Rahn juggles many hats with aid of coffee and enthusiasm

Youth for Christ USA Senior Vice President Dave Rahn, Ph.D., can usually be found at his “office” – a corner table in Life Church on East State Street in Huntington.
Youth for Christ USA Senior Vice President Dave Rahn, Ph.D., can usually be found at his “office” – a corner table in Life Church on East State Street in Huntington. Photo by Sarah Johnson.

Originally published Oct. 27, 2011.

"We love to giggle and we're all over the map."

"Whatever happened to a cowboy being a cowboy?"

"I'd rather rein a thoroughbred than kick a donkey."

So says Dave Rahn, Ph.D.

Dave Rahn, Youth for Christ USA senior vice president and chief ministry officer.

Dave Rahn, master's degree program coordinator.

Dave Rahn, podcaster.

Rahn, long-time Huntington resident, can often be found in his "office" at a table in Café of Hope, from where he juggles his many hats with the aid of coffee and continuous enthusiasm for each role he assumes.

Rahn is a 1976 Bible and religion graduate of Huntington University (then Huntington College). He completed his Master of Arts in educational ministries at Wheaton College and his Ph.D. at Purdue University.

He picked up his latest role, that of podcaster, at the end of spring 2011 when local comedian and friend David Dean approached him with the idea. The two meet at Life Church in Huntington to record and post the now-weekly audio episodes of "Fresh Catch."

"Literally, there is not an ounce of preparation," Rahn says. Dean "walks in and I turn on my GarageBand app."

"Fresh Catch" is available for free on iTunes and can be accessed at web.me.com/dryfc. Dean and Rahn have finished 66 episodes and Rahn estimates that they can pinpoint about 500 regular listeners.

Both intended to use the podcast to publicize and emphasize their individual fields, but Rahn says that it has also turned into a hobby for him.

"I would do it for a social workout now. It's just fun," he says.

Fun or not, Rahn still gets excited about the Youth for Christ promotion he is able to do through the podcast. He has been working full time with YFC USA for five years now.

As the YFC USA chief ministry officer, Rahn is in contact with YFC's 160 chapters across the nation, comprising over 2,000 ministry sites. He leads a team of about 20 people who deliver support to the chapters.

YFC operates as a franchise or a federation, Rahn says, rather than a top-down model. The national headquarters provides support and resources to relatively autonomous chapters as opposed to strict jurisdiction.

"The title ‘senior vice president' would be more impressive in the other model," he says. He is one of two senior vice presidents. John Peterson, the other person with that title, handles organizational alignment and development.

Rahn's team works with local boards to offer advice on personnel decisions and fund-raising for the local chapters. Some team members are devoted to training YFC leaders, especially as the organization moves toward online-based training.

The shift to an Internet focus is not just restricted to leadership. YFC chapters have also been exploring ways to reach youth online, Rahn says.

"In our structure, we encourage a lot of innovation to reach kids," he says. "Whatever works in your community."
Last year's YFC conferences, Rahn says, included social media training to coach leaders on using Twitter and Facebook.

At least one chapter in Columbus, OH, has launched an avatar-based ministry to connect with youth online.

"Some kids are just living in that online environment entirely," Rahn says.

The Columbus chapter can "absolutely show evidence of relationships" through its avatar ministry, which Rahn says is able to maintain a person-to-person feel despite the virtual setting. YFC USA is helping inform other chapters about the success of the avatar ministry.

One of the strongest YFC chapters in the nation is the Fort Wayne area, which includes Huntington YFC ministries. Rahn says that the Fort Wayne chapter operates with a budget just under $2 million.

Rahn credits Huntington's success in particular to the participation and active leadership of local adults, especially those who were involved in YFC as youth. The high number of alums have led Huntington to be self-corrective, Rahn says.

"People get excited, they tell their kids about their experiences," he says. "This is why YFC in this area is resilient."

Rahn is currently working on a special project involving City Life, a YFC ministry focused on urban areas. YFC USA has launched a research project to interview more than 100 indigenous alumni youth leaders in the Bronx, Philadelphia, Columbus, Chicago, Miami, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Tacoma.

"By its design, it's a very cool research project," Rahn says. The interviews will be conducted throughout October and YFC hopes to use the data to pinpoint what causes local urban leadership to thrive.

Since going full time to YFC, Rahn has remained connected with Huntington University, and his wife Susie still works there in the health services office. Currently he coordinates an online-hybrid master's program in youth ministry leadership at Huntington University, and HU reimburses YFC for Rahn's professorial service.

Since the program was launched in 2005, it has grown to draw students from as far as California and Texas.

Rahn accepted the position of campus pastor at Huntington College in 1985, as well as the job of starting a bachelor's degree youth ministry concentration. Within two years he had become a full-time professor as the program grew, and in the 1990s the master's program was developed.

Dean and Rahn have been asked to emcee the annual Huntington County Piece Rally as part of the Fort Wayne area YFC yearly fund-raising. The duo will provide the entertainment at the event on Thursday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m., to be held at the PAL club in Huntington.

Complete caption: Youth for Christ USA Senior Vice President Dave Rahn, Ph.D., can usually be found at his “office” – a corner table in Life Church on East State Street in Huntington. Rahn also keeps busy running a graduate program at Huntington University and making weekly podcasts with friend and local comedian David Dean.