Living To Serve Him

Each member of our staff is genuinely dedicated to your spiritual journey. Our emphasis is always on the hope we have in Christ, and on sharing the good news of the gospel in our everyday lives. Our staff includes people of all backgrounds who are connected to our community of believers at Cross and they all us to grow in faith together.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Meet Our Church Staff

Senior Pastor

Erik Gauss

-Graduated in 1999 from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor with a B.S. degree in Biology

-Married his awesome bride Alicia (Stuber) in 2000

-Received his Master of Divinity, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in 2003

-Has three daughters; Isabel born, in 2003; Amelia, born in 2005 and Olivia born in 2007

-Served 3 years as Associate Pastor – St. John in Darien, IL – where he initiated and oversaw small group ministries

-Joined Cross staff in September 2006

“In Jesus, We do not have a high priest (or God/Savior) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but rather, we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are yet was without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

Pastor of Discipleship

Matt Conrad

-Graduated from University of Michigan in 2000 with a B.A. degree in Anthropology.

-Married Danelle in 2003, right before their vicarage at Peace Lutheran Church in Arvada, CO.

-Attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, and graduated with Masters of Divinity in 2005.

-Served 3.5 years as Associate Pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Gretna, NE.  Was in charge of discipleship and assimilation.

-In 2009 serve as Sole Pastor to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Skokie, IL.

-Joined Cross Staff in July 2015 as Pastor of Human Care and Missions.  Transitioned to a new role as Pastor of Discipleship in the summer of 2023.

-Have three great children : Nathan (born 2007), Myanna (born 2010) and Isaiah (born 2013).

-Loves arcade games and pinball, cooking (especially using his Chinese wok), LEGO and Star Wars!

“He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”  (John 1:20)  Let Jesus do the work that Jesus promises to do.  We, like John the Baptizer, simply point others to Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  May our words and actions direct others to know their Savior and find true life in Him.”

Director of Worship

Nathan Fisher

-Graduated from University of Illinois, at Springfield, with a B.A. in Liberal Studies

-Married to wife Jessi in 1999, and father to Elijah, Caleb, and Ephraim

-Worked as a Financial Consultant from 2001-2009

-Served as a Worship Leader for Sanctuary 1010 (a second site ministry of Immanuel Lutheran, Downers Grove) from 2003-2009

-Served as Music Director for Sanctuary Manhattan, a mission plant congregation in Manhattan, IL from 2009-2012

-Joined Cross staff as Director of Worship in 2012

-Interests include: fishing, camping, and sports

“…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.| Ephesians 5:18b-21

Director of Outreach and Assimilation

Bill Ziech

-Graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a B.A. in Psychology

-Graduated from Wheaton College with a M.A. in Clinical Psychology & a Certificate in Advanced Biblical Studies

-Completed required certification program in Senior High & Junior High Ministry through Group Publishing

-Certified Youth Ministry Consultant

-Trained National Speaker

-Has almost 30 years of experience in Youth Ministry

-Married Marianne in 1986 & they have 3 children; Jacob, Eric and Kaila

-Bill has a passion to run in races from 5K’s and beyond!!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Nursery Director

Cathy Schmeckpeper

-Graduated from Concordia University, River Forest, IL in 1997 with a B.A. in Early Childhood Education

-Taught second grade in Chicago Heights, IL and preschool in Naperville, IL

-Joined Cross staff in 2015

-Married to Ryan, mother to three boys (Jack, Logan and Maxwell)

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Caring Hands Thrift Store Manager 

Kathy Braden

-Caring Hands Thrift Shop Manager

-Member of Cross’ North Campus Team

-Over 25 years experience as office manager, front end manager, cashier and interior designer

-Graduate of Joliet Junior College with Associates Degree in Interior Design

-Stephen Minister

-Member of Kendall & Grundy Department of Community Action Board

-Member of Cross Lutheran Church Worker Scholarship Committee

-Member of Cross Lutheran since 1978

-Joined Cross staff in July 2006

-Married 30+ years to Dave and proud grandmother of 3

-Always ready to travel to see our children in California or New Orleans

“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, |Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,| but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead.| James 2: 15-17 

Financial Assistant and Treasurer 

Pam Hahn

-Graduated from Delta University, MI in 1985 with an Associates in Business

-Graduated from Concordia University, MI in 1988 with a Bachelors in Secondary Education

-Member of Cross Lutheran since 1990

-Married to Jeff, and mother to Micah, Josiah & Rebekah

-Volunteer of Cross for over 20 years – in past areas of Hot Lunch program and as basketball coach

-Currently is leading Confirmation class & coaching volleyball

-Joined Cross staff in the fall of 2007, as Financial Assistant

-Hobbies are Prayer Shawl Ministry to help comfort the sick and hurting, gardening, softball & bowling

“Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us our generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.| 2 Corinthians 10:10, 11 

HR/Payroll Assistant

Karin Kabat

-Over 40 years of experience in various human resources functions at two Fortune 500 companies. Retired from full time employment in December, 2013.

