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Koller Jordan     Jordan Koller spends much of his time planning and executing Ridge Point Community Church’s “weekend experience.”     “That’s what we call our worship ministry,” explained Koller, worship arts pastor at the large church just east of Holland, Mich. whose facility is easily visible from the I-196 expressway.
     The Michigan native is responsible for leading the church’s three nearly identical worship services: 6 p.m. Sat. and 9 and 11 a.m. Sun.
     Koller has two full-time and two part-time staffers in the worship-music department as well as a couple of interns plus volunteers. Typically there are 8 to 10 musicians up on the platform in their worship ensemble.
     “Two electrics and an acoustic (guitars), percussion set, bass and keyboard, one or two extra vocalists, and we also try to incorporate other instruments,” said Koller of the occasional violin, cello, mandolin or harmonica.
   Ridge Point also has an adult choir ensemble, a kids choir and a brass group that periodically contribute to the music presentation.

                 ARTISTIC FREEDOM

     “We’re really quite free here,” said Koller of their song selection and various artistic approaches in worship.
     “The idea of having different experiences for our people – singing new music or songs that span the generations…using creativity not just to wow or woo people but as an expression of how God made us.”
     Ridge Point doesn’t shy away from using hymns, Koller says. But he is always on the lookout for newer music that works well in a worship setting.
     Songs that have been getting workouts of late: “Cornerstone” and “Oceans” (both from Hillsong) and “I Will Look Up” by Elevation Worship.
     “Stylistically we’re more modern worship, but if there’s something out there that would work well or fits a theme, like a Mumford & Sons song, I like to incorporate that.”
     Koller and his worship staff have a sermon/message schedule well in advance so they include songs – especially near the end of a service – that connect with the day’s theme.
   The non-denominational church draws more than 2,500 worshippers each weekend: a lot of ears to keep musically in tune.
     “Music draws on our emotions and the music part of worship is a way to really connect,” he added.
 

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    “It takes you somewhere, it’s a great way to tell a story or a testimony of who God is and draws us together in a unifying way.”
     Ridge Point’s executive pastor Scott Potter notes Koller’s talent and commitments. “Jordan takes seriously his role in developing a service that glorifies God and helps others come into a deeper relationship the Father,” said Potter.
     “Our worship band from week to week is all-volunteer and he skillfully helps them to develop their talents and works to the strengths of each member.”

                         WORSHIP WITH PASSION

     Koller’s ground work has smoothed the way for a fall concert by the noted Passion Band featuring singer-songwriter Kristian Stanfill. The worship team from the massive Passion conferences is doing a fall tour which includes an Oct. 16 stop at Ridge Point. (Tickets available via www.itickets.com ).
     “This will be the first time we’re hosting such a big concert,” said Koller of the church’s 1,500-seat facility.
   Brad Jones, student pastor at Passion City Church in Atlanta, is expected to be part of the concert-speaker combination.

                   MUSIC: A CONTINOUS PURSUIT

     Koller is a pastor’s son and grew up in the Kalamazoo area involved in all areas of church life.
     “I started playing music in youth group, and that’s when God got a hold of my life and I went to Cornerstone (University) to study music.”
     He led worship while in college and attended Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. His first job out of school was at the large Calvary Church near the Cornerstone campus in Grand Rapids. Koller has been at Ridge Point for two and a half years.
     Songwriting and singing with his own band (
www.jordankollerband.com) has also been a part of his artist’s palate.
     “I always have wanted to give those (musical) gifts back to God so I’ve written original music for the church to sing,” he explained.
     His group released a five-song project (“Wait For Me”) several years ago. Now his band is gearing up to complete a full-length recording.
     They’ve performed at the Festival of the Arts in Grand Rapids and also at the Big Ticket and Unity Christian music festivals.

The Facts:

Who: Jordan Koller, 32 – married to Dana, two children

What: Worship/Arts pastor

Where:  Ridge Point Community Church, 340 104th Ave. Holland. 616-395-2600; www.ridgepoint.org

How: Plan and lead music in worship, oversee worship/music staff

Philosophy on the role of the arts/music in worship: Worship is our response to who God is and what he is doing as evidenced by everything we say and do. One of the ways we do that is with music and singing – it’s the one thing that you’ll find in scripture that we’ll be doing in heaven. It doesn’t mention anything about preaching! We will simply be joining in on what’s already happening with the angels around the throne.

Editor’s note: If you have a suggestion of an area church music leader for a profile in this column, please send the information to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Piper DonDon PiperDon Piper is author of “90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death & Life,” which tells the story of his death, his journey to heaven, and his return to life. In 1989, his car was hit by a truck on a bridge and he was pronounced dead at the scene. The book, first published in 2004, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Piper was in Grand Rapids recently and talked about his journey and the book, which comes out in July.

WMCN: What made you decide to write “90 Minutes in Heaven” in the first place?

DP: Maybe 18 to 24 months after the accident a friend said, “You look good.” I said, “Compared to what? If you’d seen what I’ve seen, you’d know that this isn’t looking good.” Then I told him about heaven. He responded with “I knew you’d seen something!” I, literally, didn’t have the words to talk about it. I told another friend who wanted to know why I hadn’t told anyone. When I told my wife, she was just happy to have an explanation of why I was acting the way I did. I thought about heaven all the time. I still do. People encouraged me to write about my visit to heaven so I did, 14 years after the event.

WMCN: What question do you hear the most as you speak around the country about your experiences?

DP: People always ask me whether their loved ones miss them. And I always say, “No, they expect you.” There is no time in heaven, so 25 years is nothing. The people already there are expecting their loves ones to arrive.

WMCN: Do people believe your story of being in heaven for 90 minutes before returning to this world?

DP: Many people say that they just can’t believe the story, and I say, “I understand completely. All I know is that I was driving on bridge, got hit, died, went to heaven, and came back.” It’s remarkably complicated and remarkably simple at the same time.

WMCN: You probably hear some interesting stories when you talk to people.

DP:One time a trauma nurse came through a book signing line. She said the story was amazing and said because I was killed instantly I didn’t bleed out, which is how most trauma victims die. She also said that some of her best friends are Christian doctors and they have no problem believing my story. They see things they can’t explain all the time.

When I was young I went to church alone. Two boys died while I was attending that church. Later, after the book came out, I spoke at that church and was able to tell them that I had seen those two boys in heaven.

WMCN: What does the anniversary edition of “90 Minutes include?

