smith, khalif

Rev. Khalif Smith
Senior Pastor

Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata has appointed The Rev. Khalif Akil Smith, Sr. as senior pastor of FUMC Mesa, starting July 1, 2019.

Khalif was born on March 8th in New York, New York to Diane Jackson and Jim Smith. He was raised in New York City from birth until age 18 as the child of a United Methodist pastor, where he served numerous positions in the Church from acolyte to Sunday school teacher. As a young adult he worked at United Methodist Church camps as a counselor, served community youth as a mentor, served as a youth delegate at New York Annual Conference and worked with homeless shelters and senior living facilities throughout the New York metropolitan area. He moved to Georgia in 1991 to pursue a college education.

Khalif attended DeVry University where he completed an undergraduate degree, Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Telecommunications Management. He returned to DeVry University to complete another undergraduate B.S. in Information Technology, and went on to complete a M.I.T (Master of Information Technology) degree at American Intercontinental University.

Khalif decided to answer God’s calling on his life in 2006 after serving Grayson United Methodist Church as a Sunday school teacher for adults and Senior High youth. He is a graduate of Candler School of Theology at Emory University having completed a Master of Divinity degree in May of 2011.

Khalif has served as the lead pastor of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, as Associate Pastor of Dacula United Methodist Church, and as senior pastor of Clarkston United Methodist Church, in the North GA Conference. He has served as the senior pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Las Vegas, Nevada for the last 5 years. Khalif has a strong sense of purpose and passion for spreading the Gospel, as well as a deep
dedication to God, family and community. He is excited to serve at First Mesa and looks forward to meeting our congregation and continuing God’s work here.

Khalif’s family consists of his wife Nikki and his children Cassie, Khalif II, Asti, and Zoë, who are all very supportive and active in his ministry.




Gavin Rittenhouse

Music Director

A local graduate of Marcos De Niza High School, Gavin Rittenhouse grew up in Tempe, AZ. He is a Sun Devil fan at heart yet he went to higher ground to attend Northern Arizona University. He holds Bachelor’s degrees in Music Education and Vocal Performance, and also a Master’s in Secondary Education. This is his seventeenth year of teaching. He teaches choir and general music at Carson Junior High school, as well as private voice.






Nicholle Hansen

Youth Director & Children’s Ministry Coordinator

Nicholle is a lifelong member of First Church. She has been blessed by many wonderful leaders over the years who have invested their time and love to help shape and develop her faith. Nicholle feels fortunate to be able to pass on that gift to the next generation of children and youth at First Church.

Nicholle started serving in youth ministry the summer of 2003 as the youth summer intern. She found that youth ministry was her calling and started volunteering after her internship. In 2005 Nicholle accepted the position of Youth Director and served until the fall of 2010. Nicholle then shifted focus for a year to serve as the Director of Children’s Ministry. In 2011 Nicholle moved to Lake Havasu City where she lived for 4 years. In 2015 shortly after moving back to Mesa, the position for Youth Director was again offered to Nicholle and she has been serving in that position since that time. In the fall of 2017 Children’s Director was added to her position.

Nicholle loves having the opportunity to develop a strong foundation of faith with the children and then continue with the youth on their spiritual walk as they wrestle with questions, own their faith and deepen their relationship with God.

Nicholle met her husband Colby at First Church while attending youth group. They were married in 2007 and were blessed with two children, Noah born in 2009 and Emmalyn born in 2015.


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