“Pass on what you heard from me” (2 Timothy 2:2, The Message)
Leighton Ford has been described as “a leader of leaders.” Yet in a way, he is simply passing on what he himself received from three significant mentors.
These three mentors cared about and had concern for Leighton, not just for their own agendas. They cared for him as Paul did Timothy, the protégé of whom Paul wrote that he had “a genuine interest in your welfare” (Philippians 2: 20, 21).
For thirty years, Leighton traveled the world as an Associate Evangelist and Vice President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, sharing the Gospel with millions in person, via radio, and on television. He also served as Chairman of the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization from 1976 through 1992.
In the 1980s, Leighton observed a major leadership shift in the Christian world as the World War Two generation began to retire. Who was going to develop the next generation of leaders, as Hedley, Graham, and Dain had invested in Leighton?
During this season, Leighton and Jeanie also went through a grievous loss when their son, Sandy, died during heart surgery at the age of twenty-one. A young man with a heart for God, Sandy was a leader for Christ at his university. He was also a very good distance runner, and this loss brought to Leighton and Jeanie a strong desire to help other young leaders run their race for Christ.
In 1985, Leighton Ford Ministries was founded to help young leaders lead more like Jesus, more to Jesus, and more for Jesus … to be Kingdom seekers rather than empire builders. LFM began programs of leadership development aimed at shaping younger leaders to become “sharp arrows” (Isaiah 49:2) in the Lord’s hand – sharp in vision like the point of an arrow, broad in understanding like its base, and deep in God like an arrow’s shaft.
As Leighton developed what became known as the Arrow Leadership Program, he found that much of his own time was spent listening and mentoring. While they were grateful for the teaching sessions, Leighton sensed that most of these younger leaders longed for an older friend on the journey, someone who would listen and help them discern what God was saying without trying to impose their own agenda … just as Evon Hedley, Billy Graham, and Jack Dain had journeyed with Leighton many years before.
So in 1990, Leighton formed the Point Group, his first mentoring community for (then) younger ministry leaders. Designed to provide safe times, safe places, and safe friends for ministry leaders, this group has gathered regularly ever since, focused on listening and journeying together, rather than a “download” from master to pupil.
In 1998, Leighton and the LFM board began to search for a successor to lead the Arrow Leadership Program. Dr. Carson Pue, an Arrow graduate and mentee, became president and re-launched Arrow Leadership as a separate ministry based in Vancouver, Canada. This allowed Leighton and the LFM team to focus on equipping and nurturing mentoring communities.
By 2020, LFM was encouraging and equipping nearly forty mentoring communities supporting hundreds of ministry leaders worldwide. One LFM community serves well-known leaders of marquee ministries. Another serves formerly incarcerated persons now involved in ministry. Other LFM communities serve local church pastors, missionaries, authors, academics, and many other vibrant expressions of ministry leadership.
In 2019, Leighton’s son, Kevin, joined LFM as Chief Catalyst, bringing fresh vision for supporting healthy leaders (mentoring) and thriving ministries (visioning, leadership development, governance, and transformation) for the sake of the Gospel.
LFM’s unique history and focus contributed to Lilly Endowment Inc.’s decision to award a Thriving in Ministry grant in 2020 providing seed money to increase mentoring opportunities for pastors of small churches, congregations of color, and church plants. Lilly Endowment Inc. also awarded a Thriving Congregations Initiative grant to support LFM’s visioning work with smaller congregations seeking to navigate societal change.
Are you ready to explore how you can practice mentoring within your church or circle of influence? Learn from Leighton Ford as he shares insights and practices on the spiritual mentoring of leaders.Get My Booklet