Talking Faith with Gavin and Anne Calver

In this interview, Andy and Jo Frost talk to Gavin and Anne Calver about family life and how they help their children grow in faith. Gavin is the CEO of the Evangelical Alliance, and Anne is Associate Minister at Stanmore Baptist Church. They have two children aged 13 and nine and have some great ideas on how to help your kids hear from God and engage with him for themselves.

How are you guys surviving lockdown so far?

Anne: Honestly?! Generally everything is going along really well, we can’t complain, but there are challenges aren’t there, with children, I’m sure you’d agree.

One of my friends said to me that “I’m used to being a parent 3pm – 7pm, but not used to being a parent 24/7”. That was brilliant, that’s so what it is isn’t it? It’s being consistent across all of the hours of the day, and I can sort of gear myself up for that set piece of time, but now that that is all the time, I just need so much more grace!

Gavin: I think the challenge as well is, how do you get everything done? You know, I’ve got a really demanding job, Anne’s got a really demanding workload for church and you think, how do you get it all done? And you can’t really. So I think the lack of boundaries is quite a challenge, and I’m sure others are feeling that too.

When it comes to inspiring faith in the home, what does it normally look like for you guys?

Anne: I suppose normally we do simple things like pray over every meal and then spend time reading the Bible with the kids at night time. Something that we introduced a short time ago was just waiting on God and inviting the Holy Spirit to come and just seeing if the Lord wanted to say anything to us. So we’ve had some beautiful times with that haven’t we?

Gavin: We really have, we’ve found that our kids are far more prophetic than we are! And actually it’s really challenging. We just felt really challenged that our prayer lives are often a monologue not a conversation, and we expect our children when they are adults to have a conversation with Jesus, when they’ve only ever had monologues. So the introduction of quiet to hear from God, and then teaching them that even if they feel something that seems a bit weird, to just say it anyway. Let’s speak it out, let’s see what happens. I think our biggest passion is that our kids have direct access to Jesus themselves and not just through us.

So how do you begin to help kids start to hear God’s voice? What do you do?

Anne: Normally we would just pray together at the table and then we would just say, “hey guys, we’re just going to spend 30 seconds in quiet and see if Jesus wants to say anything to us, and we’re just going to ask the Holy Spirit to come.” Then Daniel would normally say “I’ve got something,” quite quickly, whereas Amelie would ponder and take a little while, and it’s quite thought through. It’s as simple as that, it’s not complicated.

Gavin: But also, we’ve tried to extend it beyond our family a little bit, so when there’s certain people around for dinner or whatever else, the greatest way we think we can bless them as a family is to include them in those kind of times. So there have been times when we have waited on someone as a family to hear what God might have to say to bless them. And it’s been amazing to see how it impacts our kids when they minister to people outside of the family too.

How have you encouraged your kids to get out of their comfort zone and to take those steps of faith themselves?

Gavin: We just want them to join in! So there are some precious moments you have … I remember being at Spring Harvest France last summer, and we minister in the morning and evening when we’re there. And I remember a couple of meetings where Amelie came with me because Anne wasn’t able to come or wasn’t around, and I just said to her, “You know, Amelie, I can’t really get up to speak without being empowered by God to do this – you know what you need to do don’t you?” And to stand there just before you’re about to preach, with your daughter with her hand on your shoulder praying that you’d be used, I mean, I think that, too often we don’t let them join in.

We’ll also be quick to let them share something in that sort of context. I think also, to let them see what you are doing and then what they’ll end up doing is mocking you! So my daughter can recite the Evangelical Alliance membership plug to a word. She probably could do it better than me and we’d probably get better returns, but I think what we’ve done through all of this is to let them journey with us, so have a go! I look at Jesus and his disciples who by the way were teenagers – and what Jesus does all the time is he lets them join in. And we’re trying to do this, we’ve not got any of this perfect – we make loads of mistakes. But our greatest desire is that at 25 both our kids love Jesus. What we’re trying to do whilst they’re still prepared to is to join in. Join in the prayer time, join in the hearing from God; with the ministries we do there are extra opportunities for them to join in with what we do, but journey with us!

You guys were both brought up in Christian families. So what are some of the lessons you learnt about how you grew up and what your parents did in your own lives?

Anne: I think, every single night my mum read to me when I was young and really taught me a lot about listening. She would listen to me a lot so I was able to work things through with her that I was questioning, and I didn’t feel like she was going to rush away from me, I felt like she always had enough time, which I find quite challenging because I work a lot more than she worked. But I also know how significant that was, the time that she gave. And when I would come in after school she would listen to me, and I found, what’s interesting is the hours that we’re prepared to listen. Gav and I are really good at deciding the hours that we want to give, but actually the hours that they need are different to that. And I suppose I’m trying to be more selfless and go “OK, what can I put down to give them more space?”

Gavin: I think from my background, I’m really grateful for the things that my parents did that stuck that they didn’t realise had stuck. I’ve had lots of conversations with all kinds of people that I got to meet, and hearing all kinds of things about Jesus all the time. It was just there!

Finally, what pearls of wisdom do you have for parents with younger kids?

Gavin: I would say pour in all you can about Jesus, and don’t try to rush out of this season.

Anne: Yeah, I’m just thinking back a little bit in my mind and I think it’s still true now a little bit, but guilt really has governed a lot of my decisions and I really wish that guilt hadn’t been there, and that I’d just been more relaxed rather than operating out of ‘I’ve got to do this’ or ‘because I have to.’

Just spend time with them and enjoy laughing and messing around with them and I think just making sure they know that they are heard. Communication is really vital for us. I don’t want them to feel like they can’t come to us with stuff, and so it’s just giving them space to be heard and respond.

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