COVID-19: Church Planters Successfully Use Their Missions to Respond Creatively During This Season


Chad Clarkson, Executive Director of Houston Church Planting Network, encourages congregations to stay true to their mission during COVID-19 and reminds us that prayer is one of the most important things to do in this season.

"Let's encourage people to just really get alone with God. Get on their faces, get in their closet, whether it be a literal closet where some people are officing right now or a figurative closet. But take advantage. . .build that intimacy with God as you spend time with Him. So we didn't want that to go to waste."

Mentioned Resources:

Houston Church Planting Network

Next Door app

WhatsApp

Awakened Houston

ACPN Facebook page

Zoom Conference Calls

Houston Responds COVID-19 Resources


Transcript:

Tommy Rosson:

Hello, this is Tommy Rosson with Houston Responds and today I'm joined by a good friend of mine, Chad Clarkson, who's the executive director of Houston Church Planting Network. Chad, thank you for joining us.


Chad Clarkson:

You bet. Glad to be here. Thanks Tommy.


Tommy Rosson:

Tell us a little bit about Houston Church Planters Network.


Chad Clarkson:

Yeah, Houston Church Planting Network started about 10 years ago. We call it HCPN for short. We say we're a network of networks committed to strengthening church planters to multiply churches that reach every man, woman, and child in greater Houston. We're committed to church planting, committed to collaboration in the unity of the church and really seeing what we can do together as a big C church that maybe one local church can't do by themselves.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah, it's fascinating how COVID-19 has affected all churches in one way and in similar ways and yet all some churches differently. And so as we've talked to churches that are more of a resource or have smaller congregations, they're very worried about their survival. What's the impact of COVID-19 look like in the church planting world, especially here in Houston?


Chad Clarkson:

Yeah, great question Tommy. You know, I think there's probably a few different things. So it probably also depends on who I'm talking to, what church planter. And I've kind of seen as a continuum, along the continuum, kind of put planners on that. So some may feel very anxious or fearful and then others it's like, oh, I'm excited about this now, you know, excited, kind of tongue in cheek, but they're seeing this as an opportunity. So I'm kind of seeing planters somewhere along that continuum when it comes to thinking about COVID-19.


Tommy Rosson:

What are some of the ways those that are leading into it? What does that look like for some of these church plants?


Chad Clarkson:

Yeah, I'm seeing, I mean, planters be, you know, looking at this as an opportunity. So they're trying to think creatively. They're trying to kind of, I think one of the things I say is kind of ignite that apistolic spirit that they have in them as a church planter and really kind of thinking through new ways of doing a mission or how the church does mission in reaching their part of Houston. So we've seen a lot of practical things, seen a Christian more planter up in kind of the Spring, Woodlands area. He put out a message via the Next Door app. Just said, Hey, I'm a local pastor in this neighborhood. My wife and I are going out to pray if we can pray for you, let us know private message us. We're not going to come to your door.


We're not going to shake your hand. Let us know your address if you want, tell us your prayer request. We'll stop by and just pray out in front. He saw a hundred people respond to that in five days. So he's been busy blocking the neighborhood, praying, building a ton of relationships with people, which has been great. Seeing other people take advantage of the WhatsApp group stuff. People thinking creatively as far as just, in terms of the mobilization of their people, you know, how do they think, how do they remind their people that their missionaries and their community during this time. So a lot of creativity happening with planters right now.


Tommy Rosson:

One of the things you said earlier is that many of the churches that are leaning in and seeing some real impact during these early days, unfortunately, what, it will probably be early days, they're still staying true to their mission and what they are called to not trying to compete with others, but lean into the unique ways that God has gifted them.


Chad Clarkson:

Yeah. Without a doubt. And, you know, that's what we tried to help plants, you know, don't try to be someone you're not, you know, you may see that the church that has all the bells and whistles, you know, down the street and they're putting on these tremendous presentations online and you just may not have the capability to do that. So just do what you can. The relationships you built with people, that trust is going to go a long way In this time of chaos uncertainties. We just are encouraging people and planters specifically, just be yourself during this time.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah, we're seeing, you know, when you look at even the larger churches, they're trying to figure out a way how to come across small because when you go into people's television or laptops, large worship spaces do not necessarily communicate well. So they're trying to go small. You know, I've had many large church pastors talk about being a house church or a church plant all over again.


Chad Clarkson:

Yup. No, yeah that's for sure. And so we're, I mean, we're even reminding our planters or to give them a couple of words, I'd say, you know, think simplification, think multiplication and think mobilization. So how do you continue to just remain simple as a church, especially in this time when you can't do like a gathering and a physical space. So concentrate on the essentials. What are your essentials right now as far as making disciples, helping people, developing community and keeping your people on a mission. So think simplification. Same time encouraging planters think multiplication too. At first, I was kind of holding back a little bit thinking, all right, this may mean, all right, a longer-term, maybe if churches were waiting to launch. And now I'm just seeing, you know, I'm excited about the movement I'm seeing. I'm seeing groups multiply during this season that so new house churches being started, groups being started and I think there's may even be a prospect for new churches starting. Whereas some churches may have been initially thought, Oh, now we need to delay a launch. This may speed some up. So encouraging planters to continue thinking about multiplication. And then the mobilization piece, you know, how do we remind our people again that were missionaries were sent our community. So really just helping them to be mobilized and be the, be a sent people during the season.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great stuff. Something that I think is true for every church right now. One of the things that y'all have done for years is this Awakened Houston, prayer emphasis but it looks a little different during COVID-19.


