Annual Report

2021 Annual Report

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Letter from adam

God is good.

With so much uncertainty in our world, we need to be reminded of this truth every day.

We all know 2021 continued to be a challenging year. The pandemic’s long tail continues to affect our nation, church, and families.  And yet, God is good! As a church family, we see His blessings in the midst of challenges and transitions in so many ways. In 2021:

  • Many in our church family who are hesitant to return due to the pandemic continue to be connected through online services, ministry, and prayer. At the same time, over 300 guests have visited our church, and many of them now call First Free home.

     

  • Our church family experienced the loss of many dear saints, and the impact of significant illness on many. In it, we have grieved alongside and been the hands and feet of Jesus.  We have also rejoiced with new lives born, children dedicated to Jesus, and people trusting Christ and being baptized.
  • While we saw a dip in giving part-way through the year, your generosity resulted in a strong end to the year and a great sign of future stability. In addition, we are actively supporting 24 missionaries across the US and around the globe as they share God’s love with the lost. Our church family also raised over $100,000 to support a new church plant in Peru.

     

  • We have said goodbye to key members of our team yet welcomed multiple new staff members. We are praying for them and cheering them on as they engage, lead, and serve. 


James 1:2-3 reminds us to “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”  

Our trials have certainly led to joy, growth, and sanctification in 2021 as we studied God’s word together. We wrapped up the Colossians series in January, and studied the parables of Jesus in-depth. We introduced fresh vision and distinctive values and heard from EFCA President Kevin Kompelien. Then we completed two significant research and teaching projects: Justice and the Bible and Women in Church Leadership. The latter included the publication of a research paper explaining the position of our church through God’s leading of our Elder Board. Finally, we completed our study of 1 Timothy with Paul’s instructions for leading the church in Ephesus.

There were many other blessings in 2021 from Women’s Bible Studies to Student Ministries camps to Kid Connection growth and much more. We praise God for His faithfulness. We thank Him for providing and guiding through challenging times. And we pray expectantly for what He will do in 2022.

Please join me in praying for our nation which drifts further from godliness. Pray for our church family that we would be dedicated to each other and passionate about reaching more people for Christ. And pray for unity and love to overcome the fiery darts of the enemy that seek to divide us over so many secondary issues and preferences.

May the gospel be central to our lives and our relationships in 2022. 

In Christ,
Adam Bowers

2021 Financials

2021 TOTAL EXPENSES: $3,324,508
2021 TOTAL REVENUE: $3,326,461
  • Total revenue does not include Employee Retention Credit (ERC)
  • Total revenue exceeded expenses by $1,953
  • Total General Fund revenues exceeded expenses by $48,655
CASH ON HAND FUND BALANCES 12/31/2021
  • General: $1,101,569
    (includes $411k of Employee Retention Credit)
  • Building: $32,422
  • Outreach: $213,081
  • Benevolence/Youth Scholarships: $300,766
AmazonSmile and Schnucks eScrip

AmazonSmile and Schnucks eScrip are great ways to give to First Free through the regular purchases you already make!

Our Amazon Smile rebate total for 2021 was $870.36 to the General Fund. Our Schnucks eScrip total for 2021 was $95.10 to the Youth Scholarship Fund.

For more information on either of these programs, visit efree.org/giveback.

ministry reports

Elders

Doug Pogue

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
– Matthew 7:24-27

In the storms of life, we find God is faithful. But the storms also reveal what we have been building our lives around, and areas of soft foundation stand out. As your elder board has been working with the staff to navigate 2021, we attempted to take a good look at our foundation and address a number of areas that God was showing to us:

