The lay staff of First Church is a team united in the challenge of growing God’s kingdom on earth. Each is uniquely gifted and is especially called to fill a key position of leadership and service. Many have been with us for over a decade. Here we acknowledge them and express our gratitude for their dedication and service.

Cheryl Bauer

July 2005

As a musician with administrative gifts, Cheryl was uniquely qualified to serve as Administrative Assistant to our Sacred Arts Ministry. She was one of our initial instructors with First Academy of Music and became Director of First Academy of Music in 2011. Her background in elementary and middle school music and as a free-lance flutist gave her additional expertise in choosing programming. She also works with Wonder Years Preschool to offer music enrichment for their students.

Tom Bunt

December 2004

Tom has the amazing ability to flourish wherever he is planted. Originally hired as part-time Youth Ministry Assistant, he also worked part-time in Facilities.  Eventually Tom became a full-time member of the facilities team, serving in various roles; currently his talent is focused on special projects. Often described as a jack of all trades, to us he is simply one-of-a-kind! His work ethic and devotion to the church are only surpassed by his love for God and his family.

Jeff Faux

September 2006

Jeff had big shoes to fill when he arrived 13 years ago. However his many talents, knowledge of music and musicians, and outgoing personality struck a major chord with the staff and congregation. As Director of Sacred Arts, he has continued to build our church’s reputation for musical excellence and outreach. Jeff has the uncanny ability to lift others up when they need it most. He has a heart for God’s people and his abundant faith is no doubt the source of his unending energy and cheerful perspective.

Rita J. Flower-Opdycke

November 1998

Rita was first recognized because of her work as staff feature writer for the Tuff family of newspapers in Golden Gate. Who knew that answering an ad for a part-time church secretary would lead to a 20-year career at First Church? She has come a long way from her humble first work station—a computer for volunteers in the tiny copy room. Now with a wider skillset, Rita is currently a member of the Communications Team located at 9696 Bonita Beach Road. A gifted writer, she leads the team in creating each Epistle and various other publications.

Tommy Hillegass

January 2008

Helping with Sunday morning sound and lights as a high school volunteer on our media team, it wasn’t long until Tommy’s technical skills, leadership potential, and servant’s heart became apparent. First hired as Media Specialist, his responsibilities grew quickly as did our increased need for technical support. In 2016, Tommy was promoted to Media Manager. He has been instrumental in the success and expansion of our Media Ministry and is always available to help supervise any special projects or installations.

Hector Lopez

February 2008

Hector is an integral part of our facilities team. Native to Colombia, South America, it was a momentous occasion for him when he became an American citizen 23 years ago. Hector is a custodian who supports our ministries through event set-ups, tear-downs and cleanup. His work may be behind-the-scenes, but the work of the church could not be done without his labor of love. Hector is kindhearted and always quick to see a need and willing to offer his help.

Elsie Nesbitt

July 1997

When Pastor Paul Kirbas was Senior Pastor, Elsie came out of retirement to serve as his Administrative Assistant. During the interim, before the call to Pastor Doug Pratt, Rev. Bob Smith recognized the need for a Church Administrator, and he saw how Elsie was uniquely qualified. Elsie’s understanding of both the spiritual and practical needs of First Church has helped to build a stable staff, grow our fiscal integrity and expand our sense of stewardship. Honoring Christ is at the heart of everything she does!

Ed Schick

July 2008

When you add a former business owner with an avid reader and a committed Christian you end up with the ideal manager for our BookCenter! Ed is dedicated to the mission of sharing and inspiring faith through the written word. He is constantly aware of the newest offerings in Christian literature and chooses our product line with wisdom and care. He works with the pastors and church ministries to help support their classes and Bible studies through product availability.

Donabeth Urick

June 2004

Donabeth has served as Pastor Doug’s Executive Assistant since 1984. Led to refocus her life to be of greater service to God and His church, she has used her many God-given gifts to support Doug in his ministry of preaching, teaching and pastoring. With intelligence and a deep understanding of God’s Word, she is able to translate Doug’s message into the smooth-flowing visuals on screen during worship. Donabeth’s high standard of excellence and highly developed skillset has long-enhanced the congregation’s worship experience and contributed greatly to the effectiveness of the staff as a whole.

Grace, the church cat

April 2005

Grace was discovered living in the church garden 14 years ago. Shortly after she was invited inside, we discovered she was pregnant, and on May 29 she gave birth to four beautiful kittens—all of whom were placed in the homes of church staff or members. It made for an interesting summer around the offices with four kittens growing underfoot! Grace graciously settled into her role as greeter, therapist, entertainer and companion… and hasn’t stopped. When not sleeping or eating, she still enjoys hunting: geckos beware!

“The master was full of praise, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’” – Matthew 25:21 (NLT)