Member Spotlight: The Henningsens

Melanie Campbell  ·  Jun 01, 2015

Country music fans know The Henningsens as a nationally touring trio made famous by its hit single “American Beautiful,” which was released in 2012. What fans may not know is that the Henningsens are members of Samaritan Ministries.

The band features Brian Henningsen and two of his 10 children—Aaron, 32, and Clara, 25. All three members play guitar and sing vocals.

Originally from central Illinois, Brian grew up on a 1,700-acre farm that has been in his family since 1871. In the mid-2000s, he and his wife, Debby, and their kids moved to a small town near Nashville, Tennessee, where Brian began pursuing music full time.

The Henningsens wrote their first song together in 2007. Although their work is not officially part of the Christian genre, Brian, Aaron, and Clara view their music as a ministry, striving to impact both listeners and those on the inside of the industry.

“Our ministry opportunities are vast if you view your entire life as a ministry,” Brian says. He encourages fellow believers to start seeing their career, whether they work for a secular or faith-based organization, as an opportunity to make the Gospel known. “If your product is as good as you can make it and you are ethical in its delivery to people, you have a whole world of people out there who are able to see how God operates in someone’s life,” he says.

Sharing encouraging stories is the heart of the Henningsens’ music. One of their songs, “To Believe,” was written about a time several years ago when Aaron and his wife were struggling financially. They had a new baby and an empty bank account, and Aaron had been laid off from work.

“Aaron and his wife prayed and basically just said: ‘God, you’re going to have to do something because this ain’t working,’” Brian says, his voice heavy with emotion. Within a day of releasing that prayer, Aaron received a check for several hundred dollars from a childhood friend, who said he had felt God prompting him to send the money.

“God comes through, and He works through people,” Brian says. “Even before they asked, God had heard.”

Brian and Debby strive to demonstrate to unbelievers the joys of being part of a solid Christian family. Like many dads, Brian says that maintaining a balance between his career and his family life is a constant struggle. “I have to work at it,” he says. “It’s not easy.”

Six of Brian and Debby’s children are married; four reside in Illinois, while Aaron and Clara and their families live in the Nashville area. The Henningsens’ four youngest kids, ages 10-17, are homeschooled. In addition to their 10 children, Brian and Debby also have 10 grandchildren.

Brian is intentional about spending time with his family. When on tour with the band, he takes along as many as he can cram into the bus. When Debby cannot go along, she holds down the fort at home, and according to Brian, she does an incredible job.

“She is a very positive person,” Brian says. “She just troops on, and the kids help. Sometimes they are not as good at getting their schoolwork done, but that’s for me to deal with whenever I get home.”