DP: It will include a personal update on what I’ve been doing, stories from people I’ve heard from over the years, an 8-page photo spread, and a publishers note from Dwight Baker, president of Baker Publishing Group. Note: Revell, publisher of “90 Minutes in Heaven,” is a division of Baker Publishing Group based in Grand Rapids.

WMCN: You’ve published several other books, haven’t you?

DP: I have written other books. One is titled “Heaven is Real: Lessons on Earthly Joy—What Happened after ’90 Minutes in Heaven,’” which I say is the book I wanted to write most because I wanted to help people get through the things that happen in their lives. It’s compassionate but forceful, telling readers that they have to decide to get through stuff. Determination is what propelled me.

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I also wrote “Getting to Heaven: Departing Instructions for Your Life Now,” an exegetical examination of John 13. Jesus’ disciples were frightened and worried at the time of the Last Supper; Jesus washed their feet. The book asks, “If you know where you’re going, shouldn’t you be having a better trip?”

I also wrote a daily devotional based on “90 Minutes” called “Daily Devotions: 90 Reading for Hope and Heaven.”

WMCN: What are you working on now?

DP:I’m developing a book tentatively titled “The People I Met at the Gate,” but I don’t have a publisher yet. The people I met there actually helped me get to heaven’s gate. The book will help answer the questions about who will greet us when we get to heaven, and encourage people to do things here on earth to help everyone else get to heaven. There were whole bunches of people waiting at heaven’s gate for me. They were expecting me.

WMCN: What are your hobbies, besides speaking?

DP: I speak 150 to 180 times a year, though it used to be about 300 times a year. I’m also an old movie buff and every couple of years I act as part of a theater group. I’ve played Ben Franklin, Scrooge, and Shaw Moore from the movie “Footloose.”

WMCN: If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose?

DP: I’d love to have lunch with C.S. Lewis, Ben Franklin, Abe Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Timothy from the Bible, and the disciple Thomas because I identify with him as a questioner. I would also like to talk with Mary Magdalene and Eleanor Roosevelt. I admire people who have a vision for what they were born to do, then do it.

Dave-Smies Headshot2Dave Smies Soon after college, Dave Smies entered the industrial real estate business. After five years working for two gentlemen from his church, Smies started his own company, Grand Real Estate. “I said I’d never have employees, but God had other ideas,” Smies recalled. Learning to listen for God’s plan became a theme for Smies over the years.

After successfully running Grand Real Estate for nineteen years, Smies found himself walking a field in the middle of the night in the dead of January. As Smies walked, he called out to God. The pressure of running a business, loving and taking care of his wife and six children, and being faithful to the Lord had become more than he could bear on his own. Not long after that middle-of-the-night conversation with God, Smies’ oldest employee called to let him know he’d been praying for him. This employee also thought Grand Real Estate should merge with Doug Taatjes and join NAI Global, the largest independently owned, managed real estate network.

“I contacted Doug and found out he’d been praying to merge with me for three years. It was so obvious that it was God leading,” Smies said. Just sixty-four days after the initial conversation with Taatjes, Grand Real Estate and Taatjes & Tol merged to become NAI of West Michigan.

NAI had been looking to come to Grand Rapids, and the merger of Smies and Taatjes’ companies offered strength and experience needed in both the office retail and industrial real estate markets. When Smies has a client in Grand Rapids who wants to open a location elsewhere in the country or across the globe, Smies connects the client with the NAI office in the proposed location who then handles the research and negotiation. “We are all experts locally, and this allows us to tie in [to the network], and my clients in those markets are treated well with an expert. It also links us into excellent tools that make us more efficient with cutting-edge technology,” Smies explained.

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Eight years after the merge, Smies and Taatje had another opportunity to merge, this time with the Wisinski Group. In 2011, the companies merged to form what is now NAI Wisinski of West Michigan. The company now employs close to forty and consists of an office group, retail group, multi-family group, and industrial group.

Smies said business has been great, and he is thankful for the journey God has taken him on. “I feel God owns the company and has entrusted the stock ownership I have to me to manage it well,” he said. “I realize I came with nothing in my hands and that’s how I will leave, and I ask God to help me not get hung up on all the stuff around me – the company, material goods,” Smies said. He desires that his faith would impact every decision as he continues to embrace and apply God’s wisdom in his journey.

Whether it’s helping entrepreneurs buy, sell or lease buildings or land, helping a business owner find the right office space, or keeping a building space leased, Smies will continue to care about people’s journeys. “A lot of times I’m working with people on the single biggest financial decision of their life. And people are usually open to talking about this, their spiritual life, or lack of it” Smies said. “I pray about that everyday, for opportunities to share.”

Smies currently acts in the general manager role running the NAI West Michigan office, another position he never expected to be in. He continues to be a servant and listen to God’s leading and direction. “I believe He’s in control of everything, and our question is how to be faithful.”

At a glance:

Business: NAI Wisinksi of West Michigan

Title: General Manager

Family: Deb, married 28 years; six children 4 boys, 2 girls, 10-26.

Phone: 616-776-0100

Address: 100 Grandville Ave SW, Suite 100, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Web: http://naiwwm.com/

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Conrad Bonnie and Ted seatedBonnie and Ted ConradTed Conrad, a long time area businessman, athletic coach and co-founder of the gospel music group The Heralders, died Thursday May 8 following a short hospitalization. He was 83.
     The Grand Rapids native leaves a multi-faceted legacy with family, music fans, area athletes and his role in retirement as an administrator for his Newhall Reformed Church in Wyoming.
     That’s where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday May 12 (further details below).
     Conrad is probably best known in the community for his music. He sang lead vocals with The Heralders for 42 years before retiring from the group in 2005. The ensemble recorded well over a dozen albums and in its heyday performed as many as 40 weekends per year.
     “Singing with the quartet was some of the best music of my life,” recalled Dete Tilma, who was the tenor voice with The Heralders for 14 years.
     “I loved singing high tenor above Ted, because he had such a strong lead that I never had to worry about drowning him out,” he noted.
     Conrad was a father figure to him, according to Tilma, 61. “The fellowship we had in the group was always good,” he said.
     Tilma, who is part of the worship music team at Pathway Church in Byron Center, will sing at the funeral service.

                               A ROCKY ROAD OF HEALTH

     Conrad’s voice weakened in his later years – he first had vocal cord surgery in 1988. Eventually his voice turned raspy, a factor in stepping down from the group. In fact, Ted and his wife Bonnie with their seven children all helped battle his numerous health challenges. He endured five heart attacks.
     There were several periods when he had to take a break from singing. Heart bypass surgery in 1993 came a year before a stroke that kept him in a coma for more than a month.
     Along the way he required a feeding tube for an extended period. For the last number of years he’s lived with significant kidney problems, requiring dialysis treatments.
     “Toward the end it was just one thing that led to another and then another,” said his son Rick Conrad. “He finally got too weak.”

