Board of Directors
Our board of directors is comprised of leaders in academic, ecclesial, and parachurch settings. They are passionate about children's spirituality and consider it a privilege to serve the CSS.
Holly Catterton Allen, PhD, President, serves as Professor of Family Studies and Christian Ministries at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee where she holds a joint appointment in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Bible and Ministry. She teaches undergraduate courses such as Early Childhood Development and Family Ministry. Dr. Allen’s Ph.D. is from Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, CA. Her areas of scholarly interest are children's spirituality and intergenerational issues. Her most recent book (with Christine Ross) is Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community, and Worship (InterVarsity Press, 2012). Her first book, Nurturing Children’s Spirituality: Christian Perspectives and Best Practices (Cascade), an edited volume, was released in 2008. She has published articles in Christian Education Journal, Lutheran Education, Lifelong Faith, Christian Scholar’s Review, and Christianity Today, along with chapters in several books. She is currently working on a book for InterVarsity Press on children’s spiritual formation.
Benjamin D. Espinoza, MA, Vice President, is a PhD student and research assistant in the Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education (HALE) program at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, Michigan. Ben is also pursuing a certificate in Chicano & Latino Studies. He previously served as pastor at Covenant Church in Bowling Green, Ohio, and national recruiter at Asbury Theological Seminary. Ben has received a number of awards during his career, and is a fellow with the Center for Pastor Theologians (CPT). He is interested in children's and youth ministry, social justice in Christian institutions, leadership, and diversity work in the church. Ben has contributed several articles to publications such as Christian Education Journal, The Journal of Family and Community Ministries, The Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology, The Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, The Asbury Journal, and YouthWorker Journal, in addition to several contributions in edited volumes and encyclopedic works, and multiple book reviews. His wife, Hannah, is pursuing a doctorate in rhetoric, writing, and American cultures at MSU.
Robert J. Keeley, PhD, Treasurer, serves as Professor of Education at Calvin College, Director of Distance Learning at Calvin Theological Seminary (both located in Grand Rapids, MI) and a collaborating partner with the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. He received his B.A. from Calvin College, his M.A. from the University of Colorado and his Ph. D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Denver. He and his wife, Laura, also direct children ministries at their church, 14th St Christian Reformed Church in Holland, MI. He is also a musician and often leads worship with his guitar. He has written a number of articles, chapters and books including Helping Our Children Grow in Faith (Baker, 2008), Celebrating the Milestones of Faith (with Laura Keeley, Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2009) and an edited volume, Shaped by God (Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2010.)
James Riley Estep, PhD, Secretary, serves as Professor of Christian Education at Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln, Illinois. He teaches in the seminary and the undergraduate school, both on-site and online. His primary focus in Christian education and church leadership. He is also the Director of LCU’s Leadership Institute, a nonformal education division devoted to resourcing and responding to the needs of congregations. Dr. Estep received a D.Min. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and his Ph.D. is from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Dr. Estep’s scholarly contribution’s include co-authoring/contributing and editing Mapping Your Church’s Curriculum, (Broadman-Holman, 2012), Best Practices in Online Christian Education (IAP, 2012), Christian Formation: An Integrated Approach (editor, Broadman-Holman, 2010), A Theology for Christian Education (editor, Broadman-Holman, 2008), Management Essentials for Christian Ministries (editor, Broadman-Holman, 2005) and C.E.: The Heritage of Christian Education (College Press, 2003). He has also published articles in Biblical Higher Education Journal, Christian Standard, Encounter, Restoration Quarterly, Leaven, Christian Education Journal, Religious Education, Lexington Theological Quarterly, Journal of Christian Education and Information Technology (Korea), The Near East Archaeological Bulletin, and Stone-Campbell Journal on Christian education and related subjects. He also ministers with e2:effective elders (www.e2elders.org), a parachurch organization dedicated to equipping and resourcing church leaders, through which he has also contributed to six additional books.
Kathie Amidei, EdD, serves as Pastoral Associate at St. Anthony on the Lake Parish in Wisconsin. She was formerly the Associate Director for Catechesis and Child Ministry for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She has served in a number of parishes as a teacher and a director of religious education. She holds a BS in Education, a MA in Theology and a Doctorate in Education and Leadership. Kathie is a national speaker and writer for Our Sunday Visitor Curriculum Division. She is the co-author of, The Journey: A Guide for Persons, Partners and Parents, and Learning Together: Forming Faith in Families, An Intergenerational Resource and a contributing author to Generations Together: Caring, Praying, Learning, Celebrating and Serving Faithfully. Kathie offers presentations and workshops in parishes, districts and dioceses for catechists and catechetical leaders. Kathie is a wife, mom and grandmother. She lives in Nashotah, WI, with her husband, Jim. Her life’s work has been in catechetical ministry. She enjoys being with her family, learning how people learn, and encouraging and growth in faith. Her passion is to help families engage in their journey of faith in meaningful and practical ways and to infuse parish catechetical ministry with effective and relevant approaches and programming.
Robin Floch, MA, creates curriculum for Worship With Children, directs the Children's Ministries at Restoration Anglican Church in Richardson, TX, and is studying for her doctor of ministry at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in the Leadership and Spiritual Formation program. Her seminary studies are focused on equipping pastoral and lay leaders for meaningful intergenerational spiritual formation. Robin graduated from Wheaton College with her BA in Christian Education and MA in Christian Formation and Ministry with an emphasis in Biblical and Theological Studies. She lives with 3 fantastic housemates near her extended family in Dallas, TX, and has a keen interest in making church a spiritual family for all generations.
