BC: Hello, this is Bryan Carter. I am here with Pastor Joe Aronson of communitychurch of Oshkosh WI. We are doing this interview for the UW Oshkosh Oral History Project. We are very happy to be here today and Joe how ya doing?
JA: I'm doing really well, it's a rainy day, but I have a hot cup of coffee
BC: Haha, a rainy day and I am not dressed for it which is pretty amazing whenya think about it.
JA: Yeah, you're wearing shorts what's the matter with you?!
BC: I just, you know. When you run out the door you just run, and I was thinkingmaybe I should be weather conscious today, but I ran right into my car though so.
JA: There ya go! Well, you're water resistant so.
BC: Haha! Well, I wanted to first and foremost thank you for agreeing to do thisinterview and to open up your office to me and to really hash it out. And with first talking about your higher education career I wanna actually first start with your childhood. The environment you were raised in, and how that kind of took you into high school and then into picking the university of your choice.
JA: Yeah, uhm so I grew up in Winneconne on land that was, depending on how you1:00date it, had been in my family for five or six generations. And, uh-- so most of my family was farmers, my grandparents were farmers, my mom was a farmer growing up. Both of my Parents went to UW-Oshkosh. My mom graduated with a nursing degree and my Dad was with a, uh, computer science, I think. And then he got his MBA from UWO, um, his last final was about two hours before I was born. So, yeah that's kinda what that looked like, so it wasn't really a question of whether I'd go to college. And being in Winneconne I never really felt like I wanted 2:00to... you know when we were in high school there were a lot of people who were like "I wanna leave and get out of here" and then they go to like La Crosse or Eau Claire and then they decide they wanna be back here because they're homesick or whatever. And I kind of saw just knowing myself that that would be what would happen with me too so I decided to skip that whole step and just start at UW-Oshkosh.
I started out as a Computer Science major; a lot of it was following after mydad and what he had done. I like computers, I'm technologically literate and can do that sort of thing and so we - my idea of fun in high school was, with some buddies, we would get our big PC desktops, our towers, and our monitors and we'd hook them all together and have these giant LAN parties in my parent's basement. And so a lot of it was fixing, like, most of our time was spent troubleshooting 3:00the computers and not actually playing the games. When I was in high school I took a bunch of like networking classes, I forget what the name of the class was, but it was like a tech class so they had all these different stations. So you could do AutoCAD and you could do pneumatics and a bunch of different stuff, and I did all mine in like, networking with computers, that sort of thing. I could've gotten certified for something because I had done enough things, but I just never ended up doing it.
So I went to UWO, really, it wasn't a big decision that I really had to make. Ithink I only applied at UWO. I took the ACT, and I got like a 24. And I was like that's good enough to get me into Oshkosh,- and so that's what I, I just stayed 4:00there. So yeah, it wasn't - I didn't have that big deliberation of "where am I gonna go?" and "what am I gonna do?" because to me, at that point, it was just kind of obvious. Part of it - a lot of it was because that's just what my dad had done. So that's what I was gonna do. So, I started at UW-Oshkosh in 2006 after I graduated from Winneconne and started there. I lived in Fletcher Hall. I got my roommate assignment. I lived with a guy named Kelsey, and I thought that that was - I thought that they had placed me with a girl at first! (laughing) And that was awkward! But it wasn't, and he's a good dude. Um yeah. And that's kind of how I ended up at UW-Oshkosh. Anything you want me to clarify?
BC: So, it really seems cool to me because, kind of the, the family lineage that5:00really took part in you picking the university of your choice. And how for so many students that's not really an option sometimes because their parents probably didn't go to school, or their parents went to online school, or their parents went to a school that was so great and they don't see themselves living up necessarily to all the hype so they choose to go elsewhere. Or they want to completely be done with the family legacy, the family lineage and kind of create their own way. And so it's really cool to see that you went on with that. It's really cool when you really think about. It's just like - and now you have kids too, and it's like, thinking of "Who knows what the future holds?" in that prospect. But I do want to ask because you mentioned being in Fletcher Hall, I lived in Fletcher Hall my freshman year too.
JA: Oh yeah!?
BC: Fletcher 340.
JA: Oh, I was 414!
BC: Oh! And they've just started renovations. They're finishing up therenovations, actually.
