Children’s Ministries

Specialists

Rev. Elizabeth Acosta  

Rev. Ely Acosta is a pastor with sixteen years of experience in ministry. His pastoral work began in Cuba where she had the opportunity to lead in three Methodist Churches. Later, moving to Texas, he served as a Hispanic church planter in the Fairbanks, Houston area. Today she is currently serving Conroe's First United Methodist Church as pastor of the Hispanic community.

We will help you connect the church with the children of the community through programs that can be developed in apartment complexes, schools, or shelters near the church.  Extending the ministry of children not only from within the church but also from within the community is one of our goals.


Gwenda Beavers 

My name is Gwenda Beavers, and I am the Director of Children and Family Ministry at A&M United Methodist Church in College Station, TX. I have been working with children for well over 25 years. I have just completed the Children’s Ministry and Christian Education Certification program through SMU Perkins School of Theology. I was a Discipleship Specialist for the West District, and now am a member of the Texas Conference Christian Educators Fellowship, which is a group that supports lay leaders and Christian Educators through programming and training.

I am a teacher at heart and love to impart my knowledge to other colleagues. I believe that equipping families to be their children’s spiritual leader is very important. I use fun and interactive methods to accomplish this. Leading children and their families through the Bible can be very exciting. I am one hundred percent a team player and firmly believe that we need to get back to the basics of building pathways to discipleship, reading the Bible and putting the scripture in the hearts and minds of the families that we serve. I would love to help you grow your program. Together we can build something that will have a lasting impact on your Children and Family Ministry program.


Lauren Bedevian

I am Lauren Bedevian. I am one of the children’s ministry directors at Memorial Drive UMC in Houston. I have worked in full-time children’s ministries since May of 2010. I graduated from Pfeiffer University with a degree in Christian Education. I am certified in Christian Education through the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. I have consulted and worked with the United Methodist Publishing House (Cokesbury) on a variety of children’s ministry projects. I am a licensed foster parent that fosters newborns and infants.  My passions are anything relating to children and families.

Having worked in the children’s ministry field for over 10 years I have a vast array of experiences. I have built and grown ministries in small churches to ministries at churches with multiple campuses. My expertise and passion is with the areas of Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Holiday programming, mission trips, summer camps and special events. As a foster parent, I am trained in Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) and have experience with children dealing with trauma. I can help churches with almost anything related to children.


Cari Brenek

Hi! My name is Cari Brenek. I am currently the executive director at Good Shepherd UMC. Since joining the staff at GS in 2007, I have spent most of my years in Children’s Ministry, some in Adult Ministry, and now, as Executive Director, I oversee Children’s and Student Ministries. My husband, Glen and I have been married for 25 years. We have 5 amazing kids ages 18-23. Pro-tip: Avoid calling or texting me during an Astros game. I watch all of them.

Because I was the first Children’s Ministry Director at GS, my team of volunteers and I had the distinct task of giving structure to all that had been happening in the ministry. We tried a bunch of things, failed as much as we succeeded, but in the end, we found a system that has stood the test of time. We learned a lot about recruiting – what works, and what doesn’t. We put together a great team of volunteers who love what they do. In fact, some of those original volunteers are still serving in children’s ministry today, almost 15 years later. I am so happy to pass on things we learned, maybe eliminating the need for you to make all the mistakes we made in the beginning.


Steven Fisher

My name is Steven Fisher, and I was born in Liverpool, England. I have lived in Houston since 2011. I have been the Family Ministries Director at St. Stephen’s UMC since April 2018. St. Stephen’s is a smaller mid-sized congregation in northwest Houston. Under my tenure, we have been able to significantly grow our youth ministry, expand our offerings to our children’s ministry, and increase community engagement throughout our Family Ministries. Outside of work, I have been married to my wife, Christie for ten years. We have a two-year-old and one more on the way.

Our Children’s Ministry has the biggest mix of members, and neighborhood families compared to any other ministry area in the church. During my time our summer camps have almost doubled in registrations and engagement. Our Messy Church services quickly became a highlight with members, preschool families, and neighbors taking part in equal measure. I have had leaders from three different churches and two states visit our Messy Church to see how it is run.


Julie Floyd

Julie has worked in youth ministry and children’s ministry for over 10 years. She is a certified ministry coach, a certified lay servant, the spouse of a pastor, and the mom to three great kids. She speaks at events and camps for teens, leads trainings, and guides people to becoming incredible leaders.

Whether you are launching a new ministry or revitalizing a seasoned one, Julie can guide you in making a customized children’s ministry for your church. From hiring, curriculum selection, volunteer recruitment and training, designing children’s spaces, and program design, she will make sure you are empowered to succeed in your own unique context. Julie also has significant experience in VBS and serving children with special needs.


