Business Major Answers the Call
| by Rachel Phelps Libick firstname.lastname@example.org
Aaron Tiffany (Business Administration, '05) isn’t exactly where he thought he'd be after graduation from MNU. Or actually, he is.
"Going in to college I didn't know what I wanted to do. Or that is what I would tell people," Aaron says. "Deep down, however, I knew that God was calling me into ministry from when I was in middle school. I ran from that calling for about 10 years."
He arrived at MNU on a basketball scholarship, but a knee injury kept his playing limited. He liked his business classes and his professors, but freely admits that something still felt off.
"It wasn’t until I was newly married and working a minimum wage job at Guitar Center – with a college degree – that I finally said yes to God. My wife Rachelle and I were attending a church plant in Wichita and it was literally the Sunday after I told her that I felt called into ministry that our pastor, Mark Pennington, preached on answering God’s call. It was great affirmation," Aaron adds.
That affirmation continued as Aaron and Rachelle made plans to move back to Kansas City after Rachelle (Biology, '05) completed her Master of Physician Assistant (MPA) degree at Wichita State University in 2007. Their move back to Kansas City was so that Aaron could attend Nazarene Theological Seminary for his Master of Divinity degree. Only a few months into his time studying at NTS, he was hired for his first paid ministry position as a youth pastor in Garnett, Kansas. When he completed the MDiv in 2011, the Tiffany’s were called to a church in Lovington, New Mexico, and they've been there since, though not always in the same role. His original calling was in youth ministry, but two years ago, the senior pastor and family moved to New Zealand and Aaron transitioned to senior pastor.
"It's been an unusual transition in a lot of ways and one that a small town in New Mexico wouldn't normally see." Aaron says. "It has been a blessing for myself and family, and also for this church."
Aaron is still involved in youth ministry and leads the worship (music) on Sunday mornings because he is still passionate about those ministries, even as he takes on the role of senior pastor. He's also finding ways to utilize his business degree. The church has two, 501c3 non-profit organizations that were started by previous pastors and of which Aaron is currently president.
After School Adventures is an after-school program for K-5th grade. When this started, there were no after-school programs in Lovington – a blue collar town with a diverse population. The other non-profit is the Lovington Food Coalition, a three-pronged food program for low income residents. Their food pantry serves 50-60 people a week. They also serve 120 food-insecure students (identified by the school system) who receive a bag of food to take home each weekend. Their monthly mobile food distribution program distributes over two tons of food to 75-100 families.
"Other churches and businesses help with this, so it's definitely a coalition, but the Nazarene Church is making it happen and leading our community in feeding the hungry," Aaron says. "Having a business degree definitely makes some aspects of this easier. I didn't necessarily love my accounting classes, but they definitely make a difference in leading two non-profits."
Even though Aaron didn't study ministry at MNU, his professors and relationships on campus helped prepare him for pastoring. His religion courses were general education classes like New Testament and Christian Beliefs, but the professors were invested and he had the space to study and ask questions.
"The overall experience of going away to college and being in a place where the professors cared for the students and you could meet with them, is what I love about MNU," says Aaron.
His Sunday School class was taught by the late Dr. Ed Robinson, (former MNU president) and Aaron recalls that time as formational. He also has a particular chapel service still committed to memory. Ryan Giffin, then a resident educator on campus, preached the Sermon on the Mount from memory.
"I thought that was so fascinating, Aaron says, that I did the same thing with my youth group."
Aaron future holds excitement. He and Rachelle have a 7-year-old, Ellie, who just finished first grade, and a 3-year-old son Maxwell. The world is ever-changing, and he finds change a stimulating process – he even rearranges his office at least three or four times a year because he likes it to be different. When it comes to his alma mater, he applies that same enthusiasm.
"When I envision the future for MNU and higher education I am hopeful that [it] will adapt and change as well," Aaron asserts. "I'm also hopeful that MNU will also continue to be a place where true community happens and learning happens in a Christ-centered way."