While many retired clergy choose to enjoy their well-deserved season of rest, some seek ways to continue nurturing their spiritual calling.
From sprawling prairies to the plains and Badlands,
the Rev. Dr. Aaron Kilbourn is looking forward to
bringing the vast distances of the Dakotas closer
together in his new role as American Baptist Church
(ABC) USA Region Executive Minister of the Dakotas.
Applying for the Executive Minster’s position wasn’t
on his mind when someone suggested he would be
perfect for the role. “We prayed about it,” he explained.
“Sioux Falls is 25 miles from Parker where I live. It’s
not close, yet it is close enough for my son to finish his
senior year of high school in Parker. Understandably,
Aaron and his wife, Michelle, didn’t want to displace
their son, in his last year of high school.
“I was called to accept the position,” revealed Rev.
Kilbourn. “We were so blessed in Parker at First Baptist
Church; the church was growing, and I know not all
small rural churches can say that. Many struggle and
it can be lonely as a pastor of a small church in this
The immense span of the region is part of the reason
Aaron took the position. “The Dakota region is
challenged by the geographical nature of how close
things aren’t,” he pointed out. “I look forward to the
challenge of bringing us all closer together.” He further
explained churches can be 700-800 miles apart from
each other. “There’s a lot of sky and distance, here.”
He stressed starting with small steps. “We have to be
practical. I cannot ask a pastor to drive 500 miles to
attend a conference,” Aaron stated, “Yet I want them
all to know they are supported.”
He acknowledges that some churches are struggling
financially and doesn’t want to stress these pastors
while bringing the region closer together.
Aaron comes to Sioux Falls, after serving as pastor of
First Baptist Church in Parker, SD for 21 years. He
became a believer at the age of 18 while a freshman in
college. Aaron figured he would devote his summers
to the Lord.
“I thought I would serve in a mission, maybe help out
at a camp or work in a theatre production of the gospel,”
he recounted. Serving at a large Christian camp in
Michigan and leading so many to the love and
forgiveness of Christ he felt the call. “I didn’t expect it
or seek it out,” Aaron explained.
In 1993 he pursued the calling. He graduated from Sioux
Falls Seminary with a master’s in divinity degree and
holds a doctorate degree in Theology and Apologetics
from Liberty University Rawlings School of Divinity.
Rev. Kilbourne recounts his first year in ministry. “I
had the shotgun approach. Maybe it would work and
maybe it wouldn’t. Some things did of course work.”
Then he got the best advice of his career to date.
A pastor of 50 years uttered the Dakota area expression,
“Grow what is grain.”
“Don’t waste too much energy on what isn’t growing,”
Aaron said. “People accepted Christ, or they didn’t.
Plant seeds and what starts to grow—go with it.”
In addition to serving at First Baptist Church, Aaron
is proud to have also helped to develop and teach
certificate, undergraduate and graduate programs at
Colorado Christian University’s Lee Strobel Center, a
small university for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics.
“Again, it was a God thing,” he said. “This was nothing
I sought out.”
He also served as faculty mentor for Kairos University
in Sioux Falls, SD. Rev. Kilbourn has also been a
member of ABC of the Dakotas Region Policy Board.
He is most proud his marriage is intact, and his children
are believers. Aaron and Michelle have two children,
Aubrey, 21, and Zack, 18. “Life is going to throw lots of
things their way,” Aaron noted. “But I know Christ will
be there with them.”
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