-Member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council of Rush Copley Hospital.

-Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois.

-Married to Tom Kabat for 45+ years; mother of two daughters, Nancy and Julie; and grandmother to Riley, Reid and Kaylie.

-Member of St. Patrick s Catholic Church, Yorkville, Illinois.

Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

Communications Director

Craig Mattes

-Craig lives in Plainfield. His wife’s name is Amy and 16 year old son’s name is Will.

-Craig is a rostered DCO, Director of Christian Outreach, with the LCMS having served churches in the Northern Illinois District for the last 17 plus years, and before that he received a Bachelor’s in Marketing from Valparaiso University.

-Craig feels really blessed in seeing how God has taken both his marketing and outreach training for the purposes of sharing the love of Jesus to the world especially in this area of communications.

Parish Nurse

Jan Kinsel

-Graduated from Aurora College with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing 1984.

-Married to Eugene in 1984.

-We have three grown daughters, Amy, Molly, and Rachel and two sons-in-law, Matthew (Rachel), and Eric (Molly).

-Received Parish Nurse Certification from Concordia Mequon, WI in 2013.

-Received Certification in Director of Church Ministries from Concordia Mequon, WI in 2017.

-Have been a Cross disciple since 2001.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Director of Operations

Jim Smiley

– 30 Year resident in the United City of Yorkville 

-Married to Diane M. Smiley – 35 years 

-Father to Alyssa 

-Facilities Management experience past 40 years, primarily in various management positions Former Safety & ADA Director

-Retired April 2022

-Joined Cross staff as Director of Operations June 2022 Volunteer at Cross Lutheran on the Facilities team for the past several years

-Interests include classic cars, car restorations, golfing & live music

-Bachelors in science Technical Management June 2006, Summa Cum Laude

-Certification in Heating & Air Conditioning

-Stationary Engineers License

“And David commanded to gather together the strangers that were in the land of Israel; and he set masons to hew wrought stones to build the house of God” 1 Chronicles 22:2 

Administrative Assistant

Becca Pape

– Graduated from Anderson University in 2017 with a Bachelor’s in Piano Performance and a minor in Music Composition

– Graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 with a Master’s in Music Composition

– Experience in piano accompaniment for traditional and contemporary services, solos, and various ensembles

– Family: Russ and Lisa Pape (parents, Ben, Chris, and Tim (brothers), Beau, Storm and Pula (pets AKA “the children”)

– Hobbies include reading, playing board and card games, and mediocre video gaming

– Able to bond with others over multiple nerdy fandoms such as Star Wars, Avatar the Last Airbender, Legend of Zelda, Marvel, etc.

– Passionate about using music to create meaningful connections in the community through inspirational compositions, heartfelt worship, and dedicated service

– “I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, The Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip. He who watches over you will not slumber” Psalm 121:1-3


Lindsey Kellogg

– My name is Lindsey Kellogg. My husband Matt and I have 5 daughters and run our family farm. I love cooking, baking, and anything that has to do with the outdoors and sports. Most of my life I have lived in the Chicago area but I loved every minute I lived in the South.

– My life verse is Isaiah 43:18-19 – “Remember you not the former things, don’t consider the things of old. Behold! I will do a new thing; now it springs forth, shall you not know it? I will make a way in the wilderness and a river in the desert.”

– “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 16:9 ESV

Youth Ministry Coordinator

Jessica Dvorak

– Graduated from Emporia State University with a B.S.E. degree in English with a minor in Creative Writing

– Graduated from Concordia Nebraska with DCE degree

– Married to Chris spring of 2012

– Was a public high school language arts, Health, and ESOL teacher before earning DCE degree

– My first Call as a DCE was to Concordia in Cedar Rapids, IA where I did cradle to grave ministry

– Joined Cross August of 2023

– We have one very active son, Noah (born in 2017) and 4 babies who live with Jesus

– Love to camp (where there’s no bears), garden, hike, and play board games. And I’m a Green Bay Packers fan.

– For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Coordinator of Children’s Ministry

Caley Thanepohn

– My name is Caley Thanepohn and I am currently serving as our Children’s Ministry Coordinator. I graduated from NIU in 2011 with my Bachelor’s in Psychology and 2013 with a Master’s degree. I have been attending Cross regularly since 2012.

– I have been married to my husband Ben for 12 years! We have three children; Jacob (4th grade), Sam (1st grade), and Kenzie (Preschool).

– My hobbies include hanging out with my crazy kids, running, and date nights with Ben.

– I am excited to be serving at Cross and helping kids learn about the love of Jesus!

– Psalm 23:1-3-“ The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”