BC: And it's looking to be a really, really great project. But I would say, what6:00was the campus climate like for you? And by climate, I'm not - we can talk about classes in a minute, but I first want to talk about the social climate for you. Um, with being someone, because I know I have friends that are here from Oshkosh, are from Winneconne, from the Fox Valley, so they're kind of just like, you know they're all over the place. And I remember I got hooked up with one of my fraternity brothers who lived on my floor in Fletcher. We weren't fraternity brothers at the time, but he's one of the people that really exposed me to, besides working here at Community, to the other side of the Fox Valley where, for them, going out to the Appleton mall is just like "Oh, that's just the thing we do on the weekends" when for us it's like "There's a mall here besides the Outlets!?" Um, and so for me it's like, what was the social climate like for you being someone who is pretty much a native to the Fox Valley area and your family has such rich history here?
JA: Freshmen year I went home just about every weekend. Um, in part to dolaundry, but in part because I had buddies that I wanted to drink with and I was 7:00living on a substance free floor. So, I couldn't do that. Which was kind of ironic, actually, that I was living on the substance free floor, and going home and getting plastered every weekend. But, I had gotten - lot of my friends stayed in the area for one reason or another, and so I'd go home and we'd hang out and that sort of thing. And so freshman year it was really... on campus, I didn't really have much of a connection there. I didn't get involved - I mean, I was involved with CRU, sort of but not really. I just went to it, but I didn't do any of the Bible study stuff or anything like that. So, I think part of it - campus kind of becomes it's own little community. Especially for the people who are stranded there. And you have to figure out how to make that work, and 8:00everything that you would need is there. Being from here and having a car, we just went all over the place.
Like it was, I remember one of the times - well, the first night, um, the firstnight that we were there, that next day we went to Blackhawk as a floor. I think the CA had put something together, but I don't remember exactly what that was. But we ran to Blackhawk in the rain. And I remember - we're like freshman boys, and we're like, we're just running around and were crazy and obnoxious. It was before everybody else moved in on campus. And so it was all freshmen. And everybody's excited to be there, and we're just running around like crazy people. And that was, uh, because some of those guys are still friends of mine, it really wasn't because of - it was really because they had gotten involved in 9:00CRU. So because I lived on the substance free floor, I had a lot of guys who were - I mean, everybody chose to be there. Um, and part of my reason for my decision to be there was to have people who had, I didn't want to get stuck with a roommate who was snorting coke every other day. You know what I mean? I'd rather deal with somebody who's super nerdy and smells than dealing with heroin, you know? And so that was kind of, that was the mindset. But, a lot of the guys ended up just like "Yeah, the drinking scene isn't for me." Um, and I mean, it was Sloshkosh. That was what it was known for in a lot of ways. But I think being from here, I saw UW-Oshkosh as less of an island that I was stranded on and more of a place that I went to serve a greater purpose. So because family was still here, I mean, it's fifteen minutes away, because I had a car and was 10:00familiar with the area, we would just take, I mean, in an evening - I remember one of the first times we went to the theatre, and it was like an eye-opening experience for some people. Because they were like "Wait, like we can do this? Like, we're grownups!? We can just go and do whatever we want?" Um, and it felt very foreign, but I was like "What the heck is the big deal? We're going to see a movie." Um, but because they, at least when I was there, they really emphasized getting involved and getting to know people and developing friendships and stuff like that. And that was all well and good, especially for people more who are in your situation where you're a ways from home, you don't just go home in an evening to have dinner with the fam, you know? But for me it was a different experience
Um, I did end up living in a house with all guys that were from my floor whichwas good. But really the main connections that I made were through CRU. So it 11:00wasn't through anything that the university - that was officially sanctioned by the university, but it was through those campus organizations and through CRU specifically. And friendships and stuff like that. Even some that continue to this day. Mike and Kim Howard, for example, I first met them at CRU.
BC: And just to clarify for the record, this is fall of 2010 that we're talkingabout? And this isn't necessarily -
JA: Fall of 2006 is when it started.
BC: Okay, fall of 2006 for the record, when you first entered UW-Oshkosh.
JA: And I graduated in the spring of 2010.
BC: Okay, alright. Just clarifying because I don't think we're talking about,you know, the 80s or the 90s. 12:00
JA: Haha! Yeah, and so I started as computer science. Um, that was fine. Iswitched to Management Information Systems in the Business College my sophomore year, I think. And, because I decided - I realized that I was way too extroverted to sit behind a computer and code all day. Um, and the business side of it was more - I'd be up, and moving around and talking to people and some of that like, help desk type stuff. More in that realm as opposed to developing programs.
