Staff Stories: Justin

Mar 17, 2017

Everyone’s story is important, and here at Hill City we want to celebrate people, where they’ve come from, and what they’ve been through. As a church, we challenge our team to share their stories because it helps us relate to and empower others. Our stories represent how a life with Jesus has changed our own passion, purpose, and hope.

These are the stories of our staff.

Justin Sledd is the Worship Director here at Hill City. Born and raised here in RVA, Sledd graduated from Godwin High School and attended VCU majoring in Public Relations. Sledd is a coffee connoisseur who does a very convincing DJ Khaled impression and crushes burritos.

He met his wife of 6 years, Emily, in 2nd grade. They have two little boys, Abram (3) and Louis (3 months) as well as a golden retriever named Lilly. You’ve definitely seen him, he’s the guy with the guitar and tattoos on stage every Sunday.

Q: Describe your job in 2 sentences:

A: I am the Worship Director here at Hill City. My job is to lead worship on Sunday mornings, to create and guard culture and empower leaders to lead.

Q: 5 years ago, did you think you’d be here, working for a church plant?

A: Well, I know Wags [John Wagler, Pastor] didn’t think I’d be here [laughs]. I’ve known John and Lacy for 16 years now. They were my Youth Leaders in high school. He kept telling me not to be the Worship Leader, but I don’t remember if we actually ever talked about it being anyone else. It was just kind of understood that it would be me. And I was bad, like I hadn’t played in over a year. But it was like, “Alright, I’m doing this. We’re doing this.” I mean, I knew I’d be involved in ministry in some capacity. I love interacting and working with people and hearing their stories. Music was always fun for me and I never took it too seriously, but it’s a skill I’ve always been trying to develop. Whether it was being a worship director or leading small groups or something else, I knew I’d be involved in ministry. I just didn’t know what it’d look like. So maybe this is the natural progression.

Q: What makes you qualified to be a church leader? Do you have past experience?

A: Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything that can really qualify us as a group [laughs], we simply have never done this before. But we all have something that we bring to the table. A lot of it’s learning as you go. I’ve been around church and music enough to know how to do a good job. My dad would take me to see bluegrass music when I was little. I started playing guitar in middle school and started serving in youth group. We had a really terrible band- we were called The Byrd Band because we went to Byrd Middle School. I played through high school and picked it back up to do youth ministry after college. For the last 10-15 years I’ve been playing for youth ministries, college ministries and church services almost every Sunday and Wednesday night.

Q: Was there a specific point where you began a relationship with Jesus?

A: As corny as this may be, I made the decision in 8th grade while on a retreat with my youth group. It was like a light switch went off. I went from going to church and following the routine, to having a personal relationship with Christ and actively growing in my faith through prayer and reading. Part of the cool thing was that it was all happening at the same time for a lot of my friends too, some of which go to Hill City and I’m still close with today, like Johnny Phan. Those friends meant I had accountability and the chance to grow with people. I memorized the line, “Today I choose life and the fullness of Christ in my life today.” I woke up saying that every morning for years. I never really strayed away after that. Although I have had my own share of struggles and harder times, I never questioned that God is real.

Q: Besides deciding to follow Jesus in 8th grade, do you look back and see any other bench mark moments in your faith?

A: I went on a solo trip with my friend to Brazil and did missions there. That solidified a lot of things for me. No one spoke English, you got to see and feel and be a part of what the people there were going through. I was in my early 20s and it really matured me as a believer and helped me to have more empathy and compassion for people. It disciplined me in my work ethic, honed a lot of skills and sent me on the fast track to figuring things out. Coming back from that kind of launched me into continuing to do ministry. I realized that God had put me here, in Richmond, to serve. I found that the way I could best serve is here in this country, in this community.

Q: What about your job makes you tick?

A: A few things. The first thing is that I really enjoy playing music. I think you have to love playing music to like this job. But there’s so much more to this position than just the music, it’s very much a people position, working with musicians, media and sound people.

I want each team member to be able to perform at their best, I want them to reach their full potential. It’s really cool to see the final product of a well done worship set from beginning to end. Seeing people grow and develop into leaders, that really gets me excited. I never want to forget “the why.” I’m trying to constantly remind people of our vision and how to buy into what we’re creating here, so it’s really cool to see when they “get it” and run with it.

Q: Where do you see Hill City in 5 years?

A: I see Hill City being a powerhouse church in Richmond. Not from a competitive standpoint, but simply as a place that is known by both believers and non-believers. We’re a safe place for people and we’re attracting those that might not have naturally wanted to be at church. In 5 years I think we’ll have grown, not just in numbers, but in the diversity of the backgrounds of people that attend as well.

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