On a warm May Saturday evening, we sit down around the table in my parents’ dining room. Five couples, the parents of my friends and peers, they form a small group at Bethany Community Church. On Saturday night, they welcomed me as a guest speaker, giving me the floor for a few minutes to share about my upcoming ministry to students at BFA.
We pass barbecued chicken and salad, a spring breeze from the open window mingling with snatches of childhood reminiscences. Conversation is the ping-pong table banter available only to long and affectionate friendships. Soon enough it is my turn to speak, and after only a few words about my plans to teach at BFA they begin asking questions.
Dozens of questions, actually. What excites you about this ministry? What worries you? How have you seen God preparing you to take this step? They are questions of care and curiosity, designed to encourage and not to badger. I am grateful for their curiosity, happy to talk about this next step.
I served as a high school small group leader for several of their now-graduated daughters, and as I speak about the needs of students growing up in Christian homes, I realize that they’ve given me a passion for kids raised in the church. Not as I met with their daughters over four years, but by teaching me, even earlier. There is continuity at this table, a circle of loving adults who have taught me, as a community sharing both joy and sorrow, what it means grow in Christ through life’s many challenges. As I look around the table, I recall ninth grade Bible studies, childrens’ choir tours, camping trips and barbecues much like this one, in which each of these people invested in me as a young person.
We need this. Mentorship gets a great deal of attention in adult relationships at our church, but sometimes I fear it gets taken for granted how much our children need extra adults around. Even coming from the best family I’ve seen anywhere, I have benefitted richly from the presence of these friends in my life. As I prepare to teach in a Christian setting, I am excited to take a more active role in faith mentorship with my students than I’ve been able to do so far. I pray that I can begin to serve my students in the same way that this group continues to serve me, teaching me with their lives what it means to live for God.