 


Connie Fowler

I am Connie Fowler. I am a Lifelong Methodist. My husband, Steve and I have been married for 55yrs. and raised two grown children. I am a Breast Cancer survivor, have a Music background and “will talk to anyone” according to my family & friends!

I was certified in Christian Education at Perkins School of Theology in 1998. I have loved serving as Christian Education Director for all ages, in two (2) local United Methodist Churches here in the Houston area for over 30 years until retirement, December 2020. I am an active member of the Texas Conference Christian Educators Fellowship. I continue to lead Adult Bible Study Classes at Mission Bend UMC, am a Substitute Children’s Sunday School Teacher, work the weekly distribution of food at The Mission Bells Food Pantry, continue support of The West Houston Emmaus Community by “working” walks, and find ways constantly to use the skills and training provided by Stephen Ministry with individuals in the church and community.

Through my experience of leading Christian Education – Sunday School, Nursery, Senior Travel Groups & Small Groups with over 350 participants of All Ages to the decline in church attendance, especially in the Christian Education area (35 loyal participants); I can offer encouragement and hope to churches to “stay the course”. With Prayer and Mentoring of faithful church members, I believe Jesus will revive His church and make it Again a “Beacon of Love” for the community.

Some of the strategies I will use to accomplish this task may include: Discover individual members’ Spiritual Gifts through workshop process. Start Weekly Back to Basics Bible Studies (Disciple, Daily Devotionals, Planned Bible Reading Programs), Challenge the congregation outside of own needs into an attitude of Mission, locally and/or beyond. (UMCOR, UMARMY, Red Cross, Local Food Pantry, etc.)


Adrienne Harrell

I was called into ministry when I was a junior in High School. I started leading bible study at church and taking on leadership roles in the Christian Club on campus. The fall after I graduated, I jumped right into ministry as a year-round youth intern at Texas City First United Methodist Church. Later I would become the youth director. In my time at this church, I also lead a young adult group, had the creative space to create new ministries, was the church liaison for events, lead mission groups, worked in the Mother’s Day Out, and directed VBS. Eventually I was called to leave this church and personally grew in a new church. At Friendswood Methodist Church I was the Associate Director of Student Ministries and later became the Director. Over the years I have directed summer camps at Lakeview, hosted district events at our church, managed volunteer appreciation for district and conference events, and been the South District Youth Coordinator. Recently I was an interim Children’s Director at St John’s Methodist Church in Texas City, helping families reconnect post-pandemic. Now I am the Family Ministries Director at Moody Methodist Church where I run the Children’s Ministry, connect families to the church, bridge a gap between children, youth, and our day school, and get to help do ministry with the youth staff.

I have done many different spiritual gift surveys and never seem to have the exact same line up or in the same order, however I always have Mercy. In the mix you can usually find apostleship, leadership, shepherding, and hospitality. A lot of my gifting involves me being with people wherever they are. I am a great listener and caregiver for where people might be in life. I believe therefore hospitality is part of my specialty. I want people to feel comfortable, seen, and heard. I love hosting events where I can serve my guests, make them feel welcome, taken care of, and connect them with new people. My experience in church settings has varied from socio-economic, congregation size, location, viewpoints, budgets, staff size, and more. My diversity, experience, and giftings has led me to this position as a Ministry Specialist. I am excited to make connections in Children’s, Youth and Hospitality Ministries; to help be a resource to other churches in our district and conference.


Alain Leistikow

My name is Alain Leistikow, Director of Student Ministries at First United Methodist Church of Livingston. I am married to the Lakeview famous Natalie Jeane Leistikow, who has blessed me with a beautiful baby girl in 2021 named Junia Joy. Any theologians out there recognize my daughter’s name from scripture? I have been in youth ministry for about 12 years with half of those years spent in Livingston. I am a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary with my Masters of Arts in Theological Studies specializing in Youth Ministry. I love to fish out on Lake Livingston, hunt whitetail deer in South Texas, and play video games specifically on the pc. That is basically me in a nutshell.

Something many churches and for that matter many congregational members don’t realize is that Children and Youth ministries was a particular passion for Jesus. I am sure many of you can think about the time Jesus taught adults to be more like children, or the time when he commanded to let the little children come to him. Plus, the 12 disciples were not men in their 30s or 40s, but actually ranged in age from 12-21. As such I have spent the majority of my adult professional life dedicating myself to building children’s and youth ministries in the model that Jesus gives us all. In the past 6 years at Livingston, I have grown the youth ministry from 10 teens up to 200 pre-pandemic, and then during the pandemic from 30 up to 60. Along with numerical growth I have taken this youth ministry all over the world on mission trips from the Dominican Republic to Israel. Lastly, in 6 years this youth ministry has raised over $100,000 in fundraisers for missions, Summer camp, and over various activities. I can help you build a Jesus focused, worship-oriented children’s and youth ministries who through faith will go out into the world on various mission trips.