  • Vision and Values – We laid out a new vision statement for the church, and integrated 6 key values that will be distinctive of First Free Church. First Free Church is a growing community passionate about worshiping God, reaching the lost, growing spiritually, praying continually, deepening community, and developing leaders who continue those pursuits in every area of life. To read our distinctive values, click here.
  • The Role of Women in Church Leadership – FFC has been blessed with so many women who are devoted followers of Christ, knowledgeable in the Scriptures, and fully engaged in service to the church body here. When the question was brought forward to look at how we structure the leadership roles in our church, the board took that seriously. We devoted a year to deep study of the issue and 6 months writing the 44-page analysis on it. 3 elder boards contributed to this effort overall, as well as focus groups giving us feedback. The resulting report lays a lasting foundation for the church moving forward. As part of the effort, we were able to increase the roles of women here where we had inadvertently placed restrictions not found in the Bible and we also were able to increase the benefits to women on staff in full-time ministry roles.
  • Understanding God’s View of Social Justice – The elder board, including and especially our senior pastor, felt strongly that we needed to understand God’s view on social justice issues and to equip the congregation to speak knowledgeably on this area of current social dynamic. Adam ran with it and devoted deep study to the issue, arranged for high-quality speakers like Thaddeus Williams and Alex Bryant, and gave perhaps the best single speech on this issue that I have seen. Speaking out like this is not without risk, yet it was done so well that I think this series will serve as a foundational resource for our church for many years.
  • Managing Church Finances – By now, you have already seen the church financial report and the budget. What is not seen is that the finances got tight mid-year in 2021. The Elder Board and Deacon Board worked closely with the church staff to analyze the financial patterns, trim expenses, communicate the need to the congregation, and carefully manage the financial picture in the last half of the year. Special thanks to the Deacon Board, who went all-in on this issue to understand and parse the data and commit their time to managing well through a concerning trend. Also, a special shout-out to Heather Hicker and Kevin Krosley, who developed financial analysis tools that greatly advanced our insight and understanding of the finances and giving trends. These advanced tools will serve the church well going forward to manage our finances better than at any other time in the history of our church. Finally, thanks to all of you for giving and supporting our church! Your generosity is a blessing!
  • Reconciling Conflict and Restoring Relationship – As with most churches nationwide, this storm of the last 2 years included some conflict and disagreements in our church family. Some of these were mild, but others were deeper and more involved. There has been a reshuffling of people between churches in St. Louis, and FFC has been no exception. The elder board has engaged in a new effort to help reconcile these relationship issues and bring healing and unity where we can. A series of conversations started in December and will continue in 2022 with the help of an outside conciliation group to assist us. We hope this will be impactful and restorative and help us to move forward as a church family that loves one another more closely in 2022.
  • Laying on Hands in the Midst of Crisis – One of the great joys of the board is to come around members of our family who are hurting, ill, or in crisis and lift them up to the Lord in prayer together. We feel deeply privileged to have been able to get on our knees and pray with many of you this year. And we have seen the Lord move! There has been much to celebrate!

God is faithful in the storm. If we listen to his teaching and follow it, both individually and collectively as a church, we can build a strong foundation that holds fast when times get hard. We can’t wait to get back together and reestablish close community in 2022! We have miss the energy and the connection that happens when all of us are together and we want to foster these vital relationships this year! God has good things in store for us in 2022 and we wait expectantly for how he will ask us to grow closer to him and to each other along the way.

Your 2021 Elder Board:
Doug Pogue, Chair
Adam Bowers, Senior Pastor
Jeff Estes, Vice Chair
Bruce Eckhardt
Wil Glidewell
Bill Peskorse
Ben Thomas
Martin Truong
Todd Yeager

CAre

John Richardson, Robin Harms
  1. What’s one word that you’d use to describe the year 2021 in your ministry?

    Needed.
    Discouragement, loneliness, depression, and grief are accepted maladies in our world. Social isolation, travel restrictions, cultural unrest, political turmoil and ongoing pandemic have intensified these experiences. The result is that we provided physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual support to hundreds of people in 2021. 

  2. What were the highlights?

    The increased need has given us great opportunities to reach out and connect with people. Our staff, care volunteers, deacons, and partner service providers delivered God’s comfort and love as we are called to do.

  3. What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

    Our pre-marital mentor ministry continues to provide biblical preparation for engaged couples. These relationships carry on long after the wedding and instill values for a marriage that honors the Lord. New mentor couples were trained in 2021 as this ministry expands.
    Other care ministries include prayer for special needs, facilitating funeral services at First Free, specialized care groups, pastoral counseling, mentoring and classes to equip people to deal with challenging life situations.

communication

Kari Terwelp
  1. What’s one word that you’d use to describe the year 2021 in your ministry?

