Mentoring: The Promise of Relational Leadership

mentoringwright(The following are reflections based on Walter C. Wright’s book, Mentoring: The Promise of Relational Leadership.)

Want to start or enhance a mentoring relationship? Are you interested in having a relationship with someone who might serve as a mentor?

Are you already a mentor to one or more persons but you are not sure how to make the most of such a relationship?

Would you find it helpful to hear what questions have been particularly useful to a mentor?

Then, read Mentoring: The Promise of Relational Leadership by Walter C. Wright. Wright is a Senior Fellow of the De Pree Leadership Center at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the former president of Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Wright not only has much experience in mentoring others but also has experienced good mentors as well in longtime pastor Donald Bubna and Max De Pree.

Even in the foreword of the book, written by Max De Pree, there is much help for any mentor or mentoree.

Why read this book?

2012 Mentoring Group

2012 1This year’s mentoring group was outstanding.  Thanks to Shane, Benjamin, Shannon, Doug, Scott, Jason, and Ernie for blessing me with a great year in 2012.  Am I ever impressed with these guys!  All of them are ministers and are blessing churches.

This group met one full day per month for the last 12 months.  During these times together, we talked about life, Jesus, ministry, and the church.  Of course, as a part of any discussion regarding life, we talked about our relationships, including our spouses, children, and friends.  We remembered our calling and the meaning of our vocation.

Much of our time was spent focusing on building our interior lives.  We also talked about skills and good practices for doing our work and functioning better in our congregations.

A group such as this provides a safe environment, an atmosphere of encouragement and affirmation.  Last evening, hours after this group came to a close, I thought about the following:

1.  We are blessed when we are surrounded with encouragers.  One way this happens is to be a part of a group, like this one, of mutual encouragers.

2.  We are blessed when we are a part of a group of people who are committed to growing and learning.  Far too many people are content to lower the bar and just get by.  I loved being around a group of people for a year who were not afraid to raise the bar.

3.  We are blessed when we meet regularly with a group of people to talk honestly about our lives. Far too many people feel isolated and cut off, in part because they have no one with whom they can talk openly and candidly.


What do you believe contributes to the isolation and sense of aloneness that so many people feel?


Charles Siburt

Charles Siburt has been a friend and mentor to me for almost 25 years. I have learned so much from him. I am a much better man and minister for having known him.

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For many years he taught ministry at Abilene Christian University. His teaching went way beyond the classroom. Charles spent time and energy helping ministers and other church leaders all over the country.

He is very sick and is not expected to live on this earth much longer. He has recently been transported from a hospital in Dallas to a hospital in Abilene. Soon he will be with the Lord.

My friend, Dan Bouchelle, wrote the following:On behalf of all of us who love Charlie, I invite you to join several of us who love the Siburts by setting aside this Friday, February 3, as a special day of prayer with fasting if you choose. Please lift up Charlie’s body, his spirit, and his family to the Father of all compassion. Judy and his sons have sacrificed time with Charlie for the sake of the church for many years. Pray that their final days with him in this age will be enriching. Pray that God will give Charlie courage for his final days and a peaceful trip home. Pray that he will be able to leave the hospital for his final days. Most of all, give thanks for all that God has given us all through Charlie. Pray that God will raise up an Elisha or twelve to pick up Charlie’s mantle. What will we do without him?

Charles and Judy have blessed so many men and women. Charles served as a consultant and friend to the congregations I worked with in Florence, Alabama, Kansas City, Missouri, and Waco, Texas. Each time he helped our leaders become more effective and at times work through knotty problems. I have called him at all hours of the day and evening to talk through frustrations, disappointments and new possibilities. Again and again, Charles helped me become better.

The following are a few of the ways he helped me:

1. He was one of the first ministers to introduce me to serious, thoughtful ministry resources. At one of the very first Austin Graduate School Sermon Seminars, I heard him share resources with the group. (I was in graduate school at ACU.) I was furiously taking notes as he mentioned authors, commentaries, journals, and training opportunities – related to ministry. I went back to ACU and followed up on as many resources as I could.

2. He taught me about the importance of managing myself well. I have spent the last three decades learning about the implications of this. It was Charles Siburt who instilled in me the importance of self-care and being intentional about how I handle myself as a leader.

3. He helped me in each congregation I have served. Each time he came, he helped our church and blessed Charlotte and me.

4.   He told me again and again, in a variety of way is how much he believed in me. I can’t begin to tell you how much his confidence in me has meant. He recommended me to churches and universities and gave me other opportunities to serve. There were times when I called him when I felt discouraged and devalued. He always communicated value, encouragement, and hope.

5. He made himself available and accessible to me. He returned my calls from airports, his office, hotel rooms, and during breaks at out of town conferences. We shared lunches and met in his office on various occasions. The time and energy he invested in me made a difference. So often his words gave me fresh options and a new perspective. What I experienced with him, I now practice with younger ministers.

6. He helped me see the importance of paying attention to the details of others’ lives. So often, I came away from conversations with him amazed at how well he remembered details – children’s names, where they went to college – where an elder worked, on and on. I saw how that practice communicated much to others.

