Urban Ministry Directors

Adonai Arts Academy Director, JoAnn Pitzer

JoAnn took over the Adonai Arts Academy in January 2019. Early in her life, she found her joy in music and knew she would spend her life sharing that joy with others. JoAnn is a graduate of Olivet Nazarene University with a degree in Music Education where she studied both Voice and Bassoon. Returning to her home, she began teaching Elementary Music while working on a Master’s Degree. JoAnn is not only passionate about music, but also her students. Her desire is for each one to realize they are valued and loved! Throughout her teaching career, JoAnn has worked with students from Pre-K through High School; teaching Elementary Music, Middle School Band, Middle School Choir, Show Choir, as well as directing Elementary and High School Musicals. With her school ensembles, she has participated in Local, State, and National Competitions. JoAnn Has written Educational Curriculum for the Florida Symphony Orchestra as well as K-8 music Curriculum for school accreditation. JoAnn met and married her husband, Tim Pitzer in 1989, where she has served alongside him for nearly 30 years in ministry serving in the adult choir as well as taking on the roles of Youth Choir Director and Children’s Choir Director in several different churches throughout their ministry. It is her desire to ensure that Adonai Arts Academy continues in its tradition of providing quality Christian Education through Music, Art, and Dance.

House2Home Directors, Michael Gray & Esther Swink

Michael Gray is the cargo van driving, furniture fixing, records keeping co-founder and current co-director of House2Home. Married for thirty-three years to Lisa Oliver-Gray, he also assists in the operation of her local coffee shops. Michael is also an artist who works with paint on large canvases. His works are in several Nashville collections. Recently, a series of his Nashville cityscapes was installed in the mayor’s office. In 2012, Michael received a Master of Arts in English at Western Kentucky University and in 1988 earned a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has two bachelor’s degrees with majors in Art, English, and Philosophy. He briefly attended Parsons School of Design in NYC where he studied drawing. Michael has been an adjunct faculty member of WKU teaching English and an adjunct professor of art at Trevecca Nazarene University teaching art appreciation, painting, drawing, and design. Prior to those work experiences, he spent years working as a self-employed artist and had exhibits at the Parthenon’s gallery, TNU, and area restaurants. In 2019, he exhibited in Gallery 615. Michael spent other years working in Nashville as the Chef and manager of The Mad Platter and Chef de Cuisine of the Belle Meade Brasserie. His work with food also includes eight years of once a month meal preparation for Nashville First Church of the Nazarene’s Emmaus Ministry, a hot meal for folks in East Nashville. Volunteer work is a vital part of Michael’s life. Besides the Emmaus cooking, Michael was a NFCN Sunday school class president for five years. Before attending NFCN, he served on several Nazarene Work and Witness projects to Ethiopia, Peru, Argentina, Bulgaria, Jamaica, Kenya, and Thailand. In those trips Michael got to work with some of the gems of recent Nazarene missions: Addie and Larry Garman, Mary and Friday Ganda, David Argabright, and Bruno Radi. He also led a ten-year, three-phase remodeling project at Blakemore Church of the Nazarene that helped transition a 60-year old building into a vibrant neighborhood church home. Recently he has begun writing the Oliver family newsletter for his wife’s family reunions in Cades Cove, TN Currently, it is House2Home that is Michael’s focus. He organizes the work teams, schedules the trips, buys the beds, and drives the truck to pick up and deliver gently used furniture to those transitioning out of homelessness. Since 2014, the all-volunteer House2Home team has turned empty rooms into homes at the rate of two or three times per week. House2Home began as a calling, but it has become one of Michael’s proudest accomplishments. A Hands on Nashville Award nominee, Michael has volunteered close to 4,000 hours and driven over 30,000 miles to connect generous people to those who need their help. He believes in compassionate Christianity and servant leadership

Esther received an A.B. degree in Elementary Education and English from Trevecca Nazarene University, in 1969. She then went on to pursue her master’s degree in Library Science from Peabody College for Teachers, in 1976. And received a Doctorate in Leadership from Vanderbilt University, in 1989. Esther devoted 30 years in Metro Nashville Public Schools in a variety of positions. She was a first grade teacher, school librarian, Central Office Administrator for 19 years overseeing Libraries, Technology Services, Federal Programs/Grants, Staff Development, Research & Evaluation. Esther was a co-writer with Vanderbilt for $7.2 million Schools for Thought Grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. She also was a co-writer with Nashville Public Education Foundation for $1.5 million Library Power Grant awarded by the DeWitt Wallace Foundation Esther developed and directed a master’s degree in library and information science for Trevecca Nazarene University, served as director of the University library for 2 years, directed and taught in doctoral program, and served as dean of the School of Education for 9 years Esther has been greatly involved in a variety of different non-profit leadership roles. She served as the President for Nashville Opera Guild, where she supported the artistry and education of Nashville Opera from 2017-2019. She currently serves on the Nashville Opera Guild Board as Immediate Past President and Parliamentarian and on the Advisory Board for Nashville Opera Association. Esther serves on the management team for House2Home, a nonprofit that provides furniture and basic household items to people transitioning from homelessness to housing. In this role, she organizes basic household items, other than furniture, in the warehouse. Esther has had the privilege to co-author a book entitled Navigating Leadership: Tools for Leading Effective Organization. She is also active in church choir and Sunday school class council at Nashville First Church of the Nazarene

English Language Learners Director, Audrey Blakeman

Audrey Robinson Blakeman has been an active member of the Church of the Nazarene for over 30 years. During Elementary school, she lived in Japan then moved to Maine where she spent her middle and high school years. As a young adult, she travelled in the United States and temporary settled in Albuquerque, NM where she was first introduced to the Church of the Nazarene. During a College and Careers retreat in Glorieta, New Mexico, she accepted Christ as her Savior. She has always had a heart for outreach ministry. God has placed her in bus ministry, homeless ministry, children’s ministry and now in public schools as a teacher to children for whom English is not their first language. When God calls, she willingly answers “Yes” to His call. Audrey is happily married to Steve; they have two adult children and three grandchildren.

