By Becky St. Clair
Aren Rennacker is currently the youth and college pastor at the Calimesa Seventh-day Adventist Church. After graduating in 2007 from Sacramento Adventist Academy, Aren went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in PR and journalism from PUC in 2011, then his master’s in theological studies from La Sierra University in 2017.
One of four kids, Aren has myriad stories from his childhood, during which he dreamed of winning a spot on an NBA team.
He will be speaking during PUC’s Winter Revival, Jan. 22-25, and his theme is “Authentic.” We caught up with Aren so we could all get to know him a little better (how did he go from basketball star to youth pastor?) as we prepare to receive his insights on authenticity and God next week.
Why did you choose “Authentic” as your theme?
It’s such a unique time to be alive right now, and particularly to be in college. Students are forming their identities in the midst of a lot of distrust, competition, pressure, and confusion. These can all contribute to misunderstandings about oneself and what it means to be human. My hope is for one week, we can practically examine the journey of growing as a child of God, and how that actually is meant to allow for more authenticity in our lives, not less. I truly hope our time together is engaging, practical, and genuine to the students’ experiences.
What was your experience with church and worship as a college student, and how has that affected your life today?
Friday night vespers at PUC were always a highlight. I spent most Sabbaths with Kidz Reach, a group that mentored at-risk youth in Napa. Also, the religion classes were outstanding. Truly, the entire spiritual environment at PUC helped me grow in a lot of ways and led me into pursuing ministry. I remain grateful to this day for the teachers and leaders I had as guides during those years.
What’s something that challenged you as a young adult, and how did you handle it?
At the end of my freshman year, I was asked to take a year off to serve as the youth leader at a local church. At that time I still wanted to be a sports journalist and had no desire to be a pastor; however, I felt saying “no” would upset God.
I met with a mentor of mine to process the decision, and he helped me see God was not for me or against me based on my decision, but both “yes” and “no” could be the right or wrong answer based upon how I chose to spend the next year. That took a lot of the pressure off and helped me see God in a healthier way.
I decided to return to PUC that year recommitted to serving God on campus. And, what do you know, by the end of that year I decided I wanted to pursue a career as a youth pastor instead of as a journalist.
What were you like as a kid?
I was the youngest of four and I’m sure I acted like it. Fortunately, my mom and siblings were patient and helped create a great childhood for me. Sports were my passion, and I always wanted to be watching, playing, or reading about them. Reading the sports page in the newspaper every day helped cultivate my love for writing, and obsessing over the Sacramento Kings helped me acclimate to taking losses. Despite that, I was a generally happy kid who enjoyed school and loved my family.
What is your favorite food to eat?
My favorite food category is ice cream. (Is that a category?) Seriously, though, if I were to have one plate of anything, it would be my mom’s French toast. She’s the only one in the world who can make it her way.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I still enjoy playing basketball, and I’m hoping to play some while I’m up at PUC. I’m currently in the middle of several good books, including Under the Overpass, an account of two guys who chose to become homeless for five months to better understand what others experience. But my favorite free time activity is spending time with my girlfriend, Paige, which usually means a game of Uno, an episode of The Office, or a bowl of acai. Better yet: all three.
What are some items on your bucket list?
This is a timely question because I turn 30 this summer, meaning I should probably do some life reflecting. Some of the things I’ve done are travel the U.S., work at a job I love, and see the Giants win the World Series (three times). I’d still love to run a half marathon, write a book, and star on Broadway. Dream big.
What would you say is your main goal for Winter Revival?
My ultimate goal for the week would be for those listening to be willing to process or wrestle with at least one new idea or perspective they hear. Living within a faith community can often numb us to yet another message (myself included), so if any student or staff actually feel something they hear is worth consuming and thinking over, perhaps even discussing with a friend, I’d be honored and grateful. I simply long to be a small part in the journey of growth for anybody who will allow me to be.
If, in the course of said discussions or ponderings, a student has questions or just wants to connect with you about things, how can they reach you?
I would love to talk in person while I’m on the hill, or they can reach me at email@example.com.