Annual Meeting

2024 Annual Congregational Meeting

The 2024 Annual Meeting has been scheduled for Sunday, February 4th, at 12:15 pm in the auditorium.

This meeting is where we vote on the budget, approve new members of church leadership, welcome new members of the church, and more.

We will be offering an online option at for those members who cannot attend in-person, though we encourage in-person attendance if possible. 

Please remember that while anyone who attends First Free is welcome at the meeting, only members may vote.

To request childcare, please click here


leadership candidates


David Ren

From David:

My first encounter with the gospel was in college, around 1996. I attended a catholic university in New York and was required to complete 15 credit hours of theology studies; however, it remained as head knowledge only. In September 2005, influenced by my wife and mother-in-law and encouraged by friends, I attended an outreach event at a local Chinese church in Rockland, New York.

Right afterward, God touched my life in miraculous ways through a series of healings (yes, they do still exist today) of chronic conditions I had. These healings led me to believe in Jesus Christ, and I received baptism around Thanksgiving the same year. We moved to St. Louis in the fall of 2006 and attended St. Louis Chinese Christian Church, and then we joined the First Free church family around April 2015.

I’ve been married to my wife Lianli since 1998 – we met in college in NY. God blessed us with two children – Dawson is a college senior, and Angie is a high school senior.

Over the last nine years at First Free, I’ve served in the Connections ministry as a greeter, in the high school Summit ministry as a food coordinator, was part of the outreach advisory team, and also have been one of the co-workers in the Chinese fellowship with a focus on reaching out to the local Chinese community. I’ve also been leading a home-based Bible study small group for the past five years, reaching out to families in the Parkway area.

Joseph Zhang

From Joseph:

God has done some amazing work in my life. Here I will give you a very short version of it. I was born and raised in China. I studied hard like every other student, had good grades, and went to good schools, but my life didn’t have meaning. I searched everywhere but couldn’t find it. As a result, my life was filled with emptiness, loneliness, and oftentimes despair. In 2003, after graduating college, through a series of no-small miracles, I came to STL to attend Wash U graduate school.

That same year, I attended a Christian retreat in Kansas City around Christmas break and was saved on Christmas Eve. God started to work in my heart soon after that to give me peace, joy, and purpose in life. I was baptized the following Easter. Looking back, I can see God’s work throughout the entire process and He is still working in my life.

I have been married to my wife Lily for over 18 years. We are blessed with 3 children: Abigail, Joseph, and Joshua. Abby is a freshman at Marquette High School. Both Joseph and Joshua are in Crestview Middle School. They are all part of our Junior High and Senior High ministries.

We have been coming to First Free for over five years. I have served in the Connections ministry and also in student ministry as a Sunday school teacher. Together with another family, we host a Bible study group at our homes on Sunday afternoons.


Steve Thompson

From Steve:

I feel called to become more involved in the church. Now that I’m recently retired, it seems like the right time. I feel called to serve others. Being an engineer, my knowledge and expertise would probably be in Facilities.

My spiritual gifts are exhortation, serving, and leadership.

I have been involved in many ways over the years. I ran the A/V for Men’s Ministry (Men’s Fraternity) for about 7 years, and I was on the leadership team for Freedom small church (ran the A/V and led assimilation) for about 2 years. I’ve made coffee before church and was a Jr. High leader for one year. We have served in Kid Connection (Passport to Adventure) for a couple of summers.

At a previous church, I served as an Elder for 3 years and headed the Buildings and Grounds Commission.

My biggest passion is for Men’s ministry, and I have met weekly with a Men’s small group for the past 20 years. We rotate leading the study.

Nominating Committee Member

Jan Grove

Jan has been attending First Free since the late 1990s. Over the years, she has served on the deacon board for 6 years and as an adult leader in Senior High ministries. She continues to serve as the class coordinator for Faithbuilders Adult community and in the Connections ministry.

She is married to Todd. They enjoy traveling around the country visiting their three grown children and five grandchildren. She is always open to being used by the Lord in new ways.


Sarah is married to Tim, and they have three boys – Cliff (6), Hunter (3), and Grant (7 months). The Carlsons have attended First Free for the past six years. Sarah attends the Truth Love Community (TLC) morning group and serves in the children’s ministry as her children grow from nursery to elementary. First Free has been a blessing to Sarah’s family, and she is grateful to be able to serve in this capacity. Sarah works in leadership at a bank and enjoys taking her kids on fun educational outings.


Aaron Thorne has been attending First Free Church for over 18 years, and has been a member for over 15 years.  He has been involved in a number of different ministries over that time; including the single adult ministry, Connections, senior adult care, and Sunday morning adult classes.  He currently volunteers at First Free as the Assistant Coordinator for the Connections ministry, and as one of the discussion leaders for FaithBuilders. Aaron grew up attending various flavors of Baptist churches, where he accepted Christ as his savior and was baptized during his Elementary school years.

Aaron currently lives in Manchester, and splits his free time between attending St. Louis CITY SC matches and playing board games.

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