As a young boy, Dave Edler had a mentor who simply played catch with him, tossing a baseball back and forth. Though the concept sounds simple, the impression was a lasting one: Edler eventually became a major-league baseball player—and much more. Today, he is senior pastor of Yakima, Wash., Foursquare Church, a member of the Yakima city council, and is in his second term as mayor of the city of Yakima.
It’s been decades since numerous coaches served as guides and role models in his life, but Edler is committed to perpetuating the mentoring cycle: “A life on a life,” as he puts it. More than just talk, it’s something he’s been doing for more than 20 years.
“One of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life was to walk into the cafeteria of a high school, not knowing a soul, but determined to build relationship,” he said. “I felt compelled by what Christ had done for me. I stood by the water fountain and drank so much water that I spent the afternoon in the bathroom!”
That story is humorous; nevertheless, Edler takes seriously the calling to be a role model. To that end, he began coaching years ago, using his interests and abilities as a vehicle to influence young lives.
“A lot of the boys I coached are now key leaders in our church, intimately involved in what the church does,” he noted. “I tell my team, ‘You’re not just going to play baseball for me—you’re also going to be good men.’ ”
A few of those young men actually became part of Edler’s family, in a sense. “Some people bring home dogs and cats—I brought home boys,” he said. One of these “foster sons,” Cesar Dominguez, recently planted a daughter Foursquare church in Yakima.
Edler has fostered a mentoring mentality within the church he pastors, as well. Nine months of the year, Yakima Foursquare sponsors an intern program for high school students. “We take six or seven young people and pay them to be a part of our staff,” he said. “They work till 5 p.m. every day, and you’ll see their faces all over the church. Many of them are choosing Bible schools as the next step in their education.”
In the summertime, college students fill the internship slots. “I personally don’t feel that the pay draws kids to the internships,” Edler said. “It’s a side benefit. Really what they want most is to be mentored. And the kids bring such energy into the place!”
Whatever the specifics, Edler sees involvement as key. “I require each of my staff to be involved with something in the community,” he said. “The body of Christ has to go! That’s the reason I got involved in government—because the body of Christ has to go.
“The thing I love about Foursquare,” he continued, “is that we each get to be who we are. This kind of ministry works for me—this is how I’m wired. I feel that I’m embraced by the organization—we each have freedom to be who we are.”