Spotlight Interview: Aaron Rodgers

By Prestonwood Network Staff

Prestonwood Network: Story Hill Church just launched about a year ago. Can you tell us about the launch and how things are going currently?

Aaron Rodgers: Summer 2018 we moved with just over 40 people to Lawrence, Kansas. We started meeting together on Sunday nights at a local church that was generous to share their space before our kickoff. Then on August 23 (for Salt Company, our college ministry) and August 26 (for Story Hill), we kicked off our ministry efforts to reach the city and campus of Lawrence for Christ. Salt Company started last year with seven Connection Groups (our small group ministry, which is one of our biggest markers of growth and leadership development) and averaged 85 in attendance on Thursday nights for its midweek service. This coming year, we have more than doubled our Student Leadership team and will start Fall 2019 with 15 Connection Groups!

Story Hill started last year with four Connection Groups, and we averaged 125 on Sunday mornings and had more than 200 on Easter Sunday! This year we will start with seven Connection Groups for the community! We won’t have a “kickoff” since we continue to meet all year long. But our Birthday Sunday will serve as a huge momentum push for our church. Our church has had the incredible privilege of seeing 28 adults baptized in our first year and on our Birthday Sunday, we will host another baptism service! We also had the opportunity to engage and serve our city. We’ve mobilized dozens of volunteers for a city-wide half-marathon, a community Easter Egg Hunt, parades, and activities in our local schools. We have much to celebrate in these last 12 months and can’t wait to see what God is going to do next. We don’t want to pray small prayers. Rather, we want to honor God by praying big prayers!

Prestonwood Network: As a member of the Salt Network, could you share with us some about the Network and your involvement in it?

Aaron Rodgers: The Salt Network is a ministry devoted to creating and supporting a family of next-generation churches partnering to plant churches in major university centers, primarily in the Midwest. We are united by a shared confession (what we believe), a shared vision (what we aspire to do), and deep relationship (why we stick together). The Salt Network exists to help Salt Network churches plant university-focused local churches. We believe that the university centers are the most strategic mission fields in our culture and world, therefore the Salt Network is deliberately focused on planting churches in university centers to reach the next generation and next generation leaders.

Prestonwood Network: Story Hill Church is in the college town of Lawrence, Kansas, and has a large number of college students. What are the benefits and challenges of ministering to this demographic?

Aaron Rodgers: A little bit of this answer can be found above with the “why” of The Salt Network. Every college town has a ton of similarities, but each has unique distinctive characteristics. For us, Lawrence sits in a conservative state, but is definitely not conservative. Locals proudly claim we are the blue dot in a red state. Everything about Lawrence has been influenced by free/liberal thinking at KU. So there is a tremendous amount of cultural aspects that are heightened here. Liberal cultural issues are championed and celebrated … whatever they may be for that month or year. The challenges come with boldly living in line with biblical morals and convictions. We’ve already had people join and then leave our church once they learned our position on gender and sexual issues. The benefits come when the Holy Spirit does what He does in the lives of the students, and we and people of Lawrence are there to welcome them to truth and Gospel community.

Prestonwood Network: For other pastors and leaders trying to reach college students, what are some effective tips and tools that have proved successful in reaching this group?

Aaron Rodgers: Any effectiveness in reaching people in a liberal context (such as a college community) is found in relationships and intentionality. Showing up on campus or the town square with a bullhorn sharing your beliefs and convictions will only hurt you. People are desperate for authentic relationships. More specifically, if you’re going to be successful reaching college students, develop a discipleship system in which college students are the ones reaching their peers. We staff and disciple student leaders to send them out to reach their peers, and every year, we grow in our leadership as new students become leaders. Just offering a college Bible study or service or program can add some benefit, but the best means to see any of those things grow will be through leadership development in the students.

Prestonwood Network: Social media is obviously very prominent and important in the life of a college student. Do you have any pastoral advice on how Story Hill utilizes social media as an outreach tool?

Aaron Rodgers: Social media is a primary medium of engagement for us. Dozens of individuals have first connected with our church through social media, specifically Instagram. A few times a year, we do a paid-for ad on Instagram that targets our demographic. It always brings new people in the door to either the Sunday service or college midweek service. Content is everything to evaluate. We always run our content by our Salt Company staff to ensure there is engagement with the next generation.

Prestonwood Network: We have all seen the statistics of churched kids going to college and drifting from the faith or abandoning it altogether. Is this a reality that you have seen, and how do you fight against it?

Aaron Rodgers: Back in 2010, I was in my seventh year of youth ministry, and the national statistics came out showing that seven out of 10 students who graduate from youth groups won’t go back to church. Our ministry tracked down the previous three years of graduates from our youth ministry and the number was six out of 10. This reality broke me and has ultimately led me to where I sit today … church planting in a university town. I’ve reoriented my life to reach them alongside a multigenerational community that shares the same conviction.

Prestonwood Network: Would you share with us an example of a recent victory and Story Hill Church? What has you most fired up for the future?

Aaron Rodgers: Fruit and growth. We spent two years preparing to plant Story Hill. It was an appropriate amount of time to raise funds, build a staff and launch the team. Then to actually do what you’ve set out to do is crazy! The victories are found in the first answer at the top. God has been so good to us and we can’t wait to see how He surprises us next. A buddy of mine (church planter in our network in Madison, Wisc., at Doxa Church) always says, “It’s like I’m sitting in the passenger seat and God is driving me around saying, ‘check out this cool stuff.’” That’s what year 1 has been like.

Prestonwood Network: How can we pray for you, your family, and your church?

Aaron Rodgers: Pray for our efforts right NOW. We treat every fall as a relaunch for both Story Hill and Salt Company. We are laboring hard to reach our community and campus for Christ. It’s an all-out sprint right now. Please pray for our staff team, amazing volunteers, elders and those that we meet to have warm hearts to Jesus.

Prestonwood Network: Thank you, Aaron. We are so excited to hear about what God is doing at Story Hill, and we are praying for big things with this relaunch.

Aaron Rodgers serves as Lead Pastor at Story Hill Church in Lawrence, Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @AaronRodgers.

More information on Story Hill Church can be found at www.storyhillchurch.com. Please feel free to share a word of encouragement or prayer with Pastor Aaron at aaron@storyhillchurch.com.

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