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 Team and elected by the congregation. Church Council delegates specific responsibilities to each of the church’s teams. 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. During the COVID-19 pandemic, meetings are being held via Zoom. Council Moderator is Sallie Smylie and Clerk is Carl Nauert.
Nominating. The Nominating Team is elected by the congregation to compile slates of elders and deacons to be voted on by the congregation each year. The team also helps all of the other church teams in finding candidates to make sure those teams have enough members to complete their work. The Chair of the Nominating Team is Art Spooner.
In May 2020, Church Council accepted a proposal from the Task Force on Committees to reorganize the working groups of the church into coordinated teams that will work together in a new ministry structure. The purpose is to enhance communication and collaboration, break down silos, and more efficiently plan and achieve projects and tasks. The ministries and their teams are broken down as follows:
Communications. The Communications Team 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. Vickie Engelhardt is chair of Communications.
Deacons. The mission of the Deacons at First United Church is to accompany all people on their journey of life and faith, in their joys and in their woundedness. It is their mission to nurture the spiritual life of this community by creating a culture of care. Deacons will do so as disciples, by striving to spread the radical love, healing, and wholeness of God through work and actions. Congregation members are welcome to help; see our Congregational Care and Serving Opportunities pages. Deacons Chair is Kregg Raducha.
Newcomers. First United members have come from a variety of faith backgrounds or sometimes no church background at all. The goals of the Newcomers Team 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 Team are Teri Omert and Sara Woodward.
Fellowship. The Fellowship Team is a new group to do just what its name says — promote fellowship throughout the church. It will coordinate and support existing programs that bring together church members of various age groups and with diverse interests, plan intergenerational fellowship opportunities for all church members, and serve as hosts for receptions after memorial services, as well as develop a budget for fellowship events. Co-chairs of the Fellowship Team are Janet Haisman and Priscilla Sibley.
Worship and Education Ministries
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 Team offers diverse and provocative classes, workshops, small groups, and presentations that are attuned to the issues facing our community and the world. Our classes and events push members and friends of First United to engage with one another, stretch our expectations, and model our lives after the life of Christ. Adult Education Chair is Kathryn Heavey.
Children’s Ministry. The Children’s Ministry Team 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 team 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. Chair of Children’s Ministry is Julie Nauert.
Worship, Music, and Arts. This team 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 team 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.
Youth Ministry. 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 Team helps organize the youth groups FUJI (First United Junior High) and FUSH (First United Senior High). The team 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 Team 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 team works with the Associate Pastor of Education and the Pastoral Associate for Youth and Congregational Care. Co-Chairs of the Youth Ministry Team are Julia Huff and Barb Kopka.
Organizational Support Ministries
Building and Grounds. The Building and Grounds Team 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 team who personally tackle many of the needed repair and remodeling projects. The Buildings and Grounds Chair is John Zaruba. The team also has a Garden Subcommittee to tend plantings around the church.
Personnel. The purpose of the Personnel Team 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. The Chair of the Personnel team is Chris Damon.
Technology. The Technology Team 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 Team will provide advice, counsel, and leadership in the implementation and support of First United technologies. The Co-Chairs of the Technology Team are Craig Bechtel and Ted Despotes.
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. Co-chairs of Faith in Action are Marilyn Giles and Lois Thiessen Love.
Faith in Action also has action teams dealing with multiple specific issues. Lois Thiessen-Love also is chair of the Waging Peace Team. Chair of the Beyond Hunger Team is Bob Haisman. Chair of the Middle East Planning Group is Pauline Coffman. Jim Babcock is chair of the Environmental Justice Team. Lynn Barrier is head of the Voter Registration Team. Ann Armstrong heads the Housing Justice Team. Susan Buchanan is head of a team focused on Latin America and immigration.
First United Nursery School Board. The church’s nursery school is now officially a part of the church. The school offers a literacy-rich, play-based curriculum that supports children’s curiosity, creativity, initiative and confidence.
Resource Development Ministries
Finance. The team works with each other team 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, team members appoint a treasurer, provide oversight of the church Financial Assistant, review financial reports, and provide updates to Council and the congregation. Chair of the Finance Team is Bob Giles. Finance has a working subcommittee:
Planned Giving. The Planned Giving Team 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.
Stewardship. Members of the Stewardship Team 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 team 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!
A church member who wants to reach any of the team chairs or church officers can do so by going to the Memberlink page on the website and signing in with an ID and password. The Memberlink sign-in page also has instructions about downloading the Church Life app to a cell phone to access information on a mobile device.