The Influence of a Father: Mentoring

In the days following the death of my father and his memorial services, I have been thinking a great deal about his legacy and influence on my life: past, present, and future. 

I realized that his influence has impacted not only my life, but hundreds of others as well. In his honor, I will be posting thoughts this week about that influence, and how it challenges me. Along the way, there will be applications for ChurchWorld leaders as well.


As we move through this thing called “life,” don’t we all wish we had a guide, a coach, a model, an advisor?

We’re looking for a mentor.

My father would not have used that word, but he did better than that: he lived and practiced being a mentor for decades.

After he was discharged from the Army Air Corps in 1946, he returned home to Mt. Juliet, TN, and began working with his brother to build and open a Gulf Service Station. After several years of work, Adams Brothers Gulf opened in 1949. 

For the next 44 years, my dad – known as “Doc” to friends and family – operated the gas station as a full service station providing not only gasoline but also preventive maintenance and tire services. He operated the station 6 days a week, 12 hours a day – and he was the only full-time employee.

Doc’s secret? He hired part-time boys in high school, with their hours being after school and Saturdays. They began working in their early teens, and could only work until they graduated – at which point they were “fired.” 

According to my dad, when you graduated from high school it was time for a “real” job or college. And so over the years, about fifteen young boys (including my brother and I) worked for my dad pumping gas, changing tires, sweeping, cleaning, painting, etc. – whatever was required. We all received a paycheck, but the life lessons we learned were far more important than the money.

At the funeral, as many of “Doc’s boys” as we could find served as pall bearers and honorary pall bearers. Some were only a few years younger than my dad; others are barely in their forties. All have gone on to lead a successful family and business life. To a man, they each expressed their heartfelt gratitude for what Doc meant to them. They wouldn’t say it, but they in turn have, and are, influencing others the same way.

If you are a leader, you should be a mentor.

How are you going to influence others today? How are you going to continue to influence others beyond today?

Here are a few other posts on mentoring you might find helpful:

 (a reposting of a previous series on Mentoring, while I am away on vacation)


The Methods of a Mentor

Your only job is to help your team be better.

That single idea had a huge impact on Tony Dungy, and it lead him to develop the successful leadership style so admired by players and coaches throughout the NFL and beyond.

In his book “The Mentor Leader,” Dungy reveals what propelled him to the top of his profession. He introduces the concept of “the mentor leader,” someone who takes their own gifts and skills and uses them to help others grow. Here are the methods of a mentor leader:

The Seven E’s of Enhancing Potential

Engage – it is critical for mentor leaders to engage with those they lead. It’s impossible to mentor from a distance.Mentorleaders should always be looking for ways to connect with the people they lead. They walk alongside the people they lead – and love every step. Engagement means a true open door policy, reflects attitude and approachability, not just whether the office door is propped open. Without engagement, you cannot mentor effectively.

Educate – education is an essential building block of mentor leadership. Because mentor leadership is all about helping others become the best they can be, it is built on a foundation of teaching, helping, and guiding.Mentorleaders must take a hands-on, one-on-one approach to mentoring individual lives.

Equip – mentor leaders create an environment in which others can be productive and excel. In essence, they strive to furnish what is needed for the task – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – and to accomplish the mission. Equipping goes hand in hand with educating if we want people to perform at their highest potential.

Encourage – mentor leaders are encouragers, and encouragement is the fuel that powers a leader’s efforts to engage, educate, and equip. Encouragement helps lubricate the rough spots, but even when things are going smoothly, it’s important to build others up.Mentorleaders are better off overusing encouragement than under using it.

Empower – true empowerment is preparation followed by appropriate freedom. Once your protégé is ready, stop teaching them and let them “take the test.” Empower them by letting them go.

Energize – great leaders energize and inspire those they lead. Even as they face their own daily struggles and stresses, mentor leaders look for way s to energize and motivate the people around them.

