly dangerous.

Whether it’s a good smell or a bad smell is irrelevant.  It’s our smell, so we don’t notice it.

And it’s the same way in our spiritual lives.

We get into routines, we find our niche, and we get comfortable.  And growing comfort lends itself to a lack of introspection.  And a growing sense that “normal” is good, whether it is or not.

Why not invite someone you trust to help you see (and smell) where things aren’t lining up?  Because other people see things you don’t.

Is there someone you can ask to come alongside you in 2011?



My wife and I just got back from a trip to the United Kingdom.  While there, we visited the city of Windsor.

Windsor is a charming town, with cobblestone streets, vendors selling pastries, and lots of people roaming the markets.  The queen also resides occasionally at Windsor Castle, and while we were there, she happened to be in town.

There were a whole lot of tourists visiting…many, I’m sure, hoping to spot the queen.

For whatever reason, we didn’t look like tourists that day (even though it was our first day there, and I’m sure we still had that wide-eyed look that tourists seem to have), and were stopped and asked the question, “Do you know where the McDonald’s is?”

Don’t mind the irony of the situation (the fact that they were asking a couple of Americans, who weren’t in America, where an American restaurant was located).  We really weren’t sure where the McDonald’s was located.  It seemed like we had passed one (and passed we did…we refused to eat American food while in the UK) earlier, so we pointed them in the direction we thought best.  Turns out we were right.

Turns out we were right.

But we could have just as easily have been wrong.

Just because we were American didn’t mean we knew where the McDonald’s was.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole process of mentoring lately.  Maybe because I’m at that stage where I need a lot of help. (will I ever get out of this stage?  Would it even be healthy if I did exit this stage?)  Maybe it’s because I see others’ errors more easily than I see my own (that’s a problem, I know).  Maybe it’s because I thoroughly enjoy learning from others.  But I’m not going to just choose to learn from anybody.  I mean, I’ll read lots of books.  Listen to lots of podcasts.  Read lots of blogs.  But when it comes to asking somebody to specifically speak truth into my life, I’m being very picky.

And I think you should as well.

Because the people who are influencing me now really are influencing me.  They’re shaping the way that I look as a husband, a dad, and a pastor.  And for some odd reason, I think that’s pretty important.

In looking for help thinking through your current stage in life, choose wisely.

Just because someone’s a dad doesn’t mean that they know what they’re doing.

Just because someone’s a pastor doesn’t mean they can help give you the counsel you need.

Just because someone’s a leader doesn’t mean that they can help you take the next steps you need to take.

They may be right.

But then again, they may not even be in the right country.

The people who are influencing you now really are influencing you.


How do discipleship and mentoring play into small groups?

Here’s part 4 of my interview with Randall (on Twitter HERE), as a follow-up to his book, The Naked Truth of Small Group Ministry: When it Won’t Work and What to Do About It.  You can see part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE and part 3 HERE.

My question for Randall: How do discipleship and mentoring play into small groups?


Thanks, Dad

I ended up buying a card for my dad for Father’s Day, but felt lame doing it.  I think that most of that canned stuff is lame…I didn’t write it, but I’ll sign my name to it as if I did!  Anybody else feel like that?  Basically, in getting a card, I feel like I’m saying, “How can I be heartfelt and lazy at the same time?”  Can those two even go together?

I’ve been ruminating a lot about my relationship with my dad and my new relationship with my son (he’s 8 months old this week!).  In honor of him, and of his day yesterday, here’s what I’ve got going through my head.

If you don’t know my dad, I wish you did.


Thanks for taking time to show me

how to swing a club and sink a putt,

kick, shoot, throw, and catch a ball,

run, jump, and practice,

drive a stick shift and start a mower,

dig a hole and cut the grass.

You’ve modeled for me

how to be a good dad to my son

and a good husband to my wife,

how to read my Bible

and memorize a verse

and live out my faith.

You’ve shown me

that it’s important to work hard at everything

and strive for excellence in all I do

but that work is never more important than being with family.

I’ve seen you laugh, cry, teach, coach, love, serve, grow, succeed,

invest in church, community, your work, and your family.

You’ve gone out of your way to show me how to be a man.

A Christ-follower.

A leader.

A servant.

A friend.

A husband.

A father.

You’ll probably never see the full fruits of your investment.

But it’s worth all of your effort.

