What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “invest”? For me, “to make a deposit” is what pops into my head. Investing in the stock market, in a new company, or investing to buy a house all serve this same idea. Combine this generalization with Google dictionary’s formal definition of invest, “to provide or endow someone or something with a particular quality or attribute”, and it’s fair to assume that investing in a person would share these same properties; that the main focus of the investor would be to provide something to the investee. But through the friendship of one sweet woman, I’ve learned that investing in someone is a lot less about depositing wisdom and a lot more about asking questions.
When I started my first job out of college as a college ministry intern at a mega-church, I was told three things: get to know the students, put in as much as you want to get out, and connect with a woman named Kris. A few weeks in to my internship, she found me.
Sitting at a table in the brightly lit, red, yellow, and blue student lounge, this unusual middle-aged woman passionately poured out her vision for a college-aged bible study. She shared how college ministry was impactful in her own journey with the Lord and then painted the picture of how she wanted to come alongside college-aged women and equip them to be disciples of Jesus. Right away, I was struck by how this woman used the words come alongside. Instead of saying, “I want to teach college-aged women how to follow Jesus” she described it as a relationship-based study. I was intrigued; almost immediately I exclaimed, “Sign me up.”
I joined the bible study, got to know Kris and her heart for discipleship (the act of teaching someone how to follow Jesus), and decided she would be a perfect fit for the mentor requirement of my internship program. The goal of the mentorship was to find someone in ministry who would check in periodically and share wisdom. Most interns met with their mentor once a month for meetings consisting of simple “how are things going” and “any questions for me?”
But mentorship with Kris was different. Instead of operating our relationship in the form of a teacher/student model, she invited me to share life with her. Our weekly mentor conversations took place in coffee shops, running errands together, at exercise classes, and over dinner at her home. I met her children and got to know her husband; I was fully welcomed into her life.
Kris used our mentor relationship as an opportunity to get to know me. She asked questions about who I was and what I was learning about the Lord, and then through purposeful conversations she imparted wisdom by sharing what the Lord had taught her in her own story.
The relationship-based way that Kris invested in my life completely re-shaped my understanding of mentorship, but even greater than this, it also taught me a brand new perspective about discipleship.
1 Thessalonians 2:8 says, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”
This verse, written by Paul in his letter to the church of Thessalonica, so beautifully embodies the life lesson I learned from Kris’ example. Investing in someone, whether it is for a mentorship or discipleship, is not meant to be a top-down relationship. Rather, it’s about sharing life together, asking intentional questions and encouraging each other in the wisdom God has for us.
The next time you’re hanging out with one of your friends, will you try something for me? Ask them intentional questions. Not just “how are you?” or “what’s new?” types of things but dig deeper. Ask them what they’re learning, how they feel about where they are in life, or what they’re hoping to see in 2018. The value of asking questions is greatly underestimated – I can’t wait for you to see how impactful it will be.
10 years later, Kris (the sweet woman on the right in this image) and I still hang out in coffee shops, exercise together from time to time, and talk about life over dinner. She is now one of my best friends, and I am eternally grateful.
photo by Marissa Maharaj