A Heart to Mentor
By Susie Rowan – BSF Executive Director
Each year, the BSF Board of Directors encourages the Executive Director to take a one-week sabbatical as a means to enjoy time and reflection with the Lord.
This week is my sabbatical.
Throughout this week, I’ve enjoyed long walks with the Lord.
I’ve enjoyed moments of solitude with the Lord.
I’ve enjoyed food and conversation with my family, to the glory of the Lord.
And, perhaps because this year is my final year to serve as Executive Director of Bible Study Fellowship, I’ve found this week’s sabbatical rest to be particularly poignant.
A few weeks ago, I conducted a webinar for another organization on the topic of mentorship. Preparing for the webinar was a delight as I reflected on the past and present relationships that have marked my life so significantly. So many of those relationships were birthed in a BSF context. Now, this week, as I enjoy my final week of sabbatical rest, the Lord has continued to bring these relationships to mind. As I think back throughout my life and career, it is indeed true – we need one another. We need those who have gone before. And we need those who come behind.
Seasons to Grow
In my own life, I think of my grandfather. He was the first to intentionally invite me into his daily life. From the time I could walk, he invested in me. I went to his large corporate conferences and was introduced as a 7-year-old. A man nearly 60 years older than I was invited me to walk with him and to participate with him in his corporate life, even as a small child. This inspired me to lead.
But there was more.
My grandfather introduced me to Jesus. My grandparents were the primary Christian witness in my life for many years. I watched him lead as a businessman and worship as a believer.
Then, when I was a young woman, my BSF Teaching Leader, Jacque Sanders, showed me the depth of commitment required to be a true Christ follower. She showed me the wisdom of patience and persistence in prayer.
And when I was a missionary in Brazil, my BSF Area Advisor, Linda Hunt, taught me how to pursue others and love honestly without judgment.
As Executive Director, a fellow board member, Bruce Smith, met me with kindness in mistakes, willingness to listen and wise council when needed. He showed me how to have difficult conversations with Christ as the center.
And now, as I transition out of BSF leadership, I’ve sought council from my husband, Roger, board members Mark Bailey, Mike Duke and Garth Bolinder. In preparing for the future, executive coach Steve Graves and former business executives Ron DeLeenheer and John Duffy have shared their wisdom.
I am also deeply grateful for my life-long friend, Sharon. Like many of the others, I met Sharon in a BSF class. Sharon is several years older than I am and gives great wisdom as we talk about marriage, grief, children, and grandchildren. She teaches me about aging gracefully. She is compassionate and creative.
Each of these individuals has offered me wisdom, care, comfort, strength, and love – those same qualities they received as they have walked with Jesus through the years.
But there are more.
Seasons to Learn
In 2017, Janie Stephens agreed to join the BSF staff as my Executive Assistant after we met at a BSF class in Dallas. Through the years, we have worked closely, and I have watched Janie grow professionally and spiritually. When she needed a formal “mentor” during her master’s degree program at Dallas Theological Seminary, Janie asked if I would fulfill the role. Janie learned not only from my successes but also through my failures because she was with me every step of the way.
What began as a leadership relationship developed into a deep friendship. Though I’ve helped Janie through some difficult seasons, Janie has also taught me invaluable lessons about what it means to follow Christ.
Through each of these relationships, I’m reminded of the joy-inducing gift of Christ-centered community. I have found that community in Bible Study Fellowship over the decades. Something unique happens in relationships centered around the Word of God. Ultimately, our goal in every friendship is to encourage one another to grow in Christlikeness, to look more like Jesus.
As I reflect on this concept, I recall an illustration from Melissa Kruger of The Gospel Coalition. In her book, Growing Together, Melissa recalls as a young girl watching her father work in the yard. On one particular day, Melissa’s father noticed a young thin tree in the yard bent over and suffering from the damaging effects of a recent storm. Melissa watched as her father took a rope and tethered the young tree to an older tree – one that was sturdy and strong. By tying the two trees together, Melissa’s father ensured the older tree could offer support and strength to the younger tree.
The same is true for any mentoring relationship – a younger, less experienced individual is tethered to a more mature individual for a season so the younger individual might grow and develop.
With this in mind, take a moment to reflect on those God has use in your own life to guide and direct your steps toward Him.
Hebrews 13:7 tells us, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way, and imitate their faith.”
And finally, ask God to reveal specific opportunities where you can help others around you grow and develop. Where can you share your perseverance in hope and the wisdom you have gleaned?
It is indeed true – we need one another. I pray that through Bible Study Fellowship you might find opportunities such as these — opportunities to mentor and be mentored through close relationships that develop around the study of God’s Word in community.
BSF Executive Director
Under Susie’s leadership as executive director, BSF membership has grown to serve more than 385,000 adults and 66,000 children worldwide, and the ministry has introduced BSF Online and WordGo Bible study platforms, and four new studies – Isaiah, Revelation, and People of the Promised Land I and II (Part II coming in 2022). Susie and her husband, Roger, have been married for 45 years and have two children, Jerry and Sally, and four grandchildren.