Thanks for 27 years of being a great dad.


Setting others up for success

When I worked as a manager for Starbucks, I was always thinking about the next manager on duty.  I wanted to make sure I was “setting them up for success.”  That meant making sure the bar was clean, the dishes were put away, the café was tidy, the milk was stocked, the espresso was ready to go, appropriate breaks were given, and, as much as I could help it, morale was high.  I wanted the next manager to have greatest chance of succeeding on their upcoming shift.  If I did not prepare for this, and work hard to “set them up for success,” I considered my job a failure for that day.  Beyond the day-to-day work, I was also striving to train future leaders to do what I did at the company, thus “setting them up for success” in their future with the company.
This is important in leadership.  I see this played out in the relationship that Moses had with Joshua.  He trained Joshua to be a leader once he was gone.  He knew that one day Joshua would be given the lead role, because God had promised Moses he would not enter the promised land.  Therefore, Moses worked hard to train Joshua and “set him up for success.”  Often, the thought is that the successor of a highly successful leader is a fall-guy.  I have seen that happen in churches, where the pastor after the long-term pastor is doomed for failure, and has trouble even getting off of the ground.  If the rule of the fall-guy always held true, shouldn’t it have held true for Moses?  After all, Moses was considered the greatest prophet of his day! (Deuteronomy 34:10)  But Moses had his eyes on the bigger picture.  “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, FOR Moses had laid his hands on him.” (Deuteronomy 34:9)  You see, Moses was not content investing only in his own leadership.  He invested in the next generation as well.  The people responded to Joshua, as soon as he had been given leadership, like this: “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.  Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so will we obey you.”  Joshua was set up for success (though it quickly became his responsibility to carry through with the task of leadership: “Only may the Lord your God be with you, as He was with Moses!”) because Moses intentionally took steps to develop him.

How are you setting up others for success in your absence, both in the short-term and in the long-term?  Are you controlling the mission, vision, and operation of your organization so tightly that you choke out others?

How are you preparing your children to be a success?  What about your co-workers?  Your band members?  Those in your small group?  Are you preparing them to lead?  Are you getting them ready for the task that God has called them to do? Or are you so task-oriented that you forget about the bigger picture, and forget that one day you will be gone?


Leadership and Apprenticing, part 3

This is the third part in a series on one specific model of recruiting leaders.  You can read parts one and two if you’d like.  These are my concluding thoughts on the value of using apprentices to grow leaders in your organization or ministry.

Advantages of using apprentices to grow your organization (#6-#12):

6. They have seen leadership in action. In my role, as small groups director, this is huge.  I love when a group leader has an apprentice, because that apprentice has seen their group leader navigate difficult situations and lead people effectively.

7. They are insiders. They’ve been a part of the organization for some time now, and the company’s DNA has become their own.

8. Others in the organization don’t wonder, “Where did this guy come from?” They have seen the apprentice in the halls on Sunday, or in the office throughout the week, and they’ve built a relationship with the person, whether that’s a surface-level or deeper.  There’s a credibility and trust that has been built.  Credibility and trust aren’t built overnight.

9. They have been preparing themselves for the specific role. They knew that this move was coming.  They knew that, at some point, they would be asked to lead.  They’ve been praying about it, reading books on it, talking with other leaders who are doing what they will be doing, etc.

10. They have influence within their sphere. They aren’t somebody who has no relationships.  They’ve been working to develop relationships.  When they’re asked to take the lead, there are people who will immediately follow them.

11. It’s not a risky way to find leaders. Leadership develops over time, not overnight.  The apprentice has been developing over the course of months, or even years.  If at some point you need them to lead, it’s easy to evaluate whether they’re ready or not by talking with their leader, who has been evaluating them over the course of their apprenticeship.  If they’re not ready, just give them some more time to develop.  No harm, no foul.  You can avoid placing them in a leadership position that they aren’t ready for, which is a definite “win”.

12.  You can put them in the exact position that fits their gifts. You have observed their leadership potential, have gotten to know them, and can help evaluate strenghts, weaknesses, and areas of interest.

In the end, apprenticeship sets up future leaders for success, equipping them for the leadership role to which God is calling them.

However, apprenticing has its downsides and challenges.  Check back for my thoughts on the disadvantages.


