Sam Rijfkogel

Lead Pastor, Executive Leadership Team

Pastors Sam and Brenda Rijfkogel have served at Grand Rapids First since 2006. Pastor Sam’s creative communication style brings a fresh perspective to sound biblical doctrine. His own family’s conversion is a fruitful testimony of world missions outreach and is the foundation of his deep passion for missions. He and his wife, Brenda, lead by example as they serve and love our community. Their greatest joy is spending time with their family.

Tim Ryder

Executive Pastor, Church Ministries, Executive Leadership Team

Pastor Tim, Executive Pastor, oversees Church Ministry. He and Pastor Candy Ryder were married in 1977 and have three adult children and nine grandchildren. They moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1988. He joined the Grand Rapids First pastoral staff in 1995. Ephesians 4:15-16 is a ministry motivator for him. He enjoys his family immensely and as strange as it may sound, he enjoys working in the yard.

Doug Tuttle

Executive Pastor, Chief Financial Officer, Executive Leadership Team

Pastor Doug became Chief Financial Officer after attending seminary and then spending 17 years in the corporate world, many of which were in executive leadership roles. God brought these two worlds together, bringing Pastor Doug to full-time ministry in his current position with the church. He and his wife, Susan, with their three children, have attended our church since 2007. He loves spending time outdoors with his family and, in his spare time, trains, competes in and organizes triathlons.

Drew McElhenny

Executive Pastor of Worship, Tech, and Communications

Pastor Drew is the Executive Pastor of Worship and Creative Arts. Through music and worship, God has gifted him with the passion and ability to usher people of all ages into His presence. In addition, Pastor Drew’s heart is to see the body of Christ enter into a deeper relationship with God through authentic, radical worship. In his spare time, he enjoys recording and writing music, and spending time with his wife, Kristin, and their three kids.

Meredith Barnes

Assistant Pastor, Next Gen Ministries

Pastor Meredith is the Assistant Pastor of Next Gen Ministries. She grew up in Grand Rapids and graduated from Northpoint College in 2017. Prior to joining our team, Pastor Meredith served on a church staff as a worship director and spent time ministering overseas with AGWM. She is passionate to see young people grow in their faith and impact their communities for Jesus. She loves music, laughing, and spending time with family and friends.

Jonathan Espinoza

Associate Pastor, Hispanic Ministries

Pastor Jonathan is the Associate Pastor of the Hispanic Ministry.  He has been on staff since 2007 and is very involved in preaching, teaching and connecting with the Hispanic community.  He has two adorable daughters.  A favorite activity is family movie night and they enjoy the summer season very much!

Thomas Fountain

Associate Pastor, Communications

Pastor Thomas is the Associate Pastor of Communications. He grew up in the Grand Rapids area and graduated from Northpoint College. Pastor Thomas is passionate about helping share Grand Rapids First’s mission through media and marketing. He and his wife, Skyelar, are happy parents to a baby boy named Hudsen. Pastor Thomas enjoys a great cup of coffee, watching sports and movies, and camping.

Mike Fusaro

Assistant Pastor, Online Campus

Pastor Mike is the Assistant Pastor of the Online Campus. He has a great passion for using technology to reach people for Christ. His desire for Grand Rapids First’s Online Campus is that everyone can authentically engage in the service and feel the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit. Pastor Mike has been serving at Grand Rapids First since 2006. He and his wife, Laura, have three children. They enjoy family game nights, camping, and having fun outside with their dog, Holly.

John King

Associate Pastor, Groups

Pastor John is the Associate Pastor of Groups. He was born and raised in Southwest Ohio. He and his wife, Aundrea, have attended Grand Rapids First since 2015. He has a passion for getting people connected with others in the body of Christ so that they can grow closer in their relationship with Him. He and his wife are also passionate about the young married couples of Grand Rapids First and long to see marriages reach their full potential in Christ. He loves spending time with his wife and son, enjoying a good cup of coffee, watching sports, and traveling.

Jeremiah Moran

Associate Pastor, First Hope

Pastor Jeremiah is the Associate Pastor of First Hope.  He grew up in Grand Rapids and has a heart for the city.  He is passionate about reaching the inner city of Grand Rapids with the love of Jesus Christ.  He and his wife, Paula, have four children and love spending time together.

Taylor Murphy

Associate Pastor, Next Gen Ministries

Pastor Taylor is the Associate Pastor of Next Gen Ministries and joined the pastoral staff in 2020. He is originally from Minnesota and loves the snow. He has a heart to see the next generation follow Jesus passionately and find their God-given purpose at a young age. During his free time, he plays sports, enjoys hanging out with friends, and loves connecting with new people. 

