Ministry Today | Serving and empowering church leaders

Accountability-partners-men-smallBeing a leader is not easy. Not by a long shot. In fact, with all of the hard work and criticism we face, sometimes it can feel like a lonely, thankless job. At the same time, we were never made to go this alone.

Here are eight relationships you can’t live without as a leader:

1. Mentor. Having someone who believes in you and cares deeply for your life as a whole is vital to your success as a leader. I can’t imagine my life without the mentors God has given me. If you don’t have a mentor, don’t wait for one to come to you. Seek one out.

Look for someone who is a believer in others and will take time for you and look to your interests.

2. Coach. A coach is different than a mentor in that they are someone who will focus specifically on helping you hone a specific skill or set of skills. Their job is to make you do your job better. They have a focused agenda on improving your performance.

Oftentimes a mentor volunteers his or her time, while you may need to hire a coach. Don’t be afraid to pay some money for good coaching.

3. Counselor. I remember when my pastor told me he was seeing a counselor. It was so freeing. I knew I needed someone in my life who could help guide me in some sensitive areas of struggle—things like being a better husband and dealing with growing up without a father at home.

There is often a stigma around the concept of seeing a counselor, but I’m on a mission to rid leaders (and Christians) of that misunderstanding. See a counselor. Invest in your life, and see your emotional health rise.

There is no question. I am a better, husband, father and person because I have the relationship of a counselor in my life.

4. Pastor. I’ve had the same pastor for almost 12 years now. Although he has played every role on this list in my life (yes, including mentee, on rare occasions), Scott Wilson is above all my pastor. He has been feeding me from the Word of God almost my entire adult life. He cares for my spiritual growth, and he is a shepherd to me and my family.

Find people to feed you spiritually. In person is best, but even if you are fed by listening to podcasts online, you’re headed in the right direction.

5. Friend. I am blessed with many great friends, but the older I get, the more I value the few close friends the Lord has brought into my life. Having people I can let my guard down with has become invaluable to me as a leader. All leaders need a place they can go and not have to lead.

Do you have places in your life where you are not the leader, where you are just eye-to-eye with friends?

6. Father. This one is a big one for me. Although my father was mostly absent for my adolescent years, God has done more for me in the area of this relationship than any other. The spiritual fathers in my life have been what made me the leader I am today.

I will never forget the “fatherly” talk Nate Ruch gave me when I was about to finish my sophomore year of college, or when Gary Grogan took me on a hunting trip. Spiritual dads push, love and encourage us to go another day.

7. Hero. We all are in need of healthy heroes. I write healthy there because the world tries to stuff heroes down our throat, and no matter who you put in this relationship, you must realize they are human. They have the ability to let you down.

Never tie your faith to a hero, but let a hero do what a hero should do in your life—inspire you to become more than you are today.

Two heroes of mine are Leonard Sweet and Jeanne Mayo. I’m privileged to have a friendship with both, but no matter how good of friends we may become, they will always be heroes to me. Every word I hear from their lips (or page) move me to make myself better.

8. Mentee. For everyone to have a mentor, we need everyone to have a mentee. It doesn’t matter what your age or experience is, there will always be someone coming up behind you. Find someone, buy them lunch, give them advice and open a door for them.

You have so much to offer. So much has been given to you. This is your chance to give back.

I’m sure I am missing some relationships from this list that every leader needs, but these are the ones that have been most beneficial in my life.

What would you add to the list?

With more than a dozen years of local church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the kingdom. He is the founder of (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and, all while staying involved in the local church. Justin serves as a consultant in the area of strategic relations predominantly working with the Assemblies of God, helping to build bridges with people and ministries to more effectively reach more people. His blog can be found at

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