7. He modeled for me a way of being a father. Year ago, I was in his office when he received a call from Judy. He asked about one of the boys and a situation at school (high school, I think). He asked about the situation and mentioned a variety of details related to it. He talked for a moment about how their son was handling it. I came away thinking about how I wanted to be involved and aware like that still when my daughters were that age.

Please especially pray for Charles and Judy on Friday, February 3. For more information, please see this fine post by Dan Bouchelle here. Read Jordan Hubbard’s tribute here. Also note this special Facebook page for Charles and Judy here.

Ministry Inside.29

Each Thursday I write a post (ok, most Thursdays) entitled “Ministry Inside.” This post is primarily written for those who are in various church ministry roles. Yet others might find these comments and resources helpful as well.coffeemagic1.jpg

You might enjoy reading my blog via your phone. You can do this directly through a browser ( or through the app “Godhungry” if you have an iPhone. To download this app onto your phone, go to the iTunes store and do a search for “Godhungry,” or you can get it through the App store on your phone.

Russell Davies has written a thoughtful post entitled “How to be interesting.” What caught my attention is a great list that he gives the reader. Many of his suggestions are good ways to be present and stay fully alive. Some of his suggestions will help us see, smell, and hear the world again. Far too many ministers and church leaders get into deep ruts and find it hard to do good thinking or to change worn-out practices.

Have you seen Andy Crouch’s list: “The Ten Most Significant Cultural Trends of the Last Decade? This list made me think!

Last night, Charlotte and I began a marriage conversation with seven couples. We have not done this before. We hope to reflect on our own marriage and our attempt to live as Christ-followers in the context of marriage. Part of the evening included telling part of the story of our marriage.

For a number of weeks, I have been reflecting on “game changers” in ministry. One game changer is:

Be a student of your church and your community. Be observant.

Ministry always takes place in the context of a community. That is, we served real people who live in real places. Ministers ought to be good students of the people and the places where they live. Far too often a minister will enter a church and make statements that the locals find odd or even insulting. With some people, to talk about the opening of deer season might seem very normal while among people, such a topic might sound very odd. To talk about this morning’s chai latte may seem very normal among other people, while such a comment might seem out of place to others. There is nothing wrong with being an individual, however, I don’t want to continually communicate to the people in our church, “I am not one of you.”

It might help to know the people in the context where we minister. A minister who makes no effort to get to know and to appreciate his community can quickly communicate to others that he doesn’t really value the place where he is living.

Read good blogs! Read Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed. Read Michael Hyatt’s blog. Read my friend Allan Stanglin’s blog. Read Tim Spivey’s blog. (Just a sample of good blogs.)

I regularly skim through three print periodicals in which I am primarily looking at book reviews. The publications that I skim through regularly are The New York Times Review of Books, The New York Review of Books, and Books and Culture. I find this to be a very helpful practice that lets me keep up with themes that are being addressed again and again. In particular, Books and Culture has been a lifesaver in terms of being introduced to significant biblical and theological writers.

Question: What Concerns You Most About Men Today?

This Sunday is Father’s Day.father-and-son.jpg

This is a time in which many men will be thinking about their own roles as fathers.

I am also thinking this week about what it means to be a man.

So let me raise this question: What concerns you most about men today?

For example, here are a few of my concerns:

1. Some men can not be counted on. They do not support their wives or their children. They avoid dealing with matters in their lives that really need their attention. They avoid, neglect, and dodge. Meanwhile, the various situations often just continue to deteriorate.

2. Some men say the right things but then seem to forget that reality is shaped not just by what they say but what they do. Some men talk but then rarely follow through.

3. Some men manipulate. They have learned how to get what they want but at any cost. They have gone through life manipulating women and men. Now, they manipulate their wives and children. For example, a man may want a new car. In fact, he might make the decision to buy that car. Yet, instead of just telling his wife this, he begins to manipulate her until she gives in. Then he tells everyone that they both thought this was best. “I found the car but she was the one who said, ‘Let’s get it!’ You know how she is when she makes up her mind.” Hmmm.

4. Some men recognize characteristics in their own fathers that they don’t want to repeat. However, some of these same men are so lacking in self-awareness that they continue to behave in other undesirable ways (often like their dads). For example, a man may say that he does not want to be self-absorbed like his dad even while he continues to impulsively spend money like his dad.

5. Some men have no passion for the things that matter most to Jesus. Consequently, a family may only see a man’s passion as it relates to his favorite football team, fishing, hunting, or some other interest. Meanwhile, this same man may almost yawn when opportunities surface that could make a real difference in someone’s life.

6. Some men are passive. They spend hour after hour sitting in their recliners watching television. They sit by passively and wait for their wives to take action with their children. They passively watch life go by not really investing in their marriages. They take no action and no initiative. Rather, they wait for someone else to make the first move. Do they ever show any passion? Sure. Just watch what happens when something gets in the way of being able to see the big game or their favorite program!

