How do lay people get involved in the workings of the church? Here’s how.
Council. Church Council is the governing body of the church and consists of between 13 and 17 members, two of whom are senior high students. All members of the congregation are eligible to serve on the Council. Council members are nominated by the church’s Nominating Committee and elected by the congregation. Church Council delegates specific responsibilities to each of the church’s committees. Council has charge of all financial affairs of the church, including the responsibility for recommending an annual budget for approval by the congregation. Council meetings are open to the congregation and are held at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month. Council Moderator is Gene Armstrong (email@example.com), 708-657-4484.
Deacons. The Deacons at First United Church help to nurture a culture of caring within our church community. Deacon ministries include flower delivery, Sunday greeting and ushering, providing hospitality for memorial and funeral services, meal delivery, writing notes to others with joys and concerns, providing transportation, and visiting members unable to participate in church services and activities. Congregation members are welcome to help; see our Serving Opportunities page. Deacons Co-Chairs are Ally Vertigan (firstname.lastname@example.org), 630-270-7215, and Kregg Raducha (email@example.com), 262-995-9390.
Adult Education. Christian faith doesn’t stop growing and changing at confirmation. We will be a ministry that drives learning, deepens faith, and wrestles with the relationship between God’s word and our world so that the adults of First United can live as followers of Jesus at home, at work, and in our community. The Adult Education Committee plans and schedules a wide variety of opportunities for education and growth, ranging from lectures by experts and leading scholars to intimate discussions about life and faith. In recent years, topics have included church history, world events, explorations of other faiths, racism, gun violence, estate planning, and the future of mainline denominations. We always welcome new ideas! Committee Chair is Pauline Coffman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Building and Grounds. The Building and Grounds Committee works closely with the Church Administrator to maintain, repair, and improve the space in which we work, play, meet, and worship. We are fortunate to have capable “hands on” people on this committee who personally tackle many of the needed repair and remodeling projects. The Buildings and Grounds Chair is John Zaruba (email@example.com), 708-386-8405. The committee also has a Garden Subcommittee to tend plantings around the church. Chair of the Garden Subcommittee is Bobbie Kmiec (firstname.lastname@example.org), 708-848-7588.
Children’s Ministry. The Children’s Ministry Committee supports the church school and leaders and provides quality nursery facilities. The members of Children’s Ministry serve as “room parents” for the different Sunday school classes. Sometimes this means calling parents to have children dress appropriately for a specific activity or to bring food to make lunches for the Housing Forward PADS overnight shelter program. The committee sometimes solicits additional volunteer hands for a specific craft. Children’s Ministry also plans three appreciation events throughout the year for our church school leaders. Co-Chairs of Children’s Ministry are Julia Huff (email@example.com), 312-806-7750, and Adrianne Stemley (firstname.lastname@example.org), 773-750-4870.
Communications. The Communications Committee seeks to tell the church’s story inside and outside the church and assist other church committees in ways to do so. Our services include proofreading, text editing, photo sharing, developing strategy, and other ways to be part of our online and printed communications to the congregation, community, and beyond. Communications Chair is Sher Watts Spooner (email@example.com), 708-383-4408.
Faith in Action. Faith in Action oversees the mission efforts of the congregation, including designation of action teams for specific focus projects, administering the mission giving of the congregation, and maintaining relationships with agencies outside First United. Our goal is to be faithful advocates for the poor, empowering people rather than providing charity alone, and to open the path to long-term well-being for all through employment, housing, and education. Faith in Action also has action teams dealing with multiple specific issues. Co-chairs of Faith in Action are John Chapman-Rienstra (firstname.lastname@example.org), 708-655-8114, and Lois Thiessen-Love (email@example.com), 708-386-5709. Lois also is chair of the Waging Peace Team. Chair of the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry Team is Bob Haisman (firstname.lastname@example.org), 708-997-1993. Chair of the Middle East Planning Group is Pauline Coffman (email@example.com). Jim Babcock (firstname.lastname@example.org), 630-740-0638, is chair of the Environmental Justice Team. Lynn Barrier (email@example.com) is head of the Voter Registration Team.
Finance. The committee works with each committee to create the budget (and recommend revisions based on trends in expenses and pledges), create the stewardship program, and monitor endowment investments and draws. In addition, committee members appoint a treasurer, provide oversight of the church Financial Assistant, review financial reports, and provide updates to Council and the congregation. The Chair of the Finance Committee is Jackie Eckholm (firstname.lastname@example.org), 708-601-3644. Finance has two subcommittees:
Endowment. The Endowment Committee does not make investment decisions. Rather, it provides oversight of the professional investment managers who handle the church’s endowment funds and other financial assets through review of reports from and periodic meetings with those investment managers. The committee also makes recommendations to the Finance Committee as to the selection of the investment managers, the investment recommendations made by those managers, and the appropriate investment policy for the church. The committee also works with the church Financial Assistant on reports to inform others about the status of the church’s endowments and other financial assets. The Endowment Chair is Al Parchem (email@example.com), 708-386-8663.
