Pastor Owen Stricklin
Pastor Owen was appointed to the First UMC of DeLand in June of 1999. He is a graduate of Asbury College (1980) with a B.S. in Music Education and Asbury Theological Seminary (1989) with a Masters of Divinity. Owen has served the United Methodist Church in many areas. He served as Youth Director at Aloma United Methodist Church of Winter Park, FL and served as Music Director at Murry Hill UMC in Jacksonville, FL and Christ UMC in Lexington, KY, before being ordained in the United Methodist Church. Pastor Owen came to us from Lake Worth, FL where he served St. Luke's UMC for six years after having served in Madison County and Jacksonville in previous years. His ministry is blessed to have his wife, Barbara, serving as our Discipleship and Program Director. He and Barbara are joined by their children, Jeffrey and Mary Elizabeth. Some of Pastor Owen's hobbies include High School Marching Band competitions, ventriloquism, and watching his son and daughter perform their music. Our pastor has served our community well and was named the West Volusian of the Year in 2010.
Pastor Mark Bitner
Mark was born and raised in the great state of Minnesota, don't ya know. He attended North Central University in downtown Minneapolis, studying youth ministries. While in college Mark worked as a 6th grade pastor at Lord of Life Church for one year. After that he spent four years as a high school pastor at Horizons Community Church, interning part of the time and working on staff. Mark felt called to full-time ministry and warm weather, and in July of 2006 he moved to Leesburg, Florida to serve as a full-time Youth Pastor. Mark started here at FUMC in March of 2009 as the Director of Student Ministries. In November of 2018 Mark moved into the Assitant Pastor role. It was at North Central University that Mark met his beautiful wife Mae. They got married in July of 2005. Together they have two daughters, Isabel who was born in December of 2007, and Isla who was born in February of 2012. Mark enjoys all sorts of sports and everything that goes with them. He plays golf, football, basketball, raquetball and anything else with a ball. He is also a huge fan of his Minnesota sports teams, Florida sports teams, and a fan of the only university in Florida worth watching...The Gators.
Lucy was born and raised in Jacksonville Florida, go jags, with her parents and her 2 brothers. Lucy felt the call to go into youth ministry when she was a junior in high school. She went to college at Florida Southern College and majored in Communication and minored in Religion. While at FSC, Lucy joined Kappa Delta sorority, served on the exec board, and was the chapter chaplin. During her time at FSC, Lucy worked as the assistant youth director at First Presbyterian Church for 3.5 years. She was the youth band leader and coordinator, a small group leader, and discipled multiple girls in the youth group. Lucy was a hiking staff at a backpacking ministry called Wilderness Trail during her summers in college and has hiked about 400 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Lucy graduated college in May of 2021 and started her awesome job here as the youth director that same month. Lucy spends all of her free time hanging out with friends and loves the mountains, icecream, and the lion king.
Director of Christian Education
Barbara Stricklin was born and raised in Jacksonville, FL. She is a graduate of Florida Southern College where she majored in Christian Education. Barbara has served in ministry for more than 30 years and is blessed to be currently serving as the Director of Christian Education at First United Methodist Church in DeLand. Barbara is blessed to be in ministry with her husband Pastor Owen Stricklin. She and Owen have two adult children, Jeffrey and Mary Elizabeth. Barbara enjoys singing and spending time with her husband and family.
Traditional Worship Director
Fred was born in Lancaster, PA to parents Martin Handel and Nina Ruth Sowers Eshleman. He graduated from Solanco High School in Quarryville, PA then went on to graduate from Lebanon Valley College and received a Master's Degree in Music Education from Temple University and a Master's Degree in Administration and Supervision from Florida State University. Fred has taught music education in K-12 schools where he organized choirs, performances, and taught vocal performance. He was the Director of the Daytona Beach Choral Society from 2009-2012. Fred was previously the Minister of Music at First Presbyterian, DeLand where he served for twelve years. Fred has a passion for music, fundraising, and the development of student musicians, singers, and music programs.
Contemporary Worship Director
Amanda was born in Boston, Mass. but has lived in Florida her whole life. As a PK (preacher's kids) Amanda has lived in Tampa, Plant City, and Leesburg where she graduated from Leesburg High School. Amanda went to and graduated from THE Florida State University, GO NOLES! In college she was a member of the award winning A Capella group All Night Yahtzee for three years and a Worship Leader at the FSU Wesley foundation. During her summers in college she worked at the Warren Willis United Methodist Camp where she was a worship leader and where she met her husband Asa. Amanda and Asa married at camp in 2012 and is a proud mommy to three Kids Asher, Arlie and Noelle. Amanda has a passion for singing and worship arts and is so excited to be a part of this amazing community. Amanda enjoys spending time with all her kids, cooking, and going to DISNEY!
Donna was born in the state of New Jersey, but has lived in Florida for the past 35 years. She has a husband Ron, and son Thor who is in college. She has been a teacher at the preschool for over 15 years and has recently stepped into the director's role.
Barb was raised in Pennsylvania and has lived in Illinois, Texas, and Ohio before relocating to DeLand. She graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a degree in Psychology and has worked in hospitals and schools in a variety of roles. Barb was active in her previous churches and also volunteered as an Usher Captain for the Cincinnati Open Tennis Tournament for 25 years. Barb and her husband, Matt, have two grown sons, Jonathan and Ryan.
Phil has been a member of First Church since moving to Florida in 2004. He has over 35 years experience as an owner and manager of several drilling companies in New England. He has been a 220 Florida Insurance Agent, and in June retired as a supervisor for a residential drug and acholol treatment facility here in DeLand. He currently volunteers with our Mercy Hour ministry that services the homeless at the Bridge, and has been active here serving on several boards.