You can’t underestimate the power of a mentor. I know that because six years ago, a man came into my life who would shape me in profound ways. This month I had the chance to write about this man, Bill Swanger, and his impact. Here’s an excerpt:
Bill became one of my best friends during my five years of pastoral ministry. On several occasions, early in my tenure, he saved me, literally. He showed me how to pursue change in a way that didn’t alienate members. He taught me how to deal with conflict in a graceful, humble way. More than anything, Bill showed me what it looks like to shepherd God’s people. “Make the ministry about God and about people, Dan, and you will do well,” he frequently said.
In my years of ministry I’ve had the privilege of meeting many church leaders. I’ve learned a lot from their years of experience. Some people collect baseball cards, artifacts, or books. But I collect mentors, downloading wisdom and grace for crucial life choices.
But none have impacted me like Bill. He never once said, “Want me to be your mentor?” He just stepped right in, meeting me for monthly breakfasts, lifting me up during trials, and serving me as a coach. Bill cried with me. Laughed with me. Grew with me. He opened up his life and shared his deepest frustrations and greatest triumphs. And even though he and I ministered in two different generations, the gap never hurt our friendship. It only enriched it.