Planned Giving. The Planned Giving Committee develops and implements a program to enhance existing efforts to encourage planned gifts to First United. Its mission is to help ensure the financial future of our church by securing gifts above and beyond annual pledges and special-purpose campaigns. Such gifts are usually received after a donor’s death through estate planning vehicles such as wills and/or designating the church as a beneficiary of life insurance policies, IRAs, trusts, or annuities. The committee drafts policies for the church regarding the receipt, acknowledgment, and recording of gifts; provides information to the congregation about planned giving; meets with congregation members to encourage estate gifts; and organizes events to recognize and celebrate the generosity of congregation members who have included a gift to the church in their estate plans. Co-Coordinators of Planned Giving are Gene and Ann Armstrong (firstname.lastname@example.org), 708-657-4484.
Newcomers. First United members have come from a variety of faith backgrounds or sometimes no church background at all. The goals of the Newcomers Committee are to help orient people to the church, to help the congregation learn more about these potential new members and their passions, and to begin to create a small community within the larger church body from which people can branch out and make First United their own. We offer a four-part class that covers information about church history, our denominations, First United itself, and opportunities for getting involved. Co-Chairs of the Newcomers Committee are Brian Stemley (email@example.com), 773-750-4870, and Sara Woodward (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Nominating. The Nominating Committee is elected by the congregation to compile slates of elders and deacons to be voted on by the congregation each year. The committee also helps every other church committee in finding candidates to make sure those committees have enough members. Co-Chairs of the Nominating Committee are Sue Saliny (email@example.com), 708-848-2757, and Art Spooner (firstname.lastname@example.org), 708-383-4408.
Personnel. The purpose of the Personnel Committee is to assist the Church Council’s achievement of its goals to build and sustain a healthy work environment that supports and fairly compensates all staff, enhances staff performance and contributions to the Church, and promotes professional growth and development of the staff. Contact person for the Personnel Committee is Caitlin Zinsser (email@example.com), 202-210-1609.
Stewardship. Members of the Stewardship Committee focus on annual financial giving, including but not limited to the fall pledge campaign. The act of giving transforms us in ways we cannot predict — especially when the level of giving challenges us — because it brings us into a closer relationship with God. The committee regularly writes columns for the church newsletter (the Messenger Bell), meets with prospective members, and encourages modeling giving for our children and visitors through use of the collection plate at every service. A pledge in any amount is joyfully accepted! The Chair of Stewardship is Melinda Haag (firstname.lastname@example.org), 708-366-2541.
Technology. The Technology Committee supports our church mission and values by ensuring availability of efficient and easy-to-use technologies for staff, committees, and members, enabling them to achieve their missions and First United church core values. The Technology Committee will provide advice, counsel, and leadership in the implementation and support of First United technologies. The Co-Chairs of the Technology Committee are Craig Bechtel (email@example.com), 773-679-6573, and Ted Despotes (firstname.lastname@example.org), 708-209-1377.
Worship, Music, and Arts. This committee serves at the intersection of the congregation and the staff to promote and sustain vital worship at First United. Whether discussing the highlights or missteps in recent services, considering the history and theology of the sacraments, or making sure there is someone to prepare the elements for Communion, the committee helps to ensure that our worship has integrity, coherence, and spiritual depth. Guided by the vision of the larger church, we ask whether each service provides the congregation with both a sense of comfort and a challenge to courageous discipleship. The Chair of Worship, Music, and Arts is Charlie Morris (email@example.com), 917-733-3131.
Youth Ministry Committee. The mission of our youth groups is to create an environment where youth can joyfully explore the question of who God calls them to be. The Youth Ministry Committee helps organize the youth groups FUJI (First United Junior High) and FUSH (First United Senior High). The committee works with the Youth Board, a group of senior high teens who meet monthly to plan, organize, and implement FUSH activities. Those activities include weekly meetings, two retreats, the annual FUSH work camp, and various fundraisers. The Youth Ministry Committee supports advisors and pastoral staff as they help young people develop and integrate positive core values and build intergenerational relationships to nurture faith exploration. The committee works with the Associate Pastor of Education and the Pastoral Associate for Youth and Congregational Care. Co-Chairs of the Youth Ministry Committee are Susan Pierson (firstname.lastname@example.org), 708-763-9580, and Jackie Zdziarski-West (email@example.com), 708-386-0419.