Um, my sophomore year, um, I had gotten involved with CRU, and then I reallyfelt I needed to be doing something different. Like, I could have done computer stuff and networking, but I felt like in terms of purpose I really felt like God 13:00was calling me into ministry. And, it was really one of those kind of lightning bolt moments where it was like "You're going to be a pastor." And so from then I looked at leaving the UW-Oshkosh and going to a Christian school. And I basically would have lost all of my credits. And I was about halfway through my sophomore year. And so I could have gone to Trinity or Moody or Bethel, but I would have basically had to start over. And then I would have been out in four more years, so six total. And I would have graduated with a Bachelor's in Theology or Bible or whatever. So what I decided to do is to stay at UW-Oshkosh with a Religious Studies degree and get out in four years and then go and get my Master's which would have been about seven years. So it was either six years with an undergrad, or seven years with a graduate degree. And so that's what I 14:00decided to do.
I met Anna, my wife, at UW-Oshkosh through CRU. Actually, we met in Clow. Idon't think those pit classes are there anymore, but Clow 103 was where we always used to meet. So we met there. Um, yeah.
BC: This is amazing. So, you've given us a lot of information in such a shortperiod of time! And so, I want to jump back to what you were saying about the campus climate and about campus being an "island" of sorts. And I can attest to that, to where it really did feel like an island at first. You know my story, but for the record I came to Oshkosh June of 2015. And I'm there for the summer. And I was on this island where everything I needed needed to be on that island because I sold my car when I came to school. So, you know, I don't have a car. The only time I ever left campus, that I ever left the island, was to go to 15:00church on Sundays. Um, and that was kind of like that big, you know, risk I'm taking by walking off campus, and it's like "oh my gosh" and your city literally just happens to be down the street, downtown. And it was a beautiful summer day every week, so I didn't mind doing that. And then what you said about going to the movies, that was me when I first went to the movies on a school night! And I'm just like "Wait, we can do this!?" I don't have to call my mom and be like "Hey mom, can I go to this?" And it really helps develop people because then we realize that you are on your own, but what are you going to do with that? What are you going to do with that responsibility and independence that you do have? Because in many ways you can make decisions that can fudge you up in the end. Um, that can really end you with having a really sticky foot in the ground because you dug a hole for yourself. And now it's hard to get out.
JA: Yeah, and I think that one of the - I mean, college can become a prolongedadolescence. It just becomes an extension of high school where you're not living 16:00under your parents roof, but you're living under the - it's almost like a military academy. You know, like you're living there, and you've got a CA, but they don't really like oversee you. You can really do whatever you want, but you still don't feel like you can do that. I know, I visited a friend who went to the University of Minnesota. And that campus is so interspersed with all of the - like, there's restaurants and other businesses there that are interspersed with their buildings. And so it doesn't feel - it feels more integrated as opposed to this, like, huge island that's right here. That you walk from one corner of campus to the other, and you don't pass anything that's not university owned. Even when you get over by like, Jade Dragon and Jimmy John's that feels like you are leaving campus now. Even though that's primarily student housing 17:00and things over there, it still feels separate. It still feels different. And so, I think one of the problems is that Oshkosh is so much of an island that it doesn't necessarily help people to feel like adults. Does that make sense? At least that's what I saw with some of the people who were stuck there.
BC: I mean, that's very true. Because like - you know, I do fraternityrecruitment. And a lot of the guys I meet for the first time I have to look at them and usually I have to say, like "Are you ready to make a decision? Or are you just going to make a decision?" And then, it's like, you take them off campus, you see how they are in these social settings, and for a lot of them... I remember one time I had to convince someone "Hey, going off campus is okay!" Like, I have a car, we're good, it's going to be safe. Nothing crazy is gonna happen. But also, to what you said about literally the borders of UW-Oshkosh being so definitive. Being so, like, strict. And even, I used to work for 18:00University Police. They have no jurisdiction across the street. Which is something crazy unless something absolutely horrible happens. Um, but that realization that it really is a carved out piece of land, and then you go to universities like, um, in Appleton there's Lawrence. And then you go to Milwaukee, and there's UW-Milwaukee, and all these other universities, and they're really just spread out throughout a certain part of the city. And so it does have more of that community with the greater, um, county, the greater city area so that students can feel that weight of "I am an adult." And really set out on that journey.
But then also you mentioned your involvement with CRU. And CRU is a Christianorganization on campus. Can you tell us a little bit about CRU? Because I know about it, but not a lot about it.
JA: Yeah, ah, so when I was there it was Campus Crusade for Christ. Um, it's astudent led organization, and there are like staff people that are there. They raise support and, I mean, they're basically missionaries that are there. And 19:00they lead the ministry. But a lot of it is all equipping students to actually lead the thing. One of the things that CRU tries to do and is hard because of those definitive borders is connect students with churches that are in the area. And that's really, really important for that "Hey, you're involved with something bigger now, you're not on this island." You're a part of this community, not just at UW-Oshkosh. And that's challenging because of those very definitive borders. It feels different. It feels like you're leaving home when you go to a different church. Even to like, River Valley Church which is right down the street, or down to New City now, it wasn't there when I was there.
