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Five generations of family serve the Lord

Having recently graduated from Immanuel Lutheran Seminary, Sam Naumann is on his way to his first call at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Sam — the third of the Rev. Dave Naumann’s sons to answer the call — will be installed Sunday by his father.

“It’s kind of a father’s privilege,” said Dave, who also installed his sons Joe and Tom and nephew Ben Libby. “It’s all about trying not to cry.”

The five — scattered across the country — reunited at Immanuel Lutheran High School, College and Seminary in Eau Claire last month for the annual Pastoral Conference of the Church of the Lutheran Confession.

“We’re so incredibly proud of these boys,” said Dave, who like his late father, the Rev. Bertram Naumann, didn’t pressure his sons or his nephew — the fifth generation of pastors in the family — to follow in his footsteps.

“We raised our kids in God’s word, and we knew the Lord would lead them,” Dave said. (Dave, pastor at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Clarkston, Wash., and his wife, Desirae, who teaches at Valley Bible Academy, where he also teaches catechism and religion classes, have five children. Daughter Rebecca is a registered nurse, and son Ben is an engineering student.)

Family footsteps

Dave’s great-grandfather, Justus, emigrated from Germany in the late 1800s and served Lutheran congregations. His grandfather, Paul, also was a Lutheran minister. Graduating from the Wisconsin Synod Seminary in Mequon in May 1957, Bertram later became a founding member of the Church of the Lutheran Confession.

“I just always knew that I wanted to be a pastor,” Dave said. “Early on, I think you just want to be like your dad.”

Attending public school in Milwaukee, Dave got his start serving the Lord early, he recalled. A teacher told his parents he would march children using bad language on the playground up to a wall.

“That was punishment for using bad language,” Dave said, chuckling. “My mother started calling me Moses after that. I was all about the law.”

Growing up, Dave worked in restaurants and sometimes saw the raw side of people and knew he wanted to help them. “The best way to help people is to preach the Gospel to them,” he said.

Dave graduated from Immanuel Lutheran College and Seminary in Eau Claire, and he has served congregations in Alaska, Minnesota, Washington and Wisconsin.

His brothers — Paul, Bruce and James — also became pastors; Paul now is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran in Eau Claire, where his sons Nick and Drew are attending the seminary; Bruce is a pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church in Eau Claire; and James is a pastor at Our Savior’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jamestown, N.D. Their sisters, Ann and Gail, served Lutheran churches teaching.

In a 1997 Leader-Telegram article, the Naumanns agreed the mission statement for their next generation was simple: “If the Lord has a need of them in public ministry, He will seek them out.”

And he did.

Joe Naumann, Dave and Desirae’s oldest son, is pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Mankato, Minn.

“Church was our life growing up; it was very important to my family,” said Joe, who graduated from Immanuel Lutheran Seminary in 2016. “This is what the Lord has called me to do.”

Heeding the call

But he didn’t realize that at first. He attended UW-Madison for two years, pursuing a degree in engineering. His grandfather, Bertram, died in 2009, and Joe re-evaluated his life.

“It’s love for the Lord and love for the Word,” Joe said. “I saw that in my grandpa, and I saw that in my dad. That led me to the decision that’s how I wanted to spend my life. It was completely God’s work, not mine.”

Joe and his wife have two daughters and a son.

“We won’t pressure him,” Joe said of the infant’s future career path. (The Church of the Lutheran Confession doesn’t ordain women.)

His brother Tom is pastor at Mount Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Madison Heights, Mich., and his cousin Ben, Dave’s sister Ann Radcliffe’s son, is pastor at Ascension Lutheran Church in Tacoma, Wash., where his uncle Paul Naumann used to hold the job and his mother and grandmother, Alice Naumann, are members of the congregation.

Like Joe, it took Ben a little time to find his career path. After graduating from Immanuel Lutheran High School, he attended Immanuel Lutheran College for a semester, took the second semester off and then went to Madison the next year. He returned to Immanuel Lutheran College.

There, “I decided I’ll do this and see if it was what God wants,” said Ben, who went on to attend Immanuel Lutheran Seminary. “I’d ask myself, ‘Do I want to be a pastor?’ I guess God kept saying, ‘Yep, keep going.’”

Ben served as a vicar for a summer for Dave, who installed him as a pastor.

“It’s not your typical 9-to-5 job, and it can be challenging,” said Ben of pastoral ministry. “But it’s very rewarding, and I enjoy helping people on a personal level. From my point of view, there is no better job.”

Sam admittedly is a little nervous about his first call, “but it’s nothing the Lord can’t handle,” he said.

“Growing up, I got an inside look at what ministry involved, and I liked the idea of being able to help people know the Lord,” Sam said. “I’m looking forward to that.”