By John Hebert, Louisiana Baptist Missions and Ministry Team Leader
ALEXANDRIA (LBM) – Acts 28 describes the Apostle Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome as a sort of home confinement with a live-in guard and that for “two whole years” he was “able to welcome all who came to see him.”
One of the “all” who was with him during much of that time was Timothy, who already was a recognized evangelist and overseer among the churches in Europe and Asia Minor, but he still was growing in spiritual maturity under the tutelage of Paul.
They first met on Paul’s second missionary journey and throughout the following 14 years, or so, Timothy progressed in leadership and was sent by Paul to be his representative to Corinth and later to Thessalonica. Finally, Paul sent Timothy to Philippi and told the church there, “I have no one else like him” (Philippians 2:20), acknowledging his extensive personal investment in developing Timothy to serve as a leader.
Indeed, Timothy’s path of leadership growth is a prime example of how leaders are developed over time through the passing along of wisdom from leader to follower combined with situational opportunities that allow a follower to test and develop his or her own skills.
This time-honored approach requires patience from mentors – with coaching as needed while allowing the follower to experience success and failure (part of creating ownership).
But the key to success for the mentor depends in large part on recruitment, or selection.
Not every person can do the job.
But it’s obvious that on his second missionary journey that Paul saw something very special in Timothy because within a relatively short time of meeting him, he asked the lad (16 years old at the time) to join the missionary team he was leading.
Not everyone is capable of leading, so choosing good recruits is essential because of the time a leader must invest in that person.
In his book, “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun,” Wes Roberts declared, “If all Huns were blind, a one-eyed warrior would be their king.” The insinuation, of course, is that for blind Huns a one-eyed King would do. But that is a low bar for leadership.
Be careful not to recruit “one-eyed kings” — leaders with limited ability. Effective leaders either already have developed, or, are capable of developing a robust leadership skill set. Moreover, leaders largely are known for the kind of leaders they develop and launch into leadership positions.
It’s obvious that Timothy was not a “one-eyed king” but instead, was a young man of much potential. “The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him,” Luke reported in Acts 16:2.
The mistake made too often by leaders is to just “fill the position.”
Don’t recruit people just to fill positions.
Set a goal to find individuals capable of leading – those who are receptive of the vision, and, responsive to the intrinsic motivation of “taking charge” while you train them for the task, give them freedom to complete the job and hold them accountable for the results (the process of creating ownership).
Give them ongoing encouragement and coaching, but let them work to solve the problems. Then celebrate the victories as they become an extension of your ministry.
Then find other recruits and “rewind and repeat.”
Developing effective leaders takes time. But if done right, you, too, will be able to say of your mentee, “I have no one else like him.”