Um, so CRU does, they do weekly meetings. It's basically a worship service wherethey do music, they do speaking, they do student testimonies. It's really a time of connecting with God and connecting with each other. Basically a church 20:00service. Um, and they do Bible studies, and they do like, they used to have a house. It wasn't owned by CRU by any means, but it was always CRU people that were living there. The brown house right across from - on Elmwood. Brown, and then the blue house on... But the brown house, I think there were - it was like 10 or 12 years where it was always CRU people that were living there. And they just kind of like handed off to other people. Um, and so they would do like corn roasts and stuff right over there, right on the other side of Polk. Or outside of Polk on Elmwood. And so it was - they did a really good job of getting connected and helping people to get connected, creating environments where people could get connected. Um, I'm kind of a curmudgeon, and those organized things where like "Hey, we're gonna go and we're gonna make friends!" I'm like, "Oh, okay, well, or I could just like make friends." Like, don't make this into a pressure cooker where like "Oh, well the people that you're going to meet now are going to be the people that you're friends with for thirty years." Like, 21:00that's not necessarily the case. Um, and so I went to some of those things but it was more as an outsider. I never really - I didn't dive into that, but it was still, I mean the guys that I was living with were involved in CRU, and they happened to be the ones that were on my floor as well, and so it was more than just CRU it was a cross-pollination that I had the connection that I had with these guys outside of just the weekly meetings.
BC: That's cool. I think our experiences with CRU are very similar. Because whenI started going to CRU, um, I remember I was not going to go to CRU. I got message because I was going to New City in the summer, um, and I'm crazy about New City as you can tell, I work there now. But I'm crazy about New City. And my heart is really for the Lutheran Church. And then I'm like, "I don't really feel like going to another service." I'm like, "I get a good one on Sunday." And then, um, I end up going because a friend, a high school friend of mine from home, he, uh, messaged me, and he's like "You�'re at Oshkosh; I've seen your 22:00Instagram." Because I used to take videos every Sunday. But now I'm just too good to take videos. So he's like "You take videos every Sunday at New City, you should come to CRU!" Okay, out of respect for you, the person, I'll come to CRU.
Um, and I went for probably a month, had a bunch of people that started comingwith me, but for me I always felt more of like an outsider than as a full-on participant. I always - I got involved and led worship with Zach Jones when he was there, but then after he left I moreso became more involved with New City. And more of the local church thing. And adding that weekly meeting which was so late at night for me was just, um, a lot to put on your plate, or a lot to just stay committed to. And so I also feel that. And I never joined a Bible study or anything like that. And I just say, it's kind of like it's a person thing. But I just find that really unique that our experiences with it were very similar because for me it was the whole thing of I got connected with the local church right away. And so having that outlet to be able to plug people into that is 23:00awesome. And then seeing, like, where do they go with that connection? Do they just make it a Sunday morning thing, or is it something where they're committed and they're invested? So that was really cool to hear about. And then I also love hearing with you saying with CRU how you met Mike and Kim Howard, and they are two great worship leaders that serve at our church here at Community. Are there any other people from Community that are prominent within leadership and serving that you met there?
JA: Well, I met Karl Kramer. He came and spoke at CRU. He was a pastor here atCommunity Church, um, and he came and spoke at CRU. And after - when I felt like I needed to get, to pursue ministry and becoming a pastor and what that looked like, he spoke. And I was talking to him afterwards, and I just, I mean, I said "Hi, my name's Joe. Do you take interns?" And so I was very forward with it. And 24:00he was like "Yeah, I've had interns before!" And I said, "Well, I would love to talk about being one of those." And he said "Yeah, let's get together!" And I shot him an email or a Facebook message, I don't remember what, and I never got together with him. But I started coming to Community's Saturday night services.
BC: Whoa, that was a thing?!
JA: Yeah, we had Saturday night services, and there were like 50 people here inthe worship center where there's like 450 seats. And so it felt very empty and very dead. But I was helping lead worship at my, my parent's church. The church I grew up in. And so I'd come here. Saturday night I'd go and sleep at my parent's house and then I'd go to church and then I'd go back to campus the next morning. That was kind of the way the whole thing went.
So, um, I got connected here where I started as an intern with Karl for asummer, and then I just got more and more involved. Stayed part time in youth 25:00ministry, and when New City launched I went full time. And now I'm in a multi-site role. But it was really because Karl came and spoke at CRU, and then I cornered him, that I'm here ultimately. He's probably the biggest one, um, in terms of students that I was there with... oh, let me think here... uh, Sunny Oaks. She was there. She was a couple years older than me. Um... let me think. Nobody that I can think of right off the top of my head.
