Mentoring Done Right

By Tim Walker

Sometimes imposter syndrome is based on a little reality. 

In 1996, a friend suggested I apply for a job editing a student devotional magazine at Walk Thru the Bible Ministries. I was a long-shot—not an ideal candidate. 

I had work experience… just not editorial experience. 

I had writing experience… just not writing devotionals.

I had computer experience… just not on a Mac. 

I had worked in a variety of places . . . just never for a non-profit Christian organization. 

When I interviewed for the job wwand didn’t hear anything for a few weeks, I was sure that I didn’t get it. That is until I got the call. 

They were willing to take a chance on me—particularly, Paula Kirk, the editorial director, was willing to take a chance on me.

Paula saw something more in me than I saw in myself.

She patiently guided me through the process of writing and editing with a flood of red ink and comments on each page. I learned the structure and process of project managing a publication and what needed to happen when. I learned the software and the printing process. 

Paula taught me how to be an editor and a writer, and she forever changed the trajectory of my life. 

But she also knew that my professional growth would need more than just her instruction. So in the Spring of 1997, Paula Kirk took me to my first EPA Convention In Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

Our flight flew into Chicago, where we made a connecting flight from Chicago to Grand Rapids on a much smaller plane. The flight to Grand Rapids was incredibly bumpy and I got very airsick—the kind where you are throwing up in a little bag airsick. Paula wiped my forehead and comforted me the entire flight. In my head, I thought what a great impression I was making on my new boss on our first business trip. It didn’t faze her. 

Once we were at the conference, and my stomach returned to normal, Paula was generous with me. She connected me with many of her friends and helped me feel at ease in this new environment. As a former board member and long-time attendee, this was a place she loved. I would grow to love it, too. 

I attended every year, seeing old friends and meeting new ones. After a number of years, I even co-chaired the convention one year and served on the board. 

I learned so much at those conventions. But not only that, I was inspired by them. I would walk away with a new idea or new direction every year. And I was fortunate that Paula would support my ideas . . . well, most of them. 

Not only did Paula help me sharpen my skills and connect me professionally, she also showed me how to lead and serve. 

She loved Philippians 1:21:  “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” She knew what it was to die to her own agenda, her own ambition. She knew what it meant to make others around her better, even if sometimes it cost her something. She always wanted to do good with the things with which she was entrusted. That included the people she led as well.

She involved me in projects. She trusted me.

And when I made mistakes, she was gracious. One time I made a big editing error that resulted in a costly reprint of the magazine. She stood by me. She didn’t shame me. She supported me and guided me through the process of making things right.  

Paula also showed me what it was like to show compassion on my co-workers. She orchestrated and organized a publishing department prayer time every Tuesday. In those meetings, our team was able to share the things beyond deadlines and partnerships. We were able to talk about the things in our lives that weighed on our hearts. 

We didn’t just express those things in that room and then go back to our work day. Paula walked alongside each one of us through all kinds of life challenges. 

When my oldest son was born, Paula visited us at the hospital. 

When my wife was put on bed rest while pregnant with our twins, Paula encouraged me to do what I needed to do to work from home—before laptops and WiFi. 

When my twin boys were born, Paula visited us at the hospital. 

When a family member passed way, Paula was there at the funeral home to express her condolences.

Paula was more than a boss. Paula was more than a mentor. Paula was a friend.

Paula made me a better writer, editor, and follower of Christ. 

In October, Paula passed away due to complications from COVID-19. Death is always a time for reflection, and I’m thankful for Paula’s example. I try to live by it in the job I am in now. 

I try to lift up those with whom I work and help them achieve the things they are passionate about. I want to care about more than what’s going on at the office. And I want to be help people see Jesus in their everyday lives through both the Bible and words that help them make that connection. 

Paula Kirk impacted thousands of people through the words she crafted and edited. And she impacted those who worked with and for her in ways that we are now impacting others. 

Tim Walker worked on the editorial team at Walk thru the Bible from 1996 to 2006, serving as the senior editor on YouthWalk and Stand Firm devotional magazines. During that time, Tim co-chaired the Atlanta EPA convention and served on the EPA board. He currently is as an editor and project manager at Orange, working behind the scenes on the Parent Cue brand. 

Editor’s Note: Paula Kirk served on the EPA board from 2000 to 2003 and Tim Walker served from 2005 to 2006. In 2015, Tim was awarded First Place in Higher Goals for his article in Refreshed magazine, “Colliding with God.”