I come from a family of 8 kids (yes 8!) My oldest sister emailed me wondering what it was that our parents did to raise us to want to serve God in ministry the way so many of us do. I’m in full-time ministry, she is very involved in leading her local church, my oldest brother is in his second year of seminary, my other sister is deeply involved in communications and other areas at her church, a younger brother is in part-time Music Ministry, and has been involved with youth in the past, another younger brother is active in his church’s music program, and the other older brother is married to a pastoral counselor.
Here’s what my sister thinks my parents did. I agree, so I’m basically passing her thoughts along. (From here on they are her words unless in italics.)
– They instilled in us an active sense of wonder. Mom saw God in everything, and Jesus in everyone, and taught us to do the same. That has stayed with me throughout my life, even though the world sees it as foolish.
– They modeled for us church involvement and leadership at a very deep level, despite our frequent moves and changes of parish. Mom was always president of the women’s program, Dad was always in choir, and leading worship, either as a lector or cantor. My image of him singing the Exultat in a half dozen churches is strong. (Dad remains more active in his church than most people I know life at 79 years young.)
– They were generous with love, forgiveness, and support and stingy with punishment and criticism. I can’t say they were stingy with non-support, because they never failed, and still don’t fail, to support us. That modeled God’s love for us, as critical, difficult parenting seems sometimes to stifle it.
– They taught us spiritual practice and spiritual discipline early. We all remember praying together as a family at a very young age, we had special disciplines for lent, like fasting and abstinence… Mom and Dad were always very serious about their prayer life and thought we should be, too.
– They treated church like an extension of home. We were as at home in the social hall of any church we belonged to as we were in our own homes.
– They brought us to Worship, Fellowship, and Education on a weekly basis. They helped us engage mind, heart and soul in God from the very beginning.
Most of us are very different in our expression of the Christian faith now, in fact, almost the whole gamut of Christian expression can be found in my family, from very conservative to very liberal, from high church to low church (I’m definitely the low church one these days, although I appreciate high church very much). But still, faith was never something separate from life… Faith WAS and IS life to them. I’m grateful for that.