Better Together

Rebecca Lang

A story about coffee, connection and caring for one another

If you’ve ever been handed a worship guide, taken communion, filled out a tithing envelope or grabbed a hot cup of coffee and donut in the foyer, you’ve been served by our Connections team. In fact, no matter what time of day or reason for your visit you’ve been the beneficiary of some really amazing people who love each other well and serve you out of their love for one another and their shared mission for the people God brings to Northland.

Led by Barbara Gritter, the Connections team includes Lauren Travers, Thomas Blevins, Connie Touchton and the newest member Michelle Rattigan.

Michelle has been a part of Northland since high school where she was a children’s ministry volunteer. She met her husband on a mission trip to Mexico and after college, getting married and starting a family were discussing where they wanted to “plant their roots” Shaun and Michelle chose Northland. They have truly planted some roots here. She is a part of the Moms4moms group, both of her children will be in Northland’s Cooperative School in the fall and she and Shuan have been a part of several classes and studies.

Like Michelle, Barbara started attending Northland in middle school when a friend invited her to Lugrox. She became very involved during high school and some of her best friends today are those she met in high school ministry in her accountability group.  Some of her favorite memories come from weekend retreats, lock ins and mission trips. She met her husband Jordan at Northland and nearly two years ago they had Jaxson, who can be found happily running around the foyer on Sunday morning with dad chasing behind.

Thomas started attending Northland during the Rink days and he and his wife Tyler were married here. He began working at Northland Oviedo as the Student Ministry Coordinator and in 2016 made the transition to Longwood to help launch the Connections team.  You might’ve seen his daughter Emma Grace lead announcements or sing a Muppet song during worship last year. Both she and her sister Ella Jay enjoy tea time with dad, softball games with “Coach Thomas” and weekends at the beach with family.

Unlike the rest of the team who joined the Northland family as teenagers and adults, Lauren was born here! Her parents have attended Northland since in 1981 when it was a small church that met in the cafeteria of English Estates Elementary School. Seven years later Lauren came along and she’s been deeply immersed in Northland her entire life, growing up in every sort of ministry along the way. She also met her husband Jonathan here and they have two beautiful kids, Corbin and Ansley.

This team works so well together because they are all in a similar season of life, families with young kids. Barb says, “We have an understanding and embrace the notion that family comes first. We’re willing to accommodate and cover each other's backs for the sake of family, illness, etc…”  They all collectively shared, “We’ve seen new babies, new braces, marriages, deaths, new homes, even a new litter of kittens!”

There’s another reason why the Connections team is able to accomplish so much. Actually, it’s a person and her name is Connie. Connie is the person you’re likely to see at the welcome desk during the week greeting folks, answering phones and taking care of all kinds of administrative tasks that free up the rest of the team to dream and plan ways to engage and serve the folks who walk in our doors everyday.

Among them there is the universal understanding of knowing each other's strengths but also embracing each other's weaknesses. Barb puts it like this, “We leverage each other to fill the gaps and build the kingdom. Even with our volunteers, it’s never been about filling a spot. It’s always been about helping people become who they are fully in God’s design.”

Michelle agrees, “In my short time here I recognize that the team works to help you be who you are and who God specifically called you to be. At my previous job it was about living up to an idea, to a specific set of attributes of a good leader, versus who God designed me to be.”

When I sat down to talk with them we spent half the time just laughing at one another as story after story was told. Thomas is the comedian always goofing around and bringing a lighthearted and silly vibe to the group. Lauren is all about the details and the planner/organizer extraordinaire. She implements most of the behind the scenes details that make your experience at worship or an event seamless and distraction free. As the newest member to the team Michelle is in the midst of learning every aspect of the work Barbara, Lauren and Thomas do day in and day out. She’s looking forward to growing here and told me, “When I first came to interview I wasn't sure it was the right job but after meeting everyone I walked away thinking these people could be my best friends!”

The weekend never stops coming so I asked the team how they do it, especially during  a week where there are multiple events and other competing priorities. Thomas responded,  “We remind each other of the greater purpose. We get to enter in to the mission of God, being present with people. It’s not just about handing out bulletins or making sure you have enough volunteers.”  

They are also very intentional about sharing 100% of the load. They don’t split workload 50-50. They hold nothing back in supporting one another, the demands of the scheduled events each week or the congregation who worship with us each weekend. Barb went on to add, “Part of what we’re excited about for the future is adding more load bearing capacity to our team. We’ve been surviving and are really looking forward to thriving, especially with Michelle on the team.  We have great relationships with our volunteer team, love and appreciate them and what they bring to the larger team and we will continue to leverage their service for the greater mission.”

Excitement was a big theme when we sat down. The Connections team has been working on some really cool things this year. “There’s a phrase that we’ve been throwing around, making a large church feel personal and I’m excited about those opportunities. From the ends of the parking lot to the front of the stage! “ Thomas exclaimed.  

You might’ve already seen some of the elements implemented in the foyer...the beautiful photo wall for Mother’s Day (designed and set up by a fabulous volunteer!) and the delicious coffee and donuts. Don’t forget the larger connections team with the orange lanyards serving at worship every weekend! Those are ways the Connections team hopes you’ll connect further, not just with Northland but with one another. Their service to our congregation is enhanced because of the connectedness they have with one another so they recognize its benefit in helping others grow in their faith. They are better together!

One of the ways you can connect further here is through our new Belong & Grow class. This is the brainchild of the Connections team and brought to life by the collaboration of several ministries. If you’re brand new here or have been attending Northland for years, this is a great way to discover how you can connect to what God is doing in the midst of our church family. Join us for our next class in June! You can learn more and register at

If you’d like to know more about the connections family or want to join the team, contact Lauren at 407-949-4000 or Come serve with us!