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.
Maddy is the Creative Director here at Hill City. She was born and raised in Radford, VA before coming to VCU in 2010 to pursue a degree in Fashion Design. Fun fact: she designed a line of wedding dresses for her Senior Collection and even made her best friend’s wedding dress last January. She’s got an intense sweet tooth which includes a deep love for pancakes and Pearl’s cupcakes. Maddy loves games of all kinds, and she always wins. When she’s not dreaming of what she’ll name her future corgi, you can find her adventuring around the city looking for hidden gems and good eats with her bae, Johnny Phan. You’ll find her on Sundays directing behind the scenes and always taking the chance to meet new people during 2 Minutes To Talk.
Q: Tell us your job description in 2 sentences:
A: I think when it really comes down to it, my job is to make others curious about what we’re doing here. That means leading a team of people to bring whatever skills they have to the table to create a brand, look and atmosphere that is engaging and real. I think every team here is reaching others in their own way, but mine is doing it through design and art.
Q: What about Hill City’s vision speaks to you the most?
A: I love that our mission is to reach the unchurched. Since our target market is people who don’t know Jesus, it requires us to be innovative and go out on a ledge. We also value having fun, which is honestly a huge relief to me. It breaks my heart when people think church is boring. Once I started to get who Jesus was and have a relationship with him, it felt so alive and adventurous. I think because of that, church is meant to be fun.
Because our environment or online presence is often what people see first, we get the chance to make a really good first impression. It’s fun to focus on something that it seems the church has lost over the years. Hundreds of years ago, the Church was characterized by it’s art and was a leader in the artistic world. I think valuing that is a pleasant surprise to people, it’s not what they would expect from a church. But art and design are things that make people stop and think. It holds their attention longer. We want to continually be creating work that could help someone be open to the idea of church and Jesus.
Q: In terms of your faith, where did it all begin?
A: I grew up going to church. Both of my parents are Christians and when I was young, I had a good, healthy church experience. I felt like I learned who God is in the right way, that He was responsible for the good things in my life. I looked to God for what was right and wrong and I always felt loved by Him. But my faith didn’t become my own until college, partly because then I had to pursue it all on my own.
Towards the end of high school, I was struggling with anxiety. I think that was a difficult experience because mentally, I felt like a mess all the time and wasn’t sure how to trust my own brain, but it was also humbling. Up to that point, I’d had a really great childhood. I hadn’t had to deal with a lot of hard stuff, and in societies terms, I was a “good kid.” It wasn’t that I had a bad view of God before, but I had never really seen my need for Jesus. I think that was partly because I never actually understood what sin was. I had always understood it as “bad decisions,” but I hadn’t understood that that could mean bad motives behind good decisions.
All of that really just brought me to a point of realizing that I didn’t want to do life on my own, that I really did want to know Jesus and felt a lot of hope in His message. Fortunately, I had joined a campus ministry and was surrounded by people that were totally in love with God. Their lives looked different than anything I had seen before. I had, for the most part, lived a really happy life so far. But the life they were living still looked better. It looked like my best option, by far. That’s when my faith become more than just an add-on, it became my priority.
Q: Where would you say you’re at in your faith now? You guys talk about next steps here all the time, what’s yours?
A: I think I’ve learned to trust God’s plan more. I’ll never be perfect at that, but now more than ever I’m more aware that it isn’t just about me. Day by day I feel like I’m more open to what He wants. In terms of next steps, I’m trying to understand what it means to be truly generous. That’s something I’m always amazed by when I see it in others. So I’m always looking for ways to learn about generosity whether that’s in terms of how I spend my time, or money, or other things.
Q: How did you decide you’d take the job with a church plant?
A: Around the same time when John & Lacy were getting a team together to launch Hill City, I was 22 and about to graduate college. I didn’t know if I’d still be around for the launch in September. It was around March that they offered me the job as Creative Director, and I sat on it for about 2 months.
I had interned in the fashion industry in New York the summer before and loved how many opportunities I had to meet people different than me, and even invite them to church. I’d thought about looking for jobs there when I graduated. But when I was offered the job with Hill City, I was curious about what that position would be like.
I debated for a while, because I felt like I could do either and still be doing what God had asked of me. I didn’t feel like there was a right or wrong choice, I’d either get to work for a church I really believed in, or in an industry where I’d have the opportunity to bring people to church who might not attend otherwise. I kept praying about it and I just went with my gut feeling to take the job at Hill City. It was part-time at first, so I was still figuring how to pay rent and survive as a grown up [laughs], and with any start-up, it takes time to find your groove. But I got to a point where I fell so in love with my job and the vision that all I cared about was really to make church fun, alive and exciting.
Q: What makes you qualified to be a Creative Director of a church? Do you have past experience?
A: [Laughs] Oh gosh, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever be qualified enough. I think we all feel super lucky to be in these roles. Other than Jesus just working to get me here, I was part of a campus ministry for 3.5 years where I lead small groups and planned different events. Other than that, I earned a degree in Art and Design. I’d picked up lots of different skills in school, but I had to learn a bunch of new things once I started here. I didn’t walk in with every skill necessary so there were growing pains, but I hand a solid foundation to stand on.
Q: What’s the weirdest/funniest thing you’ve had to do for your job here?
A: I think the best way to answer this would be to look at my past Amazon Prime orders. Just to give you a glimpse, that would include 800 rolls of scotch tape, several hundred whoopee cushions, 3 peep costumes, etc. Also, an entire week of my life was once devoted to planning an adult Olympics competition and ceremony. The ribbon dancing routines and toaster throwing shot-put were my favorite events.
Q: Ok last question. You enjoy a good prank, what’s the best prank you’ve ever pulled?
A: When I was in high school I went to camp with kids from my church every summer. One of the leaders knew someone that worked in a hair salon, and somehow got a hold of the head of a mannequin that they used to display different hair styles. We obviously kept the head (we named her “Headna”) and every year at camp, someone would hold her in the air while the band was starting worship. It was the best, one of the band members broke every time. I can’t take credit for coming up with that prank, but I always felt very proud to be a part of it.
Also, a few years ago me and someone else on staff started a fake email account and sent in complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org. They were all super petty and it was obvious that they were fake, but it took a long time for the rest of the staff to figure it out. Actually, this might be the moment they figure it out.