BC: Well, that's just cool though. Just thinking about the connections thathappened. These random, well, what feel as random times in our lives that end up shaping out the next 10 years or the next 20 years. Um, and setting us on the course that - 'cause, I mean, you came in ready to work on computers, ready to 26:00make programs, and then to see you shift gears. And then I wonder because you started basically becoming a prominent leader within Community Church, because I've noticed just being an intern that people watch you way more than you think they're watching you. You become one of those faces that they think about when they think about this church. Did your social life shift to meet that expectation?
JA: Yeah, so I was leading worship at CRU. So, after Mike left - Mike and KimHoward - I think Mike was the President of CRU. Like, the official president of CRU for a little while. That might not be right, but I think he was. And he was a couple years older than me. And he kind of - he passed the baton to me and this guy named David Gilbertson, who is a really good friend of mine. So, we led worship at CRU for awhile. And I think I felt that responsibility at that point. Um, I think, yeah, so I think so. 27:00
BC: Because sometimes it's a more intentional thing for some than it is forothers. And I know for me like, I didn't really feel until people start - when I wasn't even an intern yet. And I wasn't even part time or anything yet. I was just coming. Um, and people like on my floor in Fletcher were like "Hey!" My best friend Hillary, who comes to church and she sits in the row behind me at New City, she's like "Hey, you go to church?" And I'm like "Yeah." She says "I'm coming with you Sunday!" Um, and the next thing you know I have a section of about 15 people that still come to this day and it's still growing, um, that have gotten connected because... I guess the sacrifice. Because, when you go to Oshkosh, or Sloshkosh, um, it can be so easy, especially with me being involved in Greek Life, it can be so easy to make that be who you are. Um, and that can also be something that turns people away. "Oh, he's just immature, he's not ready yet." Or maybe "He just needs a little more time to really, to meet the 28:00expectation." Even though you're in a really campus environment, campus climate, can really mean something. Um, but I also want to ask: with you leading CRU, that was the only organization that you really got connected and invested in?
BC: Okay. What about - was Greek Life ever an option?
BC: Never? JA: No, I never even thought about.
BC: Was it a stigma from Winneconne that came over, or?
JA: Yeah, I think so. Um, yeah, I think that that was - that was a big part ofit. Again, like I said, I'm not a - like, when people say, "Hey, you need to go here in order to make friends!" I'm like, "Yeah, I don't think so." I'm just kind of a curmudgeon, and I'm cynical like that. So, part of it was like "I don't need to pay annual dues in order to be friends with people." Um, now seeing like - I have a greater appreciation and understanding of what Greek Life 29:00does and the connections that it helps people to make. Um, I think that, I mean, there's that stigma, I think - and really, I think it was probably more through Hollywood than anything like that.
Yeah. it just never really seemed to be my thing. I don't do things where peoplesay come here to make friends. And I felt that I don't have to pay annual dues to make friends with people. Now I have a better understanding of it and the connections it helps people make. There's that stigma and it was probably more through Hollywood than anything.
BC: Animal House and American Pie.
JA: Yeah, and that's the thing. And I think that Oshkosh - I mean, it's not anIvy League school, so it's not like you get into this fraternity, and then that opens all of these other doors to be involved, to get in with this company or this firm or whatever. And so Greek Life at Oshkosh, really, felt like it was just a party place. Um, and I mean you walk - because there's, on Algoma and High, that loop that's right there. And the first week of class you drive by there and everybody's out and they're playing beer pong and they're - you know what I mean? Um, and I get that, and that makes sense, but I just never felt 30:00like it was going to be beneficial to me to do anything like that, so. Part of it was because, I think, I - because I was from here, I didn't feel like Oshkosh was much of an island, um, and that wasn't where I found community. Um, because I already had people. It was more, I went - I was on campus to serve a purpose. And then I would leave. It didn't define me, if that makes sense.
