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Patterns of Relationships in the

Development of Church Leaders

Down through human history relationships have

always played a crucial role in the formation of leadership.

These relationships tend to fall into patterns: the

relationship between a father and his son, between a

teacher and a student, between two good friends who

share their experiences with each other. Defining these

patterns becomes difficult as there are no fixed number

of possible patterns, the patterns tends to overlap,

and the terminologies used to describe these relationships

vary widely. In an attempt to simplify the analysis

of these patterns of relationships, the following five

terms and patterns have been chosen.

Familial Pattern

A close family member, usually the parents,

grandparents, or aunts and uncles, exerts a strong influence

on the development of the young leader, passing

on his or her knowledge, skills, and values. The

future leader follows “in his father’s footsteps.” This

form of leadership training would, for example, fit the

situation where a priest receives training in his priestly

duties from his father. The focus of the relationship is

on the child being trained and the form of training

would in almost every case be informal.

Mentor Pattern

An individual, not a close family member, exerts

a strong influence on the development of the future

leader. In New Testament times the wealthy often put

their children in the care of a tutor who assumed responsibility

for the child’s upbringing and, in some

cases, his basic education. Today a person who needs

individualized instruction in a subject may hire a private

tutor. Mentors tend to be older, experienced individuals

who perform the service of advising a younger

person, often out of a sincere desire to be helpful. Because

these two terms may overlap and are hard to

differentiate, they are combined. The modern interest

in personal coaches would also fall in this category. In

this pattern, the senior partner may use informal or

nonformal educational methods and the junior partner

provides the focus of the relationship. The junior partner

does not necessarily seek to become just like the

mentor, though the mentor may serve as a role model.

Master-Disciple Pattern

This relationship seeks for a transfer of knowledge,

experience, and lifestyle from the master (or

senior partner) to the disciple (or junior partner). Apprenticeships

serve as a good example of this category

of relationship. It differs from the Teacher-Student

Pattern in that it is nonformal or informal and does not

usually occur in a classroom setting. The disciple

seeks not merely to show mastery of a body of knowledge,

but to perfectly practice what the Master

teaches. It differs from the Mentor Pattern in that the

disciple seeks to become just like the Master. The senior

partner or Master therefore serves as the focus of

the relationship, not on the junior partner. Because of

its intensely personal nature, a master can have only

small number of disciples at any one time.

Teacher-Student Pattern

In the Teacher-Student Pattern of relationship, the

goal of the relationship usually revolves around the

impartation of knowledge from the teacher (or senior

partner) to the student (or junior partner). This takes

place most often in a formal educational setting. In the

case of certain subjects, such as music, skills may be

taught. Though the teacher may deliberately communicate

values and certain behaviors, mastery of the

subject’s content remains the real goal. Discussion and

interaction during class between teacher and student

may take place, but this usually serves to improve the

transfer of knowledge. In many situations, opportunities

for teacher-student interaction outside the classroom

rarely take place, and the student normally has

little opportunity to observe the teacher in everyday

life. The large number of students in the classroom

prohibits a close relationship between teacher and students

to develop, thus precluding a relationship such

as a disciple has with his or her Master.

Peer/Team Pattern

All relationships between two or more people

who see themselves as equals fit in this category.

Unlike all the other patterns, Peer/Team Pattern relationships

may have no senior partner. At any given

point in time any person in this relationship may serve

as the senior partner by encouraging or assisting another.

The relationship between Jonathan and David

serve as a good biblical example of this pattern. Using

informal educational methods, the focus of the relationship

often rests on commonly-held goals rather

than certain individuals. For this form of relationship

to exist, there must be a sincere friendship or companionship

between those involved. The assistance rendered

in developing the leadership potential of others

in the group may be a by-product of the relationship

and not a primary reason for its existence.