A couple of years ago we had the privilege of meeting Rob Rienow at the Association of Marriage and Family Ministries conference in Arizona. We enjoyed hearing about Rob's church in Wheaton, Illinois and how countercultural his family ministry model was. As we've stayed in touch since then we've come to appreciate how Rob's approach grew out of his path to starting a family with his wife Amy. Their story is featured in our latest interview series:
What emotional or practical hurdles did you or your wife have to overcome in order start your family?
Even though Amy and I came to Christ at an early age, we never thought to take this big decision to the Lord. We took all the other big decisions of life to Him through prayer, through His Word, and through counsel...but when it came to having kids. We had our plan, and that was that. We had no idea how much we were approaching children with worldly principles rather than Christian principles.
Did Amy have any unusual cravings during pregnancy?
Amy is now pregnant with our sixth child. A few days ago, she asked me to get her "lime juice, and pickles." Yikes.
What surprised you most about becoming a parent?
Before we had children, I didn't understand that having children was central to what it means for me to be a Christian. I understand God calls many people to be single. He called me to be married. I now understand that calling to marriage to be a great commission calling...that as we eagerly ask God for children, that we are fulfilling the first commandment to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, as well as the great commission to "make disciples." I was totally surprised how central parenting was to the Christian life.
What’s the most annoying toy or children’s show that parenthood has brought into your life?
How has having children affected your marriage?
Parenting has transformed us. Passing faith and character to our children is our most important ministry and mission. It was not till our oldest son was five that we understood this. Thankfully it was not too late for us. God turned our heart to our kids, then to each other. We are now experiencing what "one flesh" marriage is all about.
How has having children affected your relationship with God?
Parenting has revealed all my character problems. I didn't think I used to have problems with anger. The vote is now in...I do! Discipline issues show all my problems. Being a parent and a husband force me to rely on God and ask Him to make me into the kind of man I cannot be on my own.
What have you learned through the highs and lows of starting a family?
I used to think that my "calling" in the world was being a pastor. Now I believe my calling in the world is being a husband, father, and hopefully grandfather, and beyond. Yes, I love serving the Lord as a pastor as well. Before we had children, I didn't see or understand the priority that God places on family relationships, and how he wants our children and grandchildren to take the gospel further than we ever could.
What advice would you give a couple considering starting a family?
When you go to a movie, they show you a bunch of previews. The previews are usually entertaining. But after a while, you start thinking, "when is the movie going to start!" Waiting to have children is like choosing to keep watching the previews and never starting the "feature presentation." Read Psalm 127.
Rob Rienow grew up in Connecticut where he came to faith in Christ as a young child. His parents divorced when he was in high school; an experience God used to give him a heart for young people and families going through dark times. He's the founder of the Visionary Parenting Ministry and author of the forthcoming Visionary Parenting (Randall House, July 2009) and God's Grand Vision for the Home, He serves as Marriage and Family Pastor at Wheaton Bible Church. He and Amy have five children and are expecting their sixth.