Priscilla Novak

Priscilla is a native Texan! She was born in Carrollton, TX but moved to Houston when she was 3 years old. Priscilla attended Elementary, Junior High and High School in Cy-Fair ISD and graduated from Stephen F. Austin University in 2010 with a Bachelors of Arts in Social Studies and a minor in Secondary Education. Summer jobs in between college years were spent interning in Children’s Ministry at John Wesley, where her love for God and children grew into a passion and calling from God. She completed her Christian Education Certification in Children’s Ministry and Christian Education at Perkins School of Theology in 2016. Priscilla is excited to partner with other churches in our conference to better connect people to Christ.  Priscilla enjoys spending time with her family.  She is often found at the movies, reading, baking/crafting, or listening to Taylor Swift on REPEAT!!

Children’s Ministry – As a Children’s Director I have implemented new Sunday School Experiences (curriculum, time changes, training of volunteers including safe sanctuary and more) as well as special/seasonal events like VBS, Egg Hunts, Trunk or Treat and Breakfast with Santa.  Other items I can share with you is a Milestone program that celebrates baptism, kindergartners, 3rd grade Bibles and service opportunities for 4th and 5th graders. 


Mindy Standlee

Mindy has a background in psychology and has worked in ministry for over 15 years.  She is passionate about helping people feel connected in the church.  She loves helping people find an area to serve and plug into.  She feels strongly about partnering the local church and families together to grow a child’s spirituality. She loves to help children understand and relate to scripture at their level. 

Her experience includes leading and growing a mid-week program for the church and community for 80+ elementary aged children and a weekly worship service for children aged Kinder-5th grade.  She has developed and trained multiple strong volunteer bases for Sunday morning, Mid-Week, VBS, special events and Confirmation at multiple churches.  She has experience in nursery protocols and best practices along with developing and leading Confirmation classes and preteen groups. 

She has experience leading and equipping both employees and volunteers.  Mindy has acted as an enneagram coach with individuals and groups.  She has experience helping people relate to one another using that methodology.


Rev. Brandy Stevens

Hello! My name is Brandy Stevens, I’m from a small-town in Southeast Texas.  I graduated from Lamar University, Beaumont and continued my education of studies for a Master of Divinity degree at Southern Methodist University, Dallas. I love introducing people to Jesus and seeing lives changed by the grace and mercy of God. I have served as a Children’s and Youth Director at First United Methodist Church, Nederland and I currently serve as Pastor at Fairwood United Methodist Church, Tyler. 

Throughout the past twenty years I have served in children and family ministries. I can assist in setting up new or refreshed vibrant children, youth, and family ministries. I am also familiar with licensed weekday school ministries. I absolutely love making Jesus known to young children, while fostering an environment that is fun and soaked in the Spirit!


Renee Templer

I have been blessed to have taught children most of my life. Now I am retired, but still am happy to offer any insights I might have from my experiences.

When my children were small, I was a pre-K teacher for five years at Moody Methodist in Galveston, Texas. For the next five years I was a teaching aide in an elementary school. My church, Moody Methodist, asked me to start an after-school program and the next year a full day program for infants through 13-year-old. That was my enjoyment for the next 23 years. For several years during those 23 years, I also was the Director of Children’s Ministries for Moody Methodist Church. What a blessing I have received.

 


Rev. Leigh-Anne Williams

Leigh-Anne is a Deacon and serves as Associate Pastor at Atascocita UMC in Humble. She is married to Steve, who is a high school English teacher and swim coach. They have 4 children. Prior to entering ministry, Leigh-Anne was a college instructor, teaching communication studies and coaching collegiate speech and debate teams.

As a specialist in Children’s Ministry and Christian Education, Leigh-Anne offers practical knowledge on setting up systems for your ministry, choosing and using curriculum, planning lessons for multiple intelligences, bridging to your weekday school, outreach to local schools, as well as large event planning. Leigh-Anne is also available for public speaking and presentation skills coaching.


Rev. Doug Wintermute

Rev. Doug Wintermute had a career in marketing and public relations before answering the call to ministry in 2004. He has served small and medium-sized churches in the Texas Annual Conference: Carthage St. Andrews and Murvaul UMCs, associate pastor at Greggton UMC in Longview, DeKalb FUMC, and Jacksonville FUMC. He has been active in children’s and youth ministries and has been a director of the elementary camp at Lakeview Methodist Conference Center for many years. He has a strong passion for sharing the Good News with children and youth in ways that are not boring.

Rev. Wintermute can assist churches with children’s ministries by offering advice and templates for establishing an after-school program, adopt-a-school program, children’s programs, incorporating children into worship, and children’s music programs. He also has experience in establishing and planning programs and worship services for confirmation as well as broadening and enriching music ministries for churches.