Attend Village Church in Red Rock, Arizona, and you’ll quickly know the importance of story. Village Church’s main method of evangelism is storytelling. In fact, the church offers a four-week training on storytelling multiple times a year so congregants can learn to tell their stories in two minutes.
When co-pastors, Cody Bren and Ashley Jennings, introduced themselves to the local school board soon after their families moved to Red Rock to plant Village Church, they volunteered for whatever the school needed. (Village Church meets in a K-8 school — the only school in rural Red Rock.) They first served as crossing guards. Then both taught classes — Ashley, photography, and Cody, music. The town, made up largely of young families, is situated about 30 minutes from the nearest city.
Bren and Jennings, who met through The Wesleyan Church ordination process, believe God can use all kinds of stories — one that tells how someone came to faith in Jesus or a specific point in a believer’s life when Jesus became even more real.
“We have to be prepared to share the gospel as we know it with our story,” said Jennings. “We’ve seen this be super effective. Before we planted our church, this is all we had to go off of at the beginning.”
Ahaszuk, a musician and self-proclaimed atheist, was not interested in spiritual topics.
“We have three parts of our story with Jesus,” said Bren. “If someone shares about marriage struggles, I’d tell him my story: who I was before Christ, how Christ entered into my marriage and how Christ has changed my marriage.
“People learn how to share and own their stories in every discipleship opportunity that arises,” said Bren, a former worship pastor. Such is the case with Greg Ahaszuk, a lay leader at Village Church.
Bren met Ahaszuk at a community potluck held in Jennings’ driveway. At first Ahaszuk, a musician and self-proclaimed atheist, was not interested in spiritual topics. The two began playing music together, which led to conversations about “real life stuff.” Not long after, Bren led Ahaszuk in accepting Jesus.
“Greg wasn’t interested in anything to do with God when I met him,” Bren said. “Now he is a lay leader and plays in our worship band.”
Bren believes it is through relationship and story that Ahaszuk decided to place his faith in Christ.
“We are storytellers,” said Bren. “Storytelling is integrated into everything we do.” That includes group training, personal conversations and creating video testimonies to be shared in church. The ability to tell one’s story also creates avenues for discipleship.
As integral as storytelling is, Village Church is also looking into church planting opportunities. The two-year-old young church is making a big impact in a rural setting, as it pursues, not one, but two church plants.
Resurrection Life in Gladden Farms community is Village Church’s next official plant, situated about 15 miles south of Red Rock. Three families from California are relocating to Marana, where Gladden Farms is located, along with two families from Tucson, Arizona. From the start, Bren and Jennings asked the Gladden Farms church plant team to “have a vision for where to plant the church that will come out of Gladden Farms.” God revealed separately to multiple team members that Picture Rocks, which is south of Gladden Farms, would be the next church plant location.
Ashley Donnel moved from Sacramento, California, to attend Village Church. She sometimes shared her faith at a local gym in Arizona. One day, the owner approached her. Expecting a reprimand due to publicly praying with a few of the gym members, Donnel was surprised when the owner, a man who had walked away from the church years ago, conveyed an old vision that one day his gym would have a church within its walls. Because of storytelling, Donnel and the gym owner are discussing their own church plant.
Village Church also envisions getting a youth center up and running in Eloy, a town burdened by crime and poverty. This process is in the early stages.
Jennings and Bren see God’s hand at work and it excites them.
“We communicate the vision of church planting almost every Sunday,” said Bren. “How did God call us to be a small town with a big vision? It’s as if God is using Red Rock as a hub to position people.”
“We want to see a movement of churches that plant churches that plant churches,” said Jennings.