    The word of the year for the Communications department is change. I tried to think of a synonym, but sometimes thesaurus.com doesn’t have a better option. 

  2. What were the highlights?

    The biggest and best highlight of the year was launching our new website. Many hours of work went into the design, build, and launch. We’ve also increased engagement on social media (we got to do a takeover of the EFCA’s Instagram!) and we’re creating content to help answer the real questions about life and faith that people in our community have.

  3. What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

    The next phase of the website is coming soon!

connections

Shanna Shirreffs
  1. What’s one word that you’d use to describe the year 2021 in your ministry?

    One word I would use to describe the year 2021 for the Connections Ministry is progress. We have made tremendous progress in rebuilding our ministry since the pandemic, and have established a path for volunteer training and development.

  2. What were the highlights?

    We’ve added 21 new volunteers and have enjoyed connecting not only with our congregation, but also with each other in our weekly huddles and in our two Connections Community Breakfast events. We’ve contacted and followed up for 90 days with 303 visitors, with 20% of our visitors becoming members or regular attenders. We’ve upgraded our coffee and our coffee brewers, and we’ve relocated our coffee serving area to enhance traffic flow in the lobby.

  3. What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

    Hopefully getting a coffee preparation area in our current coffee bar location!

EVENTS

Barret Moore
  1. What’s one word that you’d use to describe the year 2021 in your ministry?

    Disappointing, but hopeful. Almost all of our major all-church events, concerts, etc. were either postponed or canceled altogether, so it was a difficult year for events. At the beginning of the year, we still had no idea when this would end or what it would look like for events following the pandemic. We are still not out of the woods, but I’m excited for events to hopefully return in 2022!

  2. What were the highlights?

    Highlights included the spring carnival with Kid Connection, the summer picnics when we were finally able to get back together in person, the Cookout for a Cause which provided 350 lbs of food to our ministry partner Circle of Concern, the Chosen Christmas Special, and closing out the year by bringing Cookies and Cocoa back for Christmas Eve!

  3. What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

    I’m looking forward to the possibility of hosting concerts and large outside events once again! They are always such an exciting way to bring the church together, the community together, and they give us the opportunity to meet people who may never set foot in our building otherwise.

FACILITIES

Kevin Krosley, Brandon Whitmore, Craig Martin, Jordan Whitmore, Rasema Dzafic, Anastasia Moser
  1. What’s one word that you’d use to describe the year 2021 in your ministry?

    Busy! Our team worked hard this year on lots of upgrades to our campus.

  2. What were the highlights?

    We renovated part of the Berean House to create a snack bar and washrooms out by the field, and replaced the crumbling north entry patio. We hired some great new staff members (say hi to Rasema and Anastasia when you see them!), and recruited Erik Shirreffs to lead our security team and develop and implement new security procedures and policies. We had work days with beautiful weather and lots of landscaping accomplished. We did a lot of painting in Kid Connection as well. We did all of this, plus many smaller projects, all while maintaining the building and cleaning and setting up for 3000+ scheduled meetings and events throughout the year.

    We also said goodbye to Tom Siener, who retired in December. We’ll miss you, Tom! 

  3. What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

    We are looking forward to the continued implementation of security features around the campus. We are also working with the different departments on improvement ideas and projects that will help move First Free’s vision forward.

Groups

John Richardson, Nick Parker, Robin Harms
  1. What’s one word that you’d use to describe the year 2021 in your ministry?

    Transition. There have been quite a few changes to our ministry this past yea!

  2. What were the highlights?

    After a long search, we welcomed Nick Parker to our staff as Groups Pastor. Nick brings a passion for the Lord and for helping people grow through shared group experiences. When gathering restrictions were implemented due to COVID 19, groups at First Free moved to a virtual format.

    As restrictions eased, many of our groups have once again started meeting in person, with some still providing an online option. 

  3. What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

    Even in the uncertainty of this past year, we added new groups and trained new group leaders. We also ran pilot groups for Rooted as we prepared to launch in 2022. Groups at First Free, whether men’s, women’s, small groups, Sunday morning groups, or interest groups, proved to be places of growth, care, community, and service in 2021. Through the creativity and perseverance of our leaders, we heard multiple stories of people encountering God and His family at their point of need. We hope that 2022 will allow us to provide more encouragement and training to existing leaders as well as train up new leaders. We’re also looking to increase the number of groups, including Sunday morning options, to offer a growing number of opportunities for men, women, singles, and couples to grow and serve together.

