A girls' soccer team and their female coach lift up their arms to go for a high-five

We have all seen it happen: the leader of a vibrant institution steps down, and a few years later, what once was flourishing begins to decline. In congregations, this downward slide is not only the result of senior pastor transitions. It may happen when a critical mass of key lay leaders moves away or discerns that it is time for them to use their time and talents differently. Attrition does not usually occur all at once, but even if it takes place slowly over several years, the cumulative impact of individual losses can make forward progress exceedingly difficult.

Is there anything organizations can do about this?

The resources highlighted in this week’s issue say “yes.” To the extent that institutional decline is influenced by a shrinking pool of new leaders, mentoring can be a key strategy for institutional sustainability. How might your congregation implement intentional practices of mentoring for new leaders?

Mentoring connects to the scriptural emphasis on stewardship. Good stewardship involves managing one’s resources to serve others. Stewardship goes beyond sharing our financial gifts and time. Stewardship is about sharing our knowledge, experience, wisdom and history with others so they can continue doing good work. Therefore, being a mentor is an act of stewardship. We take what we have learned as a leader and share it with others to the glory of God.

Every church needs more leaders and new leaders. Maybe it’s time to measure leadership success by the number of people we prepared to replace us rather than the number of years we served. Long-tenured leaders who do not prepare others often have good intentions, but the best results happen when we intentionally invest in others. 


two circles of connected paper cutouts of people, one circle inside the other

Mindful mentoring can help develop leaders

Studies show that while mentoring can make a difference, especially for women and people of color, mentoring alone is not enough. A white male administrator shares his ideas about ways leaders can leverage their roles to support and advocate for women and people from marginalized groups.

By Todd Maberry

An illustration of two heads facing each other, both with colorful blocks inside their ''brains.'' One has a full square set of blocks, and a string of blocks is leaving the mouth and being added to the other head's blocks.

What does mentoring look like?

A longtime friend resisted the title “mentor,” but that’s what he was to many, writes the executive director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity.

By David L. Odom

Book cover: ''What Makes You Come Alive: A Spiritual Walk with Howard Thurman''

‘What Makes You Come Alive: A Spiritual Walk With Howard Thurman’

Howard Thurman lived a life full of mentors and mentorship, says the author of a new book in this excerpt.

By Lerita Coleman Brown

A piece of notebook paper with ''Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers'' written on it

Subverting assumptions about age, experience and wisdom

A priest anticipating her last decade in full-time ministry writes about the intentional choice of a mentor who is a generation younger.

By Rhonda Mawhood Lee

Before you go…

At my daughter’s first middle school soccer game this year, I noticed the team was taking a while to collect their belongings and leave the field. The visiting team had gone, but our players were in a huddle on the sidelines.

It turns out that all of this was by design. The varsity players had come to the middle school game. They watched the entire game and encouraged the players throughout it. After the game, each varsity player presented a middle school player with a personalized note and a friendship bracelet. In a small way, the varsity players were offering themselves as mentors to the middle school girls. I’m very glad that my daughter will have more experienced student-athletes to encourage her.

Each person I’ve known as a mentor has been generous with their gifts and wisdom. Like the servant with five talents, they invested their talents in me and multiplied their gifts to the glory of God. And I am grateful beyond words.

You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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