How would you describe the vision of the music at North Point?

Our mission as a church is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. We keep this in mind in all that we do. Specifically, our mission as a music department is to create a musical experience that transcends. We want to create music that connects with everyone who attends (insiders as well as outsiders), and that leads them to a different place emotionally and spiritually than they were before they came. This can be done through worship music experiences, as well as fun or powerful songs that can move someone on an emotional level.

What did the music ministry at North Point look like in the beginning?

Twelve years ago, there was just a piano player with a worship leader and about seven worship singers performing group vocals. Sometimes we just used recorded tracks for backup, and then months later we started a band.  Our style certainly wasn’t what we’re doing now. It was the same stuff we were doing at our previous church, with the semicircle of singers and a more piano-driven sound, as compared to today’s band-oriented, guitar-driven sound.

What does vision definition look like in the early stages? How do you define your vision? How do you communicate it?

Early on, Andy really emphasized to the staff the importance of communicating the vision of the church and inspiring everybody about being excited to do church a different way. He told us of the danger of becoming distracted by “good” programming that would ultimately take us away from what we wanted to accomplish. We just concentrated on doing Sunday morning church as well as we could: creating those few, specific environments on Sunday mornings that would be welcoming to outsiders.

The overall vision of the church filters down to all areas, including the music. We are very fortunate to have a leader who defines the vision so well and we can utilize that in making decisions every week. We can answer so many questions by keeping in front of us what we’re trying to accomplish and moving toward that goal.

Our vision is to have a foyer environment that is not threatening for a first-time visitor, and that philosophy funnels down into the songs we sing and what our worship leaders say from the stage. We want to make sure the verbiage isn’t “churchy.” Instead, what we sing and say from stage is inclusive, everyday language that alienates no one, no matter who they are.

That same philosophy is important in our staff relationships.  Although someone may hold a specific title or degree, they are referred to as “Mike” or “John” – not “Pastor” or “Dr. ____”.  This is not a sign of disrespect, but an encouragement of approachability. People on our staff are just that – people, not titles.

What would you say to people reluctant to play secular music in church?

We want people to be excited about what we’re doing. We want them to bring their friends and relatives to church. We want people who attend to be enthusiastic enough about what goes on here to talk to their friends and to say to them, “You won’t believe what they did last Sunday. You would like this. You ought to come check it out.”  That’s one of the reasons that North Point has grown. We want to make it easy for them to talk to their friends about it. We want to do it well enough that they will brag on the band and say, “You won’t believe what this band does.” Or, “This band did a John Mayer song on Sunday. I know you’re a big John Mayer fan.” That’s more important than having a Christian who attends here be bothered by the fact that we did a secular song.

All that said, if people continue to complain about the music, we would suggest that they go to another church. I know that we have members who think that the bass is too loud, etc. but they’re here because they believe in the mission of the church, which is to reach lost people. There are Christians that attend here that don’t particularly LOVE the music, but they know their lost friends and neighbors will be engaged by it. They believe that is what is most important. They’ve caught the vision of North Point Ministries.

When choosing a secular song, what are your parameters?

Well, we ask ourselves, “Will Andy let us get away with this?” Just kidding! Rarely have we needed to change a lyric. But if the overall message of the tune is inappropriate, obviously we won’t use it. We have refused to do songs by some artists because of their images. We know that a song is going to be associated with that particular artist, and that image is going to be in peoples’ minds.

Do you have non-believers performing on the stage?

We do. It wasn’t intentional at first - it just happened.  We booked a drummer who wasn’t a believer, and after he started playing with us, he became a believer. He obviously wasn’t hired as a staff member, but he was a contractual musician who played a few times a month.

Since then, it’s become a policy of ours to book people who are recommended by current players. They believe that God’s doing something in the lives of those unbelievers and that it would be great for them to be surrounded by the people here.

How do you audition your singers?

Our audition process has been streamlined over the years. At one point we had a choir of 60 and scheduled 4-6 worship singers with a worship leader. We held an audition for the choir that would sing even a simple song that everyone knew, such as Happy Birthday, just to make sure a choir member could sing a simple melody. Our worship singers were required to participate in a three-step audition. The first step was an audition consisting of 2-3 minutes of a song of their choice. We narrowed that group down to a callback with specific songs to learn, and then singing in groups of three on individual microphones on stage.  From that audition, we called back singers for a personal interview. These auditions were all done before a panel of staff and musicians.

In our current stage configuration, we may use one or two worship leaders and one background singer, much like a concert. We eliminated the choir several years ago, mostly because it was not relevant to the musical styles we were evolving toward, which was more of a rock and roll style.

A background singer is one who sings parts, enhances and supports the worship leader, and leads from a background position on stage as a part of the band.  Auditioning for this role requires a two-step process. The first is a private audition with a staff member. The candidate is provided with an MP3 and lyrics for 2-3 current worship tunes in our rotation. The expectation is for the singer to know the background vocal parts and to sing them accurately both pitch-wise and style-wise. The second step is to audition on stage with our band with a personal mix while a regular rehearsal is being held.

Afterward, we provide them with a CD recording of their audition and arrange for another time to discuss the audition. If all indicators are positive, the vocalist is invited to sing on a Sunday. There are also instances where a singer is so highly recommended that we schedule a singer for a Sunday based on the first audition step. However, everyone must audition in some way.

Do you pay your vocalists?

Yes.  Most of the people we schedule are professional musicians

How do you deal with egos among singers?

We really don't have many issues with this. We focus on our mission and creating an exceptional environment. We talk a lot about being part of something bigger than ourselves. If we cast the vision well, we really don't have to deal with egos at all.

Where can we direct additional questions about creating engaging environments?

Please feel free to contact us.