The Heart of a Worshiper: Skramstad Passes Conductor’s Baton
By David Vogel
After more than fifty-seven years of ministry, Pastor George Skramstad is passing the conductor’s baton to the next generation. February 26, 2023, was his final Sunday on the church platform. Known as much for his ability to create a moving worship experience as he is for his signature mustache, Pastor George has spent a lifetime leading Church of God congregations into the throne room of God through the gift of music.
Of these fifty-seven years, Pastor George and his wife Pat—whom he sweetly calls his “first soprano”; always his partner in ministry and always singing in his choirs—spent the last thirty-seven split between Central Community Church (Wichita, Kansas) starting in 1986, and Crossings Community Church (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) in 1993, then returning to Central Community in 2013.
“Pastor George is the best of the best,” Central Community senior pastor Bob Beckler said. “In the many years I’ve worked with Pastor George, I’ve never once worried about our Sunday morning worship. You don’t find men like him very often.”
Pastor George’s nearly six decades of worship leadership began on a small family farm in Moscow, Idaho. Pastor George said that even at the age of ten, he felt God leading him into worship ministry.
“The pastor’s wife at our little Moscow church started a children’s church,” Pastor George recalled. “After the songs were over, the children were dismissed downstairs, where we had our own service.”
There was a children’s choir, and the children even read Scripture and did the speaking. Already musically inclined, Pastor George said he played the piano for these services.
“I understood that worship was for any age,” Pastor George said. “I even invited the neighbor kids over to play church on the front porch of our country home. I suppose that’s where the interest came, and I began to understand the importance of being actively involved in church.”
A Worshiper’s Heart
It’s difficult to articulate what it is that makes a worship service under Pastor George’s leadership special. Perhaps the simplest way to explain it is this: the Holy Spirit is fully present.
“My sabbath begins Saturday evening. I begin praying for the service, praying for myself,” he explained. “I pray that I am mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared to be authentic in my worship. I have to be integrated from the inside out. If I don’t prepare spiritually, then I feel like it’s all on me. I have to get my head beyond myself and into the spiritual realm.”
Pastor George’s humility for his craft is evident; he does not claim ownership of the worship services he leads.
“There is no magic. God brings the magic,” Pastor George said. “He is the One who puts the icing on the cake. My leading is simply to invite others to join, to see Jesus, and be part of the community.”
This community is not just a gathering of people in a room, but also joining a heritage of believers from over the centuries.
“Our services, I sense, need to be made up of all genres and styles of music—both the contemporary and the traditional,” Pastor George said. “The elements of our worship are part of the fabric of hundreds of years of worship syntax.”
A Worshiper’s Heritage
For Pastor George, coming into his own as a musician and worship leader in the Church of God was a path paved by giants. He recalled attending the Anderson camp meetings, and the impact they had on him.
“You had people like the Gaithers, Sandi Patty, the Christian Brothers Quartet, Doug Oldham,” Pastor George said. “I watched, I experienced, and I worshiped.”
Then came his opportunity to lead music in the Warner Auditorium.
“Anyone who wanted to worship came,” Pastor George said. “We had a mass choir, and there were probably 5,000 people singing in the room at a time. It brought out a sense of glory for me; I began to sense this is a little bit like the heavens. We are all here to worship.”
The musical heritage of the Church of God is made of hymns that have found a special place in Pastor George’s heart. These include “There is Joy in the Lord” (Barney E. Warren), “Consecration” (Mildred E. Howard, Andrew L. Byers), and “What a Mighty God We Serve” (Clara M. Brooks, Warren).
“That one, to me, is up there with ‘Holy, Holy, Holy,’” Pastor George said. “It speaks to seeing the magnificence of God and his work in our daily lives.”
A Worshiper’s Legacy
For Pastor George, stepping off the Sunday morning platform is simply stepping into the next season of ministry. Pastor George remains on staff at Central Community, where he will use his gifts to minister in different ways. He also senses new opportunities on the horizon, including inspiration to write a book about worship.
“God has given me a new passion,” Pastor George said. “It’s my time to allow others to lead, and I will follow as best I can. That’s a good feeling.”
And yet, those who have had the privilege to worship under Pastor George’s leadership will continue to be led by his enduring example of love, passion, and excellence.
“Pastor George taught us how to worship,” Crossings Community senior pastor Marty Grubbs said. “He raised the bar for quality while also increasing the vitality of our individual worship.”
Pastor Marty added, “Pastor George is not just a worship pastor. When someone was sick or hurting or in the hospital, he was one of the first to quickly embrace, encourage, and walk with people through their difficult times.”
The legacy of Pastor George will no doubt join the ranks of the Church of God preachers and leaders he admires. Among them: Bob Beckler, Maurice Berquist, Don Collins, Al Conner, Joe Cookston, David Grubbs, Marty Grubbs, Marvin Hartman, Jim Lyon, James Earl Massey, Cleo Myricks, Robert Reardon, Ben Reid, Ray Cotton, David Sebastian, Horace Sheppard, Bill and Gloria Gaither, and Sandi Patty.
“There have been so many wonderful leaders,” Pastor George said. “The impact these people had on our Movement is phenomenal.”
As for Pastor George, his prayer is simply that he is faithful to his Savior through it all. Asked about what he hoped his legacy might be, Pastor George deflected. Instead, he pointed toward something that—for those who have witnessed him on a Sunday morning would recognize—is the very essence of his spirit:
“If we are known for anything,” Pastor George said, “let us be known as people who love Jesus and love others.”
David Vogel serves as communication pastor for Central Community Church in Wichita, Kansas.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) photo: Pastor George Skramstad (credit: Troy Manzi).