A Book Reflection on “The Mentor Leader” by Tony Dungy. A post by John Whitten.

posted Jan 9, 2012, 9:23 PM by Ginger Bowman
                If many of us as college ministers are honest, we can sometimes feel inferior in our ministry because we do not have the sermon delivery of a powerhouse pastor, the creativity of edgy magazine writers, the personalities of pop icons, or the wisdom of often quoted spiritual saints. Maybe it’s just me, but I often find myself saying, “I can’t have THAT kind of impact.” We can be so consumed with what everyone else is doing we lose sight of the impact available right in front of us!  We had been looking for a resource to help us fine-tune our ministry focus and vision.

 Our college staff recently read Tony  Dungy’s book entitled “The Mentor Leader.” The book resonated with me on several levels, first and foremost because what we saw Tony doing with his football teams, we had already been doing in our ministry. Now, don’t misunderstand me, we don’t have it perfect, but in many ways we were able to breathe a sigh of relief and refocus on what’s important; making a difference where we are, not where someone else is. Tony’s writing style and story-telling ability make this book a quick read and an excellent resource for ministry staff or volunteer leaders.

Tony paints a picture of the vision of mentoring leaders; which he describes simply as influencing  people. Leadership exists for no other reason than for ordinary people who get their hands dirty and invest their time, attention, and wisdom in the lives of other people! Mentor leaders understand that life is not just about the destination, but it’s about the journey of developing relationships that matter in the long term. Through his personal stories, Tony challenges the readers to take a deep look at their own hearts, in order to evaluate why they are doing what they are doing both personally and professionally.

The most helpful portion of the book I found for college ministers was his discussion of the 7 e’s of enhancing potential. While I’m someone usually skeptical of simple steps to anything, his suggestion to engage, educate, equip, encourage, empower, energize, and elevate the people around us resonate with our roles as college ministers. For our staff, Tony’s 7 e’s to leadership have provided a good sounding board and grading rubric to measure success in our ministry. Ministry can easily become just calendaring what we did last year, moving from one event to the next, and hanging out with students. The 7 e’s help us think about what we want to accomplish in our relationships and programs.

 There is a lot of buzz around mentoring these days, because I think many have realized that big events, sermons, bands,  and blogs can only go so far in fostering true spiritual formation. What’s trendy and cool will come and go, but sharing life together through mentoring will come to stay and outlast our tenure with our students!  I find students craving one on one time. My wife and I could easily fill up a 40 hour work week simply meeting with students. For a while, I spent most of my time wondering if I was offering anything of depth to anyone, but after reading this book I realized simply by sharing my life and experience (even though it is limited) can and is making a difference!  The challenge for us as college ministers is to create a culture of mentoring, where our staff, volunteers, and student leaders understand the importance of making a difference in one person’s life. 

“The Mentor Leader” gave our team the confidence that we can continue to facilitate the work of God in our ministry by challenging ourselves and our ministry teams to make a difference and share their lives with one another. No longer do we have to feel like to we have to be somebody ELSE, but we can be who God made US to be, using our stories to encourage, inspire, and instruct our students to faithfully follow Jesus!
John Whitten is Teaching Pastor for The Gathering  & College Minister at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church.