BC: And for me that's been something that's been kind of in my mind, I'veactually been thinking about this almost every day now. Um, where, I'm - I'm a recruiter for Delta Sig, I'm THE recruiter, I'm like the number one recruiter for Delta Sig. Every guy from the last two pledge classes came out of me. And now I sit back and I think about it, and for a lot of these guys I see now is that Delta Sigma Phi is the one thing that they have from college, not, you know, their classwork, their degree or anything. That's the one thing that they're holding onto as that crowning achievement. And I mean, not boasting or 31:00anything, but I look at the things I've been blessed and been able to do. And I'm defined by so much more than just that one decision. And I think that's the true essence of what a fraternity is. Um, but that can get lost in translation when you drive by and, a lot - some of the organizations don't even have house anymore. They have what you call "satellite houses," kind of like the CRU house, where it's not owned by the fraternity, but everybody that lives there is with the fraternity. I just moved into the church on Jackson and Irving and Mike Colda (?) and his son Theo, um, dropped out my year, um to keep doing real estate, he bought the church and then invites me to come live with him. And then the two guys that he lived with I ended up recruiting! And then I thought about it this morning when they were talking about stuff, and I'm like "Why did I do that again?" Um, but to see guys like that who are defined by so many other things, that are involved with so many other things, - I recruited Manny Nelson - and then to see them not just be defined by that, to be involved and do so 32:00many other things I think is really, um, I think that's the core root of it all. To see them involved in the local church, to see them, for me, I'm an actor, on my opening night ' my new show is tonight, haha, nudge nudge - um, and to be able to be defined by so many other things. But I think part of the stigma hits when you pass by and all you see is pong and all you see is parties and all you see is us wearing American logo colors just for no reason in the middle of April. Um, so I definitely understand that, and I've been able to see that more as I've been able to recruit more, and talk to people, and recruiting is not like, for me like anyone I recruit it's like who knows if you're really going to be my friend, we'll see, because you're one of 300 guys I'm talking to right now. It's a lot like speed dating. And then it's saying, "Okay, well, what values do you have already? What's in you that we can take out of you and mold you?" And that's kind of a lot like what you get to do here at community. Um, 33:00can you talk about your role here?
JA: Yeah so I am the Community Life Pastor here, um, so I oversee all of ourcommunity groups, and men's and women's ministry and our, like, visitor follow up process in helping people to get connected and plugged in here because we have a church of 1000 or 1100 people in average attendance. Yeah, so my role is a lot of, uh, I play matchmaker and help people to get plugged into a community group and create those atmospheres for people to get to know each other. It's interesting that because I'm semi-cynical and a curmudgeon when it comes to those old organized "Be Friends!" things that that's really kind of what I'm promoting. Um, but I think that that's a good thing because I think that I have a pulse on - I mean, I grew up 15 minutes from here. And I have a good pulse on what we value and what we're like and how we do things here as a people in the Fox Valley. Um, and so, yeah, that's an interesting aspect of my role. I mean, 34:00meeting with people I do premarital counseling, I'll do teaching on Sunday mornings, like I'm teaching this Sunday down at New City. Um, yeah, so all of the other pastoral things, hospital visits, those types of things.
BC: You've really been able to revitalized kind of the community groups thing. Iremember when I first got here, and I kind of got, you know, I wish we could get a video made where we watch the video, but I got the history of where the church has gone just within the last decade. I get a sense of the advancement that's happened to really catch up with what we can do now with today's technology, um, in today's society. And you've really revamped the community groups. They used to be called "home churches," they were never like an official thing, but God, through you, has been able to establish that. It's been a place for people who can find community, can find family, can find those people in a big church and 35:00make it feel like a much smaller church, and it's really helped the make-up of our church. I mean, I walk around, and I try not to go out in public without a hat or something on, I mean, you run into people and they're like "Oh! Do you know so-and-so?" and just to see how big the community is, but yet how close knit and tight the community is, and how welcoming the community is to new people. Because you can get a church of 1000 people, and we are a multi-site church, we're one church in two locations, one out on Ryf Road in the country and then one downtown, and you can get a church that big that's interconnected, um, and sometimes it's not welcoming to outsiders. It's saying like "Oh, you can come and visit but, you know, we're set the way we are." But it's unique that you can play that matchmaker role and make people who are just coming in, people like me who just got here two years ago, and sometimes people talk about me like I've been here, you know, a very long time, and I'm like "Nah..." (laughing) I just got here! And the amount I've been able to learn from watching your example, um, and he is a teacher! He is a preacher! He brings it down. Um, and 36:00it's cool to see your style. It's cool, like, um, one of the things we talked about in staff the other day is the Bible project videos. And those are videos that really break down each book of the Bible in a way that we can all - anyone - can really understand them and comprehend them. And the things like that that you've been able to bring to this organization and to really be one of those prominent faces and prominent voices and prominent workers that help make this possible. So, I think that's awesome.
JA: Thanks, man.
BC: And so you finished your undergrad, you said, in spring of 2010? And so, Iknow you're doing something now. Why don't you tell us what you're doing now?
JA: Yeah, so, I didn't walk at graduation, um, quite honestly, because Oshkoshwas a stepping stone. Like, I said I was going to go into ministry, and I just wanted to get our in four years and then pursue a Master's as opposed to leaving and then ending up with a Bachelor's degree. So, I didn't walk at graduation 37:00because I knew that that wasn't, like, the end. That wasn't the culmination of everything that I was going to be doing.
