Interview with Lorraine Dupray

By Brad Dupray

Married just days after high school graduation, Lorraine Dupray dedicated herself to raising her family and serving the local church. As a young woman she had no idea she would eventually become a ministry pioneer, developing the staff role of “director of women’s ministry” at Knott Avenue Christian Church, Anaheim, California, in the early 1980s. She went on to serve on several boards of directors, including that of Hope International University. She led the girls’ camp at Angeles Crest Christian Camp in Southern California for 30 years, served alongside her husband, Carl, in ministering to junior high students and senior adults, and is currently serving as resource center director at Knott Avenue, where she has been a member almost 40 years.

Photo Caption: For his 100th Christian Standard Interview, Brad Dupray talks with one of the great influences in his life—his mother.

What’s the most important role of a mother?

To nurture her children physically, mentally, and spiritually and to make the Lord and his church the center of their lives.

What can a mom do to fortify her kids’ relationship to Christ?

Number one, keep herself fortified and walking the Christian walk. Example is just about everything. Second, see that they have a relationship with the local church and encourage them to be part of the youth group, camping programs, and ministries the church makes available for their nurture.

You’ve had three decades of experience as a grandmother; what makes for a good grandmother?

An effective grandmother prays constantly for her grandchildren and gives advice when asked. My children have to raise their own children. I’m willing to help, but only when I’m asked. I want to affirm my children’s raising of their children. I am very pleased the four children we raised are living Christian lives and serving in ministry. Now the next generation is living in a time when so many things we saw as off limits are sociably acceptable. I have to show my grandchildren my unconditional love and pray for them “without ceasing.” I claim the promise of Proverbs 22:6 and ask the Holy Spirit to remind them of the teachings of their youth.

You’re a student of the Word. How did your study of the Word play into your role in rearing a family?

It’s the center of my life. All of my decision-making, inspiration, and guidance come from the Word. As a child I was raised in the church and was encouraged to memorize books of the Bible and Scripture passages, which I don’t see happening a lot in churches today. That’s really the foundation for the rest of your life.

Was there a strategy for family decision making?

I was from the Father Knows Best generation, and I liked that. My husband was the head of the household, but we were definitely a team. We talked everything over together and our decisions were made together, but he had the final word. The fact that he was in charge gave me a feeling of well-being and protection.

How do you strike the balance between being a good mom and having an active role in ministry?

I was a stay-at-home mom. I know that’s a generation past and many young women today don’t have the option to stay home with their children. That’s a blessing others might not be able to enjoy today.

What about those who can’t be at home?

Home and family come first; then volunteer at the church. Try to be active in the programs your children are enjoying. Be a sponsor for their youth group and be involved in many ways at church. In conversations at home, stress the importance of the church and having Christ in the center of their lives. A lot of this is developed by example rather than words. Many times our kids don’t listen to our words, but our example is very significant. I like the old saying, “More is caught than taught!”

Why is ministry to others important to you?

I feel it’s our directive from Scripture. As an older woman in the church, I have a responsibility to other women to share my experiences and my knowledge of the Bible, to strengthen them in their walk, and to encourage them as mothers so they, in turn, can strengthen others.

How has serving others affected you over the years?

Serving others has given me fulfillment in life. I’ve been affirmed that over the years I have been a valuable aide to a lot of folks—young women, former campers, and former junior high students and women I had touched during women’s ministry. It’s a blessing that comes to you with the passing of time. When you’re right in the middle of ministry you don’t realize you’re touching people’s lives, but when they come back and tell you that you have changed their lives for the better, it’s a blessing you receive in return.

How did you “all of a sudden” find yourself thrust into a role on a church staff?

I felt like the ministry of women at church was shotgun, scattered, unorganized. This was in the days when women were not in leadership in the church. I noticed in the local newspaper that there was a church that had a “director of women’s ministries.” I thought that would be a grand thing—to have a woman who could bring together all of the ministries that needed to be dovetailed together.

So I went, in fear and trembling, to our pastor, Floyd Strater, with this idea. I said I thought it was good idea worth pursuing, and he said the elders were already pursuing that idea and they wanted me to do the job! If I had waited, the elders would have come to me, but the Lord knew I would have to go through the “fear and trembling” to take ownership of this new ministry. So I saw a need and I tried to fill it.

Were you ready for the transition to full-time church staff member?

I think I was learning as I went along because this was a new position. Director of women’s ministry didn’t exist before I arrived, so I went to a lot of meetings, conventions, and women’s conferences to get an idea of what others were doing and formulated a plan from those few who preceded me.

Were you surprised by what you found working on a church staff?

Not a lot, because I was already so involved. I was pleasantly surprised they worked together in a team as they did. From the outside it looks like there were different departments each doing their own thing, but when I saw staff coming together in meetings and working together, it was very reassuring to me.

Did you feel like it wasn’t right to get paid for what you love to do?

There was a certain element of that because I had served without pay for so many years. But at the same time our family needed the income for medical bills and college educations, and I was pleased I could work in the church as opposed to working in the secular world, and that was an added blessing.

Had you ever anticipated that working for a church would be in your future?

I started my working career in our storefront church in Willowbrook, California. At the age of 12 my girlfriend and I were the janitors. We got paid two dollars a week—a fortune in that Depression era! We would go every weekend and put the folding chairs against the wall, sweep the room, set up the chairs, clean up the kitchen and the bathroom and do everything we needed to get the house of the Lord ready for worship on Sunday.

All that is to say that I started out working at the church at a young age and always seemed to have some kind of responsibility, even while raising our family in the intervening years. The director of women’s ministry was kind of a natural role for me to step into.

If you could do it all over, would you change anything?

I don’t think so. I feel like I’ve had a fruitful life in the church. I have so many Christian friends and know missionaries around the world. From our little church in Willowbrook (later to move and become West Lynwood Church of Christ) so many have gone into ministry in so many ways—Bible school teachers, elders, ministers, missionaries, Bible college professors. One guy even works for Church Development Fund!

You poured yourself into a lot of young people like me, as others had poured themselves into you.

I am grateful to the women of the Willowbrook church for holding that church together when we didn’t have any men qualified for leadership. They indeed poured their lives into my training and guidance. Today I receive blessings from our former junior high students who feel blessed by their experience in our youth group. Whoever feels they have the attention of junior high people? We thought they weren’t even listening, but with the help of the Holy Spirit seeds were planted and God gave the increase!

Brad Dupray is senior vice president, ministry development, with Church Development Fund, Irvine, California.

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