KID CONNECTION

Kelly Thomas, Libby Hotopp, Irene Brunke, Sarah Dowdy
  1. What’s one word that you’d use to describe the year 2021 in your ministry?

    We’re choosing two words: imagination and creation.

  2. What were the highlights?

    As we come out of the pandemic, Kid Connection continues to grow and change. We are having to rethink how to run the ministry and reorganize to make things happen again. It has been such a joy to have this as our “challenge” because that means we are seeing more and more faces (new and old) each and every Sunday!!

    This year we started by rolling out our new Vision and Values for KC. From there, we decided to rebrand and redesign our area. It is a slow work in progress, but it’s coming together, and we are super excited!!

    We had two amazing events this year, which was so refreshing. Spring Carnival was a beautiful day of food trucks, carnival games, and pony rides for our church family. Trunk or Treat was a huge success for our church and the community with close to 1,000 people participating.

    The energy happening in KC is a huge blessing as we see old families return and new families join in. Nursery and Preschool have been buzzing with activity, Early Elementary has added centers and an energetic worship time, Fusion is supporting a Compassion child with donations from the waffle bar each week, and most importantly, every child is learning more about Jesus through large group teaching and small group time.

  3. What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

    In 2022, we look forward to more consistency as families continue to feel more comfortable after COVID, more old and new faces joining us, continuing to update our space, and adding new and exciting events.

Ministry support

Kevin Krosley, Heather Wright, Michele Lehmann, Heather Hicker, Teri Stiles
  1. What’s one word that you’d use to describe the year 2021 in your ministry?

    If we had to describe our ministry in one word, it would be teamwork. As our name implies, our goal is to support the ministries of First Free Church through accounting, human resources, database, and other administrative support. This year offered new challenges as we moved back into in-person ministry, welcomed new staff members and said goodbye to others, and managed a budget that was unpredictable at times. But our team came together and helped each other out to make it a successful year.

  2. What were the highlights?

    The best part of the year was coming back to the office and getting to be together! But we also feel really good about how we were able to come alongside other departments and offer them a helping hand where there were gaps in staffing due to open positions. Michele Lehmann has worked with our teams to streamline processes in our database and support check-ins for Kid Connection and Student Ministries. Our receptionists, Teri Stiles and Tara Johansen, have also stepped in to take on administrative tasks from several departments.

    Another highlight for our team was learning how to use Google Data Studio to create dashboards for Accounting and Human Resources. Kevin Krosley, Heather Hicker, Michele Lehmann, and Heather Wright took an online course to learn how to use this tool, which helps us to communicate with the Elders, Finance Committee, and HR Committee about the state of our budget and staff.

    Taking care of our staff is always a priority. This year, our Spirit Team (Robin Harms, Kevin Krosley, Barret Moore, Kari Terwelp, and Heather Wright) was able to get back to planning in-person events, like a staff picnic and Christmas party, to energize our staff and build connections. We also switched to a new benefits plan that will meet the needs of our staff for less, helping us to be better stewards of your giving.

  3. What are you most looking forward to in 2022?
    We want to continue the work we started in 2021 by deepening our partnerships with other ministry departments and finding new ways to serve them. We’re also working on expanding our use of Google Data Studio so that we can continue to develop how we communicate with our leadership and congregation on important topics like engagement and finances.

Outreach

John Richardson, Rachel Biggs, Robin Harms
  1. What’s one word that you’d use to describe the year 2021 in your ministry?
    Our word is momentum. Outreach efforts regained momentum in 2021 as organizations and service opportunities began to reopen. Maintaining communication with our missionaries and partner organizations was a top priority.

  2. What were the highlights?

    We adapted to the circumstances by offering a hybrid in person and online training for our newly formed Crisis Response Team. This team will be ready to jump into action should a disaster strike our area and the team can also sponsor trips to assist disaster relief efforts around the country.

    Missions Community Lunches returned with reports from missionaries and updates on future short-term mission trips. These quarterly gatherings provide renewed energy and motivation to take the gospel across the street and around the world.

