The five men around the table at the back of the dining hall on Thursdays may have been a bit of a motley crew. They had different interests, backgrounds and groups of friends, but somehow David Tedone ’11 (North Richland Hills, Texas), Tyler Jones ’11 (Lascassas, Tenn.), Josiah Simpson ’11 (Lytton, Iowa), admissions counselor and tennis coach Jeron Baker ’03 and youth ministry and psychology faculty Kevin Wilder found a way to connect.
To begin with, all three students were Wilder’s advisees and had a class with him at one point or another. All three students also hope to be in professions someday where they will serve others – Tedone in psychiatry, Simpson in youth ministry and Jones in outdoor recreation and ministry. Wilder saw leadership potential in each of them.
For the first time in four semesters, Simpson did not have a class with Wilder during the spring 2011 semester, but they still wanted to have opportunities to talk with each other. Wilder arranged the informal weekly lunch meetings so the men could listen to each other’s stories and ideas and learn from one another. He invited Baker to join the group as well to add another age dynamic and different perspective.
“My intent was that these guys would develop into good relational leaders,” said Wilder. “I wanted to hang out more as peers as opposed to just the faculty-student relationship and learn from one another about how we can be good models for other guys.”
The conversation around the table often ranged from sports to relationships to the latest pranks and classes, but the group also read and discussed the book Father Fiction by Donald Miller, a story of becoming a man without a model of what it means to be a man. Their reading spurred reflections of their own childhoods, relationships with their fathers and how to connect with other men in godly ways.
“As a student, being a mentor often gets lost in the chaos of everything else,” said Jones. “We talked about how we can develop that in ourselves and others.”
As they bonded over tacos and chicken patties, the group was reminded that everyone’s experiences affect the way they approach life and the person they become. Although each member’s life experience was unique, it added perspective and understanding for others in the group.
“Meeting weekly gave us a chance to get together with guys across different age groups and generations and talk about life,” said Simpson.
The students were also grateful for the chance to process their questions and ideas about men in the church and going against the social norm with men who have a little more life experience.
“It was never uncomfortable talking with Kevin and Jeron,” said Tedone. “They are friends who have been where we are now. They made us think, and they were willing to share their own experiences.”