Ten years ago, American native Annie Garratt packed her bags and left Seattle to study at the Hillsong International Leader College in Sydney, Australia. Like a thousand other international students that year, she spent her time learning about worship music and ministry at Hillsong Church's training program. Now 32, Garratt had no idea she'd still be in Sydney, much less serving as a creative pastor, overseeing vocalists at all 15 campuses of Hillsong Church.
More than 20,000 people attend Hillsong's churches weekly, and thousands more listen to their award-winning live worship albums. Garratt has led worship with Hillsong Live and Hillsong United, the church's chapel band and youth band, respectively. Most recently, she was part of Hillsong Live's 22nd album, Glorious Ruins, which focuses on the theme that God can take the ruins of one's life and turn it into something beautiful.
TCW caught up with Garratt to hear about the new album, church community, and how she balances ministry and parenting two children under the age of three.
How do you maintain the balance of being a mother and having a busy ministry career?
I just do one thing at a time [laughs]. There is no secret formula. My husband and I are busy, and we don't have a lot of other family here. When we got married, we decided that instead of just rolling with life and letting it happen, we wanted to lay out the things that were important to us. We put boundaries in place. I definitely still have days when I feel overwhelmed, like I can't do it all. I try to remember that whatever God is calling me to do, he will grace me to do it; he'll grace my kids and family. I wake up each day and just try to do one thing at a time. When things do get out of balance, I re-evaluate where I'm at and keep my priorities straight.
Ministering to women seems to be near to your heart. What advice do you have for Christian women trying to live lives pleasing to God?
Comparison can be such a big thing that women face today. There's pressure to fit a certain mold, but you just have to focus on what God is calling you to do. Keep it simple. Focus on what you know God is calling you to do. If I try to imitate someone else in the way they live their life, then I'm going to get off track. Stay your course and trust that God will lead you. What you have to bring to the table is exactly what's needed.
How did you initially get involved with ministry and worship?
I grew up just outside of Seattle, Washington. I came to Australia about 10 years ago for Bible college at Hillsong. I did an internship program with our youth group for worship and started serving at church, leading a connect group, and discipling girls. I packed my bags and moved here, and I was really surprised at what ended up happening. We have a lot of pastors on our team at Hillsong, and right now I'm one of the creative pastors. I oversee vocals across all of our campuses, and I also help to mentor and train the choirs and female worship leaders.
Hillsong Church has a lot of younger people in the congregation. How does the church make sure to minister to both the younger and older generations?
Our whole creative team is made up of all ages of people in different seasons of life. We have both young people and people who have been coming around for years. The healthy part about our team is that our older generation is celebrating the new generation and helping to bring in the millennial generation. One of my favorite things is that I get to work with young girls and help them discover who they are and what God has pressed on their life. Pretty soon, someone new is going to be coming through, and I'll have to step aside and let her take my place. My hope is that they will far exceed what's happening now and do what I'm doing so much better. I think that's a healthy way that it should work, to bring the generations through and have an open hand; not to be concerned with your title or position and worried about keeping it. As a church and as a team, we have the hard conversations about what to do when you've been doing your job for 10 years, and someone new comes in and does it better. You step aside and make way. You use your wisdom and your years to pour into that person. We have some amazing people on our team who have been around for a while, and they've really navigated how to do that well.
Hillsong Live just released its 22nd album, Glorious Ruins. What are some themes of these new songs and what theme resonates with you personally?
All of our messages have the same main theme, and that's getting the truth out about Jesus. Our pastor spoke a message called "Glorious Ruins," and it really hit home with one of the songwriters, so that's where our album title came from. It comes from the thought that God can make all things new. God can take something dead where there is no life, and he can breathe life into it. I know that he is a redeemer, and he can restore people's lives.
How can worship be something in our lives that is more than just on a Sunday?
I don't look at worship as just my time on the platform or when I go to church. I try to live my whole life as a life of worship. I try to make my decisions and thoughts as something pleasing to God. My advice to other women is to let that translate into everyday life. If you're a mom, going to school, or wherever you're at in life, let your life be a life of worship that glorifies God.
Hillsong Church in Sydney has about 20,000 members. How does it foster community with so many people?
One of the biggest tools we've used is our connect groups. We encourage everyone in our church and on our team to get involved with a group of people who are going through the same kind of season like a family, high school, or college-aged group. Our whole church is broken down into these groups. Outside of church these people are getting together and going through studies and talking about life.
What's your hope for the global church?
This year's Hillsong conference theme was "This is revival." We focused on revival as something personal. Revival starts with me and my own relationship with Jesus. Our church has been doing a devotional together, and it's about starting a revival in our own relationship with Christ. We used that devotional to prepare our hearts to get ready for whatever God wants to do. I feel like we are in a great place to not miss it, and we're open to whatever he wants to do. My hope is that it will champion the local church. People come to the conference from all over the world, and we want to empower them and show them what they can do in their local church. The conference is so that people can get fed and get sent out into their communities to help bring change there. We believe that the conference will be more than just an event but something that brings change to lives all over the world.
Cassie Jolene Schenck is TCW's editorial intern. Follow her on Twitter @CassieJolene91.
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