                                                MANY MEMORIES

     Rick did a lot of coaching with his father over the years, and was a player-coach on Ted’s Conrad-Patterson softball team that won three state championships and eventually placed Ted in the Michigan Softball Hall of Fame.
     The elder Conrad was also the first ever football coach at Calvin Christian High School which started competing in the sport in the early 1970s.
     “He always brought out the best in people – especially in his coaching, guys always wanted to play so hard for him,” Rick recalled.
     “The number one thing you can say about being a good coach is when your players come back and talk to you years later – and they always did.”

                                A WRITTEN LEGACY

     Conrad’s life story is documented in the book “Ted Conrad: Through It All,” a biography published by Westbow Press (c. 2012) and written by local author Carl Conrad (no relation).
     The volume chronicles Ted’s early years – a star athlete at Kellogsville High School who played semi-pro baseball for the local Chic Paint team.
     After a four-year hitch in the Air Force (during which he sang in several USO shows), he returned to the Grand Rapids area. He continued his involvement in sports, and coached a youth recreation football team in Wyoming Park.
     He started The Heralders in 1963 with bass singer Bill Sterk, who is still with the group.
     Conrad’s “retirement” job was as administrator at his Newhall Reformed Church. He helped steer the congregation through a difficult pastoral transition before the arrival of current pastor Dan Kroeze.
     The book includes tributes from all seven Conrad children and numerous grandchildren. (The Ted and Bonnie family tree now numbers 85 when even the great-great grandkids and all the family spouses are included).
     There’s also a listing of Heralders albums and songs, plus a solo album released in 2010 of Ted’s “Special Favorites.” Included are some of his best-loved songs such as “Prayer Is The Key To Heaven” and “The Haven of Rest.”
     In an interview last year, Ted explained that the title of the book (“Through It All”) is taken from an Andrae Crouch song that summarized his life’s testimony: God has faithfully taken him through all of life’s ups and downs.
     “The book opened my eyes to how blessed I really am,” he said.

Note: Funeral arrangements are being handled by Cook Funeral Services, 4235 Prairie St. SW in Grandville. (www.cookfamilycares.com).
Visitation is 2 to 4 p.m and 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday May 10, and 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday May 11 at the funeral home.
The funeral service is 11 a.m. Monday May 12 at Newhall Reformed Church, 3764 Byron Center Ave. SW.

Moss George and MichelleGeorge and Michelle Moss at their wedding last March   George Moss III has learned that ministry – even music ministry – is about serving people.
     “Give your music to people who care,” said the Grand Rapids singer-songwriter during a recent interview. “Great music is music that’s gonna serve people.”
     Moss, 31, has been performing since his freshman year at East Kentwood High School when his youth leader at Messiah Missionary Baptist Church invited him to be part of a Christian hip-hop group.
     Now he’s a music veteran: two full length albums, a Christian radio gig, his own record label and music videos. Moss has logged countless road miles as a solo and group artist, and nabbed slots on major music festivals and tours, including several with the award-winning artist KJ-52.
     He’s performed at both of Michigan’s largest Christian music festivals - Big Ticket and Unity, and will again this summer.
   But now comes his next step. Moss is working on his third solo CD to be released this fall. He started a fan-funding effort through “indiegogo” (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/george-moss-3rd-album#home), hoping to raise $30 thousand to cover the complete costs of the project.
    

                                MUSIC MINISTRY PATHS

     Moss is actually quite subdued and soft-spoken in person. But on stage he personifies several of his song titles such as “Go Hard or Go Home” and “Loud.”
     During his elementary school days a young George struggled to find himself, recalling his academic challenges. “I just didn’t fit into the box of what was given,” he said.
     But music was his muse and eventually he knew he wanted to work in the music industry. A high school internship at a local radio station gave him some hands-on audio experience that would serve him well.
     “I eventually got my own show on Sundays and I got to play gospel songs for 30 minutes,” he smiled.
     He teamed up with fellow artist Michael Fugit to form Union, a hip-hop duo which sought out places to play from youth groups to festivals and other special events. They stayed so busy (more than a hundred shows per year) that they didn’t even complete their first CD until three years after they started.
     “We got shows and did OK, but we weren’t building a career, we were doing ministry. And God had to teach me how to do ministry before he allowed me to have a career,” Moss said.

                   PERSISTENCE PAYS


     Moss came off the road but kept working on his music. In 2007 he had a demo of a new song “Whoa!” that he sent out to radio stations, including the local Christian hit radio outlet, the former WAY-FM.
     Not only did the station begin airing the infectious tune, but Moss ended up on the staff with an air shift of his own.
 

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    Various other stations around the country also picked up “Whoa!” It took a full year before Moss completed enough songs to place it on his debut solo album, “All or Nothing.”
     “That first song created a buzz with fans, but it was a bummer that it took a whole year before I had any new songs for them,” he noted.
     As a solo artist he went back on the road, touring across the country. Included was an extended run as an on-stage “hype man” with KJ-52. When the duo joined the huge “Winter Jam” tour in 2011, a highlight came when they played before 10 thousand fans in Van Andel Arena.
     Meanwhile he was still working on the radio and writing new songs which ended up on his sophomore effort, “It’s Time.”

                               COMING TO THE PRESENT

     Now the artist is readying his new music, working with producers in various parts of the country (including Solomon Olds of the band Family Force 5).
     “It’ll be a more mature sound, for sure,” he said. “It will reflect a lot of my new season in life – including marriage – but it will still have that lighthearted George Moss feel.”
     Yes, George married Michelle Cummings last March, in a fun-filled ceremony in a Grand Rapids church hall.
     “We did a wedding ‘party’ and got married under a disco ball,” he smiled.
     When the groom kissed the bride, jet blasts went off, everyone threw confetti and the “Harlem Shake” started playing on the sound system.
     The couple attends Revolution Christian Ministries in Cascade.
     Looking back over his musical journey, Moss says he wishes that at the beginning he would have spent more time crafting even better songs – songs that will serve others.
     Moss continues to follow his musical calling, not worried about whether or not he has “made it” in the music business.
     “My goals are a moving target so wherever I am, I will always want to go farther,” he said. “But I’m getting to do what I love full time.”
     “It’s like the parable of the seed and the sower,” he said. “The seed that grows is what gets sowed in the fertile soil. And I want to be the one who makes the soil fertile, so that the Holy Spirit can do His work.”

