Eleven years ago, Richard and Sue Penson packed up a minimum of household belongings and, with their four children in tow (ages 7 through 3 months), left their home in London, England, for Massachusetts. “We brought everything we could bring on an airplane—and that was it,” Sue recalled. “It was a step of faith!”
When they first arrived, the family stayed with Richard’s supervisor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Eventually, they found a home in the Boston area, where Richard currently is clinical director at the Gillette Center for Gynecologic Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, as well as assistant professor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. The Pensons’ home church in London, which was part of the Newfrontiers church movement, strongly emphasized children’s ministry, and Sue, having done extensive research on homeschooling, opted to home school the children.
Unbeknownst to the Pensons, Pastor Lori Hatcher (whose husband, John, is senior pastor of Living Hope Foursquare Church in Hanover) had been led by the Spirit to pray for a family to come from overseas. Living Hope became the Pensons’ church home, and today, Richard and Sue both serve the church as children’s pastors, having been licensed as Foursquare ministers in 2004. Both also serve on the Foursquare National Children’s Ministry Leadership Council.
What makes their ministry unique is that the whole family is involved. Dominic (18), Elliot (16), Madeline (15) and Tristan (11), all take an active part in children’s ministry at Living Hope. From Sunday school to midweek Kidz’ Klub, to nursery and summer kids’ camp, the Pensons work together as a team, along with other church staff and workers. “Our distinctive is that we do kids’ ministry as a family—and all of our kids like it!” Sue said.
Each member of the family has something to contribute. Gifted in creativity, Richard has written countless skits for camps, Kidz’ Klub and other events. The other members of the Living Hope children’s team, including the Penson siblings, join him in bringing those dramas and comedies to life. During summer camps, the skits become a continuing story that unfolds twice a day, throughout camp week.
As a children’s worship leader, Sue prioritizes culturally-relevant ministry to kids. “I do more ‘adult’ worship songs than ‘kid’s’ songs,” she said. “Not only do the pre-teen boys more readily identify with those songs, but the children also are more prepared to identify with the worship when they are in ‘adult’ services.”
Though each of them contributes to the ministry in a variety of ways, eldest son Dominic, an animal lover, said that the Penson siblings have an unusual interest, which they often incorporate into ministry settings. “We have a collection of well over 100 different types of amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates,” he said, noting that they even have started a business, Xtreme Animals.
Even with a veritable “zoo” in their basement, Richard and Sue continue to maintain the focus of their ministry: reaching children. As Sue put it, “Children are a priority in our lives. We want to help others focus on the kids!”