Chad Clarkson:

Yeah. So the last, three or four years we've done this season of prayer after Easter. We just called it 50 days of prayer from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. We were just praying for the mission of the church, new churches being planted in the unity, the church. Just really see a revival and awakening in Houston. So we've called it Awakened Houston, and that's what we had at kind of branded again for this year. We're getting ready to kick it off on Easter, but with COVID-19 hitting, we thought, all right, it's, it now's not the time to wait to pray. So let's get this started, kicked off early. So a few weeks ago we just kicked off our Awakened Houston initiative. And really what we were trying to do with that is just mobilize the church again to pray when you look at what HCPN and what we felt like we could help in during this season.


It wasn't creating a whole bunch of new resources. You guys are doing great with that with Houston Responds and letting people know about what's happening in the city and resources for churches and ministries, you guys are doing a fantastic job. We just felt like that wasn't our role, but one area we could do is help the church pray or at least remind us, Hey, this is one of the most important things we can do during the season. So we've just been working to mobilize the church to pray. We send out daily devotionals that go out via one of our social media channels. We spend time once a week praying as pastors together. We do a kind of a prayer reminder at nine every night just, Hey, spend some time praying for the city. So we've always done that. But like you said, during this time, it's just an extra added season cause we feel like this is a great opportunity for the church.


Not that COVID-19 is a great opportunity, but the situation and just what it stirs up in people and the response, we just feel like there could be just a receptivity that may not normally be there. So we want to just be alert to that and we'll get what God may want to do during this time.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah, I believe that's true. I love the theme of fire in the closet, warped in the home, shine in the yard. Talk real quickly about that.


Chad Clarkson:

Yeah. So what from my buddy Jeremiah Morris, he's on the board with HCPN. We were processing kind of some sub-themes for, kind of our Awakened Houston prayer initiatives. We said, Hey, let's do that. Let's start with fire in the closet. You know, we have this time alone, that we're in our homes.


So let's encourage people to just really get alone with God. Get on their faces, get in their closet, whether it be a literal closet where some people are officing right now or a figurative closet. But take advantage of just kinda build that intimacy with God as you spend time with Him. So we didn't want that to go to waste. So we want to see fire in the closet. We want to see warmth in the home. You know, we have time right now with our families or times that we may not have thought about having a deeper community that God is now giving us. Things are, you know, distractions have gone away, you know, no tee ball, no dance, no cheer, all these other things that have kinda, taken up so much time for people.


Has now created at a time in people's calendars, especially family's calendars. So again, we don't want to waste this as families. We hope this would be a time where we see that warmth in the home and greater unity in the family, in the family systems. And then, out of fire in the closet, warmth from the homes. We just really want to shine in the yard. And that's kind of our missional component, you know, how do we be neighbors to those on our street during this season and shine the light of Jesus to those around us.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah, I know. We both come from the idea of don't waste your disaster and this is a different kind of crisis, but still, it's a very unique way to live into that. Real quickly, tell me how maybe the pastor or somebody considering church planting or somebody who might be a pastor of a smaller church that's kind of replanting themselves or of a larger church that wants to connect. How's the best way to connect with you and can they connect and to go through the Awakened Houston process you've got going now.


Chad Clarkson:

Yeah if you want to connect with Awakened Houston, you can just go to awakenhouston.org. That's just going to send you to our Facebook page, but we do have that domain. You can go there and just kind of follow along with the weekly posts or check us out on Twitter or Instagram. We post those as well. And I just encourage you to pray along with us as we pray during this season or join us for our weekly prayer call that happens Wednesdays at 11:00 AM and you can join us for that by following us on social media as well. And then also if you just want to learn more about HCPN or connect with other churches, whether it be church planning, whether you're a church planter or an established church out, feel free to check out our website HCPN.org or shoot me an email at chad@hcpn.org.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. I've heard over and over again, even, especially pastors that mentor lots of people, they understand and they've seen how critical it is during the season to have those relationships with people that are going through the same thing as you because this has been a crazy situation for many pastors and I've heard that across the board that their work world looks completely different than it did a month ago and they're having to temporarily put outside everything they're used to doing and do everything completely different. So I can't imagine doing that without a group of people going through this with you.


Chad Clarkson:

Yeah, I hear you. We also do a think tank for church planners via Zoom, on Thursday mornings and it's just been, it's been fun to process with other planters and kind of learn from one another what you're dealing with, how you're interacting. So again, planters are interested in that. Feel free to contact me and I can get you a link to join us on Thursday mornings.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. Chad, anything else you'd like to add?


Chad Clarkson:

No, I think that's it. Thanks for doing these. And again, Tommy, I'm thankful for Houston Responds and the whole, the different coalitions around the city boots on the ground throughout the city. And thanks for what you guys are bringing to the greater, big C church in the city. So really thankful for y'all.


Tommy Rosson:

That's the fun thing about doing this in Houston. We're all playing our role in, in a lane and it's good to work together. Exactly right. Houston church planners, if you'd like more of these resources or other church leaders, if you'd like more of these resources, you can go to Houstonresponds.org/covid-19 and we'll send the links to Houston Church Planters Network in the body of this video.

Additional COVID-19 resources for congregations available here.

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