I have been blessed by having many mentors that have influenced me, the majority of them were unintentional mentors. By that, I mean they were pouring into my life, but they had no idea how much influence they had.
It’s easier to appreciate these incredible teachers when you’re older. I am able to more clearly see the areas they affected and how they continue to impact my life.
One such mentor I first met in my elementary years at church. He directed our children’s choir. His name is Jack Parker.
His influence really began though when I was in my teenage years. I’ve known Jack for over fifty years and today I count him as a very dear friend. Our friendship developed around serving in our church, primarily in the music ministry.
We sang in the choir together and sat beside each other for many years. Our church had a thirty-minute television program and Jack and I were in a group that sang on it. Then, we also had done some special music and would travel occasionally to minister at some meetings. For a couple of years, I played the piano in our children’s church (especially designed for hundreds of children that rode buses to church) and Jack led the singing. So, through these ministries we spent a lot of time together in rehearsals, planning, and sometimes traveling and talking.
Though much of our relationship had been centered around music and ministry, there were other times when my friend, Jack, impacted my life.
There was the time when I was a teenager and had been asked to play the piano in our church and I was terrified. Jack coaxed me into doing so. It was his encouragement and belief in me that made the difference.
On many occasions we talked about God’s Word and philosophized about life sitting around a small table in the church kitchen waiting on the Children’s Church pastor to finish speaking so we could go and lead the kids in some songs. In those settings I was able to ask questions about my future and he gave me good advice, probably not realizing how carefully I was listening.
God used Jack Parker to shape my life in a profound way. There are a handful of people that when I think of them, I don’t know if I would be in occupational ministry had it not been for their being in my life. Jack is in that circle.
A few months ago, I saw him and he told me he was in his early 80’s now. Our paths don’t cross as often as they once did. But I will always remember him, and be grateful for helping a youngster that was extremely shy. He believed in me when I couldn’t see much in my life. He taught me some truths about God and serving others, not only as we sat around that table, but also in some car rides as we traveled to sing along with our buddy, Arnold, a great guitarist. Most of all, I saw Jesus in the way he lived. He had a servant’s heart and sacrificed to help other people. He has done that for me before.
Jack was a mentor to me, but I don’t know that he ever set out to be. I think he just wanted to be an encourager; he affirmed me at a very important time in my life. And in that process, he became a dear and close friend. I will always be indebted to Jack Parker.
Who are the Jack Parkers in your life? They never sat down in a formal setting to give advice or went through a curriculum to disciple you. As you look back, it was their belief and affirmation at a time that made a major difference in your life.
Who are you encouraging and affirming along the way? Are you being a “Jack Parker” to someone today? Children and teenagers grow up and become leaders, husbands and wives, and influence others. We must not underestimate the value of kind words and giving time to paint a vision in one that is fearful and has a fragile faith. One day they might carry the torch you have passed on to them.
It is not ours to keep score or to determine who God might use one day in specific ways. It is ours to shape and bless by our words, our time and our heart.
This is the blessed privilege of unintentional mentoring.