COVID-19: Creative Ways Houston Northwest Church is Loving their Congregants and Community

Updated: Mar 31



Steve Bezner, the Senior Pastor of Houston Northwest Church, discusses intentional ways his congregation is staying connected, as well as creative ideas to make an impact on local businesses and first responders.

"We're trying to create those kinds of pastoral rhythms of we're letting folks know, we see you, we remember you."

Resources Mentioned:

Find the Masks

Houston Northwest Church

Facebook Live

CDC Best Practices During COVID-19

Houston Responds COVID-19 Resources


Transcript:


Tommy Rosson:

Hello, this is Tommy Rosson with Houston Responds, and today we are blessed to be joined by Steve Bezner, the Senior Pastor of Houston Northwest. They have just been a community leader in that Northwest part of Harris County and that community, and if it then always done such a great job leading out in creative ways, being engaged in their community. So I'm looking forward to getting his insights on how they're addressing, COVID-19, and what it looks like in their community is also within the church. So Steve, thank you for joining us today.


Steve Benzer:

Hey, thanks Tommy. Glad to be here.


Tommy Rosson:

Tell us real quickly, this is kind of part of your DNA, but what are some of the unique ways or what are you finding ways to build love on your community during the season?


Steve Benzer:

Okay, yeah, great question. I appreciate it. Certainly this is a moment of opportunity for the church to demonstrate how she is an organization that's intended to be a light in the community. We're trying to capitalize on that just to tangibly show the love of Jesus. We've been focused on a personal protective equipment. PPE is kind of the catch phrase that you're hearing a lot right now and in the news media. And so there's a website, findthemasks.com and we've been urging people to get those masks any way they can if they find them in a local construction store or if they are able to find them online or if they have some to donate them. Because we know that right now that's what folks are looking to be part of, to help out in the community.


We know our medical personnel are on the front lines. That's been one thing. We've also set up a financial fund. We've got folks in our community right now being laid off and so we're looking to be helped on that front. We've got a list that we've created for people to sign up that are either immunocompromised or elderly, don't need to be outside. And then a list of folks that are willing to go run those errands for them and be part of that. And so we're trying to be on the front lines in that area as well. So, those are just a few things we're kind of thinking about trying to pivot towards. We've certainly been trying to get our church set up online, but we're trying to pivot past that as quickly as we can.


Move towards the needs in the community. We know that as this gets more severe, this morning I was reading an article on Yahoo news about the fact that they're projecting 80,000 US deaths. If that starts happening, people are going to get scared. People are gonna lose loved ones and we want to be ready to minister where people need it the most, not just through the distribution and resources. And not just do the distribution of the word, which is obviously essential, but also being the hands and feet of Jesus in our community.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. One of the things you were telling me about was a lunch or food distribution thing you're doing.


Steve Benzer:

Yeah. So, we were aware of the fact that local businesses are really struggling right now through this and particularly restaurants. And so what we've done is each week we're selecting one local restaurant and we're trying to buy a large order from them, a 500 to a thousand dollars, and then we're delivering that food to a place that is having to stay open because of this crisis. So, this week we bought $1,000 of pasta from a local Italian place and then we're delivering that are actually, they are delivering that pasta dinner or lunch rather to, an HEB, that's having to stay open. And I mean there as you guys well are well aware of, they're having to hire extra workers to keep up with demand. And so that's a way that we can say thank you to those workers. That's a way that we can support HEB for all that they're trying to do, to support the city of Houston. And it's the way we can support that local business. So, just some things like that were I'm just trying to model that idea and then, as part of that, um, hopefully give other churches and other businesses the idea to do that same thing.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. Y'all are so good at that. Those unique personal creative touches in your community to just love around the area you're called to serve? What does it look like? With ministry, you know, in the church and how are you adapting to this new environment? We see ourselves in?


Steve Benzer:

Yeah. You know, ministry right now is different. So a few things, whenever you're not able to meet in person, the personal touch becomes much more important. And so we have intentionally divided our church into small pockets and then we're asking our staff, deacons and elders to contact folks and families individually to see what they need. I've already mentioned that running errands for folks in our church who can't get out, we're all trying to make prayer a centerpiece of what we're doing. And so every morning at 6:30 and every evening at 6:30, we have a conference call for prayer. And, you know, another thing, just trying to make that available. I hopped online, Facebook Live yesterday about just 15 minutes or just said, anybody who needs prayer, let me see your prayer requests.


And so people would hop on you start typing in their prayer requests. And I would say, okay, so and so I see you, I'm going to pray for your prayer request, so-and-so. I see you. And just after, you know, it kind of was clear that we'd received those prayer requests and I just started praying for them by name out loud. And, you know, that really meant a lot to a lot of folks. And so we're just trying to create those kinds of pastoral rhythms or we're letting folks know, we see you, we remember you. We discovered through those calls we've had seven folks already lose their jobs. And we're not talking about hospitality industry folks, you know, these are corporate jobs. And so in addition to our hospitality industry folks, those corporate folks were just checking in on them, praying for them by name, looking for ways that we can come beside them financially to support them during this time. So it's the opportunity for the church to be activated and to spring into action as opposed to simply being the teaching arm, which, you know, I'm a pastor, I love to teach, but I think that if we don't transition from teaching to action in these moments, then we really lose a lot of credibility. So we've got to pivot from getting our church services online to moving into the community as quickly as we can.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. I think one of the things you mentioned is your goal was to work through your church, and make contacts with everybody.


Steve Benzer:

Yeah. We're trying to do that. Our, goal is, so we're trying to do that every two weeks. So, our student ministry is reaching out to all the students, our kids' ministry, reaching out to all the families with preschoolers and grade schoolers. Our deacons are really focusing in on our widows and our senior adults. But, then we have life groups, but we're just trying to get through every family in the church about every two weeks because we think that if we keep those lines of communication open, if something happens between those two weeks scheduled calls, we'll be more likely to hear of it. If someone gets diagnosed, if someone has to go into the hospital, you know, we thank God that we have not had anyone who's been diagnosed as positive to date, but we assume that that will happen eventually based on projections. And so just trying to be proactive and stay on top of those pastoral care needs.


Tommy Rosson:

Those are such great ideas. Thank you so much. Anything else you'd like to add? Just as you are talking to other church leaders across greater Houston?


Steve Benzer:

You know, I think that a couple of things, encourage your staff. You know, right now we're asking our staff to do kind of Herculean thing. And so, well, you know, this Friday night we're going to take pizza orders from every staff family and just send them pizza as a thank you, saying, Hey, thanks for all that you've been doing. And, so that's, that's one thing. Number two, I think leaning into prayer is essential right now. So if you haven't been doing that, be sure to do that. And then number three, make sure that even when we're in the community ministering, that we are modeling the social distancing practices because our people will take the cue from us. And so, it's essential that we model those best practices that the CDC is asking us to do, we want to do ministry, but we want to keep talking about the best way to keep them safe because pay attention to us. So those are just a few extra things that we're trying to do.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. Thank you so much for joining us. You know, Steve, your church has always been such a great community leader and done such great creative and innovative ways to love on your community. And even your own people. I thank you for your time.


Steve Benzer:

Thank you, Tom. Appreciate it.


Tommy Rosson:

Pastors, congregational leaders. If you'd like to know more information about the links Steve talked about or about the resources or more videos like this go to houstonresponds.org/covid-19 and all those recourses will be there. Thank you very much for joining us today.


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