Do you have a picture in your mind about what you believe a minister is supposed to look like? Do you visualize a gray-haired man, wearing long robes? Some ministers convey that image, but today, many different types of people, of both genders and different races, are serving their neighbors in the ministry.
This past July, David Rennick, a Methodist minister, took the helm at Payson United Methodist Church. The 37-year-old father of two, is well-schooled and down to earth. He's not a stodgy, gray-haired guy at all. He's also a single parent, raising two adopted sons.
"I like Payson for the sense of community here. It's like a village in some respects. I like having friends and members of this congregation teaching my boys at school and being a part of our lives," he said.
"I was raised by a single mother, since I was about a year old, when my father died. I grew up knowing I always wanted a family. I was married, but we divorced. Still, I wanted to be a parent," he continued.
He spent a few years in Yuma, as a pastor, and then moved to Tempe. There, he was a campus minister with Arizona State University and associate pastor with the Tempe First United Methodist Church.
Rennick researched being a foster parent. He heard about a boy needing a foster home and stepped up for the job. This Thanksgiving, Rennick and Phil, who is now 15 years old, will celebrate the second anniversary of Phil's adoption.
"A bond emerged between the two of us. We had shared likes, humor, life experiences, and these things brought an intensity," he said.
About a year ago, Rennick and Phil decided they wanted to expand their family again.
They wanted to share their life with another child. This past July, the minister adopted his second son, Dustin, who is 9 years old.
"As much as being a pastor is a calling, there's a calling that's significant to being a parent. To bring a sense of wholeness or fullness outside of typical situation of family is great.
"There's so much need out there. I'm in a situation work wise, that allows me to be a single parent and a pastor," he added.
Rennick earned two master's degrees in seminary in Washington, D.C. While there, he said, there were a lot of families with adopted children in the church he attended.
He also spent time in Russia, working for the Methodist Church in schools and orphanages.
He said those experiences guided him to wanting a family. "It was a nurturing of my spirit, and I was exposed to kids in need and needing hospitality.
"There's something to be said about being called ‘Daddy.' When either one of my sons comes to me for advice, there are challenges and struggles, but we work through things," he said.
"Even though I've missed seeing some of their early milestones, now I get to help Phil with driving, and Dustin has been losing teeth," he said.
In both parenting and the ministry, Rennick said he wants to reach out and help people in many ways. He said he wants to offer his family and his congregation a feeling of comfort, a place to call home.
He insisted his unique and sometimes challenging upbringing allows him to talk to many types of people who, like him, don't fit into a particular mold, but who want to love God and their families.