Serving with Heart

David Saphirstein

Rebecca Lang takes her heart for you into her new role

From volunteering at our welcome desk to serving with Pastor Gus to working in the bookstore, with the mobilization team, with the homeless ministry and then adult equipping, Rebecca Lang has been serving with Northland for many years. She now has a new role, executive director of community life. Here she shares about her past roles and new position, along with her heart not only for serving others but for really knowing our congregation.

You have a new title and role at Northland. What will you be doing as our new executive director of community life?                    

I do, and I am beyond excited about the job ahead of me! Very practically, I get to work with some amazing leaders from Children’s Ministries, Access, Northland’s cooperative school, equipping, care and pastoral teams, and small groups. At the heart of every one of these ministries is relationship. That’s what I am passionate about and the filter with which I operate and lead. It’s also important to the leaders I serve with, so when I think about what’s ahead of us in 2019, I can’t help but feel energized and inspired!

What gets you excited in this new role?

Not only will I be working with these leaders, building and cultivating community within their individual areas of ministry, but I hope to synthesize their efforts cross-departmentally and identify connection points between each area to establish a larger emphasis on family and community life. There are some obvious places where these ministries overlap, and we should be leveraging them to make a broader impact.

In Children’s Ministries, one of our goals is to help kids see and know God in a meaningful way. We can do that really well when we also help their parents learn what it means to spiritually lead their children. That’s the job of our equipping team. And when that same family faces a crisis, our care and pastoral teams come alongside them to walk with them. Then their children’s teacher and their small group can be praying and caring for them in a different way than before the crisis. It’s both a holistic and virtuous cycle.

That’s what I envision when I think about what I hope to accomplish in this new role. I want every person at Northland to feel welcome, cared for, loved and that this place is more than just their church. I want Northland to feel like family. It may sound cliché, and it’s certainly an audacious goal, but that’s what I believe God wants for us as we journey through this life together.

How did you first come on staff at Northland, and what roles have you held? (Include what you were doing before and how you went from Gap to the bookstore.)

Before coming to Northland, I worked for Gap for 17 years. After leaving that career to be home with my family, I began volunteering at the welcome desk. It was the perfect spot to begin serving because I learned so much of the ins and outs of this place.

I volunteered with Pastor Gus while his assistant was out on maternity leave. In that role, I had a behind-the-scenes look at some of the greatest needs of our community and congregation. Gus taught me so much about meeting needs by connecting people – relationship-building 101.

In 2012, I started working as a part-time associate in the bookstore. I really enjoyed that because it tapped into my retail experience. But what I truly enjoyed was meeting and connecting with the folks who came in. The question “What can I help you find?” revealed so much more than a simple opportunity to help someone locate an item. It was the beginning of a story about celebrating the salvation of a friend, the agony of death or divorce, or the excitement around a new study that someone looked forward to diving into for personal and spiritual growth.

About a year later, I was asked to join the mobilization team, working to support James Li in church-wide efforts around volunteer recruitment and retention. He taught me to work outside of the box and challenged me to avoid minimizing God in the ways I approached ministry. God is so much bigger and far more capable than we can ever imagine!

I spent some time working with our homeless ministry and then transitioned to adult equipping, working with class and ministry leaders. In that role, I was fortunate to be working with people such as Nathan Clark (equipping pastor) and Barbara Olsen (director of equipping). They have contributed greatly to my personal and professional journey and have been great partners in helping our congregation get connected through classes, ministries and groups.

You have a heart for serving this congregation. Do you have a story that really embodies this passion of yours?

I enjoy serving our congregation, but my heart is really for knowing our congregation. Whenever I can, I sit down with people over a cup of coffee and hear about their lives, the story they believe God is writing for them, how they got to Northland, and really dream with them about their next steps. It is one of the best parts of what I do here!

Every once in a while, I’ll receive an email or a card from someone who felt like I went the extra mile in making them feel loved and cared for. The reality is, there’s a huge team of people behind me that makes that happen. What I do connecting people would fall short if it weren’t for the dedication my team members (and the rest of the Northland staff) have around their particular ministry.

You asked earlier what excites me, and I think it’s also that. Now more than ever, there is a collaborative environment where departments are working arm in arm toward the shared mission of creating easier on-ramps for community-building and more comprehensive pathways for people to engage themselves and their families to be fully alive in Jesus.

Why is it so important for people to really get involved here and not just “go” here on the weekends?

I’m not sure we’re experiencing the fullness of what God has for us if we’re only showing up on the weekends. God calls us to be in community and uses people and relationships to reveal Himself to us. In my mind, the weekend is a convergence of people who gather together to worship God and celebrate all He has done in and through us throughout the week and alongside the people we know, love and serve.

In fact, so much of my family’s story at Northland is about the community that poured into us and was an integral part of God’s redemption. We walked in here broken beyond measure, unsure if we were going to make it. God healed us through both the ministry resources Northland had to offer and the amazing community who loved and cared for our family in so many remarkable ways.

It’s just like Kintsugi, the sermon illustrations Pastor Matt referenced during Advent. God was busy “repairing” us, but instead of gold, He used people to mend our broken little family.

Weekend worship is where we get to hear from an amazing preaching team. But it’s during the week, when we gather in groups, serve together and spend time with our community, that the theology of the weekend is unpacked, unveiled and ultimately applied to our everyday lives. All of these things are essential to our faith and spiritual growth and vibrancy.

How do this and your new role tie in with Northland’s new vision statement?

We can’t possibly feel or be fully alive in isolation. Isolation is the antithesis of community, and without others around us, we can’t realize who God really is and His purpose for our lives.

I’ve heard it said (and you have too if you’ve attended Belong and Grow), “Northland isn’t really Northland without you, and you can’t really be all God designed you to be without Northland.” It’s the perfect illustration for understanding that we need each other to truly be fully alive in Jesus.

Tell us more about your family and how they are involved here.

My family is amazing, and I am lucky to have them on this journey. They jumped in feet first with me! My husband, Jeff, has volunteered in parking and security, and for the past couple of years, he’s here every Sunday and most Saturdays playing guitar and bass on the kids worship team. He is a steady rock and support to me, and I love him so very much!

Both of my kids, Max and Lola, volunteer with Children’s and Access Ministries. Max is a Buddy during Saturday night service and actively involved in LUGrox.

Lola is on the programming team and leads a small group of middle school girls. She’s also involved in high school ministry. She’s on the acting team for Children’s Church, and you might occasionally see her doing announcements on the weekend in the main sanctuary.

People think I’m here a lot, but Lola is on campus every day except Tuesday and Friday … and she loves it! Northland is more than our church; it’s our family.

As you meet new people, what do you tell them about Northland and all we have going on?  

There’s so much to tell! Usually I just listen and ask God to help me guide them to the right place or connection. Every person, every situation, and every conversation is unique. What does not change is God and His ability to meet their every need.

Sometimes a need is really a need, and sometimes it’s a next step toward fulfilling their purpose and being a part of the larger story God is writing here. My job is to narrow those steps down and help this big church feel small, to feel like family.

As we go through this new season at Northland, what are you most excited about?

I’m excited about so many things! We’re working on a pathway to engagement for new believers and for folks who are new to Northland. We’re launching a 12-week leader prep class for folks ready to take their next step in lay leadership here at Northland.

I am excited about meeting so many new people this year! I am excited about growth in young adult and family ministry areas, and I’m excited about working alongside my amazing coworkers and friends who love God and love people as much as I do.