Kirsten Hitchcock, MA, is the Awana and Child Grief Support ministry director at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL. She received her B.A. from Greenville College and a M.A. in Christian Formation and Ministry with an emphasis on family and children ministries from Wheaton Graduate School. During her masters work, she focused on researching the effects of divorce on the spirituality of children and its ontological effect on them. In her ministry experience at Willow, she has led different children ministry initiatives including divorce care for kids, grief support, and now Awana. Since beginning Willow’s chapter of Awana in January 2014, she noticed the need for children to have a safe place to ask questions of what they were reading in the Bible and to have a way to understand more fully the meaning of what they were memorizing. She has adapted the program to fit the needs and the culture of her community by championing the values of community, scripture understanding, and choice. Her husband, Jason, is pursuing a doctorate in theology from Marquette University. They live in the suburbs of Chicago with their infant daughter.
Mimi Larson, PhD, is Visiting Assistant Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College. She received her B.A. from Wheaton College, a M.A. in Educational Ministries from Wheaton Graduate School, a M.A.T.S. from Covenant Theological Seminary, and Ph.D. from Concordia University-Chicago. Her research specialty is in the area of young children’s faith formation, and she has written and presented on various topics including “Engaging, Expressive and Experience-Based Prayer Models for Children” (in Exploring and Engaging Children’s Spirituality: A Holistic Approach, Wipf and Stock, 2014), “Nurturing the Infant Soul: The Importance of Community and Memories in the Spiritual Formation of Young Children” (Christian Education Journal, 2014), and prenatal and early childhood faith formation. Having served in practical church ministry for over 25 years, Mimi is a resource in the field of children’s ministry, mentoring graduate students and developing curriculum for Big Idea/Veggie Tales, Faith Alive Christian Resources, and the 50-Day Spiritual Adventure. She also teaches or has taught courses on ministry at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Judson University, and Covenant Theological Seminary.
Shirley K. Morgenthaler, PhD, serves as distinguished Professor of Education at Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Illinois where the triennial Society for Children's Spirituality: Christian Perspectives conferences have been held since 2003. Her publications include Right From the Start: A Parent's Guide to the Young Child's Faith Development, Children and Worship: Lessons from Research, and Exploring the Spiritual Formation of Children: Foundational Issues. She served as president of the Chicago Association for the Education of Young Children and the Illinois Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators.
Trevecca Okholm, MA is adjunct professor in Practical Theology at Azusa Pacific University with an emphasis in family ministry and teaching in the church. She is a Certified Christian Educator in the Presbyterian Church/USA and has been a professional Christian educator and minister to children and families for over twenty-five years. She currently serves the church as a family ministry consultant, a speaker for parent groups and women’s retreats, and unofficial trainer/facilitator for Godly Play/Children and Worship. Her publications include: Kingdom Family: Re-Envisioning God’s Plan for Marriage and Family (Cascade, 2012); various articles addressing ministry with children and families, including a chapter titled "Re-Forming a Kingdom Worldview: Exploring Spirituality with families through the Christian Church Year" in the recently published book, Exploring and Engaging Children’s Spirituality: A Holistic Approach (Cascade, 2014); and most recently, several articles in the Encyclopedia of Christian Education (RLPublishers, 2015). On a personal note, Trevecca has been married for over 40 years to her best friend and partner in ministry, Dennis Okholm. They have two adult children, one amazing son-in-law, and two delightful granddaughters.
Dana Kennamer Pemberton, Ph.D. serves as chair of the Department of Teacher Education at Abilene Christian University where she teaches courses early childhood education and children's ministry. She has presented at numerous regional, national, and international conferences on topics related to children’s spiritual development and nurture. Dr. Pemberton's publications include Along the Way: Conversations about Children & Faith co-edited with Dr. Ron Bruner. Other publications include Let All the Children Come to Me: A Practical Guide Including Children with Disabilities Is Your Church's Ministry, I Will Change Your Name: Messages from the Father to a Heart Broken by Divorce, and Beautiful in God’s Eyes: Building Character, Wisdom, and Faith in Young Women. In addition, Dr. Pemberton has contributed to several edited books, including Exploring and Engaging Spirituality for Today’s Children (2014) and Nurturing Children’s Spirituality: Christian Perspectives and Best Practices (2008). Despite her busy life as an administrator and academic, on Sunday mornings you can find Dr. Pemberton with the kindergarten and first grade children who know her simply as "Teacher Dana."
John Roberto is President of LifelongFaith Associates and works as a consultant to churches and national organizations, teaches courses and conducts workshops in faith formation, and has authored books and program manuals in faith formation. He is also the Project Coordinator of the “Certificate in Faith Formation for the 21st Century” – a two-year online ministry education program, sponsored by Vibrant Faith (www.VibrantFaith.org). His latest publications include Families at the Center of Faith Formation(editor and co-author, 2016), Seasons of Adult Faith Formation (editor and co-author, 2015), Reimagining Faith Formation for the 21st Century (2015), Generations Together (co-authored, 2014), Faith Formation 2020 (2010), and Becoming a Church of Lifelong Learners (2006). He was the creator and project coordinator of the Generations of Faith Project – a five-year Lilly Endowment funded project from 2001-2006 – to develop intergenerational faith formation in Catholic parishes across the United States.
Karen F. Williams, DMin, is a writer, an editor, and an author with a diversified career in journalism, book publishing, and Sunday school curriculum. She recently served as the Children’s Editor for the Sunday School Publishing Board in Nashville, Tennessee. Karen has written Sunday school curriculum, devotionals, plays, and is the author of Lights, Drama, Worship! (a collection of dramatic presentations for the church). She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English/Journalism from North Carolina A&T State University, a Master of Arts Degree in Communication (Creative Writing concentration) from CBN (Regent) University, a Master of Theological Studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and a Doctor of Ministry (Arts and Theology) from Wesley Theological Seminary. She has also received several book publishing certificates from the Graham School of General Studies, The University of Chicago.