George Moss: www.g-moss.com, https://www.facebook.com/georgemoss https://twitter.com/georgemoss

 Mercado Eddie    Eddie Mercado has been leading worship for less than nine months at Open Hearts Community Church, an emerging congregation in a diverse, urban area of Wyoming. But he says he already feels like one of the family.
     “I love the people here and their willingness to serve," said Mercado during a recent interview.
     “I’m having a great time.”
     The Gurnee, Ill. native has a part-time position as Open Hearts worship/music leader, which means the bulk of his responsibilities have to do with their 11:15 a.m. Sunday worship.
     “Scheduling the worship band and audio/tech guys for rehearsal, choosing and getting the songs ready, looking at the Scriptures, doing arrangements, meeting with the pastor…,” listed Mercado of several of his weekly duties.
     The worship leader works with a rotating set of volunteers, intentionally alternating the look and the sound in their approach for Open Hearts’ 40 to 60 worshippers, who share space in the facility of Eighth Reformed Church.
     “We switch between the drum and bass combo – a contemporary grouping – to a stripped down sound of an acoustic and a single percussionist,” offered Mercado who with his guitar usually leads with several background vocalists.

               SEARCHING THE MUSICAL STYLE

     Mercado said he generally favors hymns, often rearranged with a more modern sound. Among those is a revamped take on “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and a “fast, upbeat” version of “How Great Thou Art.”
     “We do (Chris) Tomlin and (Matt) Redman songs, but I also like to incorporate songs from little known worship leaders,” he added.
     Those would include Dustin Kensrue’s “Grace Alone” and the band Ghost Ship’s “One God.”
     Open Hearts pastor Mark Milkamp has enjoyed watching Mercado develop his gifts for music ministry.
     “His heart is driven to lead authentic worship from a rich theological perspective and tradition,” Milkamp noted. “His ability to revive many of the older hymns in a creative way has breathed fresh air into our worship dynamic.”

                               MINISTRY TRACK

     Mercado came to West Michigan specifically to attend Kuyper College where he is a pre-seminary student.
     The bi-lingual worship leader was attracted to Reformed theology, although he was not raised in the Reformed family of faith.

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     “It’s something that during my high school years I gravitated to,” he said of his faith journey.
     Mercado learned guitar and keyboards in his youth – his father was also a worship leader.
     When he and his wife were preparing to move from Illinois to Grand Rapids, Mercado was looking for work and a church in the area while he was in school.
     “I saw the Open Hearts job opening on a web site, prayed and sent a resume to them,” he recalled.
   “After a Skype interview, I had a visit to the church, then was invited back again and eventually was brought on board.”
     Milkamp called Mercado a “transforming agent” in the church’s worship ministry.
     “He is willing to invest deeply into the worship team and take time and energy to equip, encourage and disciple them to maturity in Christ,” he said.
     The worship leader reports that his current academic track will allow him to complete both Bachelors and Master of Divinity degrees in six years between Kuyper and Calvin College Seminary.

                     MINISTRY AND ARTISTRY

     Given his experience and leadership qualities, it’s hard to believe that Mercado is still only 19 years old and wrapping up his first year of college.
     He is married, and the couple is expecting their first child this fall. “We’re so happy and blessed,” he said.
     He has done a bit of songwriting, and recently completed recording a five-song collection – four originals, and a cover of the hymn “It Is Well (When Peace Like A River).”
     “I’m on a budget of, like, zero dollars, and I recorded it on an iPad,” he said.
     “Actually I’m pretty surprised at how good it sounds – the technology is incredible,” Mercado said.
     Recording under the name Sinner//Saint, his project is called “Living Water” and is available at
http://sinnerandsaint.bandcamp.com/
     One of the songs carries a mysterious-sounding phrase for its title, borrowing from the Latin, “Proto Evangelium.”
     It’s actually a reference to Genesis 3:15, a verse which gives God’s original promise of a plan for the salvation of humankind (the Latin is translated, “first gospel”).
     Mercado says he is looking forward to, the Lord willing, maintaining his role at Open Hearts even as he continues his studies toward a seminary degree and eventual ordination.
     Could he one day be a “singing pastor?”
     “If the Lord calls me to that – that would be great,” he said. “I love singing and I love preaching as well.”

Just The Facts:

Who: Eddie Mercado, 19, married

What: Worship/music leader

Where:  Open Hearts Community Church, 841 Burton St. SW; www.facebook.com/openheartschurch

How: Plan and lead music in worship

Philosophy on the role of the arts/music in worship: “Music and the arts help a congregation to respond to the glory of God as revealed in the scriptures. It gives us a way to respond to what we’re reading in the Biblical text.”

 

Editor’s note: If you have a suggestion of an area church music leader for a profile in this column, please send the information to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Scheer GregGreg Scheer     Between directing, composing, arranging, teaching and administrating, Greg Scheer has numerous connections with faith-based music.
     But his primary role is as minster of worship at Church of the Servant, a Christian Reformed Church congregation on Grand Rapids’ southeast side.
     “My position really was crafted to be a combination of my work here and at the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship,” said Scheer of his additional duties as a music associate at the Calvin College-based institute.
     Scheer has been at Church of the Servant for eight years. His position there is ¾ time, and he spends a good part of it doing all things worship. He plans music and liturgy and directs various church ensembles, including orchestra, adult choir and a “Guitarchestra” - an orchestra made up of guitar players.
     The church has committees for art, liturgical dance and music.

                           LITURGY LEADS THE WAY

     The word “liturgy” in Greek actually means “work of the people.” It recognizes that participation in worship is not for a select few leaders, but should involve everyone gathered in the experience.
     Liturgical churches often use unison responses (both verbal and musical), specific prayers, texts, confessions, thanksgivings, praises and other participatory acts of worship. They are often printed out for worshipers to better follow along and be ready for the responses.
   “This church was conceived as a liturgical church,” he noted of Servant’s founding 40 years ago with its first pastor John Vriend.
     “But it’s actually quite informal in many ways,” he said. For example, choir members do not wear robes. “It’s still liturgical, but the style has changed over time.”
     Scheer is responsible for leadership in two Sunday morning services, which are nearly identical. He estimates combined attendance averages more than 800. A typical service can include adult or youth choirs, a traditional piano-based instrumental ensemble with recorder, violin and cello, etc; and occasionally the “Guitarchestra.”
     The worship minister reports to senior pastor Jack Roeda and is part of a weekly meeting of the general church staff.
     “For worship we have minimal rehearsal time compared to some churches,” Scheer said.
     “Although we do some big picture planning face-to-face, for week to week we mostly plan on our own along with verifying everything by email.”
    

