Alumni Spotlight: Pastor Dave Ahlman, class of '75
Pastor Dave Ahlman, class of '75, is staying busy in his retirement by sharing his love of the Word in a daily podcast and serving part-time as a pastor.
BY Hannah Buchholz
Despite retiring about 8 months ago, Pastor Dave Ahlman (Denver Lutheran class of 1975) is continuing his work for the Lord. Since his retirement, he has started a daily devotional podcast called Daily Truths with Dave Ahlman. He is also serving part-time as the pastor at Mt. Hope Lutheran Church in Boulder, CO.
Before retiring, Pastor Ahlman was in the full-time ministry for 39 years. He started his career in Tobias, Nebraska, then went to a church in Burlington, Colorado. After that, he moved to serve a church in El Paso, Texas before landing at Peace Lutheran Church in Arvada where he served for 25 years.
His path to becoming a pastor
“I was going to be a sports announcer,” Pastor Ahlmanshares. His dad was a pastor and like many young kids, for a while, he wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps. Then, when he was in 7th grade, he had an experience that changed his mind.
“When I was in 7th grade at Faith Lutheran at Federal and I70 (which is closed now), I was in a class of 42 kids, and we all took turns doing devotions. I’d done it before, but this particular day, I got an anxiety attack. I didn't even know what that was at the time. I started shaking like a leaf. I braced myself because my body was shaking so much and the whole desk, where my devotion was, started shaking and I couldn't read it. And so I ended up quitting the devotion halfway through.
Everybody in the class knew I wanted to be a pastor and they said, ‘There’s no way you can be a pastor. Your dad doesn’t shake like that.’ So, for the next five years, I never got up in front of people or spoke publicly, until I gave a brief, 30-second announcement for our cross-country team in Chapel. Mr. Rodney Sloan, who was the Speech and Debate teacher and coach [at Denver Lutheran], came up to me after that and said, ‘You know what? You're pretty good at public speaking. You want to come out and take Speech Class next semester?’ And I said, ‘Well, I guess.’
So I took it, and I loved it. And, he cast a vision for my life by saying, you have the right stuff to be not only a public speaker but possibly a pastor. And so that conversation literally changed the direction of my life. I told him that probably 25 years later, and he was so humble. I don't think he even remembered saying anything to me. He just said, ‘I give him all credit and glory to God.’
I thought that the Lord was going to call me to be a sports announcer. But He called me into something much greater: announcing the things of God in the kingdom of God.
So, I credit Mr. Sloan a lot for changing the direction of my life. The right comment at the right time, spoken with love, can change the direction of one’s life permanently. And those two or three sentences from Mr. Sloan changed the entire course and direction of my life.”
After graduating from Denver Lutheran, Pastor Ahlman went on to St John’s College in Winfield and then Concordia University, St Paul, and finally on to seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. When he started at St John's, he was still planning on being a sports announcer. “I had a friend who said, ‘You’re good with people and you’re a good speaker, why don’t you consider being a pastor?’ Then I took a Greek class and loved it. I remember in my dorm, I got down on my knees and said, “Lord, if you want me to do this, open every door.” And He did. And so 6 years later, I was in the ministry. It wasn’t something I chose, but the Lord really chose me to do this.”
Advice for people in the ministry
Pastor Ahlman works 15 hours a week for the congregation at Mt. Hope Lutheran in Boulder, a very different experience from his full-time ministry at Peace Arvada. “There are only about 50 people there. I was in a congregation of 1500, and it was very busy. So I am loving just getting to know families and loving people.”
As anyone in full-time ministry can attest to, it entails a unique kind of stress. Pastor Ahlman is working on a book on the topic of burnout in the ministry called For the Long Haul. He shares 3 recommendations to help church workers avoid burnout:
- Be transparent with your feelings and find confidants. “When I was on the ledge of ministry, about ready to quit, I had people I could call who believed in what I was doing and who had a vision for my life and would encourage me to keep going. And that was essential.”
- Stay close to the Lord and use the Word as a lifeline. “Have a daily dose of the Word. Spending a half hour to an hour in the Word every morning and reading the Psalms was huge for me.”
- Avoid the temptation to be a workaholic. “People in ministry think, ‘I’m called and have to work 60 hours a week to show I’m fit.’ But the Lord gives us a day of rest! I worked 40-50 hours a week, and I was clear about my priorities. First, my priority is my relationship with Jesus, and then my relationship with my family. Honoring your commitment to disciple your family and not falling into the trap of thinking you’re God’s answer to the ministry is important. It’s a privilege and honor to do what we do.”
Advice for today’s high school students
Simply put, Pastor Ahlman advice for high schoolers can be summed up as 1) this too shall pass and 2) there are bigger fish to fry.
“When I was in high school, the thing that mattered most to me was basketball. I cared about how I played, how many points I got, or if we won or lost obviously. But the Lord had so much bigger fish for me to fry,” he shares. “We so often think that the things that are happening to us in high school are big. And they are at the time. But you just don't have the perspective in high school that you have when you're 30 or 40 or 50.
Difficult things happen, but the Lord has a way of bringing us through it, and then you look back and realize it wasn’t a big deal. And I think social media doesn't help all that stuff, it just heightens it. Maybe putting it simply: this too shall pass, and there's bigger fish to fry.
Marriage is a big deal. Career choice is a big deal. Having a baby is a big deal. And the stuff that happens best in high school is not that big a deal. There's so much more life to be lived and so many more choices coming that you really can't see when you're in high school.”
Daily Truths Podcast
Another way Pastor Ahlman is continuing his ministry into his retirement is through his podcast, Daily Truths with Dave Ahlman. It’s a daily podcast that serves as a mini 5-minute sermon. Currently, he is going verse by verse through the New Testament and as of this writing, he’s walking through Matthew 9. You can find him on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also visit his website mydailytruths.com.
As with all things, Pastor Ahlman acknowledges that this podcast, “is the Lord’s ministry and He’ll do with it what he wants.”
Pastor Ahlmanand his wife Beth - also a Denver Lutheran grad! - have five children (4 who also graduated from Denver Lutheran High School). They are big supporters of LuHi and Lutheran education in general.
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