One of my favorite models of intergenerational ministry is the relationship between the apostle Paul and his mentee Timothy as described in Paul’s letters to Timothy. As his Wise Guide, Paul continues mentoring Timothy as he pastors one of the world’s first mega-churches in Ephesus.
In the community I serve, we often refer to “Leadership 412.” This refers to what Paul instructs Timothy to do in chapter 4, verse 12 of Paul’s first letter to him.
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12, NIV)
Paul wrote these impactful words to young Timothy in a culture that valued eldership. I’ve thought about this quite a lot. Had I been advising Timothy, I would have wanted to give him all my best arguments. To tell him how to put all the false teachers and religious leaders in their place. To encourage him to shame them in the first century Mediterranean shame culture.
Instead, Paul reminds Timothy to be an example to those around him. Paul had been mentoring Timothy for half his life by the time of these letters. Sometimes I think Paul’s tone may have been more of, “Remember all the things we’ve talked about over the years, Tim? Remember how important it is to set the example for everyone watching you?”
It’s not just Timothy and the early apostles who were called to be an example to others. We’re called to be an example of good works before others (Matthew 5:16). To “put on” Jesus and walk like him (Romans 13:13-14). To shine in the midst of a dark and crooked generation (Philippians 2:15-16).
So God invites us to be his examples in the world. You probably already want that for your ministry or mission. That means mentoring those coming with us and those coming behind us is essential.
There’s a lot of research to confirm intergenerational mentoring models are of immense benefit to organizational cultures. You can find an academic breakdown of it in this article for the Journal of Strategic Leadership I published several years ago.
Paul wanted Timothy to be prepared. To thrive in ministry. In the same way, we want our younger team members to flourish, to contribute to life-giving teams, and to carry on good work. We also need our more mature team members to flourish and to contribute to advancing the mission.
In fact everyone, of every age, is invited to walk out God’s design for them in our ministries and organizations. That’s what mentoring does. It doesn’t try to force people into our mold. Mentoring guides people to become the best version of themselves.
They all need mentors. And they need mentees. They need a mentoring model intentionally baked into their teams. Then they can flourish in your ministry environment.
For more on designing teams to operate intergenerationally, check out my other blog posts in this series. I pray they inspire you with ways to incorporate purposeful, irresistible mentoring in your spheres of influence.
Leave a comment and let me know how mentoring works in your team environments.