                        COMPREHENSIVE MUSIC

     Scheer said there are nearly 800 songs in the church’s repertoire, including some global music. A Kenyan song, “Kwake Yesu nasimama (Here On Jesus Christ I Will Stand)” is regularly sung. Liturgical folk music (“Gather Us In”) as well as traditional and contemporary hymns are also in play.
   “We don’t have a praise band,” he noted. “But I try to draw the best and most appropriate songs from every genre.” That includes the popular “Ten Thousand Reasons” by Matt Redman.
     Of his own 600+ compositions, Scheer has16 of them in the new “Lift Up Your Hearts” hymnal published last year by the CRC-connected Faith Alive Christian Resources. Two of his better-known titles: “One Generation” and “People of the Lord.”
     The church has several other talented musicians who also contribute to music ministry.
     Church of the Servant does not use projection screens or power-point presentations in its regular worship services.

                       OTHER MUSICAL OUTLETS

     Scheer’s work at the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship picks up considerably each January when the college hosts an annual worship symposium. At this year’s event Scheer taught a songwriting seminar, conducted a Vespers service using one of his original cantatas, and led a workshop curiously titled, “The Seven Deadly Sins of Choosing Music for Worship.”
  

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   He taught a Calvin course on contemporary worship during the school’s interim session. And Scheer is one of the prime movers behind the website www.hymnary.org, a comprehensive database of hymns and hymnals and which is affiliated with the institute.
     By the way, he’s also written a book, “The Art of Worship” (Baker, 2007), and has recorded numerous collections of all types of music (see www.gregscheer.com).
     Church of the Servant has several others leaders who are in a rotation for leading worship, allowing Scheer time for his other duties.
     “The church has a tradition of volunteer leaders and that tradition still flourishes,” he said.

                   HIS MUSICAL PATH TO SERVANTS

     Scheer grew up in a Pentecostal church in Rhode Island. He has both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music theory and composition, with the bass as his primary instrument.
     He never thought he would do music ministry, figuring that was a cop-out for people who couldn’t make it in the “real” music world.
     It was during graduate school in Pittsburgh that Scheer “fell in with” Presbyterians. “I’ve kind of been on the Reformed end of things ever since,” he said. “In Pittsburgh I was in a really good church and started to see a real, valid music ministry and slowly I found my life in it.”
     This summer the minister of worship is on Sabbatical. He’ll be in Virginia writing a book as well as teaching at an urban youth songwriting internship project. “I’m looking forward to spending some time outside of my own culture; and seeing how that affects my theology of worship,” he said.

Just The Facts:

Who: Greg Scheer, 47, married with two sons

What: Minister of Worship

Where:  Church of the Servant, 3835 Burton St. SE Grand Rapids, Mich. www.churchoftheservantcrc.org; 616-956-7611

How: Plan and lead music in worship, arrange and perform music, direct several church ensembles

Philosophy on the role of the arts/music in worship: The arts preach the gospel perhaps more at a heart or intuitive level. Music is not just singing….but is part of preaching the gospel and hearing the word and spirit.”

Editor’s note: If you have a suggestion of an area church music leader for a profile in this column, please send the information to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Jay HidalgoIn January of 2013, Jay Hidalgo found himself lacking energy for the new year. In 2005, he started a company that had experienced great success. As his team looked to the new year and new growth, Hidalgo felt a tug in a different direction. Over the next few months, he sought God’s direction. Through a variety of conversations and experiences, Hidalgo heard God answer: I want you to stop building companies and start building people.

In the spring of 2013, he stepped away from day-to-day operations of his company and began to work out what this new calling meant. Examining his experience in starting two companies, coupled with his background in marketing, he believed the idea of coaching aligned with building people. He worked on the concepts over the summer and in the fall of 2013 launched The Barzel Group.

“Barzel” is the Hebrew word for “iron” found in Proverbs 27:17 (NIV). “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Hidalgo said, “That’s what I’m seeking to do – to help make people better and sharpen them.”

Hidalgo operates The Barzel Group under two umbrellas: Coaching for demand generation, lead management, and marketing (under the name Demand Gen Coach) and business and leadership coaching (under Jay Hidalgo). He described his mission as “helping people become better at what they do, and inherently within that is helping them become better at who they are.”

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His clients reflect a wide variety of walks of life ­– from a marketing director at a multi-million dollar company, to a director of a Christian camp, to two men starting a media business. However, all clients have a few things in common: they wrestle with questions of where they’re going with life and are willing learners who want someone to help them learn and grow.

Whether it’s working through questions about strategy, dealing with bosses, finding purpose, or developing marketing, Hidalgo takes his experiences in executive leadership, builds relationships, and helps move people forward in the right direction.

However, Hidalgo shies away from canned formulas. “I have found that there are more than enough certifications where you can learn exactly the questions to ask and what to do [for coaching], and what to move people through…I’ve been told over and over, ‘We just love [that] you are being who you are and are using who you are to help us become better, while pulling from experiences and receiving input from a variety of places,” he recalled. Hidalgo feels blessed that people keep coming back and he’s able to use his experience and expertise to help others.

Hidalgo’s faith infuses all he does. “I don’t hide where I’m coming from and all that I’ve learned from Jesus. I try to bring that approach to as many scenarios as I can,” he said. Yet, he’s realizing how much he doesn’t trust yet. “God is patiently, yet forcefully, reminding me ‘you’re not trusting me yet the way I want you to.’” Through the process of beginning The Barzel Group, Hidalgo has seen how God is intimately interested in giving us a great life. “As I coach, I watch people as they talk about how God is moving in their life and what they’re learning. It’s so evident that God is doing so much and is so interested in us. That’s hard to get my mind around,” he said.

Hidalgo has also seen God’s provisions in his own life. He’s been down the road for business start-ups before, but this time around he’s discovered how God is in the mundane and all the little things. “As a small business we’re constantly looking at numbers and income. I can so often look back and say, ‘Oh that’s why He allowed that or He did that.’” Through this process he’s seen God working in the details not just of the business but in his family and relationships as well. “I’ve been given a greater awareness of the unseen work of God in so many places,” Hidalgo said. He reflects how affirming, and energizing it is to see God’s work in the details.

Hidalgo will continue to invite God into all the details. “I ask a lot, ‘If Jesus were me, what would he do here, or there?’” Those questions will remain in the forefront as he continues to follow God’s direction in building people.