These are a few of my concerns. Yet, I could also tell you about some of the wonderful qualities of a number of men with whom I continue to be impressed. In fact, within the last few days, Charlotte and I have talked about several men (a variety of ages) who continue to impress us both. I think of men who take action, who want to make a real difference, and who stand up for their wives and children. I think of men who I know are trustworthy. They are loyal to their wives. I know men who have backbone and who will stand up for what is right. I could go on.

I am interested in hearing from you regarding this.


What concerns you as you observe some men?

Away and Now Back


Those of you who read this blog regularly have probably noticed that I have posted very little in the last week.   

On Thursday evening through Saturday morning, I attended the Lipscomb University Conference on Preaching. Speakers included Scot McKnight, Tom Long, Tremper Longman, Richard Ward, and Dave Bland. I really enjoy this conference. The subject was the Wisdom literature (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, etc.). For two days, we were immersed in this literature by some of the best scholars and authors on these books. The conference was also very, very practical.

This was not only a good time to learn and grow in this area, but it was also a great time to see friends. I saw friends at this conference I rarely get to see but who mean so much to me.

Then, Sunday evening through Tuesday, I was in Kerrville, Texas, at the Mentoring Partners Retreat (Mentor Network ministry). This is a ministry that was founded by Lynn Anderson a number of years ago. Through Mentor Network, hundreds of ministers and other church leaders have been mentored, counseled, and encouraged by Lynn Anderson and/or other Mentoring Partners. It was good to be with Lynn and Carolyn Anderson for a few days as well as the others, who are church leaders from across the country.   

I typically do not schedule seminars/conferences back to back. However, I made an exception for these two events. They are very valuable to me. I encourage you, if you are interested, to look at the Lipscomb University Conference on Preaching website or the Mentor website.

Lynn Anderson on Being Indebted to Mentors

So many of you have communicated to me how much you have enjoyed Lynn Anderson’s words each Monday.  These words today will not disappoint either.  Hear him speak of the value of mentors in his own life.

Lynn Anderson is an author, minister, and encourager to many, many Christian leaders.  If you are not familiar with his books you might enjoy books such as If I Believe Why Do I Have These Doubts? or They Smell Like Sheep.

You can connect with him through his website,

I would love to hear about the value of mentors in your own life.

Mentoring as An Act of Humility (Guest: Cliff Barbarick)

GreatThan_41713_th.gifLast week, Cliff Barbarick made a comment on this blog that spoke about the true nature of mentoring.  What he said ought to be heard by all of us who are both mentors and who have a mentor(s).  I love what he says about mentoring as an act of humility.

Cliff Barbarick is a part-time Family Minister at the Robinson Church of Christ and graduate student working on a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies at Baylor University.  Cliff, his wife, and his two girls (with one boy on the way!) currently live in Waco, Texas, but they will be moving to Malibu, California, in May for Cliff to accept a visiting faculty position at Pepperdine University.

The following are Cliff’s words.  Enjoy!

I’ve been blessed in my life with women and men who have invested in me.  God has repeatedly placed mentors in my life to whom I am forever indebted and from whom I have learned the following important lesson.  They’ve modeled for me mentoring that bears that unique, cross-shaped stamp.

As a mentor, you should long for your student to surpass you one day.  Mentoring should not be an "ego trip" that inflates your sense of self-importance.  You cannot feel threatened by the success of your student and be a good mentor.  Mentoring is an act of humility in which you recognize gifts in another that you want to help develop in order that he may surpass what you have accomplished. 
Barnabas is an excellent example.  At the beginning of he and Saul’s ministry together, the pair is always called "Barnabas and Saul," clearly placing Barnabas in the position of importance.  He leads the team.  A transition takes place in Acts 13:9, however, and it corresponds with the alteration of Saul’s name.  Saul, filled with the Holy Spirit, boldly confronts a Roman official and blinds him.  The proconsul is convicted by the powerful demonstration, and the ministry team is never the same.  What was once always "Barnabas and Saul" becomes in 13:13, "Paul and his companions."  Barnabas isn’t even named!  Thereafter, with only a couple of explainable exceptions (14:14; 15:12, 25), the ministry team is always called "Paul and Barnabas."  Paul has gone from being the student to the "chief speaker" (14:12), but their ministry continues to flourish. 
Barnabas must have been an exceptional man.  How many preachers do you know who would stick around after being supplanted by a young up-and-comer?  Probably only those that embrace the green preacher as a mentor and hope and pray that "he must become greater; I must become less" (John 3:30).

This is a powerful statement about mentoring.  Now I would enjoy hearing your response.  Have you seen examples of this kind of mentoring relationship?  Why might it be difficult for a mentor to see a student surpass him/her in some way?

Lynn Anderson on the Value of Mentors

Each Monday, I have been posting segments of an interview with Lynn Anderson of San Antonio, Texas.  Lynn has served as church planter, minister, and mentor to many, many people.  In this segment, he discusses the value of mentors in his life.  I, along with a number of other people, have been blessed through Lynn’s mentoring.  Watch this video and enjoy.  I would love to hear your feedback on his comments.

(You might enjoy visiting Lynn’s website,  I encourage you to to visit it if you have not.)