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Christian rocker now local youth pastor

Photo by Joel Hall
Andy Williams, the new student pastor at Glad Tidings Church in Jonesboro, plays some beats in the church's sanctuary on Monday. Former drummer for the band "Casting Crowns," Williams now performs regularly with his wife in a band called "Soul Sister Sally."

Photo by Joel Hall Andy Williams, the new student pastor at Glad Tidings Church in Jonesboro, plays some beats in the church's sanctuary on Monday. Former drummer for the band "Casting Crowns," Williams now performs regularly with his wife in a band called "Soul Sister Sally."

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Before drummer Andy Williams ever decided to become a student pastor at Glad Tidings Church in Jonesboro, he already had reached out to thousands of children around the world through his music.

For six years, Williams served as one of the founding members of "Casting Crowns," a Christian contemporary band, that has been honored by officials with the Grammy, American Music, and Dove awards.

As drummer for the McDonough-based ensemble, Williams, 38, spent years touring on the road, traveling throughout the U.S. and Canada, Africa, Singapore, Australia, Europe, and the United Kingdom.

"The band got signed in 2003. I played with them until 2009," Williams said. "It's pretty much the same [as being a rock star], without the sex, drugs, and alcohol. You're constantly on the road, there are days without hotel rooms. You go days without sleep, days without showers ... it just depends on what's going on."

Several years before Williams toured, the Lithonia native found his way to Stockbridge Assembly of God, where he worked with the young people of the church. In 2005, a few years after marrying his wife, Kelly, Williams moved down Ga. Highway 138, in Jonesboro, to Glad Tidings Church. He offered his talents when he wasn't on tour with the band.

In January of this year, an opportunity presented itself at Glad Tidings Church when the church's former student pastor left to take a position elsewhere. In May, with his touring days behind him, Williams accepted the position as the church's new student pastor.

"Being away from your family is the most challenging part [f being on the road]," Williams said of his decision to settle down.

At first glance, Williams does not resemble the typical student pastor. He has a bald head, facial piercings, and sports several tattoos, featuring Christian imagery.

Larry Hammock, senior pastor at Glad Tidings Church, said Williams' outgoing personality and experience with young people made him the perfect choice for the position. "He's been a big part of our church for several years, and has always been willing to serve in whatever capacity we needed him," Rev. Hammock said. "Even though he had never been a youth pastor before, I knew his character and ability. Because of what he has done, traveling with Casting Crowns ... he has been involved in ministering to youth. If you observe him, he really connects to them. It has a lot to do with that big gregarious attitude he has. He's not a wallflower."

Williams, and his wife, Kelly, now star in their own band, Soul Sister Sally, which focuses on funk, blues, jazz, and fusion -- all with Christian messages. In addition to helping lead the church's music ministry, the two spend their time teaching the young people of the church humility, how to have a personal relationship with God, and how to be comfortable in their own skin.

Kelly Williams, who assists her husband at the church, said Andy's humor and humility allow him to connect with young people. "He doesn't act like a big rock star," she said. "He has a way of speaking to kids that not too many other people have. He's youthful, he's funny, he's sometimes weird, but he makes people laugh. One of the best things, bar none ... he does not let it weigh him down. He stays consistent. I think that is going to be what gets to the children."

Andy Williams said he wants to work with young people, so they can minister to other young people. In July, he said, he plans to organize once a month outreach activities in the greater community. Among the greatest lessons he said he believes he can impart to youths is to accept people, no matter where they are on their spiritual walk.

"Be prepared to love people where they are," he said. "Sin is what it is, but am I not going to turn away somebody because they are gay, or have tattoos, or they have an alcohol problem? No, you invite them to church, because that is what Jesus did."

Soul Sister Sally, Williams' band, will perform a concert at Glad Tidings Church, located at 2560 Highway 138 East in Jonesboro, on Wednesday, at 7 p.m. For more information, call (770) 478-7814.