John Mitchem


As a single-person family (with no living family members) my life has a different meaning.  Thankfully, I have deep and wide friendships from Hastings, MN, Twin Cities, Albert Lea, MN, Texas, and Colorado, where I served as a youth pastor for eight years.  Recently, I became the parent of two cats named Gin and Tonic (the congregation named my cats) after my dog passed away a couple of years ago.  I enjoy traveling and spending time with my friends, which is deeply rewarding to me and important for my mental health.

Course Of Study, 2019, St. Paul School of Theology; 2012-2019

Appointment History & Ministry History:
Worthington First /Adrian UMC  August 1, 2024
Albert Lea United Methodist Church  Faith UMC 2015-2024
Sleepy Eye Hastings UMC2013-2015
Associate Pastor Hastings UMC2011-2013
Director of Operations, Communications and Outreach     2008-2011
Hastings UMC, Director of Student Ministry  2005-2008
Parker UMC, (Colorado) Director of Student Ministry 1999-2005
Calvary UMC (Colorado) Director of Student Ministry 1995-1999

Continuing Education and Training:
Church of the Resurrection Leadership Training (Almost every year)
National Church Business Administration - St Thomas
SMART Preaching Conference 2023
Various training for Police Chaplains, Shmita Service and Community Involvement: Albert Lea Ministerial Association President for three years
Freeborn Opioid Crisis Committee
Freeborn Emergency Response Committee
Emergency Management Shelter Manager
Albert Lea Police Chaplain
Freeborn County Chaplain,
Minnesota State Patrol Chaplain
Mentor to new Clergy
Every six weeks on call the hospital chaplain

Conference Involvement:  
Reach Renew Chair for Southern Prairie (2013)
Human Resource Committee (2011-2014)
Finance and  Administration (2014-2016)
Chair of Finance and Administration (20162023)
Bishop’s Fiscal Team ( 2019-2022)
Disaffiliation Task Force (2019-2023)
Office Member of Finance Administration (2023-2024)
Co-Chair of the Zero-Based Budget working group.

Call to Ministry:  I believe that I’m called to serve in the ministry, but I’ve always struggled with knowing what God wants me to do.  It all started when I became a youth volunteer, which was the best job in the world for me.  As I sought to do more, I eventually became a paid youth director.  However, I continued to ask myself how I could do even more, and the answer I arrived at was to become a pastor.  Every United Methodist church I have attended, from a small rural church as a child to the churches I have served, has encouraged my call to do all the good I can for the kingdom of God.

Passion for Ministry:  Preaching is my passion.  My best gifts for ministry include problem-solving, administration, staff coaching, and community involvement. Vision of the Church:  My passion is that in every community, a vital United Methodist Church is serving as a Missional outpost to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to those who do not yet know him.  I believe that the United Methodist Church can serve every community with our focus on Social Justice and the Good News of Jesus Christ’s grace that is offered to everybody.   As a church, we should do everything we can for the next person to know Jesus. Gifts for the Ministry:  I have a heart for people in crisis; and I’m able to show compassion while helping people see their issues in a different light and guide them.  The Holy Spirit has blessed me with various gifts and skills that have enhanced my ministry over the years.  I have a  talent for preaching, team building, conflict resolution, and mentorship/ counseling toward becoming the person that God created them to be. Leadership Style:  I work to build an agreement when moving ahead.  I work hard so that those on the committee feel heard and understand the results of any decisions.  I believe in a laity-run church. I strongly believe in Consensus building so everybody can agree with the direction as we advance.  I am slightly allergic to a local church's Robert Rules of Order.  I like to give new ideas about what the church can be for the kingdom of God.

Spiritual Disciplines and Study:  Daily morning and evening devotions from “The Methodist Book of Daily Prayer” , Daily morning devotions with the Upper Room Daily devotional, a digital guide for scripture and reflection, Accountability partners, Men’s small group What I Do for Relaxation and Fun:  Love to eat out, love to cook at home, being with friends, watching sports.

Contact Information:
Email:  jdmitchem@me.com
Cell Phone: 303-885-7883
Facebook www.facebook.com/jdmitchem 

Gretchen O'Donnell

family life coordinator

Gretchen O'Donnell is our family life coordinator!  Gretchen has lived in the Midwest since 1994, and Worthington since 1997, when she came as a newlywed and fresh-from-Bethel-Seminary graduate.  Her undergrad degree is in English, from the University of Oregon.  Go Ducks!

Gretchen’s husband, Colin, is Vice President of Engineering at Bedford Industries. They have three children, Ian, Katie and Lucy, the only one still at home.

Gretchen is a freelance writer, a prolific reader, a novice baker of bread and a crafter. As a transplant from the Pacific Northwest, she misses the mountains and the ocean here on the prairie, but has learned to find beauty in the fields and lakes of Minnesota.

Lori Nienkerk


Lori is a lifelong resident of the Worthington area, attending schools in Bigelow, Worthington, and the Junior College.  She is also a lifelong member of First Lutheran Church.  Lori and Craig were married in 1973, have two children, and seven grandchildren.  Craig passed away in 2019.  She comes to First Church with office experience of 30 plus years.  Lori enjoys playing golf, cards, and spending time with her grandchildren.

Lisa Gerdes

middle school youth leader

Lisa's passion is working with young people in the development of their faith.  Lisa has been workiing with the middle school youth for five years now and we are so blessed to have her leadership in this area.

Jolene Kuhl


Jolene loves to play the organ in church.  she has been the primary organist at First Church for many years and enjoys her craft immensely.

Jeanette Jenson

choir director

Jeanette brings a love for music and the joy of teaching together as she leads our chancel choir.  A music educator in the local school district, Jeanette is a joy to have as our choir director, sharing her passion and love for the Lord in her music.

Brenda DeSmith

Bell choir director - CHOIR ACCOMPANIST

Brenda has a huge love and long legacy for music in the Worthington area.  She also brings her mutli-talented passion for playing, singing, and bell ringing to share with our church and community.  We are blessed to have Brenda as a part of our musical expression of faith.