Leadership and Apprenticing, Part 2

Wikipedia defines apprenticeship as “a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a skill.  Apprentices (or in early modern usage “prentices”) or proteges build their careers from apprenticeships. Most of their training is done on the job while working for an employer who helps the apprentices learn their trade, in exchange for their continuing labor for an agreed period after they become skilled.”

In part one of this series, I made a plea for apprenticing, gave an idea on how to do it, and encouraged you to both find someone who will apprentice you and find someone to apprentice.  In this post, I’m going to give you some advantages of using the apprentice method of recruiting leaders.  I tend to think of leadership through the grid of church ministry, and specifically small group ministry, but have tried to keep things broad enough so that if you’re not directly involved in church leadership, you can find these principles and observations helpful.

Obviously, there are tons of different ways to locate and recruit leaders for your organization.  This is one of them.

5 Advantages of using apprentices to grow your organization:

1. They already buy into the vision. If they’ve apprenticed for a time in the ministry, then they know the vision and have bought into where the ministry is headed.  This helps give your ministry synergy to take leaps forward.

2. They know how the organization should work. They’ve sat in leadership meetings, led some themselves, been a part of training events, and seen the organization in action.  This gives them a great advantage over outsiders coming into the organization seeking leadership.

3. Somebody else believes in them. The person who has been apprenticing them is a person who believes in the apprentice’s abilities, character, and leadership potential.  They will be a huge advocate for the apprentice, and likely already have been.

4. They have an insider who will continue to invest in them. Their leader, who asked them to apprentice, will not completely abandon their relationship with this new leader.  They have been developing the relationship over the course of their apprenticeship, and will (hopefully) continue investing in this person.  If you hire (or recruit) from outside of the organization, those support relationships have to be developed.

5. They’ve already been given the chance to lead. The apprentice isn’t taking a huge step when he or she becomes a full-fledged leader.  It doesn’t seem, to them, that they’re making a leap, but rather stepping into a role that feels more natural to them.

I’ve got a few more reasons.  Check back soon for the next post.

What’s your primary method for recruiting leaders?  Do you encourage apprenticeship?


Leadership and apprenticing

One problem in any organization or church is finding good leaders.  Should you take a risk on a young person with unproven talent?  Should you hire the older guy who’s a proven leader but set in his ways?  Do you recruit somebody from within, or go outside the organization?  Do you put somebody into a leadership position who needs training, or who can hit the ground running?  Male?  Female?  Somebody just like you, or somebody who is nothing like you?

One method of raising up leaders is the apprenticing method, and I happen to be a big proponent of finding and training leaders this way.  I know that it comes with its set of problems, the main problem being that it takes time to produce leaders.  The number of leaders needed in your ministry will (hopefully) increase (assuming your church is growing numerically), and if your only method of recruiting leaders is by requiring existing leaders to apprentice somebody in their group, you will find your ministry in a leadership deficit.  So, at GCC, we have a hybrid method.  I strongly encourage apprenticing, but am also aware that we will be desperately hurting for leaders if we only get leaders who have apprenticed for 6-18 months.  So, I have my cake and eat it, too.  Apprenticing is the best way, I believe, but I’m willing to place others into leadership position that haven’t yet apprenticed.

If you have an apprentice, whether you’re involved in a small groups ministry or in any kind of leadership, let me encourage you with one thing: take them with you when you go places.  Ask them to tag along when you go to conferences or to meetings.  Share with them what you’re reading, how you’re growing, and what you’re learning.  Let them see what you do and how you do it.  Be available to answer questions, whether they’re professional or “life” questions.  Give them a snapshot of your leadership on a regular basis.

Isn’t that what Jesus did with his disciples?  His disciples traveled with him, asked him questions, and did ministry together with him.  He even gave them authority! (Try doing that with an apprentice…I bet they’ll love it)

I had coffee with a leader and the apprentice from a small group here at GCC.  It was definitely worth my cost of one more cup of coffee!  I was able to help the leader evaluate his small group (what they’re doing well, where they need improvement, how they are continuing to grow, etc.), cast our vision of group life to the group leader, and thank him for what he’s doing…right there in front of the apprentice!  It was amazing to see the leader and the apprentice interact, and to give them a taste of what group life would look like if everybody in the group would take significant steps in discipleship throughout the life of the group.  I could have communicated only to the group leader, but meeting with the leader and the apprentice was more effective for everybody.

Do you have an apprentice?  Are you apprenticing anybody?


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