By Mary J. Davis
That Sunday morning in February 1972 was a wonderful and exciting day for me. Nearly every member of the new church walked from our rented building to the local YMCA, just a couple of blocks away. They gathered to witness my baptism in the YMCA swimming pool. My husband was also there to share the experience of my immersion into Christ.
Suddenly, we were faced with something we had not anticipated. We knew we would be preparing to learn and grow in the Lord, and that we would be serving in various ministries of the church. But as we considered the many ways our lives would change in the coming days, weeks, months, and years, we also realized we now had the responsibility of being Christian parents. We would provide the main influence in our young children’s development and Christian upbringing.
The problem was, I was not raised in a Christian home. And although my husband had attended church as a teenager, he knew nothing about taking on this responsibility either. It seemed ironic that we felt excited about being a Christian couple and looked forward to enjoying the experiences and fellowship of our new church home, but were also terrified by the huge responsibility we had just accepted. We were suddenly faced with the overwhelming task of raising our children in a Christian atmosphere.
Our new church was small and the ages and family situations were varied. Who could we look to for guidance and support—not only as new Christians, but new Christian parents?
One of our first lessons in trusting God was that he always provides. Immediately we were taken under the wings of some Christian couples who had the patience and knowledge to lead us gently into our new role. God gave us some wonderful Christian models to learn from and to lean on throughout those early years and beyond.
The Chases had not only raised two wonderful Christian children, they had also welcomed foster children into their home. The Richardsons had no children, but loved everyone’s children as their own. Our children began to think of both couples as grandparents, and a strong bond formed between our families. We felt blessed that God chose these two families to wrap their Christian arms around us and mentor us for many years.
And these weren’t the only members of our new church who reached out to us. Many others invited us into their homes, taught us in adult Sunday school, and became treasured teachers of our children’s classes.
We often teased Nadean, one of the teachers, about following our son from the nursery class through grade school. We joked that she would have to take a leave of absence from her husband to follow Jeff to college. Her husband, Oscar, offered to “adopt” our oldest daughter because of her red hair, a trait that ran in their family.
We spent many enjoyable weekend afternoons on two nearby family farms. Our youngest daughter still asks why we wouldn’t let her keep a baby pig Mike and his dad offered her. Our children will never forget these cherished memories. Other cherished memories include the biblical examples of love and patience, integrity, and devotion to God they observed among our church friends.
I often look back at those early years in our Christian walk and ask, “What would we have done if these Christian couples had not stepped out to be our mentors and models?”
While we were discovering the basics of Christianity and raising our family according to God’s will, we learned something else as well—the importance of passing on to others what we learned. Soon it was time for us to reach out to others like our church family had reached out to us.
As our circle of friends grew to include church members of all ages and family situations, we began to realize how similar many of our Christian friends were to the friends we had known before we became Christians. It was exciting to invite our longtime friends to attend church and Christian activities with us. We were pleased to be able to host a Bible study in our home.
In a short time, we came to realize that our Bible study group and our church body were growing, and that growth included friends and family members we had reached out to and invited to join us.
In time we stepped out of our comfort zone as new Christians who needed to be taught and mentored and became teachers and mentors to others.
The growth of our church brought many new people into our midst. We were able to reach out to new parents who were as lost as we had been. We also ministered to single parents and their children. My husband and I are thankful for the many opportunities we’ve had to mentor others with love and understanding, teach with conviction, and lead by example. When we equip others for God’s service, we begin a process that continues for generations.
Those who led us by love and example did the same for other couples. In turn, many of those became equipped to lead others.
Together, as God’s church, we filled our building to capacity and built a larger one. We began ministries to train up children in God’s Word and eventually watched many of those children become ministers, elders, deacons, preacher’s wives, Bible camp leaders, Christian college teachers and leaders, and missionaries reaching around the globe.
What would have happened, though, if my husband and I had come into a church meeting as a young couple and were not welcomed? What would have happened if we had no Christian models to help us raise our children in the Lord? What impact would that small church have had on the community and even the world? It certainly wouldn’t have grown as large or reached as far into the world as it has. How can any church survive without Christian mentors to guide young families and new Christians?
Christian mentors are not super heroes with super powers. They’re simply men and women who accept God’s calling to reach out. In our case, I am thankful there were those who reached out to us 40 years ago in a small group of believers who gathered each Sunday morning in a rented building.
Mary J. Davis is a freelance writer in Montrose, Iowa.
Tips for Mentoring Christian Parents
1. Be ready and willing to talk openly about your faults.
2. Practice asking good questions rather than giving good advice.
3. Always encourage others in your words and deeds.
4. Root your approach to parenting and mentoring in prayer and Scripture.
5. Maintain a servant’s attitude.
6. Focus on a more substantial commitment to one or a few parents instead of trying to help everyone in small ways.