Emmaus Director, Tish Washington

Life Counseling Director, Don Diehl

Don Diehl has a dual role at Nashville First Nazarene Church. He serves as the Executive Pastor and is also the Director of the Life Christian Counseling Center. Don has been involved in leadership training and individual coaching for over 20 years through church staff leadership and corporate training. Don holds a Masters in Christian Education and certifications as a Gallup Strengths Coach and Prepare Assessment mentor for pre-marriage and newly married couples. He is currently taking classes in the graduate Counseling program at Trevecca Nazarene University. Don has served as a lead pastor, executive pastor, discipleship pastor, and youth pastor. He also spent 4 years developing a corporate university and executive leadership training program for an assisted living management company with 51 facilities throughout the Midwest. Don’s personal strengths are in developing leadership qualities and mentoring individuals towards finding their best fit and reaching fulfillment in their personal and work lives. Don has been married to his wife, Diann since 1981 and they have two married sons: one living in the greater Nashville area and the other near Los Angeles. Don and Diann currently have 5 grandchildren and find great joy in being Papa and GiGi.

Moms University & MOPS Director, Tara Stieber

Tara Stieber is the Coordinator for East Nashville MOPS and the Director of Moms University, two ministries under The 510 Foundation. From a young age, Tara’s dream and calls were to be a wife and mother. Her dream came true when she met her husband, John, and they married in 1994. Their first child was born in January 1998. Three months later, at the end of her maternity leave, Tara met with her then-employer to introduce him to her new (3-month-old) boss, and thus began the journey of fully living out her calling. The following month, babe in arms, Tara attended her first MOPS meeting. She found it to be a life-line for her as she connected with other moms in the same stage of life. After attending MOPS for a year, Tara was asked to join the leadership team. She knew how much it had meant to feel welcomed and seen, and she embraced the opportunity to greet each mom and extend to them the same invitation: to belong, to grow, and to be known. She served as the Hospitality Coordinator for her MOPS group for 6 years, until her youngest child started school. Thankfully, the friendships built by journeying through this season of life together remained strong as the next phases of life came and went… raising and homeschooling children through elementary, middle school, and high school. In 2016, one of those friends graduated to Boss-friend when Tara became the Preschool Ministry Associate under then-Children’s Pastor, Sabrina Jones. After only a few short months of working with the preschoolers and their families, it became clear to Tara that in order to effectively minister to the preschoolers, she needed to minister to their moms. Tara shared her desire with Sabrina and 4 months later East Nashville MOPS was launched. After 2½ years and as a direct result of ideas and concerns shared by these young moms, Moms University was created as a ministry that would further reach moms in the community by providing cooking lessons and other homemaking skills. Many of the women whom Tara got to know through MOPS are key women in her life today, almost 25 years later. They serve not only as friends but as mentors and prayer partners. It is her deep desire that she can facilitate the building of similar long-lasting and life-giving relationships in a new generation of moms, while ultimately pointing each directly to Jesus. For it is in relationship with Jesus that we fully belong, continue to grow, and are truly known.

Naz Rec Director, DJ Christianson

DJ is the Naz Rec Director at Nashville First Church of the Nazarene. He grew up attending First Church and has spent many years going through the different ministries offered through NFCN. He just graduated from Northwest Nazarene University, in Nampa, Idaho, with a double major in Physical Therapy and Coaching. Growing up in the church, DJ was very involved in the youth group, attending camps and events, and loved the athletic part of everything in the church. Over the course of his high school years, Dj was able to gather kids from the surrounding neighborhoods and create a basketball opportunity on Wednesday nights where around 75 kids would gather before church to play basketball. Once DJ went to college in Idaho he was not able to be a part of the NFCN community as often. However, when he came back to Nashville, he was offered the Naz Rec Director position and accepted. DJ is so happy to be part of the NFCN and 510 Foundation community again.

Parents Night Out Director, Katherine Oliver

Katherine has been overseeing and coordinating Parent’s Night Out since September of 2018. She has also been serving as a volunteer in the Nashville First Church of the Nazarene Children’s Ministry since 2011 and now as the Children’s Ministry Assistant since 2017. Katherine loves to care for and nurture our young children as well as see our college students tend to our children in the most caring and heartfelt ways. Katherine is originally from Nashville, TN and was born and raised at Nashville First Church. She is currently a student at Trevecca Nazarene University and is studying to receive a BA in Elementary Education.

School Partnership Director, Juanita Collier

Juanita Collier was born and raised in Franklin, Tennessee. She has lived in Nashville for more than 40 years. Juanita is married to Van Collier; and has one son, Tony Morton, a daughter-in-law, Kris Morton, and 2 grandchildren, Baylee (23) and Isaiah James (17.) Juanita enjoys cooking and trying new recipes, gardening, and being with friends who talk about God. The Scriptures that have guided Juanita throughout this part of her life, have been Psalms 139 and James 1:19. She has been a Montessori preschool teacher for more than 35 years at the same school. Longevity seems to be her hobby also as she has embraced teaching for so many years and redefined her goal in life to know that God has gifted her with. Juanita sees the needs in many families she works with and often prays for them. At church, she has served in many roles such as being on the church board, teaching preschool, Vacation Bible School, serving on special committees and so much more. As the Director of School Partnership, she is willing to do the best work that she can. Juanita says she is learning as she goes in this new role.

Umoja Interim Director, Penina Bita