Elevate – the ultimate goal of every mentor leader is to build other leaders. The regenerative idea that leaders produce other leaders, who in turn produce leaders – is a powerful concept for mentor leaders and their organizations. At the heart of this regeneration is the principle of elevation – raising other people up. Raising up leaders is the truly selfless goal of every mentor leader, the culmination of focusing on others.

Dungy’s methods for maximizing the potential of any individual, team, organization, or institution for ultimate success and significance are helpful for anyone considering becoming a mentor.

Whose potential will you maximize starting today?

(a reposting of a previous series on Mentoring while I am away on vacation)


360 Degree Mentoring

Everyone needs to be a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy at some point in their lives.

Look Around – Peer Mentoring: Barnabas spoke up for Paul when everyone else only saw the old Saul.

  1. He believed in Paul before anyone else did
  2. He endorsed Paul’s leadership to other leaders
  3. He empowered Paul to reach his potential

Who will you be a Barnabas to today?

Look Ahead – Classical Mentoring: Paul loved the church at Thessalonica like a parent loves a child. As Paul mentored his “children,” he developed a parental, coaching relationship with them. In 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12 he describes this relationship in these words:

  1. A gentle, nurturing mother
  2. Shared good news and his very life
  3. Worked hard not to be a burden
  4. Strove to be an example
  5. Dealt with them as a father deals with his children
  6. Encouraged them to live up to their potential as God’s children

Is there a “Paul” that you looking up to today?

Look Behind – Reverse Mentoring: Young leaders have a powerful message for older leaders – but are we willing to listen? One pastor was heard to say “every day I get a little more disconnected unless I intentionally work at staying connected. We live in a plug and play world, which poses a problem for many of my peers who are hard-wired. They need what only the next generation can give: connectedness.” Here’s the world that younger generation lives in:

  1. I love media, but I trust my friends
  2. I am aware of broadcasting, but I trust narrowcasting
  3. I spend money, but I trust art
  4. I respect excellence, but I trust authenticity
  5. I resist church, but I trust Jesus

Who is someone “reverse mentoring” you today?

(from a previous series on Mentoring, while I am away on vacation)

How to Find a Mentor

The where of finding a mentor is obvious: potential mentors are all around you – you just have to know how to look.

It would be easy to assume that a potential mentor would stand out like a polished gem among dull stones, but that is not often the case. We tend to assume that mentors have to be unusually successful, or prominent, or brilliant, or outstanding in some other way. But the truth of the matter is that many of the best mentors are not spectacular – just solid. They may not stand out in a crowd, but they are out there.

Howard and Bill Hendricks, writing in their book “As Iron Sharpens Iron,” give the following three practical suggestions for finding a mentor:

Pray for a Mentor

We may not take prayer seriously, but God does. As you pray for a mentor, you’ve got to trust God, even through you cannot see any prospects on the horizon. Searching for a mentor is one of those times when, as Scripture says, you have to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Start Looking

Look around you – potential mentors are moving in and out of patterns of life all the time, but you’ve got to look for them. Open your eyes. Perk up your ears. Look and listen to what is happening around you. Understand the Marks of a Mentor, and make a list of who has those marks.

Make Contact

Once you have identified a potential mentor, connect with them. Ask them out to breakfast or lunch; talk with him; pray with him. See if the relationship takes hold; find out if there is a chemistry there. Mentoring develops out of that kind of initial contact. Here’s a pointer on stimulating some interaction: most of us respond to people who respond to us, particularly in the area of our expertise. We feel more comfortable talking about that. So starting there can help break the ice in a relationship. The point is not to try to manipulate someone into a relationship he doesn’t want, but rather to be informed about what matters to him.

If you want to find a mentor, think like a mentor.

(from a prior series on Mentoring, while I am away on vacation)

The Marks of a Mentor

The simplest definition of a mentor is a person committed to two things: helping you grow and keeping you growing, and helping you realize your life goals.

Okay, but what does a mentor look like?