At a Glance:

Name: Jay Hidalgo

Business: The Barzel Group

Title: Owner

Family: Wife, Janice; 4 children ages 18, 16, 14, and 11.

Web: www.demandgencoach.com www.jayhidalgo.com

E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Twitter: @jayhidalgo

0055When Jodi Bos opened her letterpress company, Gwyneth Paige, she didn’t realize how God would use the business to teach her to let Him guide her life.

In 2010, Bos owned a successful event planning business. After struggling to find invitations with the aesthetic and quality she desired for clients, she did what entrepreneurs do: she opened her own letterpress printing and design company, Gwyneth Paige. Bos purchased five presses, all dating between 1915-1925 and debuted custom, couture invitations. The process involves hand feeding thick cotton through the presses, creating what Bos called “little pieces of art.” Fifty locations across the U.S. and Canada began to carry their album of products.

Bos continued Gwyneth Paige as a secondary business, keeping primary focus on her event planning company. On the surface, Bos appeared to have it all – a successful business, high-end clients, and a happy marriage and family. But by late 2012, Bos knew something in her life needed to change. “I was working 20 hours a day, not sleeping well, and had horrific migraines.” She described that time period like living in a pressure cooker. She had allowed work to overwhelm her life, something she said came easily with her type-A personality. “Outwardly, I was so successful and people wanted to be me, but I didn’t want to be me,” Bos recalled.

She thought she had always run her business for Christ, but realized she wasn’t. “I was saying, ‘Christ come along with me,’ rather than asking Him to go ahead of me.”

After much agony and prayer, Bos shut down the event planning company in 2013 and decided to focus solely on Gwyneth Paige. She sold 3,000 square feet of inventory and downsized her organization. Bos recognized that she hadn’t been serving her Lord, employees, or family and hadn’t been taking care of herself. “I believed it [the business] was a gift God had given me, but I wasn’t using it wisely,” Bos recalled.

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As she moved forward, Bos determined to run the letterpress company and her life differently. “I needed to be re-directed and to find out again what’s really important – that it’s about serving people who have less than we do, making family a priority, and not taking my identity from my work but taking my identity in being God’s child,” she said. This new direction changed her life. “I feel like a different person – I want to work so I can give; that wasn’t the case before.”

Bos also began to live out this new direction in her personal life. She got involved with her church’s ministry to help former prisoners re-enter society. Assisting an older gentleman with his basic needs of food, clothing and healthcare has transformed her. “I think about him and pray for him all the time, and my work is just my work where I get the job done to the best of my ability.” She said the gentleman thanks her for her help, but she acknowledges he’s the one who helped her. She tears up as she praises God for the second chances He gives to all of us.

As she turned her attention to Gwyneth Paige, Bos asked God for direction. The letterpress company, which had existed primarily to serve clients of her previous event planning business, had not turned a profit. The “aha!” moment came when Bos realized Gwyneth Paige had only created custom invitations, but the market was wide open for high-quality writeable invitation suites. It’s an insight she feels came from God, and was His way of leading her back to her passion: hospitality.

She and her team created a line of invitation suites called Fête, which is the French word for celebration. Each set includes the design elements and accessory items to make it simple for a hostess to plan a beautiful event. Bos sees the products as way of helping people return to entertaining in the home, cultivating intimate spaces where people are loved and cared for. The line has received early praise, and Bos credits the direction to listening for God’s leading.

Bos acknowledges, “The business is God’s and this is the first time I truly get that.”

At a Glance:

Name: Jodi Bos

Company: Gwyneth Paige, LLC

Title: Proprietor

Family: Husband Nathan, married 16 years; 13 year old daughter, Gretchen;

10 year old son, Seth.

Address: 7976 Clyde Park, Byron Center, MI 49315
phone: 616.541.0020
fax: 616.656.9933
web: www.gwynethpaige.com

Barringer Alex   Alex Barringer has been director of worship and music at Georgetown United Methodist Church for less than a year.
     “It’s kept me busy, for sure, but I’m liking the people and blending in well with what they’re doing here,” said Barringer, 25, from his church office.
     Most of the director’s 35-hour work week is wrapped up in worship – whether planning, selecting music, rehearsing, readying multimedia material or tackling other details.
     In fact, recruiting, tracking and scheduling volunteers  for worship and related ministries are his greatest challenges.
   “I have to make sure everyone is where they need to be, when they need to be,” he said.
     “That’s something they don’t really teach you at school.”

                 DETAILS OF MUSIC MINISTRY

   Barringer is hands-on at both of Georgetown’s Sunday morning worship services, which draw a combined average of around 300.
   In the early (9 a.m.) traditional service he accompanies the choir, which sings three Sundays per month. On the fourth Sunday, Barringer directs the bell choir. Although he had played in a bell choir, he had never led one until he came to Georgetown.
   Barringer is even more visible at the (11:15 a.m.) contemporary service, selecting the songs, performing either on guitar or keyboard, and leading a praise team which varies in size from week to week.
   “Sometimes it’s just me on acoustic, or me and a conga player, or six or seven people with bass, drums/percussion, keys and guitars,” he said.
     Current songs which have worked well: the Chris Tomlin tune “I Will Follow You,” Matt Redman’s “Sing and Shout,” and the familiar “Cornerstone.”
     Georgetown pastor William Bills shares with the staff an outline of upcoming sermon messages, which are similar in both services. But he and Barringer meet week to week to plan specifics.
     Bills has been pleased with the music director’s energy and talent.
     “He is very mature and easy to work with,” Bills said.
     “And he had some pretty big shoes to fill when he came because our church has many excellent musicians.”
     Barringer’s position actually combines the roles of two previous worship staffers, each of whom led a different service. He is already putting his own stamp on worship expression.
     “In the first service I just kind of kept the momentum going, and for the second one we did a kind of re-boot thing,” he said.
    
                          PATH TO MUSIC MINISTRY

     Barringer has a deep history in church music. He was born in a small town outside Toledo, Ohio and started piano lessons at age 5, taking to the instrument very well. He began playing in his church while in elementary school and continued right through his high school years.
     “I picked up guitar in 7th grade and started leading more contemporary songs for the youth group,” he recalled.

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     “Eventually I felt like music was the area God was calling me to in my life.”
     He studied music at Greenville College in Illinois, with an emphasis on worship leading and piano performance.
While still in school he was already choir director and pianist for a local church.
     He moved to West Michigan in 2012 to begin work at Leighton United Methodist in Caledonia before coming to Georgetown last year.
     A good sign: Barringer survived his first Christmas season at the church with its rush of extra services and special music.
     “I had a lot of help from people in the church volunteering in various ways and the staff was supportive with what I needed help with,” he noted.

