“For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:9
Meet our Staff
Rev. Barry M. Foster, Ph.D., started as our Interim Pastor in January of 2019, and accepted the invitation to become our Senior Pastor in August of 2019. Pastor Barry has twenty-five years of pastoral experience and was ordained by The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. Pastor Barry and his wife, Mary, are both graduates of the University of Kansas and loyal Jayhawks. They have been married since 1977, and have four adult children (three married) and seven grandchildren.
Dr. Barry has previously served as an adjunct professor for The King’s University (Southlake, Texas), teaching undergraduate and graduate online courses in biblical studies, theology, and Christian ministry. He has also taught in church-based ministry schools, led short-term missions trips, and has given seminars and workshops for pastors, ministry leaders, and adults engaged in cross-cultural evangelism and discipleship in both national and international contexts. His doctorate (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1997) is in Theological Studies, with a concentration on exegesis and theology of the New Testament.
My Passion: I long to see the fullness of the kingdom of God realized on the earth, and Jesus rightly honored by the world for who he is and what he has done–to see evil vanquished, suffering ended, the hurting made whole, and righteousness established throughout the earth. To that end, I deeply desire to see the church come to better understand the Bible, to think rightly and deeply about its teachings, to apply its truth more faithfully to our lives, individually and corporately, to grow both in grace and in the knowledge of Christ, to experience and choose to believe the love God has for us, and thus to live as healthy, Spirit-empowered followers of Jesus Christ.
Favorite Scripture: My favorite Scripture is the one I need right now. But I often find special pleasure in remembering Romans 5:1 (“Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”) or 2 Corinthians 4:2 (“but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”). Of course, there’s also 3 John 4 which has become very precious to me as I’ve grown older (“I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”). Oh, and . . .
What do you like to do in your spare time? I love being with my family, playing board games, chess, watching sports (cheering for the Royals, Jayhawks, and Broncos) or movies, reading, playing music with friends. I enjoy traveling, skiing, camping, and just being in the mountains. And now that my athletic exploits are mostly an elusive memory of questionable accuracy, I’ve been known to engage in fantasy football.
I was born and raised in Ottawa, Kansas just about twenty minutes from Lawrence. My father is a pastor, and my grandfather was a pastor before him. I have been serving the Lord professionally and occupationally for over fifteen years now. This service includes receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Pastoral ministry, and a Master’s degree in Biblical Studies. I am also a current doctoral student at Denver Seminary hoping to complete my work in late 2023 or early 2024. In addition to learning from daily experience, I have had the opportunity to pursue numerous continuing education certifications such as a Child Development Associate, counseling certifications, hundreds of hours of counseling experience, and a certification for trauma intervention and suicide prevention.
I have worked with young adults and families in numerous areas and life situations in multiple states. In Texas I served as resident staff in an at-risk rehabilitation program where I became the legal guardian for, lived with, counseled, and taught over thirty court ordered teens at a time. While serving as pastor in Massachusetts I had worked as Christian education advisor at a Somalian refugee camp. In Colorado I had the opportunity to serve as executive pastor to minister to 360+ families in at risk, inner-city populations and was able to both attend and lead two different youth coalitions in the Colorado Springs area as well.
Above all these opportunities that God has provided I have realized time and time again that God is good, and His mercies endure forever. That has always been the case and is the case here as well as I look forward to seeing how God plans to use me here at First Christian Church.
Melinda is a disciple of Jesus, wife and mother. She was blessed to have grown up in the church and made her faith her own in high school. God has radically changed and led her life over the years in ways she never imagined. She has served in children’s and youth ministry, hospitality, worship, and small groups over the years. She has a passion for both finding new ways to serve God and helping others do the same.
Melinda is a graduate of the University of Kansas. She has owned her own business, worked in administrative and accounting positions, and performed various other jobs while traveling the world with her husband as he served in the military.
Melinda has been married to her wonderful husband, James since 2013 and they have an adorable son. They met in Lawrence and after 7 years with the Marine Corps, they moved back to Kansas. They both enjoy getting outdoors specifically, running, biking, hiking and playing frisbee golf. They love playing board games and finding time to fellowship with their friends.
Greg and Jennifer are both native Kansans, met at York College in York, NE, and were married at First Christian in 1983. They have three sons, one granddaughter, one grandson, and another grandson due in May 2020. Greg was in full-time worship ministry for 17 years in Phoenix, AZ and Sugar Land, TX before getting his RN degree and moving back to Kansas in 2016. He currently works as a nurse for LMH and in his free time enjoys disc golfing, yard work, and backyard grilling.
