Could a boy nicknamed “Rage” grow up to be the gentle shepherd of flocks of youngsters?
Bill Rattray, Children’s and Family pastor at Southeast Christian Church’s Crestwood Campus, is proof that it can happen, through the leading of Jesus and the prayers of a faithful father and mother.
Born in Cincinnati and raised in a nearby suburb, Rattray, 42, had a happy childhood that included playing in the woods near his house with his brothers and neighborhood friends. When he was about 5 years old, his parents came to faith in Jesus—a decision that eventually helped change his life as well.
“I always believed that God was real, and I’d think about Him and talk to Him,” he recalled. “I was baptized when I was 13; but in high school, I dealt with a great deal of depression and angst. I earned the nickname ‘Rage.’”
Struggling against inner conflicts, he decided to attend Asbury University, a Christian institution in Wilmore, Kentucky. His goal was to know the Bible as well as he could, and inspire and equip others to do the same.
“Seminary wasn’t something I had planned on, but I had this ‘problem’—a praying mother,” he said. “She had prayed very fervently and specifically for me: who I would meet, my roommates, advisers and so on.”
As if on cue to continue his mother’s vigilance, two brothers named Joel and Isaac met Rattray within a few hours of his arrival at Asbury, and he was astonished by how “alive in God” they were.
“I stepped into their dorm room and noticed a guitar, which I also could play, and they began to sing and worship God in a way I had never seen,” he said. “Isaac was singing with everything in him, and Joel was beaming with joy and love in his eyes.”
In the following weeks, Rattray found himself repeatedly praying like the psalmist in Psalm 40:1: “I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry.” God answered that prayer, and the prayers of Rattray’s parents, through a local church to which Joel and Isaac invited him.
“An elderly man who was a visiting speaker simply spoke of God’s love for us and His desire to be in relationship with us,” he said. “One night I went up for prayer, and he told me to ‘just receive.’ I felt the love and joy of the Holy Spirit envelop me, and I left that night with a new song in my heart. All I wanted to do was to walk with Jesus, worship Him, know His Word—and make Him known.”
On that special evening, Rattray’s future wife, Heather (whom he had met on his second day at Asbury), also attended the service. The couple, who now have three children, will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in November.
While earning a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministries & Missions and a master’s degree in Biblical Studies, Rattray felt “tugged” to work part-time in a small Christian daycare for several years. He sensed that God was calling him to full-time children’s and family ministry, and served as a children’s and family pastor at a Lexington church for five years.
When the Crestwood Campus opened in 2010, Rattray applied for the Children’s and Family pastor position as his way to “make disciples, equip families and grow a heart of prayer.”
Helping prepare children for baptism is one of the many rewards of his work. Parents receive Forever Treasure journals to go through with their kids at home before following up with discussion at church.
“It’s amazing to hear how children are coming to know God, and how they are responding to His work in their lives,” he said. “It brings me great joy to see parents deeply engaged in their children’s faith journey, and to partner with them through baptism and beyond.”
Rattray’s work also includes connecting with volunteers, families and children during weekend worship services. Kids are given a “simple space” in which they can hear a Bible story and then meet the God of the story alongside church leaders.
“Amid the ‘busyness’ of our world, we pause to be still and know that He is God. Children use this time to read Scripture, write or draw their prayers, or simply be with God,” he said. “One Sunday during this time, a kindergartener asked, ‘Mr. Bill, can we have extra time today?’ It’s great to see how children can genuinely discover and encounter God in simple ways.”
Rattray’s continuing hope is that Southeast’s children and families will develop a deeply rooted system of faith. He keeps in mind Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 2:16: “It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”
“My prayer is that the next generation will grow to become mighty oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display His glory,” Rattray said, echoing Isaiah 61:3. “In a world full of brokenness, my hope is that this generation will become so deeply rooted in God—as Daniel was in early life—that they will be faithful witnesses for His glory wherever they go, all the days of their lives.”