by Jonathan Trees

More than a decade separates Jonathan Trees (’90) and Laura Adkins Neumar’s (’17) Trevecca experiences. Now, the two serve a local congregation together, embodying the University’s deep belief in community and relationships.

When Steve Jobs first purchased the well-known Pixar, he needed a space for the executives, animators and computer professionals to work. Three buildings were planned and then scrapped for one single building. In that structure, between the three divisions of Pixar, was a large atrium. Most thought the beautiful vast room was a waste of space and money. But the atrium was designed to be the heart of the building. It was a place where all departments cross paths.

When Jesus wanted to impact the world, He did not operate in isolation. He created a human atrium of space and time. All the Gospels agree. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell of the calling and conversations of the disciples. Jesus expanded the Kingdom of God by being in the same space for years with His team. He mentored them along dusty roads and around tables. 

Without comparing our ministry setting with that of Jesus and His disciples, it’s important to be aware that sometimes you can work for someone without working with them. Laura and I work with each other.

There’s been a sense of collaboration of two unique worship paradigms sorting through how to effectually provide ministry for the current and future church.

What I brought to the pastoral table was almost 30 years of ministry experience and worship preparation, but that is never to overshadow nor undercut what Laura brought to the team—which was fresh eyes, a humble heart and a strong talent to continue to see the gospel transform people. This humility is essential to mentoring. A partnership requires humble receptivity at both ends. Both—three decades of experience and three years of ministry—need to be open and receptive to ideas, critique and collaboration.

Everyone has something to share and learn.

We are two graduates of Trevecca who both enjoy watching people connect with God in worship and have a low tolerance for church complacency. It has been a joy to unite our shared passion for worship into service orders each week and witness the Spirit rising in our church.

To the glory of God lives are being changed.

I stop short of calling this a mentoring setting, although that’s my calling because I think only time will truly tell. What I do know is that Laura and I share the same end goal and how we accomplish that requires two people with different perspectives who are comfortable hashing out, dialoguing and disagreeing agreeably.

Because of the paradigm distinctions from which we both come, we will not always peel an apple the same way. Yet being in the same workspace allows us both to teach and receive instruction, knowing that while we are on different sides of a decade, we still share the same purpose in ministry.

As I stand in the pew and submit to Laura’s leadership in worship each Sunday, I am receiving and celebrating God’s leadership in and through her. The creative angles and the ingenious mash-ups she creates allow a congregation of three different generations to worship together.

Trevecca is an atrium that encourages all generations to cross paths to shape and expand the Kingdom one conversation at a time. The church and its leaders should do the same.

I pray that church leadership will see both the challenge and joy that comes from the living atrium.


Jonathan Trees, Senior Pastor,
with Laura Neumar, Worship director
Grace Church of the Nazarene, Nashville