Interview with Kristi Northup – CMN Women

album release 1.jpg

Hey, all! Rebecca Burtram here. I'm talking today with Kristi Northup, the new director of CMN Women, and I'm excited to spend some time getting to know her and her heart for ministering to women in church planting.

In 2011, Kristi and her family moved to their beloved city of New Orleans to start Saints Community Church. She serves as the worship leader and associate pastor alongside her husband, Wayne, who is the lead pastor. She was bivocational as a barista, banker, and insurance rep before coming on staff full-time in 2015. She is licensed in insurance and investments, and loves using that knowledge to serve the church.

Kristi graduated from North Central University (Minneapolis, MN) in 2000 with a B.A. in Urban Studies and Music. Ordained in 2007, she has a passion for women in ministry and for seeing people saved. Serving as the field representative for CMN Women is a great combination of this work. She is also a columnist for Influence Magazine.

Kristi is a mom to three kids: Libby, Lincoln, and Levi. She is religious about coffee and close friends.

Now, let's get started!


Kristi, how long have you been involved in church planting?

When I was in high school, my family moved to Chile to be part of a church plant to professional soccer players. That put something in my heart for reaching unbelievers. My husband and I always knew we wanted to plant an urban church that was diverse in age, economics, race, and style. We've led an outreach to Mardi Gras since college (Answering The Cries), so we knew there was no place that needed that kind of a church more than New Orleans! In October, we will celebrate seven years since the launch of Saints Community Church.

What is your worst church planting memory?

Our first Easter was a big disappointment. We had put so much into it, but we didn't realize people go where they have tradition with their families on Easter! But every Easter since then has been our greatest Sunday of the year.

What is your best church planting memory?

Watching Wayne baptize our neighbors and their entire family is my best memory. There's nothing more fulfilling than seeing people who are your friends have a revelation of Christ and watching their lives transformed in front of your very eyes.

What is your vision for CMN Women in the next year or two?

First, I plan to create a broader place for all the different types of women who are part of planting. I've been very pleased to see the community of women that is emerging through the Facebook group. I want to blend the line between women who see themselves as pastors’ wives and those who see themselves as ministers. Many of us are both, and there's something to be said for each role. But, more than anything, we need a place where we can come together and I'm excited to broaden the roof and bring an additional group of dynamic women under it.

Second, I desire to bring a greater understanding to the vital and versatile role that women play in church plants. We wear so many hats – and the role is not always cut and dried. Sometimes, women don't see themselves as ministers. I'm a big proponent of encouraging women to get their credentials. If they're doing the work of the ministry, I want them to recognize that in themselves and feel empowered to pursue their calling.

Third, I will resource women in a variety of roles. Some resources will be job specific; others will be women specific. What brings us together is not just that we're women; it's also the valuable work of the ministry. This can come through the blog, articles, the Facebook group, discussion groups, personal encouragement, book recommendations, training sessions, and a host of other ways. This is where I need feedback. It will take some time to put in place, but I'm excited to see it take shape.

What woman in church planting has helped you to keep your sanity?

Without a doubt, it’s my sister Elizabeth Farina. It's one thing to be family, but it’s another thing to be friends. When you share the same calling and the same work, it's a special bond. She has planted a church twice with her husband, Tory.  We talk almost everyday. She's my chief strategist, encourager, and comic relief. She keeps me on track.

I also have a few friends that were on staff together at The Oaks Fellowship, and then we all planted around the same time. Having a sense that I'm not alone in the things I face has really helped me keep my perspective.

What woman in church planting has inspired you?

Honestly, I would say my grandma, Betty Jane Grams, has inspired me most. She and my grandpa tied for valedictorian of their college class at North Central Bible Institute (now North Central University). They went to the mission field at the age of 24 to the isolated, indigenous country of Bolivia. They planted a church and started a Bible school in the midst of constant revolution and sickness.

Their families told them they were throwing their lives away, but they stayed. My grandma taught in the Bible school and taught music. Now, there are over 1,200 churches that have come from that original plant. The year after we moved to New Orleans, my grandpa wrote a book that told their whole story. While I was working at Starbucks so my family had insurance, I would read it on my breaks. There were so many things they went through that I identified with. It helped me hold on to the dream for the future and see beyond my present circumstances.

CMN Women fill a variety of roles. How has your ministry role shifted over the years?

When we were in the pre-launch phase, I did all the administrative set up and all the purchasing of our portable gear. After we launched, there wasn't as much work, but we were broke! So I was bivocational for four years – first Starbucks, later banking and insurance. It gave me tools I didn't know I would need and contacts in the community. In January 2015, I came back on staff. Technically, my title is associate pastor.

Even in three years the responsibilities have changed. My job has always been to meet the need - of the church, and of my family. In my opinion, a church plant needs flexible utility players, not specialists. That's what I've tried to be. Also, I've always led worship, and that has been a lot of fun in a music town like New Orleans.

I think the important thing is to know yourself. Know your giftings and your limitations. We don't have to be everything; we just have to be who God created us to be. The sky's the limit in church planting. There's lots of room for mistakes. You also have to be honest with yourself about what your family needs. I absolutely love work, but I had a baby this year. It's been a good opportunity for me to relinquish some jobs I didn't think anyone else could do.

How do your own experiences help you relate to the broad range of women connected to CMN?

Sometimes I've wondered why I've been in so many roles. Now that God has opened this door with CMN Women, I can see that He was allowing me experiences that would help me relate to women in many different roles and stages of life.

Women in ministry have always been a passion of mine. I think we draw too many lines of distinction, but that doesn't mean there doesn't need to be definition. Definition helps set us free to understand our purpose. But, at the end of the day, I have as much in common with a mom of small children as I do with an ordained pastor. I can't wait to meet more women and hear their stories.

We're going to create this together.


rebecca burtram 2.jpg

Rebecca Burtram and her husband, Jonathan, planted Redemption Church Charlottesville on Easter of 2016. Rebecca is the author of Our Broken Hallelujahs and blogs about grace and imperfection at rebeccaburtram.com. She is passionate about helping others know that they are not alone in their struggles or their triumphs. If you have a church planting story to share with other CMN women, contact her at rebecca@redemptioncc.com