Life feels like an epic odyssey, especially in college. My entire Harding experience flourished because of my mentors who taught me how to navigate life’s journey. Mentors are essential as you plot out your life story.
Steve Shaner, assistant professor of advertising, changed my entire life’s course. In the mid ‘90s, when he served as a deacon for the Naperville church of Christ, he introduced me to another Chicagoland congregation where we shared the pulpit for a year. After Steve learned that I wanted to preach there full time, he counseled me to enter Harding’s School of Biblical Studies. As I argued with Steve over the “fact” that I was 28 years old and I was ready to preach, he said, “Craig, if you really want to succeed in ministry, you need an education. You might last four or five years, but then what?” He saw my potential, patiently invested his time in me, and thankfully, he could see what was down the road. Our family moved to Searcy because of Steve’s influence.
After I enrolled at Harding, another powerful, long-lasting mentoring relationship blossomed with Scot Crenshaw, associate professor of Bible. He made such an incredible impact on our advanced preaching class that we invited him to deliver our HSBS commencement address.
Thankfully, Dr. Crenshaw invited me to have coffee with him on a regular basis. Meeting in his office and at Midnight Oil, he was much more than a sounding board or cheerleader. He leaned in as he listened to my concerns about my future, and having already earned my trust, he was able to share his wisdom freely. Even though I was just a student, he listened to my dreams and encouraged me to pursue writing.
Since my graduation, I have visited with Dr. Crenshaw dozens of times, sometimes until 4 a.m. I’ve vented about struggles and rejoiced in the good times. His continued interest in my family’s success is one of my greatest blessings.
His passion for mentoring is clearly rooted deep within his character, and Dr. Crenshaw has far exceeded his classroom obligations with this student. Because of Dr. Crenshaw’s continued influence, my ministry has been enriched well beyond the classroom walls. Nearly two decades later, I still call him.
Finding a mentor is less about seeking them out; it’s more about being perceptive enough to recognize their offer. I think back and realize the best mentors I’ve had are the ones who initiated our relationship; they volunteered to step in. They are not offering to be a surrogate parent or your therapist, but they are willing to be a partner. A decade from now, it’s doubtful you’ll remember every assignment in your syllabus or even this semester’s GPA (as important as they are), but it will be impossible to forget those people whose fruit grows best on other people’s trees.