                                            A MULTIPLE OUTLOOK

     Barringer’s variety of talents (he’s also an excellent vocalist who sings with the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus), serve him well in his differing roles.
     “I think what’s unique about this position is that I’m doing both traditional and contemporary (worship) styles,”
he offered.
     “A lot of times you’ll find classically trained musicians who want to do only classical, or some who are more into the jazz-rock thing and they only do that,” he added.
     “It’s nice to be able to be involved on both sides of things.”
     Personally, Barringer says, he’s a big fan of the music of Hillsong United, one of several contemporary worship ensembles spawned by the huge Hillsong megachurch in Australia. But he also appreciates the modern hymns of Keith and Kristyn Getty (“In Christ Alone”).
     “This job is fulfilling in a lot of ways, but for me the most satisfying is leading and seeing people come into the presence of God and really being able to worship.” 

 

Just The Facts:

Who: Alex Barringer, 25, single

 

What: Director of Music and Worship

 

Where:  Georgetown United Methodist Church, 2766 Baldwin St. Jenison. www.gumonline.org, 616-669-0730

How: Prepare all church worship-realated experiences, lead worship/music at contemporary service, accompany church choir, direct bell choir

Philosophy on the role of the arts/music in worship: “Often times music/arts are tools to help us focus on why we are in worship and to give voice to the Word. Sometimes it helps us to put our emotions in the right place, and the text of the music can steer us in the direction of what God wants us to hear.” 

Editor’s note: If you have a suggestion of an area church music leader for a profile in this column, please send the information to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

agathonFrom the beginning, Agathon Group has focused on “doing good.” In 1999, Alan Ritari and Peter Green, who at the time were co-workers at Gospel Communications, saw a gap between many non-profits’ strategic goals and technical abilities. The men formed Agathon Group as a side business to provide hardware, software and hosting solutions. The pair never intended for the work to be more than part-time. However, by 2003 they realized they had enough demand for Agathon Group to become their full-time jobs.

“Agathon” is a Greek term found in the New Testament meaning “that which is good.” The company seeks to not just be good at what they do, but also to do good things, and enable their clients to do good in their areas of business.

In 2004 Joel Boonstra, who knew Ritari and Green from Gospel Communications, approached the duo about becoming Agathon Group’s first employee. “They took a chance on me,” Boonstra said. It was a step of faith for Agathon Group to stretch and take on the responsibility of an employee. While the first year was rough, it paid off in the end. In 2006, Ritari and Green extended ownership to Boonstra.

Today, Agathon Group has grown to a team of ten. Ritari and Green have since moved out of state. Employees live across multiple time zones, with about half them still in the Grand Rapids area. Working remotely presents a set of challenges. “You have to figure out how to work on your own and be self-motivated” Boonstra explained. Thus far, it’s a system that has worked well for Agathon.

Agathon Group’s two main areas of business are web hosting and development. “Everything we do touches the web. We help clients who have an idea that they need to know how to make happen, and those who have a design and plan and just need us to develop it,” Boonstra explained.

The company has a low turn over, allowing clients to develop long-term relationships with specific employees. “We try to reflect ourselves back to our customers. The best we can do is to be good to them and do good work,” Boonstra said. While they may not specifically talk about their faith with their clients, they hope their faith reflects in how they treat and interact with them.

Agathon Group’s clients still show their non-profit roots, yet include a diverse range of businesses and organizations. Current clients range from those who need a simple web hosting solution, to high-traffic-generating bloggers. Over the years the company has continued to develop expertise in new areas of web technology, including the popular publishing platform of Wordpress.

“We try to hire people who can adapt. We hire people with aptitude, not just a checklist of skills, who can keep up with an ebb and flow in the business,” Boonstra said. This has enabled Agathon to evolve with their clients, maintain long-term relationships, and survive the dot bomb and the economic downturn of the mid 2000’s.

 

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As the company has grown, they’ve taken on increasingly larger projects. “When we were a staff of 2-3 people, we could only have one person working on a project. Now we can have 2-3 people collaborating on a project, where they learn from each other and each employee works on what they’re best at,” Boontsra explained.

The initial concept of “doing good” continues to stay at the forefront of their mission.

“We hold the idea that doing the right thing and doing good is what we should be doing as believers,” Boontra said. “It’s not a guarantee that it’s always going to net success, if you consider success always in the terms of for-profit. But if we can’t be successful doing good then we should be doing something else. We don’t want to sacrifice our integrity to be profitable. At that point then we should pack it up and find something else to do good at.”

The group seeks to extend “doing good” to make a difference in the lives and world around them. The owners encourage employees to mesh their passions and interests in ways that can help their own communities. Agathon has been a corporate sponsor for employees running a race for a good cause, and provided a portion of funding to help begin a school in rural Chile.

No matter how technology changes and advances, Agathon Group will continue to keep the focus on “doing good” in all areas of their business.

Company: Agathon Group

Owners: Alan Ritari, Peter Green, Joel Boonstra

Website: http://www.agathongroup.com/

Phone: 888-543-9766

E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Twitter: agathongroup

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/agathongroup

 Lyons Chris    Chris Lyons paused when asked about misconceptions Protestants may have about music in Roman Catholic churches. “I’m not sure if they all realize that we praise God along with them,” remarked Lyons, music coordinator at St. John Vianney (SJV) Catholic Church in Wyoming.
     “Although we praise God in our own ways, I’m thinking they respect our ways and I know I respect theirs.”
     Lyons is a lifelong Catholic, raised in St. Isadore Church on Grand Rapids’ northeast side and a graduate of Catholic Central High School.
     She’s been directing the choir at SJV for the last seven years, but was a long time choir member at the parish before that.
     “I just know I’m very happy to be here,” she said.

                           COORDINATING MUSIC

     Lyons directs the SJV church choir which sings at the second of the two Sunday morning masses.
     There’s also a Saturday evening mass with lyrics-on-the-screen music played by a praise band directed by Lori Jacobs. It mixes contemporary Catholic artist-songs with a wider variety of tunes from better known composers such as Chris Tomlin and Laura Story.
     Combined, the three services draw an average of more than 1,200 worshipers.
     Lyons also selects music for the Sunday services. Most of the worship liturgy is the same week to week.
     “The words remain the same, but the music (melody) can change,” she explained.
     That includes the sung prayers “Holy, Holy,” “Lamb of God” and “Gloria.”
     “But we add music from the hymnal that goes with the readings, and for the choir pieces I choose, we do the same thing. It’s all enhancing the liturgy, not detracting from it.”
     Typically a solo “cantor” will lead the congregation in hymns. These volunteer singers serve on a rotating basis.
     “They do the (responsive) psalms between our first and second readings, singing the verses and bringing in the congregation on the refrain,” she explained.
     Lyons said occasionally they will do a cantata or some other special music during holidays and may bring in various instrumentalists.