    After a year off, we had over 93 people serve the community of Ironton MO by providing a Christian children’s day camp experience.

    At the Cookout for a Cause in October, the congregation collected over 350 pounds of food for the Circle of Concern, our local food pantry. This generous gift helped to stock the shelves for needy families in our community.

    We said good-bye to Sue Jenkins who served as our Global Outreach Coordinator. Sue provided amazing care for our missionaries and helped to connect us to God’s work around the world. We welcomed Rachel Biggs to the team as our Local Outreach Coordinator. Rachel focuses on connecting the First Free family with organizations and outreach opportunities in our area.

  3. What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

    2022 is gearing up to be a great year for outreach as we relaunch our English as a Second Language program and expand our involvement in local outreach efforts. Exciting plans are also underway for crisis response trips and short-term mission trips.

Student Ministry

Steve Lancaster, Andrew Miller, Carla Rupkey, Arik Hotopp
  1. What’s one word that you’d use to describe the year 2021 in your ministry?
    The word I would use is vibrant. God is on the move in Student Ministry!

  2. What were the highlights?

    It was a joy getting to see students gather together in person throughout the year! We saw many of our students bring friends, share their faith with others, and serve both in the church and out in our community.

    Our Jr. High students spent a week doing service projects in Eureka Springs, AR, and our high school students had a blast at Camp building community and being challenged by our speaker, Giles Davis, all the way from Spain!

    We hosted our first ever Mother/Daughter Mud Run, where the ladies competed to be the first through our mile-long course filled with pits and grime. The moms were able to speak to their daughters about their identity in Christ, and read a letter to them about all the amazing things they see in their daughters.

  3. What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

    We can’t wait for new opportunities for our students to serve in Kansas City, MO and Memphis, TN! We’ll also be creating more chances for students to serve in our local community on a regular basis throughout the school year.

technical ministry

Tyler Wilhoit, Martin Becktol
  1. What’s one word that you’d use to describe the year 2021 in your ministry?
    2021 was a whirlwind of catch-up!

  2. What were the highlights?

    We made a lot of technological advancements in our Kid Connection and Student Ministry areas to allow more volunteer opportunities, but also foster growth and development in a post-quarantine state of the ministries.

    We completely revamped how we do videos at church to foster more training, better communication, and a renewed team of volunteers able to help shoot and edit content.

    We also revamped our PA systems in the Chapel and Kid Connection, worked on an outdoor/travel system, and continued to improve the auditorium PA.

  3. What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

    We’re ready to face challenges head-on with a unified team of staff and volunteers focused on sharing God’s good news through the use of technology. We’re also focused on finding creative ways to work within the budget, team bandwidth, and capacity of volunteers to make even more advances in our ministry impact.

worship

Andrew Miller, Alec Biggs, Jason Fahey, Stephen Kruse, Marlys Miller
  1. What’s one word that you’d use to describe the year 2021 in your ministry?
    2021 in one word: commitment. Our volunteers and staff displayed a faithful commitment to serve our First Free Family with excellent, God-focused music.

  2. What were the highlights?

    We hosted a unifying, team-building worship community night with our children’s ministry, student ministry, and adult volunteers where we embraced a new set of team values. Our values are passionate worship, growing community, humble excellence, and healthy communication, and our volunteers do a great job exemplifying these in the way they serve.

    We welcomed a new staff member, Alec Biggs, to our team. Alec is a gifted worship leader who serves in the auditorium and youth ministry. He also plays drums, electric guitar, and piano. Alec has been a great addition to the team, and he’s brought passion, humility, and excellence as he’s led our church in worship.

    We celebrated our growing community of volunteers with a worship family barbecue at Jason and Lisa Fahey’s house. The team enjoyed some fantastic BBQ (and some intense yard games!).

  3. What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

    We are looking forward to sharing songs that worship our amazing Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is holy, powerful, and gracious! We can’t wait to sing songs that help our church family worship him for all His glory and goodness in 2022.

    We are also looking forward to growing our worship volunteer family in children’s ministry, student ministry, and Sunday morning services! If you’d like to serve on worship team, check out our application at efree.org/worship.

BAPTISM

We baptized 18 people this year!

Thanks for a great year, First Free!

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