Last week, we introduced you to Lesli van Milligen, Regional Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in Ontario. This week, we would like to introduce you to Liz Tolkamp. Liz lives in Langley, British Columbia and serves as a Regional Catalyzer for Classis B.C. South East, Classis B.C. North-West, and Christian Reformed churches in the state of Washington. Look for more interviews with Regional Catalyzers for the CRC's office of Faith Formation Ministries in the weeks ahead!
You are one of eleven children. How has your experience growing up in a large family impacted your work as Children's Pastor at Willoughby CRC?
I enjoy encouraging and helping children connect faith to everyday life. Two things that influence that:
My parents rarely talked about their faith—they lived it, humbly and quietly—in all things as best they could.
Being part of a large family reminds me that all of us, in our own way and in our own place and time, are trying to figure out what it means to live out our faith. And for each one of us, that looks different. That's helpful for me in ministry—children and families come in all shapes and sizes and from various family backgrounds, but in the end we are all on that journey.
My mom was a Sunday school teacher for many years during my teens and I fondly remember being her "helper". She was very loving and accepting toward the children. I remind myself of that often.
Can you describe for me a key person in your life who played an important role in your faith formation.
There were a number of people, but today I want to talk about my mother:
In my early years, my mother established practices that shaped my faith. In addition to the family practice of reading and praying at meal times, my mother established the daily practice of reading to us in the evening, often with four or five of us gathered around her on the floor, from a children's bible story book or a children’s devotional book. I also remember the practice of evening bedtime prayers. I can still sing "Jesus Tender Shepherd Hear Me."
For years, my mother participated in, and later led, a bi-monthly women’s Bible study group. At that time it was called "Ladies Aid'. I can still see my mom reading Scripture and a commentary before writing out her talks in preparation for that women's Bible study group. Through all of that, I knew she deeply loved her Lord.
You and your husband are the parents of three young adults. How do you parent for faith formation during this transitional phase in their lives?
With a whole lot of grace. I've always said "God has no grandchildren," i.e. at some point, every child raised in the faith needs to come to own that faith for their own. Observing and accepting how my young adult children express and live their faith differently than mine is challenging. When their faith doesn't look or feel like mine, it can create tension in me. But I wouldn't want it any other way. I have discovered that the best way to parent in this transitional phase is to have a posture of gentle listening and affirmation, and then ask questions if I need to.
Syd Hielema invited you to join Faith Formation Ministries early on. How did you know Syd?
I first knew Syd when I was a Christian school teacher and he would present workshops on faith formation at local Christian school teacher's conventions. In later years, in my role as Children's Pastor, we would connect at various church sponsored workshops. I don't remember exactly how I was invited to be a part of the Faith Formation Ministries, but I am delighted to be here.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be, and how would you use it in your role as a Regional Catalyzer?
I would love to be able to clone the best of all the FFM team and Regional Catalyzers! I would use that to help churches change, develop and grow into the best grace-filled life transforming communities that they can be.