Um, and so, my wife Anna and I got married the summer after I graduated. She wasa year behind me in school so she had one more year. And so I got a job working at a company up in Appleton. I was just unloading and unloading trucks. It was just grunt work to make a paycheck and provide insurance for our newly formed family. Um, we got pregnant very quickly after we got married. Because our plan was that we were going to move to Phoenix, Arizona to go to seminary because of some things that they had offered and whatever, but after we found out we were pregnant we decided that probably wasn't the best time to uproot our family and move across the country to a place where we had no social net being newly married and new parents. Um, so we decided to stay here. And, so I was at Cintas 38:00where I was chucking rugs and stuff like that. Um, my dad works at Thrivent Financial. He worked there for - he's worked there for 33-35 years, something like that. He's thinking about retirement, but that was his first job out of college. So he stuck there the whole time which is really unique. Um, so I was there and they have - because they're a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, um, and they're specifically they work with churches, um, they had a tuition reimbursement program which is when I started at Western Seminary where I am now. So, it's all online. Um, primarily online, there's hybrid classes that I have to take, a few of them. But primarily it's online, so I watch the lectures and I submit papers and stuff like that. Um, so I started just taking like one class a semester, and now as I've moved into this role, um, here full time at church, which is, I'm just coming up on four years here which is exciting, um. Yeah, I'm coming up on 39:00graduation from seminary; I have 10 credits left. I'll graduate next spring with the way credits all lined up and stuff like that. But, um, yeah, and so that'll be that.
BC: That's awesome. And so, you're family's grown since having the one. You have -
JA: We have three.
BC: Could you say their names for me?
JA: (laughing) Yeah, we have an almost 6 year old named Jude, Hazel, who hasjust turned 4, and then we have Amos who is 4 months old.
BC: And that's awesome. So, having still a growing young family, I'd say, wheredo you see yourself going after you get your Master's? Or, where do you see God taking you in ministry or in your career? Um, because we always know that we're doing a series that's interconnected with our focus this year at the Commons, which is a Friday night teaching experience, we've been talking about transition as sons and daughters. And how are we supposed to handle transitions in life, and sometimes the things that we grow so accustomed to we get moved out of and 40:00then where do we go from there? And so, where do you see yourself going? Or are you just open to the possibilities?
JA: Yeah, I think since Anna and I got married we've had nothing buttransitions. Um, whether it was job stuff or where we were living. Um, we haven't had a ton of stability. We bought a house two years ago, a year and a half ago. Um, and I think after graduating from seminary I will - I mean, the plan is to just stay here. Keep doing what I'm doing. Um, create stability. One of the things with pastor's kids is, you know, that a lot of pastor's kids end up growing up and hating the church, um, because it's their - I mean, the church becomes a mistress. It becomes, um, something that takes daddy away. Um, and 41:00that's, I - I don't want my kids to experience that. And so, creating stability, having boundaries because ministry can become all-encompassing because it's, I mean, you're working with people. Um, and the lines between work and family and work and life, what's work, what's not work, I don't really know. Um, I'm kind of always working. Um, but having time that I'm "Okay, I'm just at home." And I'm just there. And we have stability, we know what's going to happen, regularity as much as we can, anyway.
So, yeah, I think, I mean we're planning to stay here. In terms of - I mean, myheart is really at Community Church. Um, we have such a fabulous team. A vastly different life stage team, um, that it's a great place for me to be able to 42:00continue to grow, um, and try ministry and really cut my teeth, um, and continue to grow in that. Especially with our late pastor who is right down the hall, if I'm like "I don't quite know what to do in this situation" I can always go and ask him which is a huge resource. A huge, huge resource. He's been in ministry for 35 years. So, um, yeah, in terms of what it looks like for my role here, I don't know. Um, but I really have no plans to leave Community Church. Um, like you said, if we're a multisite church so we decide to do another site I'd be down for that. Um, if we don't then I'm fine with that too. People ask me what I - what's the dream. What do I want to do? And really if I could - if money was no object, what would I be doing? And really I would doing just about what I'm doing right now.