Cynthia Palmer

Associate Pastor, Care Ministries

Pastor Cynthia is the Associate Pastor of CARE Ministries. She ministered in Tucson, Arizona for 12 years and has a passion for comforting and caring for people. She and her husband, Scott, have three adult daughters and five grandchildren. Pastor Cynthia enjoys playing tennis, creating artwork, and walking her dogs.

Troy Picou

Associate Pastor, Kids First

Pastor Troy is the Associate Pastor of Kids First Children’s Ministries. He and his wife, Josie, and their two kids have been a part of Grand Rapids First since 2008. Pastor Troy uses his outstanding creative skills to make the Kids First Children’s services an exciting, incredible, one-of-a-kind experience that kids eagerly want to be a part of. His favorite hobbies include sculpting, painting, photography and design.

Annisa Richard

Assistant Pastor, Kids First

Pastor Annisa is the Assistant Pastor of Kids First and joined the pastoral staff in 2018. She has a passion to see kids develop a personal relationship with Jesus and experience His love and power in their everyday life. She and her husband, Josh, love taking walks with their daughter, playing board games, and exploring new coffee shops.

Rachel Wanjiru

Assistant Pastor, Connections

Pastor Rachel is the Assistant Pastor of Connections. She is originally from Kenya but has spent most of her life in Michigan. She has been at Grand Rapids First since 2016 and is a graduate of Northpoint College. Pastor Rachel is passionate about serving people authentically and enjoys helping others find opportunities to utilize their God-given gifts and talents. She loves meeting new people and in her spare time enjoys traveling, spending time with friends, and exploring new foods.

Kerry Watts

Associate Pastor, Discipleship

Pastor Kerry is the Associate Pastor of Discipleship. He came to Grand Rapids First as a teenager and later joined the pastoral staff in 2001. He and his wife, Bernadette, have four children. In addition to serving as a pastor, he has the joy of teaching systematic theology at Northpoint College. He enjoys reading, the beach, walks with his wife, Greek food, 80s music, watching his kids play sports and Michigan football (who doesn’t?).


Eric Klein-Wassink

Associate Pastor, Community Engagement Director

Pastor Eric serves as the Community Engagement Director of GoServe. Born and raised in West Michigan, he has been with Grand Rapids First since 2010. Pastor Eric is passionate about seeing people discover, develop and walk out their purpose in life for Jesus. He and his wife, Heather, have three daughters. He loves spending time with his wife and kids, being active outside, and watching movies.

Troy Williams

Associate Pastor, HUB Operations Director

Pastor Troy serves as the HUB Operations Director of GoServe. He is passionate about serving and networking with local churches throughout Michigan and developing the next generation of servant leaders. Pastor Troy and his wife, Suellen, have three children and have been a part of Grand Rapids First since 2012. He loves being with his family and enjoys music, billiards, woodworking, and mowing his lawn.

Northpoint College

Trent Roberts


Trent Roberts began leading Northpoint College at Grand Rapids in May 2022. He has a Master of Religious Education in Missional Leadership from Rochester University. He is currently working on a Ph.D. in Applied Intercultural Studies at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. Trent is passionate about his family, the mission of God, and the local church. He is excited to begin this new chapter by helping students prepare for their callings. He and his wife, Kayla, have three children.

Brian Lidbeck

Academic Dean

Dr. Lidbeck has served as the Academic Dean of Northpoint College since 2016 and as a professor since 2013. He has a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Biblical Interpretation and Theology and a Master of Divinity degree from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. Dr. Lidbeck spends time writing theological literature. He and his wife Diane enjoy traveling and rockhounding.

Erin Colago

Campus Pastor

Erin Colago has served on staff at Northpoint College since 2018 and as a professor since 2017. She has a Master of Education from Western Governors University, a Master of Arts in Practical Theology from Northpoint College, and is credentialed with the Assemblies of God. Along with serving as Northpoint’s Campus Pastor, Erin enjoys teaching literature courses and caring for students. She loves watching her girls’ sporting events, reading, painting, surfing, and snowboarding. Erin and her husband, Mike, have three daughters.

Jamie Carter

Registrar and Finance Coordinator

Jamie has served on staff at Northpoint College since 2019. She has a Master’s degree in Practical Theology and a Bachelor’s degree in Ministry Leadership from Northpoint College and is credentialed with the Assemblies of God. Jamie served as a missionary associate in Ecuador for two years with Assemblies of God World Missions from 2017-2019. She is passionate about education and the local church and serving future ministers. She loves serving in the church, spending time with friends, playing pickleball, and Michigan summers!