One of the biggest questions younger leaders are asking—when faced with the possibility of an older mentor—is, “Do they really care about me as a person? Or is this just part of their job?” Or more cynically, “Are they just using me to fill a slot?” The first step for you, as a would-be mentor of younger leaders, is to be honest about answering those questions within yourself.

Do you really want to mentor young leaders?

mentoring younger leaders

What motivates you to consider mentoring younger leaders? Young people are no longer flattered by interest from established leaders and are not willing to follow blindly. If there are strings attached to your mentorship they will see them. So ask yourself honestly, ARE you just wanting to fill volunteer slots? DO you just want someone to take on some of your workload? IS your real goal the extension of your own ministry? Consider your expectations and the degree to which self-interest may be involved.

Mentoring outcomes

The reality is, when you invest in young leaders, you never know where they might go. They might take over a role within your ministry. But more likely than not, God may be calling them to something completely different. If you can expand your view to developing leaders for the fuller Kingdom of God rather than just within your own ministry, you’re ready to move on to the next step: building relationships. 

Establishing mentoring relationships

As you may guess from previous blog entries on this topic, building relationships is largely founded on listening, asking questions, and coming to them with a learning posture rather than an expert posture. These are the ways to build trust. The key to trust-building is listening without an agenda to find out where their heart is. Ask open-ended questions and listen to learn their key values, the things they want do and see, and their gifting and skills.

As that begins to get clarified, they may or may not have a clear picture of where they want to go. Possibly they just have a general direction. So what’s their game plan for going in that direction? What are the challenges they are facing? How do they need to be able to grow to live into their vision?

Help them build their own story

Although you will likely have some clear ideas on that, go with the answers they identify rather than your own. (If your own ideas are correct, the Holy Spirit will bring that to them when they are ready.) No one wants to be told what to do, but you can make observations. What do you notice about them? In what ways do they seem gifted? What are the principles you see at work in their lives? Don’t fit them into a mold, but truly connect with younger leaders as individuals. You can still speak into their lives, but in a non-directive way that makes them think for themselves. All of this takes a significant investment of time. 

Stick around

This process is not about efficiency. This is much, much slower than telling people what to do. But it’s also vastly more effective in developing leaders. Without personal buy-in, you may be temporarily filling some slots, but you’re not actually developing anyone.

Here’s the real question: Are you looking for lasting change or filling slots? Developing each leader well does indeed take a good deal of time and you’re just focusing on one (or two or three at the most) at a time. But what does that yield? It yields genuine new next-generation leaders who can expand the long-term capacity of ministry to reach more and more people. It’s not microwave ministry. It’s a long-term investment that pays off.

Growth will happen

As my friend Jim Pool recently explained in his newsletter: 

We’re all familiar with the growth and multiplication potential of bamboo: 90 feet in a season and up to a meter in a single day! Yet it doesn’t begin that way. The seed of the Chinese varietal of bamboo lays dormant in the earth for six years, soaking up the nutrients of sun and rain and soil, sending out its roots deep into the loam. Then, one day in the seventh year, it sprouts!   Bamboo Initiative – Detroit Michigan

There’s a lengthy season of significant investment where we don’t always see much progress… it in the long term in takes off. We see a similar dynamic in financial retirement planning: small deposits over time yield significant long-term results. As developers of new leaders, we need to move from the instant—yet shallow—rewards of running people through a program or class to the long-range perspective of the broader Kingdom of God, increasing all over the place. 

How can you share your wisdom and experience with younger leaders? The answers are nuanced and many, so we’ll be spending a few weeks on this topic here on the Logan Leadership blog. You can search for “mentoring younger leaders” here to find the whole series when it’s completed.


As you think through how to share your wisdom with younger leaders, consider that every person is different and we all reflect God in different ways. The Discipleship Difference* lays out an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship that is individualized to meet each person wherever they are. Also in Spanish*.

Linear discipleship programs fizzle out quickly because every person is in a unique place in their walk with God and the circumstances of their lives. The Guide for Discipling is a choose-your-own adventure discipleship program that is engaging for seasoned Christians and those who are just starting their journey with Jesus. Also available in paperback*.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

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