the shape of leadership

Mentorship From a Distance

You don’t have to move somewhere to go somewhere

Preston Ulmer on September 23, 2019

Have you ever desired to have a mentor? In his book, Augustine as Mentor, author Edward Smither states that mentorship is one of the oldest practices in the history of the Church. According to Smither, a mentor in the traditional sense is a growing disciple and winsome model for imitation, one who demonstrates both skill and faithfulness. Who wouldn’t want to learn from a leader like that?

The problem is most of us are busy, bombarded and bullied by our demanding schedules. It’s an ever-present tension: Good leaders set good examples for us to follow. Yet following good leaders requires spending time with them. That is not always possible — unless there is a third option.

You do not have to move somewhere to go somewhere. With the compounding efforts and limitless resources of information on YouTube, podcasts and e-books, we have the opportunity to walk the paths of those who are living the life God is calling us to pursue. Keep your busy life, and still get to where you need to go!

The route your mentor took can help guide you on your journey.

Identify who is doing what you want to be doing. Whether it’s personal fitness or church growth, the principle holds true: Someone is doing what you want to be doing. These people have walked the path to get there, and mastered competencies and values you dream of acquiring. The first step to receiving mentoring from a distance is to identify who you want as a mentor.

Become familiar with all the mentor’s material. If mentorship involves imitation, it is important to think like the people you admire. Look for podcasts, books, articles and other available original content. This doesn’t mean you can only learn from megachurch pastors with dozens of published books. You might benefit from following the blog of a seasoned leader of a smaller church. The key to this step is simple: Practice a lot of listening.

Discover the path your mentor took to arrive where you want to go. When you drive, highway signs direct you toward your destination. Similarly, the route your mentor took can help guide you on your journey.

Seek out the people doing it around you. There is power in proximity. In The Proximity Principle, Ken Coleman wrote, “When you’re around the right people in the right places, what happens is opportunity.”

Learning from a distance is one way to get where you want to go without having to sacrifice what you have right in front of you.

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 edition of Influence magazine.

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