Are you a woman who leads? Maybe you don’t see yourself as a leader, but God has you leading someone right where you are. Maybe it’s your kids, your friends, or the teenager next door. Maybe it’s a Women’s Ministry, a team at work, or a small group. This series—led by our women’s ministry specialist, Kelly King—will help you no matter where you lead and whether you’re leading one or one thousand.
Have you ever heard the phrase “passing the mantle”? Whether you have or haven’t, you may not know that it literally comes from Scripture.
Take a look back in 2 Kings 2, and you’ll find this reference between the prophets Elijah and Elisha. If you’re like me, I often get the two mixed up. Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel and was called up into heaven by a whirlwind. Elisha was teased by a group of children because he was bald, and after he cursed them, two female bears mauled 42 of them. That’s a story you won’t soon forget! Never tease a prophet about his receding hairline.
Nevertheless, the story of Elijah passing the mantle of leadership to Elisha is a biblical narrative that leaders can emulate as they raise up younger leaders. As you strive to develop younger leaders in your ministry, consider these four principles shown from the prophet who mentored Elisha as a new leader, preparing him to further God’s message to the people of Israel.
First, pray about the “who.” In other words, who does the Lord want you to develop or mentor in leadership? Have you prayed for younger leaders? Have you asked the Lord to open the door to a new relationship with someone who has the potential to lead?
The Lord met Elijah at Mt. Horeb in 1 Kings 19, and the prophet was told in the whisper of God’s voice, “When you arrive…you are to appoint…Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.” Elijah received instructions from the Lord and sought out Elisha as his successor. The transfer of leadership in ministry should always be grounded in prayer and direction from the Lord. When Elijah found Elisha plowing in the field, he literally tapped him for leadership by placing his mantle (or cloak) over him. This symbolic move was confirmation that God was directing both of their next steps.
Second, develop a relationship with the younger leader and begin by showing love and care towards them. I’m not sure how old Elisha was when Elijah revealed God’s plan for succession, but we can tell from Scripture that he cared about his family and his responsibilities.
In 1 Kings 19:20, Elisha asks Elijah for permission to say goodbye to his family. Elisha shows compassion and care by allowing Elisha the opportunity to take back his oxen, cook a meal, and make his farewells. As you consider developing younger leaders, begin by learning about their family and their current responsibilities, and allow them to prepare for a new assignment. Whether it’s learning how to lead in a vocational ministry or as a layperson, good leaders mentor first out of love and relationship.
Third, realize that developing younger leaders takes time. Some theologians believe Elisha followed Elijah for 7 or 8 years before the transfer of leadership occurred. As a leader, allow a younger person time to learn. Give them opportunities to lead in small ways as they learn from you and watch your personal leadership. Younger leaders need you to show them, guide them, and work beside them. I love how 1 Kings 2:11 reveals that both Elijah and Elisha knew the transfer of leadership was about to occur, and yet they continued walking and talking until Elijah was taken to heaven. As a leader, don’t just tell a younger leader how to lead—walk beside them, encourage them, and cheer them on as they learn from you.
Finally, be willing to accept that your future leader may do greater things than you. This may seem like an odd concept, but Elisha asked Elijah to inherit two share of his spirit. In other words, Elisha was not expressing a desire for ministry twice as great as Elijah’s, but he desired to carry on Elijah’s ministry. It was tied to inheritance laws when a firstborn son received a double portion of a father’s possessions. Elisha desired to carry on the work of Elijah, but it is possible for God to accomplish greater things from a younger leader. As the more experienced leader, what is your attitude towards to the future? Do you really pray for the success of someone who comes after you?
How will you begin developing younger leaders today? Let’s begin with prayer and ask the Lord to accomplish more in a younger generation. Let’s pass the mantle with grace, conviction, and purpose.
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Kelly King is the Manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women’s Ministry Training for LifeWay Women. She has a Master of Theology degree from Gateway Seminary. She has been involved in women’s ministry and led Bible studies for more than 30 years. A native Oklahoman, Kelly and her husband Vic enjoy kayaking and exploring their new state of Tennessee. She is the author of Ministry to Women: The Essential Guide to Leading Women in the Local Church and Living By Faith: Women Who Trusted God.