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Doug Creamer column: Looking up to elders

By Doug Creamer

I had lunch with some of my family the other day. My nephew, who is moving his family from Montana to North Carolina, was there. He is moving both his family and his business to be closer to family. In a way, I felt a little bad for my nephew as he was on the hot seat, as we all asked him lots and lots of questions about his big move.

My nephew is building and growing a business, which has many challenges. Then he complicated the issue by deciding to move his business from one state to another. He has done a ton of research to create a unique product and to build and define a market for his product. He is pursuing a lifelong passion.

As we enjoyed our lunch, the family offered ideas, insights, and probing questions to help him think through the process of how to set up and expand his small business. Listening to my nephew share his dreams and vision for the future stirred all of us. His entrepreneurial drive was almost as contagious as COVID.

I hope my nephew thought his family was being encouraging, positive and supportive of his adventure. There was much wisdom to be gained at that table. While none of us wanted to tell him what to do, we did want to offer advice, insight, and encouragement to spur him on to success. I think my nephew was open and receptive to the ideas being shared.

There is so much help available at our community colleges for people who have entrepreneurial dreams. There are also groups like SCORE, which is an organization of volunteer working and retired professionals who want to help fledgling and established small businesses thrive. Our family wants to support my nephew and see him make it.

Last week, I wrote about the need for developing a team to support and encourage you in your Christian walk. This week, I want to focus on our need for elders to guide us as we pursue a life of faith. When I use this term elder, I am not limiting it to the people who have that title at our churches, or to people in our lives who are older.

In my mind, an elder can be someone who has been through what you are walking through in your life. If your parents pass away, an elder for you can be someone who has navigated that grief process. Having someone who has walked in your shoes can be so helpful.

I imagine a college student can be an elder for a high school student as they finish high school and embark on the college adventure. Sometimes someone who might be close in age to you, but has walked through what you are experiencing, can give you an elder’s guidance.

I know that I have talked with several friends who are going through the retirement process from the school system. I love sharing my experience and helping people understand what to expect and how to make the critical decisions that will impact retirement.

The Christian faith is not an easy path to walk. While it is critical to have teammates who will encourage and challenge us along the way, it is equally important to find elders who can guide us. We need people to look up to, someone we can emulate. I know no one is perfect. We are all sinners saved by grace. Even our elders can make mistakes and bad choices, but elders have the scars and experience we need to show us the way.

Some may call elders our spiritual fathers and mothers. Spiritual parents have a way of looking out for us and wanting the very best for us. Pastors often make great elders, but they don’t have time to be an elder for every member of their congregation. We need people who are walking down similar paths. We need someone who has been there and done that. Elders will encourage and challenge us much like our teammates, but their experience, wisdom, and deep personal care for our success help them to stand out.

I want to encourage you to look for someone who is on the path ahead of you that you respect and admire. See if they have time to invest in your future. Is their faith strong and do they challenge you to a closer walk with God? Are they willing to share their wisdom and experiences with you? A good elder will probably grow into a good friend, someone you will treasure as you walk along the path that they have blazed ahead of you.

Contact Doug Creamer at PO Box 777, Faith, NC 28041 or doug@dougcreamer.com.

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