In the course of my life I have been blessed to gain from the wisdom and leadership of others who were ‘up’ above me in age, wisdom, position and/or experience. I’ve also been fortunate to have peers ‘around’ who motivate and challenge me through our common pursuit of a task or calling. Finally, God has allowed me to lead others and pass ‘down’ what has been invested in me by the other two groups mentioned. These three types of relationships – up, down & around- are all essential in the development of a man or woman of God.
Scripture records that Timothy and Titus looked ‘up’ to receive mentoring in their faith and leadership from a man named Paul. Intuitively we all understand the need to look ‘up’ to those who can guide us to where we wish to be. I’ve often wondered what it takes to be ‘chosen’ by men and women to mentor. While I do not yet completely know a silver-bullet solution to finding mentors, I do believe attitude and posture go along way. If you want a mentor you must present yourself as a worthwhile investment. People naturally want to share what they know and leave a legacy but if you’re not demonstrating humility and a desire to grow, great mentors will not waste their time. Additionally you need to show that you want to be mentored. Show some spunk and a desire to see God do great things in your life. Mentors are willing to invest if you show them that their investment will pay off.
Peer Leadership is vital to the believer as it requires us to find, maintain and cultivate relationships with people who are very close to us in stature or stage. This leading ‘around’ also requires that we respect one another enough to (in most cases) form bi-lateral relationships where honesty is valued and concerns, fears and failures are open to discussion. If you want to be developed you must let some of your peers speak into your life. Unlike those ‘above’ you who are mentoring down or those who are ‘below’ you whom you will mentor, your peers can provide some of the most revealing insight into your life because they too are walking through the same (or similar) season of life. Often our peers can call our bluff far quicker than those above or below us in life-stage. Take time to pray for, seek out and cultivate great and godly peer-leaders.
Finally, in order to develop in life you must invest ‘down’ into the life of someone else. I’ve heard it said that we don’t truly ‘know’ something until we can clearly explain it to another person. Additionally I’ve heard (and see it to be true) that we truly have not learned a truth until we actually ‘live’ that truth and apply it in our own lives. I’ve found that some of my greatest learning has come from the question of those people who were looking to me to lead them. When people rely on you for their growth it forces a whole new level of maturity and development. If you’re a responsible leader you will rise to the challenge of having others dependent on your guidance. Additionally, mentoring others is a way you can demonstrate your gratitude to God for investing into your life. Do not live your life as a spiritual cul-de-sac. Share with those who may appear ‘below’ you in your level of life or experience. It will benefit you in more ways than you know.
As you study further I encourage you to look into the lives of Paul, Timothy and Barnabas. Paul was leading Timothy and he developed a peer relationship with Barnabas. Timothy received Paul’s teaching and went on to lead a church under Paul’s guidance. Between these three men were all three types of leadership relationships. Study them, apply them and grow with them. It will allow you to develop your leadership acumen - up, down & around.
Timothy + Barnabas is a great ongoing leadership series of events and conferences centered on these areas of leadership and encouragement – founded and led by Dr. Johnny Hunt, Pastor of FBC Woodstock, a 16,000 member church outside of Atlanta, GA
An article for further reading on Paul, Timothy and Barnabas