Specimen From Another Time, Mary Pratt, 2001
OK!!!! It’s the third!
Today we will hear from Beth. Beth is a wife, mom, theologian, a professor, a church leader. She is a tenured prof at Ambrose Seminary. Beth and I (and her husband Jon) met as students at Regent College in Vancouver and to my great delight she eventually moved to Calgary too! And that’s because Calgary is the place to be, everyone.
How do you influence others right now? What’s that specifically look like in your life? What is your goal? How do you do this?
My influence moves in a few different circles. When people ask about “my calling” I often start by saying that God called me first and foremost to love. Thus, the first sphere I often mention is my family. I’m a wife and a mom. My goals are to raise children who know they are loved and valued, who realize their own unique voices, and who seek to care for a hurting world in meaningful ways. As a wife, I love to encourage and empower my husband Jon in his goals. One of our great loves are the ways that we get to work together in our various ministry contexts. We often say that we have greater depth and richness together than individually and that seems to be a major pattern for our lives.
I teach at Ambrose University as Associate Professor of Old Testament. For me, this means living out my passion of helping students grow into their own potential and to learn more of who they are and where God is leading them. I love helping others dig more deeply into Scripture as a biblical professor. I’m a third generation teacher and I value what it means to teach others. So besides my kids and husband, I influence my students in my direct day-to-day work by teaching and mentoring. I also use my role as a professor to extend the reach of my mentoring. I feel called to help women and men who are thinking about a life in the academy and helping them navigate the complex world of academy life often alongside lives as spouses and parents. Mentoring allows me to share my own stories in ways that meets other people in the midst of their story.
Three other venues of influence have opened from my work at Ambrose. First, as a professor, I am encouraged to publish regularly. I love writing at a wide variety of levels from my scholarly books such as Mapping Metaphorical Discourse in the Fourth Gospel: John’s Eternal King (Brill, 2012) to my popular-level articles for Christianity Today, Bible Study Magazine, and Faith Today. My goals are to share new perspectives on biblical study and to help others grow in a passion for studying Scripture.
I also represent Ambrose in two organizations: the Canadian Poverty Institute (CPI) and the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good (CACG). I am an Associate with the Canadian Poverty Institute. I work in interdisciplinary ways with my colleagues at Ambrose doing research on poverty and helping churches and other organizations learn about ways to alleviate poverty (and hopefully eradicate it!) In my work with CACG, I am co-chair for a Research Action Team on Reconciliation between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous communities. In this capacity, I have grown close to our Indigenous community in Calgary. I work on the education side teaching others about truth and reconciliation as well as working towards concrete change in our city alongside Indigenous leaders.
Finally, I’m a leader in my church context. At the national level, I work alongside my husband Jon as a National Catalyst for Vineyard Formation. This means that my husband and I oversee programs connected with theological and spiritual formation at the national level for our denomination, Vineyard Canada. This includes overseeing Children and Youth ministries, Spiritual Direction initiatives, and Continuing Education for our leaders all at the national level. This translates at the local level in leading on a rotating basis on our worship team and preaching/teaching at my church North Calgary Vineyard. Jon and I have long felt called to be an encouragement to the Church. These are the multiple ways that we live this out.
Who influences/influenced you? Who empowers/empowered you? What has been indispensable in making you you?
I’ve had a wonderful set of mentors over the years who have influenced me becoming who I am today. First, my mother and father encouraged me to imagine a big life for myself and I’m thankful for their support to dream big dreams. When I was in junior high, I had an English teacher, Ms. Desmond, who told me that I could be a writer when I grew up. She saw so much talent in me and encouraged me to work hard towards my dreams of writing. During my Masters degree at Regent College, I found two mentors who saw more in me than I even imagined for myself. Maxine Hancock, a professor of English, sat with me as I sought out my vocation. She reminded me that a vocation is not a one time thing, but something that can change over time. She also helped me to realize that I could be a professor. Rikk Watts, a New Testament professor, stopped me in a hallway to tell me that he thought I should become a biblical scholar. He started to list for me all of the unique ways that I was made for biblical scholarship. This led me to add New Testament to my degree at Regent, which had been in English Literature and Spiritual Theology.