Howard and Bill Hendricks’ book “As Iron Sharpens Iron” has been a great reference for my understanding and development of the concept of mentoring. Their intentional strategies and practical suggestions are a gold mine for anyone looking for a mentor, or to be a mentor. A great place to start? The 10 Marks of a Mentor:

A Mentor Seems to Have What You Personally Need

Whatever your mentoring objectives are, the only person who can help you achieve them is the one who has already developed those capacities himself. It’s a basic principle of spiritual nurturing: you cannot impart what you do not possess. So, look for a mentor who actually has the goods, not just one who looks good.

A Mentor Cultivates Relationships

An effective mentor has to be willing to give of himself to another human being. He must be capable of establishing an maintaining a relationship. Otherwise, he will have difficulty attracting anybody, despite the considerable value of what he may have to offer.

A Mentor is Willing to Take a Chance on You

A mentor is going to make a certain investment in you – an investment of time, energy, emotion, trust, and other resources. Investments always involve a measure of risk. This is as true in mentoring as anywhere else, because there are no guaranteed outcomes to the mentoring process. As you seek an “investor,” you have to ask yourself: Is this person willing to run the risk with me? Or is he so risk-averse that he’ll never give me a chance?

A Mentor is Respected by Other Christians

A mentor should be respected by other effective Christians. Among the qualifications for church leaders are that a man be “above reproach” and “respectable” (1 Timothy 3:2). As you consider a potential mentor, you need to conduct something of a background check on the prospect, particularly if you do not know him personally or have not known him for very long. Ask other people’s opinions, particularly those of mature believers, to indicate whether he is worth the risk.

A Mentor has a Network of Resources

The more extensive a network your mentor has, the better. Mentors can help you reach your life goals because of who they know and what they know. This knowledge base gives them tremendous power to promote your welfare. Your mentor can help you with your needs and objectives by introducing you to people, books, seminars, programs, and other resources that can encourage you in your development. The better the network, the more help he will be.

A Mentor is Consulted by Others

One of the best indicators that a man would serve well as a guide is if he is already serving as a guide to others. The prime candidates are the ones who already have a reputation as mentors. This ability to offer counsel is crucial. It is not wisdom alone that qualifies a person to coach another person, but his ability to communicate effectively and apply his wisdom to the other person’s need.

A Mentor Both Talks and Listens

The issue is communication. Most people think of communication as being all about speaking. But the truth of the matter is that you become an effective communicator by becoming an effective listener. Without question, communication is a two-way street, involving both speaking and listening. But of the two, listening is by far the harder to learn. A good mentor is a good listener. If you bring him a problem, a question, a comment, an idea, he will more than likely help you figure it out and run with it, rather than regale you with his own polished presentation. Mentoring is not about your mentor displaying his brilliance; it is about you as a protégé learning to step up to the next level, so that you can develop your competencies.

A Mentor is Consistent in His Lifestyle

What your mentor does and how he lives will have a far greater impact on you than anything he says. In fact, you may forget 90 percent of what he says, but you’ll never forget how he lived. There is no substitute for a person of consistent Christ-like character. He doesn’t have to try to snow you with words – his life is the most eloquent sermon there is. You want a person who is progressing toward maturity. That means a person who is authentic – as honest about his failures and weaknesses as he is realistic about the things he has going for him.

A Mentor is Able to Diagnose Your Needs

All of us have blind spots, areas of which we are unaware. That’s why we need people who can diagnose our developmental and spiritual needs. When you’re out of your depth, you need a competent person who not only can see that something is wrong, but can figure out what it is and how to fix it. A good mentor has the analytical ability to distinguish between nagging symptoms and underlying diseases.

A Mentor is Concerned with Your Interests

Looking for a mentor requires a moderate dose of healthy self-interest. We’re talking about your life and your development. Therefore, you are looking for someone who will champion your best interests. Ideally you want a person whose greatest joy is to see you succeed. If you succeed, he succeeds, and if you fail…well, he’s there to pick you up, dust you off, and get you back on your horse.

