"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Youth Ministry Topics Developing Student Praise and Worship

Worshiping Our Audience of One (Part 1)

Cynthia Cullen

UNIQUENESSES OF NORTHSTAR WORSHIP

To the first-time visitor to NorthStar Church in Kennesaw, Georgia, one of the most unique aspects is the worship. Most comments they receive from the information cards from services (called "F.O.I.", For Our Information) both positive and negative, concern the music. The style, quality, and effectiveness of the worship through music, more than any other factor, positions who they will minister to in their weekend services.

Visitors to the worship service may have to attend several weeks before realizing who heads up the worship ministry. There are four to five different weekend worship leaders, multiple vocalists, and two different worship bands. Throughout the worship service, no one person commands the center of attention on stage.

Cynthia Cullen, the Director of Worship and Creative Arts, could do an excellent job of leading worship by simply accompanying herself with her keyboard. Instead, over a five-year period, Cynthia and her team have slowly built and trained several different teams to lead worship, multiplying the ministry exponentially. She oversees four teams comprised of the 60 people currently involved in each facet of worship ministry. The teams encompass vocal ministry, band, drama ministry (called the NorthStar Players), and media team. For oversight of each of these four teams there is a director or ministry leader, which include paid or unpaid staff.

Cynthia has found tremendous value in the development of a team concept of church leadership in this new millennium. The pressures and responsibilities in a church environment are too great for one individual to meet. In addition, the expectation for the level of excellence has increased. Without a gifted team of teachable members, it would be very difficult to accomplish the mission of the worship ministry.

Each facet of the ministry facilitate worship, whether it’s the "NorthStar News" video loop presenting the weekly announcements or a band member doing percussion. Each member of the four worship ministry teams is a LEAD worshipper, facilitating the entire weekend worship service for the rest of the NorthStar Community.

With the team concept it’s a given that many different people will be elevated into key ministry positions. The worship team has never been solo driven, since most vocalists are chosen for the ability of their voice to blend with the team, rather than having a distinct sound.

Utilizing the team approach allows many individuals to contribute their gifts and talents, which dovetails with NorthStar's passion (and the biblical directive in I Peter 4:10) to involve every member in ministry. We view each of our ministry positions as an opportunity for people to learn and grow in their faith. Rather than let a professional technician consistently serve in positions such as lighting or sound, we prefer to train lay people. This gives us the opportunity to stretch them in their skills and their heart for God and ministry.

CREATING THE ENVIRONMENT FOR WORSHIP

As a Worship and Creative Arts team, we are responsible for creating an environment for people to come to see and experience who Christ is. We are introducing Him, whether it’s through quality video or how dim the lights are when people walk in to the sanctuary. Everything we do is so detailed, not for performance, but because we have the incredible responsibility of creating a worship environment every week. We’re very cognizant that this service may be the first and only opportunity to introduce Jesus Christ to someone who may never give Him another chance. Each team member is aware of the awesome responsibility they have for their part of creating the environment that gives someone seeking a connection with God a chance to do so.

THE CHANGE CHALLENGE

One of the challenges of the NorthStar worship team is the constantly changing culture of the church. When NorthStar first started five years ago it was a largely "churched" community. Today, that culture has completely changed. A large portion of attendees today were never churched or have been "de-churched." This shift of who is attending NorthStar has caused everything to change in the weekly worship environment.

Originally, the worship team was enhanced by a choir model, called "The Worship Community", on a monthly basis. As of March 2002, we have since gone to a worship vocals only model and use the choir maybe twice a year for special events. The majority of attendees would not be inclined to join a "choir", so we moved away from that. Our internal church culture is changing so rapidly that we’re not doing anything like we were doing even a year ago.

In worship, we’ve found that if you’re doing the same thing you did last year as a church, you’re probably already out of date because culture changes so quickly. People in ministry at NorthStar have come to understand that change is inevitable. If we minister, we know it’s going to happen. One benefit to constantly changing in ministry is we’ve found it’s easier for people to accept it because they’re used to it. By driving a culture of change in the church, the worship team doesn’t get settled into a particular pattern, because they realize that everything will change in a few months. This commitment to change gives the worship team the freedom to make changes that fit our church as our internal culture changed.

As an example of one change, for two solid years, we began the service with 30 minutes of worship. In January, 2002, we divided the worship time in half with fifteen minutes before the sermon and fifteen minutes after the sermon which allowed people to respond to the message. This change wasn’t difficult, because our attendees are used to change. On any given Sunday people may hear a completely different band, such as the Crossings band, or someone from the high school ministry, because change is so much a part of our culture.

This commitment to change is biblical as we see the Apostle Paul writing that "became all things to all men" (I Corinthians 9) in his ministry. Jesus, in his incarnation, dressed in the normal clothes of the culture and communicated in the most natural spoken language. While avoiding the sin of the world, incarnationally, He became one of us. In the same way, we believe that we must keep our fingers on the pulse of our culture, lest we find ourselves forcing people to "become all things to us," rather than the other way around. The Gospel and the Word never changes; neither do the key values of who NorthStar is. Yet the culture and ministry methods must always change.

THE FOUNDATION OF PRAYER

Despite the changing culture at NorthStar, prayerful dependence upon God never changes. The worship and creative arts ministry of NorthStar was developed completely by depending upon the Lord. At the beginning of the church, the start-up team prayed, "We really need a keyboard player." After the staff meeting, Pastor Ike Reighard checked his voice mail to find a message from Cynthia, a keyboard player who was possibly moving to the area if God led her and her husband. He did! He provided a transfer with the company her husband was currently working for in Ft. Lauderdale.

Over and over God would bring, after prayer, exactly the person we needed to accomplish the worship mission of NorthStar. We'd pray, "Lord, we need a drummer, we need a bass player. And God we want You to bring who You want to bring." We’ve never advertised for anyone, vocalists or band members. Yet, each time there was a need, God provided just exactly the right members for the team. Within the past five years God has been absolutely faithful to this ministry and the commitment to be prayerfully dependent upon His provision.

Click HERE to continue with Part II.