Community, culture and coffee: how two students are demonstrating the importance of listening... and being heard
When Anderson University students Lukas Heisler and Jae Cox decided to start a podcast during their freshman year, they had no idea that their creative pastime would become a platform for building community.
The AUdibility Podcast was built to embody the environment of a coffee shop, where people can not only come to listen in on good conversation, but be heard as well.
“We really wanted to capture this idea of the ‘third space,’ the idea that the home and the workplace are communal places, but that people need a third space for community and conversation. And for Jae and I, that third space is the coffee shop,” Heisler said. “That’s what we wanted The AUdibility Podcast to be, a place where we can bring those coffee shop conversations into the virtual world and hopefully keep them going.”
The two podcast hosts met during their freshman year. In their residence hall at Anderson University, Heisler invited Cox to join him for coffee. Their caffeine-fueled conversation launched their new friendship, as well as the decision to make a community-centered podcast.
“That was our first conversation ever, and we both just agreed to go for it,” Cox said. “We were both like, ‘It’s freshman year. Let’s redefine ourselves.’ So, we made a podcast. But it morphed from there into a means to build community.”
Initially seeking to brand their podcast to fit the Anderson University community, the duo gave it the name AUdibility, only later realizing the actual definition of the word: the quality of being heard.
Through the growth of their podcast, Heisler and Cox have lived up to this definition by inviting students, professors and pastors to discuss the intersection between community, faith and belonging.
“The goal is to give people an opportunity to interact with people they wouldn’t otherwise have access to,” Cox said. “Ultimately, there’s only one of me, and I can’t have coffee with everybody. But in this format, I can let people listen in on my conversations with other people about things that they’re passionate about.”
These conversations on the podcast have broached topics like consumerism in the church, popular conspiracy theories, the work lives of coffee roasters and the role of social media in an increasingly digital world.
Perhaps their largest topic of all, however, was their four-part “The Image of God” series. Taking place in the third season of the podcast—in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic— Heisler and Cox wanted to use the series as a means to minister to the community around them.
"We really wanted to capture this idea of the ‘third space,’ the idea that the home and the work place are communal places, but that people need a third space for community and conversation."
— Lukas Heisler
AUdibility podcast host
“We started the series as a reaction to COVID-19 and the racial injustice that was happening in our country,” Heisler said. “It’s a series on the story of man: from creation, to the fall and to redemption in Christ, and then tied together with current events and everything that was going on in our country. It was our way of speaking into this time of hardship that everyone was going through during COVID-19.”
Heisler and Cox invited several professors and local church faculty onto the show for “The Image of God” series, including Crisler, Dr. Katherine Wyma and Dr. Lynneth Renburg.
“Each professor spoke on their specific area of study,” Cox said. “Dr. Crisler came on to talk about his doctoral thesis, which focused on the lament language in Paul’s writing in the Bible. Dr. Wyma spoke on the church’s handling of mental health in times of crises. And Dr. Renberg talked about social oppression. So they were all perfect people to have on the show and to speak into what had been going on in the country.”
The podcast features more than just academic voices. In a show centered around community, Heisler and Cox wanted every one’s voices to be heard.
“We’ve been really intentional about showing the two types of conversations you would have in a coffee shop,” Heisler said. “We want to have casual conversations with our fellow students and we want to have teaching conversations, like the ones in ‘The Image of God’ series. We want it to be an avenue for learning, but also a place where we can demonstrate what good conversation looks like.”
This dynamic approach to engaging all members of the surrounding community has made AUdibility a hit on Anderson University’s campus. But its popularity branches beyond the students at Anderson University.
“Our main audience is really just people who like coffee and conversation,” Heisler said. “But we also have a surprising amount of AU faculty and staff that regularly keep up with the show... which is kind of spooky and intimidating. But that’s really cool as well.”
Both Heisler and Cox have found personal growth through the creation of AUdibility, through the people they have gotten the chance to talk to, and through the rewarding results of having created something that people find value in.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to look at something— even something virtual—and say, ‘I made this,’” Cox said. “And this show has made me very appreciative of the things I’ve learned. Because it's really reframed the way that I look at a lot of things.”
“I think it is something to be proud of. But ultimately, we have come to accept that it is a task that will never really be finished,” Heisler said. “Building community and embodying the environment of the coffee shop is an ongoing thing. But it really is awesome to have built this thing from the ground up, and I’m excited to keep building it.”
Heisler and Cox are continuing to produce episodes of AUdibility and are hoping to keep building onto The AUdibility Podcast community. Most importantly, though, the two hosts believe that this podcast medium gives them the unique opportunity to share the truth and the love of Jesus.
“We really think that coffee shops have the opportunity to be an outpost for the Kingdom of God, and that’s what we want The AUdibility Podcast to be,” Cox said. “That’s why this podcast format is so important to us. We want people to be able to listen, to be heard and to be an outpost for the Kingdom of God wherever they go.”
Most popular episodes:
- Episode 1.8 - Loving Love (Platonic & Otherwise)
- Episode 1.4 - Communal Love in Christ
- Episode 3.2 - The Image of God: The Creation
AU Faculty/staff who've appeared on the show:
- Dr. Channing Crisler (Episode 3.2)
- Dr. Katherine Wyma (Episode 1.7)
- Professor Derek Williams (Episode 2.4)
- Dr. Lynneth Renburg (Episode 3.3)
Want to listen? Find the AUdibility Podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcast.