TRAINING LEADERS & The Two Rules for Fostering Mentoring #SpiritualWaypointsBook

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2010), pp. 194-195.

(In other postings I’ve discussed more specifics of “Apprenticeship” and “Formal Training” for church leaders.  For more on this topic see these postings which are also excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey).

Spiritual Waypoints [cropped top 1:3 65kb]Mentoring: The Two Rules for Fostering It

1) Organically link experienced leaders and new leaders. This means the mentors and trainees should have a great deal in common, not just job descriptions. If feasible, leaders of similar backgrounds, cultures, and affinity groups should be linked, because communication and connection is best fostered when social and cultural barriers are minimal. For example a young assistant pastor might best mentor a youth pastor, rather than requiring the senior pastor to mentor the youth pastor. Though youth pastor and senior pastor are involved in similar pastoral functions, the cultural gaps between a middle-aged senior pastor and a twenty-something youth pastor may be too great.

2) Communicate both ways. The mentoring process must include clear and candid communication that goes back and forth between the mentor and the trainee. If communication is only one way, primarily from the experienced leader downward, the trainee will not be able to question for clarification, indigenize for their local context, or evaluate for improvement. If this occurs, communication will cease and frustration will ensue.

#StMarksTX mentee mentor

SPIRITUAL FORMATION & Should Employees Be Given Spiritual “Development Days?” Yes! Here’s why.

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 6/24/15.

I was thinking about how organizations sometimes give employees “development days” to pursue education, attend conferences, etc.

But since I encourage 50/50 development, 50 percent on professional development and 50 percent on spiritual development, I believe one option might be that ouGBA_Med1r development days should also be divided equally. (For more on how to balance 50% of your employee’s development in the spiritual arena too, see my chapter “Missteps with Staff Education” in Growth by Accident, Death by Planning, Abingdon Press, 2004).

Here is my response to a former student on this issue. I hope this sheds some light on my thinking regarding how to foster 50/50 learning in our congregations.


Hello ____student name____;

I appreciated that you stated, “I have found that if I can keep the personal development days focused on personal skill development, there is a high interest. I am afraid that if it drifts towards ratios (i.e. 50/50) … interest may change.”

Thank you for your posting. You are correct, many employees are highly interested in developing their skills.

But, I am concerned that 50/50 learning be reflected in our development days too. Let me explain. Church Growth studies are critical, and should be part of the 50% professional development segment. But also spiritual development is needed in the other 50%, lets call this spiritual development.

I suggested to another student in your cohort that 15 days should be expected per year minimum for personal development. Thus, 7 days for professional development, and 8 days for spiritual development.

Thanks for getting me thinking.
Dr. Whitesel


REST & Should Faithful Long-time Volunteers Take a Break?

by Bob Whitesel, 5/20/15.

Sometimes my students share their frustrations with long-time volunteers who at some point give up and just want to take a break from volunteering.  Because we still need these leaders (and in addition they are highly skilled) we often dissuade them from taking such leaves of absence.  Here is how one student described the situation, “What do you do with individuals who have had a long history of faithful service but after feeling burned out they now only attend and virtually are doing nothing to serve in the church?”

Well, I may surprise you, but I believe that dear faithful saints should at some point rest from their labors.  I see God giving us an example of this in the Sabbath that He Himself took (if there was someone who did not need this, it was Him 🙂  Thus, I have no problem with dear long-working saints wanting to enjoy their twilight years and/or taking time off to enjoy the church in harmony and peace.

I think the problem is exacerbated because there are usually few people ready to replace them.  This in my mind is not their fault, for the newcomers are usually a different generation than the long-serving volunteers, and the experienced workers don’t naturally relate to them.  Thus, they do not reach out to them.

I believe the fault lies with our training and assimilation systems.  Most churches do not have training for new leaders, as well as small groups to give new leaders a support system.  Thus, we rely upon long-working saints from our church culture to not only do their volunteer work, but also reach out across a cultural gap and recruit new volunteers who are unfamiliar with church culture.  The task is too large and the gap to wide for busy volunteers.  And thus, church leadership must step in with leadership training designed for new attendees.

Plus, because most church leadership training is focused upon existing volunteers this makes volunteers feel even more overwhelmed, as they try to juggle their volunteer work with more (required) leadership training.  Thus, I suggest we go easy on training for existing leaders, and focus more of our attention on the training of potential or new leaders.

I often ask my students, “Do some of you have avenues that foster such neophyte leadership training?  If you do, share them here and let’s inspire potential leaders for fruitful ministry.”  How about you?  If such programs don’t come to mind, how about doing some sleuthing on the Internet and finding some programs that develop new volunteers.  It will probably be more productive than trying to retrain burned-out ones.


Ten Areas Where Pastors Need to Be Trained for the 21st Century
by Thom Rainer, 3/8/14

“Any pastor or other church staff member should be prepared in biblical truths. Theology is a key discipline as well. Indeed none of the classical disciplines should be forsaken, nor any of the practical disciplines, such as missions, evangelism, or church planting.

But the American culture has shifted dramatically in a relatively short period. The United States is becoming more like an international mission field. As a result, ministry training, whether formal or informal, should reflect this reality. Missionaries are typically required to receive intensive cultural and language training before they go overseas. Frankly, a similar need exists today for those in American congregations, or those planning to go to these churches.

So where are the greatest needs? My list is certainly not exhaustive, nor is it in any particular order. But I do see all of these areas as key to reaching our new and challenging culture…”

Read more at …