During my doctoral work at McMaster Divinity College, three professors dedicated their time and energy to show me kindness and help direct me in my calling. I worked as a teaching assistant to Cindy Westfall, a New Testament professor. She took me under her wing and helped me walk through what being a female biblical scholar would mean. She became a special kind of academic mother to me and continues to hold a special place in my life. Stan Porter, a New Testament professor, was my main dissertation advisor and he took time not only training me in what my thesis should look like, but worked with me on my first book. He helped me learn the ins and outs of the publishing world, helping me cultivate my writing and how to share my writing with the world. Mark Boda, an Old Testament professor, allowed me to add all of the Old Testament courses to my New Testament curriculum. He taught me what makes the field of Old Testament unique, connected me with publishing and research opportunities, and taught me that being a professor is a holistic journey involving the whole person. His mentoring taught me much about how to mentor others. Cindy, Stan, and Mark continue to connect with me whenever possible at academic events and remain important mentors in my life.
In my ministry world, during our years in Vancouver, Gordie and Kathleen Lagore, two Vineyard pastors, dedicated time and energy to mentor me and Jon. Their mentoring and support were so meaningful for the future work we would do with Vineyard Canada. They remain dear friends and mentors to this day.
I’m so thankful for all of these mentors. They saw so much in me that I didn’t fully see in myself and called me into a broader view of my own life, call, and ministry!
What is the outcome of your influence? How do you gauge success? When do you stumble in your influence and what does it look like to get back up?
I often describe outcomes in terms of whether I can see growth or not. In my family life, I ask whether my kids have grown to be more kind, generous, and caring. I ask myself whether they realize their own worth and see and encourage worth in others. I ask whether they can imagine change in the world around them and if they know the steps to start moving towards that change. When I feel that the answer to these questions is “yes,” I think that my work as a mom has been a success. With my husband, Jon, I ask the question “Does he feel like he can move towards what God wants him to become?” And “Have I encouraged him in this?” Teaching at Ambrose provides me with specific assessment measures for student success, but I also look for personal transformation for my students. I look for the ways that my course has helped them to grow as people. When I mentor I’m also looking to see growth and to empower the person I’m mentoring. For me success means that they have found new depths to their own understanding and felt more empowered to the work that God has given them. As a writer, I gauge success by the impact my books have on people. This isn’t measured numerically for me by how many books have sold, but from the responses I get from readers of my books. When I work in the city with issues of poverty and reconciliation, I am learning the slow march of justice and the way to follow this path that is not always a straight line. I gauge success not only on practical outputs such as changes to laws and policies, but also on the relationships I have built in the process.
There have certainly been times when I have stumbled as a parent, a wife, a teacher, a mentor, and a writer. In each case, I look to those who love me to help me see why I stumbled and to guide me in a new better direction for the future. I’ve also learned that I should expect to fail more than once in all of my roles. Failure is inevitable. It is not whether someone fails at what they are doing that ultimately matters, but what they do after they fail. This has been true for me in every facet of influence in my life.
What sticks out to me when I read Beth’s words are how mentoring is a life-changing way of influence.
“Mentoring allows me to share my own stories in ways that meets other people in the midst of their story.” Our stories are key. This is reminding me of what Rona wrote too. Sharing of stories is just the key here…..
When Beth wrote, “I’m so thankful for all of these mentors. They saw so much in me that I didn’t fully see in myself and called me into a broader view of my own life, call, and ministry” my heart got a bit sparked. Being called into a broader view of ourselves. That is good. And then calling others into a broader view of themselves. We experience that broadening in our own lives and then help others experience that for themselves. One on one, seeing a whole other person’s story. Speaking story to story to help give someone a bigger view, a fuller view of themselves – that is a deep place of influence.
What strikes me about this whole influence thing, from all the responses so far, is that influence CENTERS on equipping the individuals in our lives to do what THEY are growing into. Influence is less about telling people what to think and do and all about helping them wrestle with their own questions, lives, calling, etc….this is definitely food for thought for any leader…..
Stay tuned for our next post on everyday influence. We’ll hear from an activist and deep questioner – one who manages to bring goodness and grace to every question she asks! 🙂