Written by: Shane Ramnarine
First Lutheran Church’s (FLC) new Children’s Ministry Director, Rachel Thoren, has always known she’s wanted to work with children. This was a clear-cut goal of hers since her first babysitting assignment. Narrowing the field of specialties in children’s education, however, took longer to decide (Social work? Teacher? Music instructor?). God used the many twists and turns on life’s highway to put her on the right path longer, a path that has led her to First Lutheran.
As the daughter of a Southern Baptist Minister, Rachel grew up in the church, though being a minister’s daughter is anything but easy. As a result of his profession her family moved around a lot. She was born in Colorado but ended up spending her third grade through high school years in Missoula, Montana. She spent her early formative years surrounded by faith, family, and friends. However, that security was not to last...
All was well until she reached high school. She was a non-rebellious youth, had mostly older friends, and pushed boundaries like most other teens. Unfortunately, at that time a difference in opinions of the management and direction of the church caused her father to resign and start a home church. This struggle obviously caused strife with the family and, for a while, Rachel “checked out” in her relationship with God. When engaged in conversations with others about Christ, she gave standard “churchy” answers to posed questions. Her older brother, Zach, moved away to play football for the University of Northwestern, St. Paul (UNW). The excitement about the adventure of moving from “small town” Missoula (pop. 63,000) to the Twin Cities was too much for her to pass up when the opportunity presented itself, and Rachel soon followed her brother to UNW.
Rachel’s dream of working with children came closer to reality with the aid of UNW; but even this step was not without hiccups. She enrolled in an early childhood education program. In college she still adhered to her parents’ beliefs but began asking questions as Christ became became more of a priority in her life. An oversight by her guidance counselor forced Rachel to wait a year before being able to take a suggested class but, on the bright side, this allowed her the opportunity to work in several areas of childhood education (being a nanny, infant teaching, and preschool education) while she waited. Though the error pushed back her graduation date two years behind her older brother, it allowed her to gain valuable experience in working with children.
Speaking of Zach, he is partly to blame for another change in her life-- no longer being single. He introduced her to another football player on UNW’s varsity team (who also happened to be Zach’s roommate), Dan. The two quickly hit it off and, just months after her graduation, she became “Mrs. Thoren.” They bought a house in White Bear Lake close to Sunrise Middle School. He describes her as “bubbly, energetic, engaging, outgoing, passionate, caring and dedicated.” A smile quickly jumps on Rachel’s face when asked to talk about him. She mentions his love of sports, hunting, being outdoors, and she especially appreciates his ability to “whip up stuff” in the kitchen (usually using the “kill it and grill it” method). Despite both being brought up in the church (Dan grew up in St. Andrews Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi), they struggled to find a home church where they were comfortable.
Lake Area Discovery Center (LADC) became Rachel’s employer shortly after graduation and brought her to First, though the path was not a direct one. She began teaching at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Stillwater; became the site director for Beaver Lake Lutheran Church in Maplewood; and a lead teacher/site director for First. Along the way she developed several close friendships with people at First. Not wanting to mimic the taboo of dating someone you work with, Rachel was opposed to going to church where she worked at; she had been burnt in the past with friendships at other churches.
But the connections Rachel made while working at First not only helped her overcome her aversion, but also laid the foundation for their current position at First. The persistence of Rachel’s friends in suggesting attendance at one of First’s services was rewarded one Sunday morning when she showed up for a Contemporary Service. She walked away thinking about what an accepting community First had to offer. After a month of attending services Dan attended one with her. His first impression was that authentic people were in the congregation. Their attendance became regular. They became members, and their daughter, Abby, was baptized at First. Zach and Jenny also consider First as their church home. In November, Rachel joined the church staff and is looking forward to her role as the Children’s Ministry Director.
Rachel believes she’s finally come full circle in her relationship with Christ. She is excited about where her family is at in their closeness to Christ and their place in the community. The Thoren household is about to get one member stronger with the addition of another girl. She does not know what the Lord’s plans are for the future but believes in the steering she has received by so many doors being opened and closed up to this point. Until Christ makes her next direction known, this modern-day shepherdess will continue tending to the flock at FLC.