Five Tips for Creating a Mentor Program

The key to cultivating exceptional leaders

Things change continually in ministry, for better and worse. One area that seems to have improved drastically over the past 15 years or so, though, is the emphasis placed on mentoring and its role in creating fully engaged employees.

Being good stewards of resources goes far beyond just dollars and cents. Mentoring allows us to be good stewards of one of the greatest resources we have in ministry–people.

Mentoring is the practice of connecting an individual with someone who has "been there and done that." It can play a key role in the development of a staff member into an exceptional employee or leader. Many people spend more of their waking hours at work than anywhere else, and this can be especially true in ministry. If people only learn how to technically perform their job, they are missing out on a much more balanced, well-rounded approach to their role.

Here are five tips for a successful mentoring program:

1. If it's just going to be a program, don't even start it. Doing this right requires commitment and a true concern for staff. Any other motivation will quickly become apparent and may sabotage your efforts.

2. Make sure it's a good fit for the employee. Arbitrarily assigning someone a mentor may hinder open dialogue. Instead, identify potential mentors and allow individuals to select who they would like to be paired with. Mentors need to be individuals who not only have experience, but are also committed to the organization. Mentors will impact the people they mentor and should care about them personally while also helping them understand their role and potential growth in the ministry.

3. Mentoring relationships should always be same-gender. Not everyone would agree with this position, but it is a distinguishing characteristic between coaching and mentoring. Coaching is focused on the job and its tasks and could result in a male/female pairing, since the focus is solely on workplace issues. Mentoring, however, is more role- and life-related. It would be inappropriate for a female employee to share with a male mentor that she is having difficulty managing the responsibilities of work and home life, and that this is causing a strain on her marriage. For a mentoring relationship to be fully effective, life issues need to be discussed. Mentors are entrusted with trying to help employees grow and develop personally and professionally, and you need to make sure no one is put into a position that could cause them to stumble and damage any of the relationships they are trying to nurture.

July 13, 2011 at 10:34 AM

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