Removing the Fog from the Process of Mentoring: 17 Things I Learned from Carson Pue’s book “Mentoring Leaders”
I grew up in Vancouver, BC and always referred to Carson Pue as “Big Carson,” him being the only other Carson I knew of. The Pues were good family friends of ours and I have fond memories of a few times with them when I was a kid.
I was 9 years old when my family left Vancouver for sunny California. I only recently connected with Carson again because of my moving to Vancouver to study at Regent College.
My dad recently gave me Carson’s book Mentoring Leaders: Wisdom for Developing Character, Calling, and Competency because of a role I’m about to have in Vancouver as a pastor/mentor to college students. I’m really excited to tell you about that role soon.
For me, this was one of those books that cuts in line to the top of your reading list and then demands all of your attention as you devour it start to finish. It filled in a gap of how to mentor others while recognizing where I myself am at in the process of maturity. This knowledge led to a series of insights, tears, and renewed vitality for the season ahead.
Let me give an overview of the structure of the book, and then share with you some takeaways from each section.
The Mentoring Matrix
The premise of the book is that there is a process to mentoring others, which is laid out in this illustration. The mentor takes the mentee through five phases of development.
The first phase (Awareness) is where the leader focuses on intimately knowing God and knowing himself. The awareness of who you are in Christ must come before everything else so that you can have a solid foundation from which you do ministry. Without this knowledge and foundation, it will be much easier to crumble in hard times and seasons of change.
The second phase (Freeing Up) takes that knowledge of self and searches for any areas of life, experience or history you need to be freed from in order to minister to others at your full potential. Everyone has had a sin or past dark experience or habit that holds you back. This phase is about identifying and facing that thing, and then through prayer and sharing with professional counselors or close friends, being freed from it.
The third phase (Visioneering) is when the leader seeks God’s vision for their life. It’s important that this comes third, Pue explains, as skipping the first two phases will lead to a vision without a strong foundation. Pue notes, “If you jump to Visioneering without having a clear understanding of self, or things holding you back, you may be wasting your time, or even damaging your training.” This was helpful to understand, as many leadership books only focus on one of the five areas that Pue covers in his Mentoring Matrix. He lays out the larger context for the growth of a leader.
The fourth phase (Implementing) is about putting the vision into action. He covers practical topics such as budgeting, training up a team, hiring, firing, time management, and growth.
The fifth phase (Sustaining) is about leading, continuing and sustaining the vision that has been implemented. Pue reflects on how many times, the process of mentoring is repeated, and the leader often becomes restless when they’ve passed the Implementation stage. They then go back to Stage 1 and go through the process again to see how God might be moving in the season ahead.
It’s a continual process of growth and change and developing closer intimacy with God, self, others, and your specific calling in the world. Season by season we have to remain open to being molded in different ways as we mature in Christ and come to a more complete understanding of who we are and where our highest contribution lies.
Here are 17 takeaways or quotes from Mentoring Leaders that I’ve found helpful:
- Talking about sailing, Pue’s friend Les once told him, “The most significant thing in navigation is knowing exactly where you are.” It’s the same in leadership. Without knowing where you are at in your life, emotions and needs, you’re unable to navigate life effectively.
- Leaders lack this self-awareness because of lack of feedback, insecurity, and busyness.
- I am God’s beloved child before I am a leader. Function from that core identity of being accepted, loved, and cherished by God, not for what you’ve done, but because of who he is.
- This was probably the most important part of the book for me. What chains are in your life that are weighing you down from living and flourishing to your fullest potential? For me, I realized there was one big past experience that I had stuffed for years. It was an incredibly painful thing that happened to me, but I had just decided that it wasn’t a big deal and that I could move on. When I got to this point in the book where Carson was explaining that we need to seek healing from painful past experiences that are holding us back, I realized that I hadn’t fully dealt with this experience yet. Now that I’ve worked through it with friends and with God, I feel freed up to minister to others in love and transparency.
