by Phillip Mutzelburg
This article continues the series on the distinctive of A2A. To help with continuity of thought, I include again the six distinctive we sincerely hope and pray will gain traction throughout the churches of the movement.
Defining Healthy Leadership
Our mission statement says, “To raise enduring leaders who build prevailing churches”. As has often been stated, the first phrase, “To raise enduring leaders...” deals with the health of the leader.
“Raising enduring leaders” is a descriptive phrase. It infers that there must be a proactive process for growing and educating our leaders so that they last over the long haul in the demanding and challenging role of Christian leadership.
When we raise something [or someone] we imply that it grows, and the natural desire is that it grows in a healthy manner so that it reaches its full potential. There is also the notion of something organic in the nature of growing.
Enduring implies a whole bunch of admirable qualities like lasting, continuing, durable, stable, permanent, long-term, and persistent. Clearly a healthy body, emotions, and spirit are essential for any leader to gain these qualities.
1. The Challenge
Healthy leadership is still not given the attention that is vital for a leader to gain the capacity to endure in ministry. This is despite several attempts by the NLT to convince leaders to take advantage of the mechanisms we have made available. I have heard it said that our mentoring programme has not really worked. This is correct, but a principal reason for this is simply that leaders have not taken advantage of it.
For healthy leadership to become an authentic distinctive of our movement, there must be a greater “buy in” resulting in participation from our leaders. I have had some discussion with a number of our leaders, and leaders from other movements regarding what the road blocks are that prevent engagement in a disciplined programme that makes for healthy leadership. In summary these are my findings:
I want to briefly address these roadblocks in the hope that they will be demolished as barriers to engaging with our mentoring strategy for developing healthy leaders.
Regarding roadblock 1. Almost every leader in scripture struggled, many with issues far greater than those you or I face. Everyone on the NLT is aware of their own humanity, and has nothing but sympathy and compassion for the struggling leader. We lead on with our limp and you can also.
Regarding roadblock 2. Confidentiality is seriously honoured. As you would honour the confidentiality with a congregant who comes to your office for help, so will a mentor do the same. The struggles you face are between you and the mentor, and will not be shared with any member of the NLT without your permission. The only exceptions are those which are required by law to be reported, and those which have serious spiritual implications on your ministry such as immorality and marriage difficulties. Even in these cases it will be done with great sensitivity to your right of privacy, and in many cases the whole NLT would not be informed.
Regarding roadblock 3. Pride is a spiritual issue. Only you can deal with this. The only help I can offer from a distance is to repeat that we all have our struggles, and you are not alone in your brokenness.
Regarding roadblock 4. To be honest, we have considered making having a mentor mandatory, and conditional upon receiving your ministry credential. Many of the most successful market place organisations have done this. It is a condition of employment. However, it is not our plan to do this as we would consider that free will is paramount to a successful relationship with a mentor. The downside of mentoring remaining voluntary is that it does project that it is not highly valued. This remains an issue for each leader to put before God.
It remains our intention to offer mentoring experiences to every credentialed minister and spouse so that not one of these courageous leaders feels they have to walk alone. In 2018, mentoring will again be offered throughout the movement, and a list of available mentors will be made available for leaders to choose as their mentor. This will be visible on our A2A Pastors and Leaders FB page. The mentoring programme will be led by Pastor Mark Ansell, but I will remain involved in the programme.
2. Defining Mentoring
It is considered that there is widespread confusion between mentoring and coaching. It is our belief that the role of a mentor and the role of a coach are different, and each can be defined in clear terms.
A mentor is a friend with a purpose. The purpose of this friend relationship is to bring experienced and trustworthy advice which will help grow the leader so they last over the long haul.
Another way of defining mentoring is to say, mentoring is about who the leaders is.
An Analogy for Mentoring
Healthy Leadership is a combination of the condition of the leader’s heart and the way he/she leads. It goes without saying that an unhealthy leader leads in an unhealthy way. A healthy leader will lead in a healthy way.
As previously mentioned, the first phrase of the A2A mission statement says “to raise enduring leaders...”. If I wanted to raise a plant so that it grows strong and healthy and is able to last through the storms and seasons, that implies attention must be given to the soil, fertilisers, watering, pruning, and where it is positioned. This is because a plant is organic in nature, and living organism. By simply planting a seed in the ground and then leaving it to grow and develop on its own is likely to see the plant die prematurely, or grow well within its potential.
Because we as leaders are living beings, I do not think it is too much of a stretch to say that leaders will only last through the storms and seasons of life and reach their full potential as leaders if all care is given to our development as well. To this end I believe a leader will best grow to be healthy if they have some to walk with in that process. That person is their mentor.
3. The Difference Between a Mentor and a Coach
So there is no confusion between mentoring and coaching, coaching gives special instruction on leadership skills so that they systematically build local churches that dominate our culture.
Another way of explaining coaching is to say, coaching is about what the leader does.
It will be impossible for a mentor to always avoid questions that fall into the category of coaching. Nor should they be avoided. This is understood, but the mentor will be coached to stay on their main area of responsibility, and defer the detailed and ongoing skills questions to a coach.
4. The Focus of Mentoring
Mentoring focuses on the well-being of the individual in three areas. We are tripartite beings, and are made up of body, soul, and spirit. These three areas most affect the way we function. The mentor will focus on the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of ministry couples.
The leader must pay attention to his/her physical health. The mentor will not usually be an expert on how to maintain physical health, but they will strongly encourage the leader to pay attention to such things as weight, diet, exercise, work and sleep patterns, and regular medical checks. With the leaders cooperation, the mentor may refer the leader to a proven health consultant, or dietary expert, and then help hold them accountable to a recognised programme.
The mentor is not normally a counsellor but they are a listener. By listening and helping the leader to express their feelings about the various situations of ministry life, it can become clear whether or not it is advisable for the leader to seek help from a counsellor.
The emotional well being of a leader can be helped enormously by just talking with a mentor. In the process of talking many issues can be resolved. Emotional health includes such things as recognising what and who drains your tank, and what and who fills your tank.
Too many leaders do not practise basic spiritual disciplines. These include such things as daily bible reading, journaling/meditating, prayer. Other spiritual disciplines include solitude, retreats, serving in a programme that keeps your heart soft.
The mentor can help the leader to make these disciplines a way of life.
A2A talks a lot about the health of the leader. From many conversations with leaders of other movements, and the pastors of other movements, no one is making as much effort as we are to make this an authentic distinctive in our movement.
But we must do much more than talk about it.
If we do not engage with mentoring on a voluntary basis, it is likely that in the near future it will become mandatory because of government legislation. The recently concluded Royal Commission into child abuse has made the following recommendation:
Recommendation on 16.45
Consistent with Child Safe Standard 5, each religious institution should ensure that all people in religious or pastoral ministry, including religious leaders, have professional supervision with a trained professional or pastoral supervisor who has a degree of independence from the institution within which the person is in ministry.