by Larry Travis
Every minister has the responsibility of replacing himself in ministry. We must be concerned about those coming behind us. We must ask the questions: Who will be the next leaders? Who will be the next preaching ministers, the next youth ministers, the next worship leaders? Who will be the next elders in our churches? This need strikes at the core of who we are as leaders, as men and women who want to the church to grow and the Gospel to be shared with the whole world.
Today this is a challenge. Ministerial attrition ranges between 50-60%. Some Christian colleges report attrition from their ministerial classes as high as 71%. Many ministers are burdened by debt, conflict in their churches, a lack of support, and many feel they are “doing ministry” alone. Most have no one to turn to in their time of need. Most are not being trained and encouraged as they continue ministry. Most of the Christian Church Bible colleges are struggling to stay open. Fewer and fewer of the best young men and women are listening to the call to join full-time, vocational ministry. The challenges for the church are not only real but they are immediate.
There is no single answer to this dilemma but there is something that every minister can do. Each man or woman can take under their wing a younger minister and be their mentor.
We have Biblical precedent for this. Elijah mentored Elisha. Jesus mentored the disciples. Barnabas mentored Paul. Paul mentored Timothy. But it’s not just about discipleship. It’s not just about training and learning the ministerial craft. It’s about learning from each other. It’s about gaining support and help and love … knowing there is someone beside us as each minister takes on the challenge of leading God’s church. This is at the heart of the newly formed Center for Church Leadership that is based in Cincinnati under the leadership of Dr. Tim Wallingford. Over 500 churches are a part of the network. A new ministry initiative of CCL is beginning this month, called The Safety Net. There will be 50 men who will be willing to take calls from ministers who need prayer, a friend, an advocate in the ministry. This program can be for every minister because the best ministry is done in community with others.
So ask yourself. Who are you praying for every day in the ministry? Who are you calling to encourage? Who are you taking to lunch? Who are you walking beside to make sure they will stay the course in ministry? Ask yourself: who will take your place? Who will be the next to fill the pulpit? Who is your church sending to Bible college to be trained? Who is being mentored so they will take up the mantle of leadership in the future?
In Proverbs 27:17 it says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” No minister can mentor everyone, but each minister can, at least, mentor one. Who is it for you?
When will you begin?