Group of people having a discussion.

Reverse Mentoring: A New Learning Curve

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“The church needs young blood in its veins. Our strength for holding the faith may lie in experienced saints but our zeal for propagating it must be found in the young.” Charles Spurgeon

These words by British preacher Charles Spurgeon were written over 150 years ago but communicate a clear vision for young and old working together in building God’s kingdom. This vision can be realized through the effective use of “reverse mentoring”.

Here at DMC, we’ve promoted the use of a deacon mentoring plan for the raising up of younger or more inexperienced leaders. But mentoring does not just work in one direction. We can benefit in amazing ways from younger leaders who are more conversant with culture, technology and social context.

“Reverse mentoring” was pioneered a decade ago by General Electric CEO Jack Welsh in order to bring GE up to speed on the latest in technology. Welsh required more than 500 of his top executives to find a younger, tech-savvy mentor to teach them how to use the web and understand e-business.

Of the organizations using reverse mentoring, 41 percent of respondents used the method to share technical expertise, while 26 percent said their executives gained youthful perspective. (The poll was conducted by The Center for Coaching and Mentoring as reported in American Way magazine in January 2004.)

What if church leaders followed this example and used reverse mentoring to gain understanding of our rapidly changing emergent and post-modern culture? How could technology platforms and ministry come together (blog posts, Facebook, Twitter)? Could this build bridges between generations – closing the knowledge gap and empowering younger leaders?

Reverse mentoring can take place within existing church programs and structures. It doesn’t require a lot in the way of new processes, just the ability to match up people of different generations and encouraging them to exchange ideas and challenge each other.

Getting started:

  1. Create a “focus group” of high school or college students and invite their feedback on social justice issues, politics, current social movements and community ministry. What are their passions and interests? What do they feel is God’s place for them in the church, in ministry? What draws them closer to their faith? Welcome their analysis and criticism. Take notes, and take their comments to heart and prayerfully consider the implications for ministry.
  1. Meet monthly with a younger person to learn more about the emerging generations. Ask about ways to involve them in church life and leadership. Become a willing and intentional student; a humble protégé, instead of the mentor.
  1. Ask teachers or professors what their students are talking about these days. What are the hottest bands, TV shows, movies, and political issues?

If everyone involved approaches the relationship with a soft heart, we can learn things that will help us bring the gospel to all of our worlds while enjoying a kind of fellowship that is available in no other way. A great blessing will come when we recognize the Holy Spirit is working powerfully in the young and the old – let’s close the generation gap.

For further reading:

“Reverse Mentoring: How Young Leaders Can Transform the Church and Why We Should Let Them” by Earl Creps

Developing Spiritual Gifts: mentoring deacons and more

Posted by | Equipping Deacons, resources, Uncategorized | No Comments

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

The Taskforce report on Elders and Deacons roles in ministry has presented opportunities for teaching and unpacking how leaders in the church can integrate word and deed ministry practically. DMC staff has spent time reflecting and building on our Ephesians 4 vision for diaconal leadership. These insights have sparked innovative development of resources for churches to identify spiritual gifts in members of the congregations and how to mentor others in developing those gifts.

To this end, DMC staff has designed new resources and a workshop to support churches in discovering the gifts within the Body of Christ. Please consider if these resources would interest your local church:

  1. Discovering Spiritual Gifts – this workshop includes a personal gifts questionnaire, teaching surrounding spiritual gifts in general, the specific gifts and how to implement them. It concludes with a component called “Releasing Ourselves and Others for Ministry” that teaches engagement and interdependence within the community of believers.
  1. Asset Mapping in the Congregation – this resource uses the principles of ABCD (Asset-Based Community Development) to discover the gifts of a faith community and its resources. This tool works well in conjunction with the Community Opportunity Scan in bringing to light areas where the gifts within a neighbourhood can connect with the gifts of a local church.
  1. Mentoring Planthis resource includes teaching around mentoring – what it is, biblical basis, and what it could look like. We have also developed a general plan for more experienced deacons wishing to mentor new deacons. DMC staff can collaborate with a deacon team to customize a mentoring strategy.

Holding the Ephesians 4 vision for diaconal leadership can transform the way we look at calling people to the offices of elder and deacon. The challenge of equipping and preparing lay leaders in the church is also our opportunity. From there, the task of leadership includes equipping others for works of service. We hope that these further workshop and resource offerings from DMC can assist churches in raising up leaders, mentoring young people in discovering their gifts, and using the assets of a faith community for God’s kingdom work.

Looking for more resources for deacons? Click here!

Doing it Differently: Empowering Deacons to Serve

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Has your church found it difficult to get people to serve as Deacons and Elders?

Our church definitely has experienced this phenomenon in the past few years.  I think our record was more than 8 “no’s” before we got 1 “yes.”  Now that’s pretty sad.  One of the things we were discovering was that people agreed to serve in the role of Deacon or Elder and then, once they found out what it was like and what the expectations were, they found that it didn’t really fit with their gifts.  We also discovered that we didn’t really have adequate training to ensure that new office-bearers felt comfortable in their roles and were able to succeed in fulfilling the church’s expectations.   This left us in an awkward spot. And, yet, the church really needs people to serve in those roles to meet the needs of the community.

This year, we looked at how to improve -to create a more informed decision, and also to better equip those in service.  One of the first things we wanted to do was make the idea of serving less intimidating. So how did we do that?

Well, we invited God into the process.

First, we had people approach potential candidates and ask them to consider praying about the opportunity to serve.  Then we invited them to an information session. This was an amazing experience.

At this meeting, we gave each candidate a job description, highlighting some of the expectations.  Then the best part was hearing from current Deacons and Elders, who shared powerful, personal testimonies of how God really equipped them to fulfill these roles.  Many times they felt inadequate, but God showed up and they were blessed and able to do more than they possibly imagined.

At the end of the meeting, candidates were asked to go and continue to seek God’s will and pray for this opportunity.  They would also receive personal follow-up from a current Deacon or Elder to address any further concerns or fears.

Finally, we asked candidates to make a decision.  And we had an incredible turn-around!  This year, we have 3 new deacon positions available, and we actually have more candidates than positions for the first time since many of us can remember.  Soon, we will be letting God choose those who will be serving Him in the roles of Deacon and Elder.

Our next step is to work with the new leaders by equipping and encouraging them in their roles.  We plan to have some mentoring from more experienced Deacons and Elders.  To help newcomers understand their roles, we will also take advantage of denominational events, such as the Day of Encouragement, and resources like the Deacon and Elder handbooks.

It’s important to note that we did not develop this process ourselves.  It is a treasured best practice among other CRCs which ServiceLink learned about, has documented, and passed on to many other churches.

I pray this will be a blessing to your church as you continue to think about how to invite people into serving and leading in the church.

-written by Lesley Millar Toussaint, Diaconal Ministries Canada Board member, Classis Toronto