I was born in San Diego, California because my mom was based there while being in the military. We then moved to Kansas City about two years after I was born.
In Kansas City I attended a Catholic preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school. I enjoyed playing any and every sport you could think of, until high school, when I finally settled on basketball and soccer only. I was proud to be a part of the Peer Mentoring Society, where we assisted classmates and students in various grades who had special needs. We would attend class with them, assist them to and from class if need be, enjoy lunch hours with them, and attend field trips with them. I also was captain of Padre Pio Community. Our community systems were installed as a way to bring different grade levels together in fellowship, encourage prayer and worship in creative ways to get the youth excited, and create dependable support systems for each other. To be selected to lead a community of about 120 people was a blessing, and a great opportunity!
After high school graduation, I continued onto Metropolitan Community College and attended my first two semesters there. I lived in Kansas City the past 18 years until about two weeks ago when I moved to Lawrence. I have decided to take a break from school and see what purpose God has in store for me.
God has never failed me, and he has always been by my side. During times of prosperity, comfort, joy, and in times of despair, confusion, and stubbornness . . . he is always making a way! I am excited to see the work that God does within me during my time at First Christian Church, and excited to see in what ways I can serve and give back due to all that I have been blessed with.
Julie Hafenstine is a graduate of Washburn University (B.S. Elementary Education/Early Childhood Emphasis). She has worked in education for over 15 years. She has been married to her husband, Mark for 25 years. They have 2 grown children, Brianna and Ryan who she enjoyed staying home with throughout their childhood. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and their dog Maggie. Julie is blessed to serve as Director of The Giving Tree Preschool and finds it rewarding to share God’s love with children along with preparing them for kindergarten.
Joy began volunteering, working with children at her church in North Carolina when her boys were toddlers, and quickly fell in love with her new tiny human friends. So, after more than seventeen years of working with fully grown humans, moving from North Carolina to Lawrence, Kansas, provided an opportunity for a career change, and Joy became Ms. Joy. Ms. Joy started as a lead teacher with three and four-year olds in 2014. During the 2020-2021 school years, Ms. Joy worked at Giving Tree Preschool, supporting teachers with Covid procedures and as a substitute teacher. She is excited to join the Giving Tree Staff transitioning as a Lead Teacher. When not hanging out with her tiny human friends, Ms. Joy enjoys spending time with her husband, Andrew, their two rapidly growing boys, and a not-so-tiny rescue dog named Rosie.
Mikayla Swart started her career working with children while attending Eastern New Mexico University. She taught at preschools in New Mexico and Kansas before taking a 9 year break to raise her three children, all GT Alumni. She is joining us for her fourth year at The Giving Tree. When not at the happiest place on the planet, Ms. Mikayla enjoys spending time with her husband Greg, and their beautiful children.
Ms. Sarah first started working with children as a Children’s Ministry teacher at her church in 2016. After her daughter attended two years of preschool at The Giving Tree, Sarah started helping out as a substitute teacher. She quickly made many amazing little friends and fell in love with the joyful atmosphere. Ms. Sarah is now teaching a class of her own and looks forward to the giggles and stories the children share with her each day. Sarah graduated from Washburn University with a BBA in marketing. She and her husband Brian, their daughter, and two cats have lived in Lawrence since 2016. She enjoys traveling, reading, and exploring the great outdoors.
Ms. Cathy has spent the last 17 years working in early childhood education. She fell in love with teaching young children while volunteering many hours in her children’s preschool classes. She enjoys watching each child’s social, emotional and academic development during the preschool years. Ms. Cathy enjoys spending time with her husband Michael, grown daughter and son, and her dog and grand dog. Her son is a Giving Tree Alumnus. She is excited to be a part of The Giving Tree staff.
Ms. Amy’s experience working with young children includes over 11 years of teaching preschool and over 20 years volunteering in children’s ministry. She received a BA in Finance and Economics from the University of Illinois and stayed home with her 3 boys until they started school. She and her husband Ted have lived in Lawrence since 1999 and are now enjoying an empty nest. In her spare time, she likes to watch sports, play with her grandkids and eat anything chocolate. What Ms. Amy values most about teaching preschool is building relationships with students and their families. The Giving Tree is a special place where she is happy to educate children both academically and biblically.