Thirty-three years ago this fall, my husband and I (he, a twenty year old college junior and I, a seventeen year old high school senior) went looking for a church to get married in the next summer only to find two crucial things in our lives: salvation and mentors. In short, we found the church we wanted to get married in (a little white, country church with a CENTER aisle), got born again, and discovered the joy of mentors in our lives.
|New Lisbon Christian Church, Union City, IN (pic taken 2013 when we visited it for our anniversary)|
For the next year prior to marriage, as well as in our first several years of marriage and child-bearing, we had three couples in our lives who helped us grow in our faith, showed us how to live the Christian life, and even taught us how to get along with each other at times! These couples were ten, twenty, and thirty years older than we--they were adults who had been "doing the stuff" of Christianity for many years. They took us under their wings and helped us grow in the faith.
Several years later, we moved away from the safety of our hometown nest, but we continued to find mentors. Some of these we saw only once a year or so. Others were close friends whom we did life with, had children with, and homeschooled with. Still others were "distant mentors"--those people whom you may or may not ever meet, but they impact you through their writing, speaking, and teaching--and you realize one day after many, many years, that your life would have been completely different (probably not for the best) if you had not "met" these mentors.
So when our children entered their teen years, we weren't interested so much in peer or even "a few years older than our kids" mentors for them. We wanted them to have what we had, had. We already knew that our kids' first--and longest-lasting--mentors would be us. We would make
the hard choices to give up other things to mentor and disciple our kids.
Then the older kids started to grow up and find mentors of their own--adults who had been doing the very things our kids wanted to do with their lives. And it was glorious to watch them have adults in their lives to show them things that we couldn't show them or hadn't experienced ourselves.
Our oldest child spent two school years (his high school senior year and his college freshman year interning at two different state capitols. His mentors were professionals, but he learned a lot and grew as a public servant during this time.
Our next two kids, two daughters who both wanted to go into ministry (one as a missionary and eventually a college professor of theology and/or church history and one as a disability ministry director) found an amazing mentor in our associate pastor who directed a two year ministry school at our church and oversaw the girls' ministries. We credit him for our dyslexic daughter's confidence to go all the way to a doctorate program (he told her countless times that with her skills and intelligence, she should never shoot for anything short of a doctorate degree in order to serve God fully with her whole self).
We also credit him with our other daughter's successful disability ministry that she founded while still in high school under his mentoring/college program. When that daughter came to him after she had served at Joni and Friends and talked to Joni Ereckson Tada about her desire to serve the disabled (Joni told her to go home, talk to her pastor, and do it!), he led her through the correct channels to make it happen and oversaw and encouraged her every step of the way.
Our fourth child, third daughter, got involved in a drama ministry, The Academy of Arts in Greenville, SC, while she was still in high school. Before we knew it, she was being mentored and encouraged by the founder's daughter and her husband (the current directors of the program) and spent three years interning there under that couple.To this day, every word that couple speaks to our daughter is like a balm to her soul, encouraging and deepening her in faith and in utilizing her giftings.
Here we are with our fifth child (second boy, age 20) and sixth child (third boy, age 18) who both found themselves in our new church's praise team after a couple of months of attendance at this church. We, after only six months, are already seeing them encouraged by the worship pastor week after week and watched their ministry skills grow in the process.
Now you can see a glimpse into why adults mentoring our kids has been so important to us. We grew in leaps and bounds spiritually thanks to many people who saw potential in us, believed in us, and helped us grow into the parents, family ministers, and spouses that we are today. We wanted that same type of grown-up mentoring for our own kids.
Peer mentoring and encouragement is fine. Single young adults just a few years older than our kids themselves is also helpful to many. But for our kids to have grown, successful, dedicated adults take an interest in them and invest them has been absolutely priceless.
Recently, the aforementioned twenty year old who is a junior studying pastoral ministry came home from his first meeting with our preaching pastor bubbling over with excitement. He spent an hour recounting everything that he and the pastor said during their time together. I, too, was excited about his excitement, but my heart warmed most of all when Jonathan told me the question our pastor asked him: "Jonathan, how can I, as your pastor, help you become the pastor you want to be?"