- “Vision is God’s taking you from one place to another for his purposes—not our own. Vision is more about being taken.”
- “The vision that is needed is one that clarifies the direction they should be going, and out of that eventually will emerge the strategic steps that will get them there.”
- Vision is a problem for many younger leaders because they are often gifted in multiple areas and are capable of a lot—therefore the filter of “Is this in my gifting?” is not so much of a filter for focusing their priorities anymore. They also keep too busy to take time in solitude and reflection for listening to God. Thirdly, they often try to skip right to “What’s the vision?” without first addressing the first two stages of self-awareness and freeing up.
- Vision sometimes takes many decades to come to fruition. Don’t get discouraged! He cities the story of Barnabas Family Ministries as well as some Biblical stories. The story of my Dad, although not in the book, is also a helpful example of a vision that was given about one’s contribution to the world. He was given a vision a few decades ago about the kind of work he was made to do in the world.And after many roles and many years, he’s finally in a sweet spot as a CEO to CEOs where he can play out this very vision that was given to him long ago.
Does that mean he or the others didn’t pursue the vision as soon as they received it? Absolutely not. These people have been faithfully moving toward their God-given visions all along. But now they’ve arrived in the Promised Land, so to speak. Many times, people my ages (in their 20s) want to get to the end goal *now*. But story after story proves that it’s not often how God works. (And it’s for our best interest, too.)
- “Without a clear vision, you have not really begun your role as a leader.”
- “The burn (passion) percolates up a vision and then the mission is birthed—the commitment to act on that vision.”
- “Vision” can mean
- a focus or direction
- the biblical stewardship of spiritual gifts and life experiences
- a specific calling
- a specific task given from God by special revelation
- a passion or dream
- It’s not enough to just receive the vision. Leadership is effectively and clearly communicating the vision to your team in order to motivate action.
- Not all groups at work (and not all marriages) are true teams. A team “will always have common goals that everyone clearly accepts, and will understand that if they are to accomplish them, they must work together. They will also invest a substantial amount of time in learning how to work together.”
- You can manage your time well and still live an unbalanced life.
- “You cannot manage what you don’t measure. If you don’t measure, you don’t really care.”
- Don’t be on 24/7. Take a Sabbath! Rest well.
- There are two kinds of accountability: internal and external. External is what we typically think about when we think about being accountable to someone. It involves being transparent with a few people in your life. It means sharpening each other like iron. Carson lists a ton of great accountability questions like:
- “Have you used anything other than God in an attempt to meet your emotional or spiritual needs this week? Is so, what? What would help redirect you to Jesus?”
- “Where are you financially right now? Are things under control? Are you feeling anxious? Is there any great debt? How are you planning to proceed in this area of your life?”
But even in having external accountability, we can still hide from telling the full truth. This is where internal accountability comes in. What is God’s Spirit convicting you of? What are your motives, desires, and thoughts? Are you listening to God? Praying the Prayer of Examen may help in having internal accountability: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139:23-24)
- One of the most helpful parts of the book for me was the concept of Key Lifetime Development Stages.
- The Age of Learning (18-30 years old) is where we are trying to figure out who we are and how things work. Key Question: Who am I?
- The Age of Contribution (30-50 years old) is when we are strongly attempting to figure out our life purpose and find our voice. Key Question: What do I do?
- The Age of Investment (50+) is when we focus on finishing well. Key Question: In whom or what should I invest myself?
I am currently in the “Age of Learning,” and I noticed that many times, I get myself into confusion because I’m asking the wrong question. Instead of “Who am I?” I ask “What do I do?” Many people my age do the very same thing. After all, Millennials are all about finding meaningful work, so, “What do I do?” is the natural question. But it was helpful to see that the most important thing about this stage is not work-discovery but self-discovery.
There is much more to be said about the significance of Mentoring Leaders, but it’s an excellent book and I highly recommend it for its practical help and theological grounding on a complex, often hazy topic.