Gene Backes

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Pastor Gene Backes' history at St. James West UMC began in 1979 when he was hired as the church's first Youth Minister. For 14 years, Gene developed and grew a thriving youth program, which included local mission work, camping retreats, and Spring Break trips to Florida. Gene moved on to serve as Lay Leader from 1987 to 2006, and then was hired as Pastor of St. James West.

Under Pastor Gene's leadership, and with the assistance and enthusiasm of countless volunteers, Ministry and Mission has grown by leaps and bounds at St. James West! Sunday praise & worship developed into a modern format with the addition of contemporary music; a second Sunday service was added to accommodate our growing congregation; and a third service, titled "Mondays With God," was introduced to draw in a younger crowd who desired a more relaxed worship atmosphere.

Additionally, Pastor Gene has served on leadership teams and been invloved with several outreach ministries including Evansville District Walk to Emmaus, Tri-State Tres Dias, Evansville Chrysalis, and Kairos of Indiana. He has also spearheaded a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico, and a spiritual retreat to the Holy Land.

Pastor Gene is a graduate of F.J. Reitz High School and received his Master's in Education from the University of Southern Indiana (USI). He has additional graduate studies from USI, the University of Evansville, and Indiana Wesleyan University. Pastor Gene retired from teaching at Reitz in 2015 after more than 30 years, instructing students in Psychology, Sociology, and U.S. History. He has coached for both the track and wrestling teams, and continues to be involved with coaching for the Reitz Football Panthers.

Pastor Gene and his wife Susie have two grown children; Jennifer (husband David) O'Neil, and Andrew (wife Andrea) Backes; grandsons Gabriel ("Gabe") and Joshua, and granddaughters Margaret and Adalyn. Pastor Gene enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren.

Music Director

Rick Poelhuis

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Children's Ministry Director

Ashley Lancaster

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Student Ministry Director

Bart Blalock

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Director, Preschool/ Mother's Morning Out

Jennifer O'Neil

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I wanted to take a minute and introduce myself as the St. James West Preschool director.

My name is Jennifer O’Neil and I have been a member at St. James West my entire life. I was born and raised on the Westside of Evansville.  All 3 of my children have attended Mother’s Morning Out and Preschool at St. James over the past 9 years. My husband David, myself, and our 3 kids-Gabe, Margaret, and Josh, live on the Westside and attend St. James West church. I have a background in elementary education and also hold a real estate license and an insurance license. My husband owns and operates an insurance brokerage in Mt. Vernon and has been in the military for more than 15 years. We enjoy spending time together outside and attending Reitz football games. Please know that I have an open communication policy and welcome your feedback as well as any questions or concerns you might have.

My goal is to create the most welcoming, engaging learning environment possible while allowing children to grow in all aspects of their lives. We will be Christ-centered and every portion of our teaching will include the values found in the Holy Bible.

There are going to be some changes to the program for those of you who have attended in previous school years so please join me in being excited for the future.

Office Manager

Beth Nelson

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Worship Support Personnel

Sid Nelson, Ron Hall, Jr.

Jeremy Hoesli, Coordinator

Tech Team

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Coordinates scheduling of audio and video ministry for worship services.

St. James West Custodians

Kathy & Gary Cummings

  September 2020  
This Week's Events


ONLINE Worship Service
9:00 AM
View online worship & praise via website, or Facebook page (search "St. James West UMC")
Worship Service
10:30 AM to 11:30 AM
Modern praise & worship in a traditional atmosphere.
Lifeguard Children's Ministry
10:30 AM to 11:30 AM
After opening praise & worship plus a special children's message in the Sanctuary, children ages Preschool through 5th grade will dismiss to their classrooms for fun & fellowship!
Students break off into two groups on the 2nd floor:
Ages Preschool & Kindergarten (preschool classroom)
Ages 1st grade through 5th grade (Lifeguard Ministry area).
Journey With God Sunday Class
10:30 AM to 11:30 AM
During the Sunday morning services, students in 6th-8th grade are invited to head downstairs to Fellowship Hall for an hour of Bible study and worship.
CFC Reserved
6:00 PM to 9:00 PM


8:00 AM to 12:00 PM
AA meeting (CFC)
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Mondays With God Worship Service
7:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Lifeguard Ministry classes (Preschool through 5th grade) begin 6:45pm.
Bible study in Sanctuary 7-8pm.


Men's Ministry (CFC)
5:30 AM to 6:30 AM
Meets every Tuesday morning in the CFC.
This is a Bible study/accountability group and is open to all men.
CFC Reserved (Thunderbolts Bball)
5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Thunderbolts Basketball


Pickleball (CFC)
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Student Ministry (6th-12th grade)
6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
Meets in the Student Lounge, 2nd floor CFC. Light meal and Bible study. All are welcome!


CFC Reserved (Thunderbolts Bball)
5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Thunderbolts Basketball


8:00 AM to 12:00 PM
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