By A. Trevor Sutton
Baseball is “America’s pastime.” Whether playing or watching, many people pass time on or around a baseball diamond, yet baseball is more than just a game—it also imparts important lessons: “You won’t hit a home run every time at bat.” “Take it one inning at a time.” “Peanuts and Cracker Jacks make everything better.”
Another important lesson from baseball is to prepare for tomorrow, today. Major league baseball teams have extensive “farm leagues” for young players to prepare for a debut in the major leagues. Rather than just throwing an inexperienced player into the game, the farm league system allows a team to cultivate players over time.
Ministry leaders, pastors, and congregations can learn from baseball’s farm league system. This article will focus on how male mentorship—identifying men to cultivate and develop for future leadership roles—is vitally important to a thriving ministry. (While this article explores the topic of male mentorship, one could extend these insights into female mentorship and women’s ministry.) Like a baseball team, a ministry relies heavily on the abilities and strengths of its team members. If you do not have capable leaders on your team, it will be a struggle to develop transformative ministries season after season. You may have some capable leaders on your team today, but what about tomorrow?
Creating a farm league of future ministry leaders is a powerful way to build a thriving ministry. In 1 Corinthians 3:10 (ESV), we hear Paul say, “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.” These words make it clear that care and consideration should be given to the task of building a ministry. A way to put this verse into action is through creating a farm league for male mentoring in your congregation. Here’s how you can make this happen:
Identify men with leadership potential: Like a scout looking for prospective players, are there men in your congregation who show some leadership potential? These men may not be full-fledged leaders yet, but they possess some trait or ability that is promising. (Consider looking to Titus 1 or 1 Timothy 3 for some traits these men should possess.) Once these men are identified, invite them to be part of a men’s mentoring group.
Meet regularly together: An essential part of mentoring is learning by example. You will need one or more experienced leaders to guide this group of future leaders. A pastor, elder, or men’s ministry leader could fill this role. The man leading this group will create a schedule for the mentoring group to follow. Consider alternating between large group (the whole mentoring cohort) and small group (three people) meetings.
Read, Pray, and Learn: Just as a coach creates a practice schedule, the leader of this men’s mentoring group should formulate a Bible reading schedule, determine topics for prayer, and create opportunities for these men to learn from one another. Scripture tells us that “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 ESV). Plan for this learning to take place over the course of six to twelve months.
This ministry farm league for male mentoring is a way to develop tomorrow’s leaders, today. While this is something that you do, God alone gives it growth through the power of the Holy Spirit: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6 ESV). Start planting today and you will be surprised by the growth God brings about tomorrow!
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