Mentoring 101 From the Story of Elijah and Elisha

Thursday, March 26, 2015

passing the baton
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. 2 Kings 2:9

The Bible is full of examples of Godly leaders taking the time to intentionally mentor a new generation of leaders. The story of Elisha and Elijah is a powerful example of what happens when we determine to mentor younger leaders around us. Mentoring is not an easy process because it takes considerable time. It will stretch you in ways you never imagined. It will challenge you in your own leadership. It will require you to be humble and learn yourself. But the payoff is worth all of that. Refusing to mentor young leaders around you is very costly. As you read the entire account of Elisha, think of the implications for Israel had Elijah not taken the time to mentor this young man.

Let me share with you some basic principles about the process of mentoring young leaders from this short story.

#1: Let them walk beside you.

Mentoring simply will not work from a distance. It requires letting them get up close and personal with you. Mentoring requires letting young leaders get their hands dirty themselves, not just watch you do the work. We learn the most by doing. Elijah tried to go alone but fortunately Elisha was persistent and insisted on going with him. Jesus modeled this so well with his disciples. He literally put them to work and didn't do all the work himself.

#2:  Take time to talk with them.

In verse eleven we read that they were walking and talking together. One of the biggest mistakes we can make as mentors is merely talking to them and failing to talk with them. Mentoring is much more than just imparting your wisdom to others. It also requires listening to them and giving them opportunity to ask questions. A big part of the process requires letting them talk things through. An added benefit is that you will learn something yourself in the process.

#3: Don't be threatened by their future success.

The number one reason leaders don't ever mentor young leaders is because they are insecure. They are afraid that if they successfully mentor others, they will rise up and steal their job from them. Insecure leaders just can't stand to let someone else succeed. Leaders--we need to just get over ourselves! We must accept the fact that we will eventually be replaced, whether we retire or God moves us to another place, and if we don't intentionally mentor our replacement then we have failed as leaders. Elijah knew he was leaving soon and he didn't want to leave Israel without a qualified, experienced leader to be able to step in when he left. Elijah wasn't threatened by Elisha's request for a double portion of his anointing. I think he was thrilled and that released him to move on. Leaders--don't be threatened by the fact that younger leaders around you are more talented than you are. That's a good thing! The greatest compliment to your leadership abilities is your success in developing young leaders who can do things better than you could ever dream of doing yourself.

#4: When it's time to go, LET GO!

I have seen many leaders over the years make the mistake of not completely letting go when it's time for them to step away. When Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire, he wasn't giving Elisha last minute instructions and he never came back to check up on him. Leaders who fail to fully let go and walk away after giving the reigns to the new leader do incredible damage by undermining the authority and leadership of the new leader and ultimately end up undermining the authority and leadership of God himself. Not only is this poor leadership, it is simply unethical.

If you are a leader, I challenge you to be the kind of leader Elijah was. Be determined to find potential leaders around you and follow these four principles for mentoring a new generation of leaders who will accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God. And in the process, if they end up stealing your job, God will honor you because you were an honorable leader.
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