                   A MUSICAL SANCTUARY

     Although the 30-voice choir is a traditional style ensemble, a more contemporary praise refrain has become a regular on Sunday mornings. Right before receiving the elements of the Eucharist, the choir and congregation sing together the chorus of “Sanctuary” (“Lord, prepare me…”).
 

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    “We sing the refrain three times – it’s a short but beautiful prayer and it they have responded to it extremely well,” Lyons said of the song.
     The music coordinator also sings at weddings and funerals, and consults on music with outside performers for special services.
     Although she occasionally will get feedback from parish priest Rev. Michael Alber, Lyons regularly reports to SJV director of worship and pastoral care Mary Witucki.
     “Chris puts her heart and soul into her music ministry,” said Witucki. “The care and dedication that she demonstrates in her work clearly reflect her love for God and our Catholic liturgy.”

                       MELODIOUS TIMES

     The music coordinator said typically her responsibilities keep her busy 20 hours per week. But during the Christian and Easter holiday seasons, that total can hit 60.
     Lyons said Holy Week (from Palm Sunday to Easter) is among her greatest challenges.
     “There are several prayer services – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil (about two hours) and Easter – and I have to make sure the music fits with all the readings and get everything organized making sure there are enough voices for every service,” she added.
     Lyons describes the most satisfying aspect of her ministry: “When the choir actually feels the words and music, and you feel the congregation accepting and benefitting from them.”
     “To do that, you really have to feel not just the music and the words, but the Holy Spirit moving them to do so.”
     Despite her extensive musical training (more than 10 years of voice lessons and also studying piano) Lyons never imagined she would be a music director.
     “When I was originally introduced to this opportunity, I was a big frightened,” she admitted.
     “It was only supposed to be a temporary thing, but it all worked out.”
     “I’m just very honored and happy to praise God – that’s the only thing I enjoy doing with all my heart."

 Just the Facts:

Who: Chris Lyons

What: Music Coordinator

Where:  St. John Vianney Catholic Church, 4101 Clyde Park SW, Wyoming; www.stjohnvianney.net, 534-5449

How: Coordinating music, planning, rehearsing and directing choir, and providing music for special services.

Philosophy on the role of the arts/music in worship: “Music should enhance the liturgy – it should make the congregation more inspired to pray and feel closer to God. I feel words should be understood – not just the music – and that singing is another form of prayer.”

Editor’s note: If you have a suggestion of an area church music leader for a profile in this column, please send the information to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

CasieWhen Casie Thelen, of the Lowell Hair Studio, was in first grade, two things began to shape her. She had a dream of becoming a hairstylist, and she was held back to repeat first grade. “I really struggled with feeling not smart, and that shaped me,” Thelen said. But God had a plan to merge her dream and her pain into a beautiful calling.

After high school, Thelen followed her dream and enrolled in beauty school in East Lansing. She returned to her hometown, Lake Odessa, in 1999 to work at her uncle’s salon. “My uncle was a role model when it came to being a stylist and running a salon,” she explained. During her years in his salon, Thelen learned how to care for clients from the second they walked through the door. “He taught me to greet each customer with a warm welcome and offer them something to drink. He kept a very professional, clean, and organized salon.” She didn’t realize God was preparing her to one day open her own salon. “I was happy to just rent a chair. I never thought I’d own a salon.” She developed a steady clientele in the small town until 2011.

Because of her childhood pain of feeling not smart, Thelen was aware how many people don’t feel confident in themselves. “People really do tell their hairdresser a lot,” she said. Her mission became to bring out people’s best from the inside out.

“I love it when hearts are touched, when you reach people where they are. I love the relationships with clients. I love it when you see someone smile and feel good about themselves.” Thelen believes that by helping people pull out their best, they can go out and change the world around them.

Thelen and her husband, Tom, moved their family to Lowell. The drive to Lake Odessa a few times a week became exhausting. Then she saw God’s unexpected provision. “I had been praying about my work. I really wanted to bloom where I was planted and to work and serve in my own town,” Thelen said. After dismissing an idea to work out of her home, a friend told her about an opening at Modern Photographics.

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“My friend said there had been a salon in the studio before, and the salon owner had moved. She had worked primarily styling Modern’s clients for senior photos.” Modern had not advertised the open space, but Thelen made a call to inquire.

Conversations progressed, and Modern expressed excitement that Thelen had regular clientele who would follow her to the new location.

Thelen and her husband remodeled the cozy space, which has just enough space for two chairs, a sink, and a dryer. During the remodeling process, Brenda, a fellow stylist from Thelen’s church, heard about the new salon. Thelen didn’t plan to have other stylists rent chairs, but when Brenda approached about renting a chair it seemed like a great fit for the Studio. Brenda came on staff, even assisting with the renovations. The women opened The Lowell Hair Studio in December 2011.

Word spread quickly. Just two years later, The Hair Studio now has five stylists. “Every relationship was natural in how it happened. All five of us love God and have a mission to love on people and serve clients with our work. God made this bigger than I expected. We have something to give people, more than just a good hairstyle. Because of our faith we can give an atmosphere of peace and someone to listen, and to love them and care for them,” Thelen said.

Thelen is thankful that she can choose to work just two days a week and be home with her kids the others days. “It’s a struggle to balance the two, but I’m learning to keep boundaries.” God has helped Thelen get out of her shell and learn the business end of things. “He’s helped me grow and learn over the past two years. It’s so neat to see how He has brought a team together and how we play to each other’s strengths and rely on each other.”

Thelen is amazed that God called her to be a business leader. Her faith upholds her, as do her husband and family. No matter what the future brings, she will continue to trust God’s leading and make it her mission to help people feel safe and confident in whom God created them to be.

At A Glance:

Name: Casie Thelen

Company: Lowell Hair Studio

Title: Owner

Family: Husband, Tom; 4 kids ages 3-7
Website: http://lowellhairstudio.com/

Phone: (616) 987-0222
Facebook: www.facebook.com/lowellhairstudio

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