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In the Middle Seat: A Letter from the Daughter of Pastors Dennis + Colleen

February 6, 2020

How do you sum up three decades of ministry in three minutes? It’s a challenging feat, and I’ll be honest, I have written and rewritten this several times over the past few months attempting to do just that. February 7, 2020, marks 30 years for our church. Although our celebration service is not until August 2020, I cannot let this weekend go by without taking time to embarrass my parents with a lengthy post of admiration for them. When asked what it is like to be the pastors’ kid of Dennis and Colleen Rouse, I often reply, “It’s like I’m sitting in the middle seat and I am along for the ride.” I liken my experience to the middle seat for a few reasons:

1.    I’ve witnessed a lot in ministry life, but I’m not in the driver’s seat leading the ministry.

2.    I’m surrounded by a family of believers who I grew up with.

3.    I’m constantly observing and advocating for different points of view.

 Having been in the middle seat, I want to share with you my perspective of knowing them both as pastors of the congregation and as parentsI respect.

 

We hold pastors to the standard of, “Are they the same off the stage as they are on the stage? Do they walk the walk or just talk the talk?” I can tell you, honestly, my parents walk the walk, and they have walked this walk for decades.

 

From a very early age, I learned that being a pastor meant more than preaching on Sunday mornings; it meant serving a community of people 24/7. When Victory began, I remember our daily routine was to go to the church after getting picked up from school. I would build forts in between the sanctuary seats while my parents led volunteer groups and made plans to go door-to-door inviting the local community. Our home was also a haven for people in need. I watched our living room turn into a pop-up counseling session more times than I can count. They have shown me that ministry life is sacrificial—it is gritty, it is long-suffering, and it takes faith.

Even now, in the midst of a pastoral transition, my parents continue to visit members in the hospital, mentor their mentees, evangelize when they’re out and feel led to, and develop leaders across the world. Their ability to go from an executive meeting to a congregant’s living room and be fully present in both settings is extraordinary leadership to me. This is not something they will stop doing. This is who they are.

 

Some may walk into the sanctuary now and see all the lights and cameras. But I see the years of my dad walking around the vacant property, praying for God to open a door for us to build a church there.

Some may see an overflowing children’s ministry now. But I see the years of my mom praying for barren women—then seeing those same women introduce their babies to her in the lobby.

 

For 30 years, my dad has led corporate prayer at 8am every Saturday. For 30 years, my mom has travelled to third world countries to visit the same families our church supports. They were offered opportunities to be on Christian radio and television, but they chose to generously give their time solely to the mission of the church. (Speaking of being generous… I’ve watched them give, literally, every kind of thing they own away—their savings, their cars, their clothes, their furniture. Seriously, it’s ridiculous. They need to stop, so we all can have a chance to level up.) Anyway, I say all this not to brag on my parents’ accomplishments but to recognize their faithfulness to show up where it mattered most. Corporate prayer at eight o’clock in the morning was rarely a popular prayer gathering, but my dad knew it was important to keep the church rooted in prayer. Eventually, you would expect someone in my mom’s position to hand off the mission work to someone else, yet she kept going because of the valuable relationships she built there.

As the church has grown from 6 people to 100 to 1,000 to 19,000, it has required exponential growth from my parents as leaders.

 

I remember sitting on their back porch when I was in college having spirited discussions over church matters with my dad. I would question things like, “Why did we change from communion crackers to wafers?” and “Did you leave room for the Holy Spirit in the new service flow?” I was passionate about preserving the way we’ve always done things—yet, my dad knew things had to change (even his own preferences and ideals) in order for the church to grow. As leaders, I watched them grow from leading volunteer groups to leading executives all across the world. It isn’t something they advertise, but I’ve watched them step into incredible opportunities of leading other leaders, all because they were willing to embrace what’s next.

Now, as we enter into this year of transition and we welcome Pastors Johnson and Summer Bowie into theSenior Pastor role, I am excited to see what lies ahead for Victory.

 

As much as I have shared my love and admiration for my parents, I know the church was not built upon their two personalities but by God’s faithfulness through them. Pastors Johnson and Summer are incredible leaders and friends. Their own faithfulness to Victory over the past 20 years is proof alone. Thirty years marks a lot of change, a lot of growth, and a lot of dreams coming to fruition for both the church and my parents! I am so proud of Victory and the church it has become. Now I get to raise my kids in the same community I grew up in and prepare a seat (maybe even a fort) for them.

Sincerely,
Lauren Carlson