Melissa Rau (melissa.rau@ministryarchitects.com)

Melissa is a church nerd. She grew up in the church and has served in children’s and youth ministries in a number of denominations since 1997. She has served as a paid staff person and/or volunteer in small and large churches in Philadelphia, New York City, and Connecticut. She’s even married to an Episcopal priest and is a lead consultant for Ministry Architects, an organization who specializes in youth, children’s, young adult, and whole-church strategic planning.

Melissa enjoys speaking at retreats and workshops for clergy, church leaders, volunteers, parents, and youth. She has authored curricula and numerous articles with a ministry focus, and is a guest blogger for a number of online blog sites. She’s currently working on her first book project.

Melissa and her husband, Mike, live with their two daughters and a son: Talie, Kiersten, and Peyton—all who are double digits old! She loves to read and is particularly fond of giraffes and the color orange.


Patti Gibbons (pattigibbons727@gmail.com)

Im a passionate pursuer of Jesus Christ, a wife of 30 years, the mom of two incredible young adults.  Im interested in people, what they do, and why.  Ive spent a good chunk of my adult life as a youth minister in a number of settings, but Ive done some other interesting work also.

To earn my keep, I write, speak, coach and teach related to youth ministry. I spend my time communicating with youth, writing curriculum for youth ministry, and coaching youth ministers to help them be more effective and healthy in ministry. I do some work in the Internet world helping to resource and network youth workers, and have helped to develop and manage online communities for youth workers and women in youth ministry. I am a part of a church plant in Albany, NY, where I live with my husband and a good number of dust bunnies.

My goal in life is to make myself a resource in any way I can to see teenagers and their families know Christ and make Him known.


Rev. Emily Heitzman (pastoremilyh@gmail.com)

Emily is an ordained Presbyterian (USA) pastor serving as the shared Pastor with Youth and Households at three ELCA congregations in the neighborhood of Edgewater in Chicago: Unity Lutheran, Ebenezer Lutheran, and Immanuel Lutheran.  She runs a collaborative, multicultural youth group that consists of youth from the three congregations as well as youth from the neighborhood. Emily loves hiking in the mountains, attending indie and bluegrass concerts, biking along Lake Michigan, and singing opera and musical theatre. She has a heart for youth, justice, and the Huskers, and can often been seen with coffee or a Guinness. Emily is one of the writers for The Pastoral Is Political feature on HTTPS://REVGALBLOGPALS.ORG. You can find more of her reflections, sermons, and youth ministry ideas on her blog at HTTP://MUSINGSFROMABRICOLAGE.WORDPRESS.COM and connect with her on twitter at @PASTOREMILYH.


Karen Cassidy (stmichaelcas@gmail.com)

Karen is a mother of three amazing adult children. She is a ministerial intern for the Salvation Army, and will (hopefully) be attending their Seminary in August.  She is currently living in Ishpeming, Mi.  She is passionate about people and believes every person has a story just waiting to be told.


Christina Hite (christinahite@imagodeichurch.org)

Christina is the Community Outreach Director at Imago Dei Church in Peoria, Illinois. She and her husband, Dustin, are in the final stages of adopting their two precious daughters. Christina is passionate about foster care and those on the margins of society, aiming to show hospitality to all and creating a home and life that reflect those values. You can connect with Christina on FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM or follow her BLOG.


bio picChris Schaffner (cschaffner@fringeconversations.com)

Chris is a certified counselor and a veteran youth workers and is the founder of Conversations on the Fringe. CotF an organization seeking creative and innovative ways to bridge the gap between the mental health community and those entities (particularly schools and churches) that serve youth in contemporary society. He’s been working with hurting children, teens, and adults for over 20 years.

Chris is a sought-after conference speaker and writer. He blogs at conversationsonthefringe.com and is a contributor to other youth-oriented blogs/websites. Chris is published in journals/magazines and writes curriculum aimed at helping hurting youth and adults.

Chris is afraid of snakes and the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz but feels right at home in the dark spaces the hurting dwell in. Through CotF, he hopes to equip others so they can also navigate those dark spaces to rescue the vulnerable among us.

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