BC: That's awesome. That's an awesome place to be.43:00
JA: It really is. And there is certainly stress, there's certainly, like,aspects of this job that are stressful and things that I don't always like. But in general I feel a very strong sense of purpose in what I'm doing. I love being able to work with people and see God working in people and through people. And yeah, so that's kind of where I am now. I'm twenty - almost 29. Um, I'll graduate from Western next spring right before I turn 30. There was a pastor who did a leadership podcast, and he was talking 20-somethings who were in ministry who felt like they weren't able to do anything. What he said is, um, "Jesus didn't do anything until he was 30. Why do you think that you can before you're 30?" And he said so, "Before you're 30 keep your head down, work as much as you can, and get as much experience as you can, and then maybe after you're 30 44:00you'll be able to accomplish something." (laughing) And really, so that's kind of been my philosophy as I've been going through this. Um, is continuing to build that. Build rapport and build my character and integrity. My dad had talked about in ministry there's - when you look for the pastor of a church there's two things that you really look for. Age and education. There's not a doggone thing you can do about how old you are. But you can do something about education and what you know. And so that's what I've really tried to do is to broaden my horizons, my understanding of the Scriptures and who God is and how to do this thing called ministry, um, and so I'm hoping that after I turn 30 that I'll actually be able to accomplish something.
BC: That's awesome.
BC: I think about that in terms of, like, me being as old as I am which is stillso young. Um, someone reminded me of that the other day, they were like "You're 20?!" And I'm like, after teaching, they're like "You're 20!" I'm like "Yeah!" 45:00But to be able to see the development that I've been able to see in myself since coming here, and to know that I'm just getting started with growing and maturing, it's like I have a whole decade of - and even beyond that, of just continuing to grow and to see the opportunities that I've been able to have, um, just by being obedient. But because I feel it's there, and I feel like whoever listens to this, um, in the next few years, um, in the next 50 years, because this will be archived. Um, you talked a lot about purpose, and I know we're not in church but I feel... just give us a nugget on what it takes to discover your purpose. And it's - I know a lot of us think it's some profound, um, you know, golden answer, but it really is very simple, and I know I've heard you say it many many times but you kind of alluded to it when we were talking. But what did it take for you to come to grips with what your purpose was in life?
JA: Work hard. And then it really -
BC: Did you hear that? Work hard. (laughing)
JA: And, I think that's really it. It's kind of like - discovering your purpose46:00is kind of like creating art. You can try to find, like, the - you want to create this masterpiece, but really what ends up happening is sometimes you just gotta go and you just gotta do the work and you just gotta make something. You just gotta do something. And so, when I graduated from UW-Oshkosh I didn't - I mean, I was loading and unloading dirty trucks and rags that they use to clean up tables at B-Dubs. Um, I - it was - and part of it was that we got married right away and then we had a kid right away. I felt like, that I needed to provide for them. Um, and so the thing that I knew that I needed was an income. And so, okay, what does that look like? And so I had an income. And from there - and I was working, like, second shift so the bar shift from like 10:30 to 8. And 47:00so then I moved into a different position where I was doing customer service. Um, so I built on that, and I've continued to build until I've been in this position. I didn't come right out of college and find the perfect job that I wanted. Um, it was, uh, there's three things like when you look at what your life looks like and what your jobs look like. It's: how much you get paid, uh, the schedule that you're working, and the work that you're actually doing. It is almost - you're never going to find all three of those right out of the gate. So, what do you really need first? Well, you need to know how much money you need to make. From there, after you have that job, you can figure out okay, do you want do something that you really love to do, or do you want a schedule that's more conducive for the stage of life you're in? And really it depends on what your family situation is. But then you add that other thing, and then from here you get to add that other thing, and maybe you don't even add that thing that you love to do, the work that you like, until you're retired. Um, there's a lot of people who work 30 years and then they start another career once finances 48:00aren't an object where they can actually do something that they want to do. Um, but I think that in terms of - people leave college and they say "I don't know what God wants me to do with my life." And it's like, okay, well just go do something. And then go from there. Like, you just gotta put one foot out and then from there you continue to move and continue to shift and continue to improve your position, um, in terms of finding out what you love to do. Um, and then figure out how to get paid for it. Um, so, work hard, I think that's the biggest thing.
BC: Yeah, and I think we've hit it all, honestly. Um, in the amount of time thatwe've had together. Um, of hitting the origin, hitting your college experience, hitting involvement in school, the connections you've been able to make and finding community. Um, and then work, working hard. Um, even when the jobs weren't necessarily ideal, even when the jobs weren't necessarily like - who 49:00wants to unload? Who honestly wants to unload boxes? I don't know of anyone that would really want to. Like, you're doing it because, "Oh, that money's great!" but I don't know - it's like people who work at call centers. I don't know anyone who really wants to do it. But it's working hard and putting the pedal to the metal. So, in closing, is there any last things you wanna say for the record?
JA: No, I don't think so. Thanks for being willing to do this. And for asking toget together, it's been fun.
BC: Well, thank you guys, and we're out!