As you evaluate people according to these ten marks of a mentor, be realistic: you are going to find that almost every person falls short in some way. In other words, you will never find the perfect mentor. The point of this list is not to disqualify as many people as possible, but the urge you to aim high. A mentor can have a profound influence on you life, so it’s worth finding the most qualified person you can.

You’ve got a checklist in hand – now where do you find a mentor?

(from a prior series on Mentoring, while I am away on vacation)

The First Mentor

As we move through this thing called “life,” don’t we all wish we had a guide, a coach, a model, an advisor?

We’re looking for a mentor.

When the Greek warrior Odysseus went off to fight in the Trojan War, he left his young son Telemachus in the care of a trusted guardian named Mentor. The siege of Troy lasted ten years, and it took Odysseus another ten years to make his way home. When he arrived, he found that the boy Telemachus had grown into a man – thanks to Mentor’s wise tutelage.

It is from this ancient Greek story that we now commonly speak of a mentor as someone who functions to some extent as a father figure (in the best sense of the word). A mentor is someone who fundamentally affects and influences the development of another, usually younger, person. Over the next few days I want to explore the concept of mentoring and its application in ChurchWorld.

Howard and William Hendricks, writing in their book “As Iron Sharpens Iron,” introduce their concepts on mentoring this way: At their best, mentors nurture our souls. They shape our character. They call us to become complete persons, whole persons, and by the grace of God, holy persons. The Bible puts it this way: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Have you been sharpened against the whetstone of another person’s wisdom and character?

A single question to get you thinking about this mentoring concept:

Who are the people who have helped make you who you are today?

(a prior post on Mentoring, while I am away on vacation)

The Future is Always Now

Leaders create their own future.

That’s not an original thought, I just can’t recall who first said it.

I’m learning that families create their own future, too. One slice of that took place yesterday when my wife and I took our oldest son, his partner, their three-year old son, and my 18-year old son to Discovery Place KIDS in Huntersville for an afternoon’s fun – and learning. We thought that a ratio of five adults to one three-year old would be about right.

DPK is an interactive museum designed specifically for younger children. My grandson was won over the minute he walked in the door and saw a real fire truck just waiting for him to climb on board. From there it was a trip through the drive-through at the bank, the grocery store, a farm (tractor included), a rock-climbing wall, restaurant, brick factory, race car, auto shop, and on and on…

Two hours later but still going strong, he reluctantly left with Nina and GrandBob (with the promise we could come back). After our meal, it was back to full speed again, running and playing in our yard, then running down to the end of our cul-de-sac, racing his dad and kicking a ball. He got to meet a few neighbors, and a dog named Sam.

Back inside for cupcakes and ice cream (celebrating his dad’s 30th birthday) then he was ready to go again. By that time the long day was winding down, and they had a two-hour drive back home.

Reflecting on the day’s events, I thought about Jack, his mom and dad, his uncle, and at my wife and me. We weren’t looking at the future…

…the future is now.

The same thing is true in ChurchWorld. We aren’t preparing future leaders – they are among us now – and they are all ages: 18 years, 30 years, and yes, even three-year olds. My family outing at DPK was a perfect illustration of the tremendous opportunity we have at this moment for the church.

James Emery White, pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church, has a great post here. It speaks of the disconnect between 30 somethings in the church and their parents. That’s me, and that makes it personal.

The title of this blog – 27gen – comes from the 27 years separating the four generations of Adams males: my father, me, my son, and his son. That’s the lens through which I am constantly viewing the world, and one that I hope you enjoy dropping in on.

Today’s assignment: Take a look around you right now. Who is younger than you, and what can you learn from them? Who is older than you, and what can you learn from them? Now flip it: what can you do to help someone younger, and older, learn from you today?

The future is NOW!

(From a prior post on Mentoring while I’m on vacation)