Rev. Ralph du Plessis
Ralph comes from South Africa where he invested several years leading a growing and vibrant church. His leadership experience has given him an understand of the importance of keeping a healthy balance between the spiritual and the practical aspects of local church ministry. At the heart of every Christian community should be a dynamic and living faith. A strategic and intentional ministry focus should be added to this to ensure the church is effective and successful in its mission. Ralph is married to Kirstin and together they have two sons.
I believe a strategic and holistic approach to discipleship is central to every growing church. Discipleship models should flow from the DNA of the local church and include programs that reach into the community, integrate people into the life of the church, build their knowledge of scripture and faith, grow their relationship with God and others, and release them into leadership roles in the local church and community.
I am Connie Fowler. I am a Life-Long 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.)
Don R. House, Sr.
I have benefitted from years of local church involvement as a layman and years of studies of growth and decline of churches through local church year-end reports—from 1974 to 2020. I serve as president of the Institute for Local Church Growth (ILCG), supervised by the West District but serving annual conferences and local churches throughout the U.S.
Sunday School and Small Group Development - Our approach focuses upon selected adult Sunday school classes. Typically, these few classes are major sources of church leadership and financial contributions. The key is a focus upon excellence in teaching through a more productive way of selecting topics and preparing lessons. A library of materials with videos is provided.
Rev. Bob Johnson
Bob Johnson is a UM elder who retired in 2019 after 32 years of active service. Being retired gives him more time to partner with other church leaders and pastors to leverage that experience. He and his wife, Susan, now attend the west campus of St. Peter’s UMC in Katy.
After working for a Fortune 500 Company as an engineer for twelve years, Bob served churches in East Texas and Houston as solo/senior pastor, then as executive pastor for 15 years at Chapelwood UMC. At Chapelwood, Bob helped lead the church through two changes in senior pastors, both with 20+ year tenures. His ministry involved visioning and strategic planning, staff supervision and accountability, and he helped implement ministries to deepen discipleship and improve mission alignment, all in addition to normal pastoral functions of teaching, preaching, and pastoral care. Leveraging his longtime experience as executive pastor, Bob has consulted with several other churches both inside and outside the Texas Annual Conference on the executive pastor role.
Bob was a member of two different District Boards of Ordained Ministry and for 12 years he served on the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, including a term as the Conference Psychological Officer. His BOM service gave him the opportunity to serve as a clergy mentor to several cohorts of elder and deacon residents, two of whom eventually became a District Superintendent. (He thus thinks of himself as a “grand-pastor!”)
A devoted Bible student, Bob has led many in-person Bible studies and pioneered the use of online Bible studies at St. Peters, which attracted over 700 members in 7 countries and 26 states. He has authored nine books, including “The Genesis Project: The WHY of Discipleship.”
Bob led Chapelwood UMC in Houston through the process of developing a Discipleship Pathway. This included partnering with Ascending Leaders and use of the REVEAL discipleship assessment survey. This process led to evidence-based improvement in Chapelwood’s discipleship. It also led to his becoming an adjunct discipleship coach with Ascending Leaders, through which he has now coached three UM churches and one Baptist church on improving their Discipleship Pathway. He has also led an online cohort of churches who were learning the basics of Discipleship Pathway development and he has taught live classes at HBU on the same subject. Bob is currently preparing to lead an online co-lab of churches in a two-year discipleship improvement process through Ascending Leaders. Bob has authored “The Genesis Project: The WHY of Discipleship,” and eight other biblical commentaries which build on it.
Rev. Mike Johnson
After receiving his M.Div. from a seminary in Michigan, Mike moved to the Houston area to plant a church. After 32 years in the Houston area, you could now say Texas is Mike’s home state. After over a decade of pastoring, Mike received his D. Min. from Fuller seminary in adult discipleship and leadership development and began a Christian non-profit called Ascending Leaders. As founder and president of Ascending Leaders, Mike works along with colleagues to equip churches for Christ-centered discipleship. Measurable results. Eternal outcomes. As a coach, Mike is known for his passion for the local church and its pastor, creativity, design, emphasis on implementation and results, loyalty, vision, management, and effectiveness. Mike is married to Gina with two adult children who are married, living, and serving in the Houston area and three granddaughters.
Mike’s coaching core is in congregational discipleship. He believes discipleship is critical for the future of local churches. Leadership, if not built on a solid foundation of discipleship, is risky leadership to follow. He is certified in two congregation assessments on discipleship—REVEAL and RENOVO. He is currently collaborating on a discipleship assessment tool for people ages 14-24. www.ascendingleaders.org
Rev. Cesar Martinez
Hi, my name is Cesar Martinez, and I am the Pastor of CrossRoads UMC. I grew up here in Houston in the Spring Branch area and graduated from U of H. I got my MDIV from Perkins after answering the call to ministry. My wife’s name is Karina and I have a daughter named Shibelle and son named Elisha.
I can help clergy and congregations develop their own system of discipleship which best fits their context. This process takes intentional conversation and an understanding of what makes a disciple.
Rev. Matt Neely
I am a Pastor in the Texas Conference currently serving as the Lead Pastor at Good Shepherd UMC in the Cypress-area of Houston. Over the last 25 years in ministry, I have had the privilege of serving Jesus at some amazing churches as Senior/Founding Pastor, having successfully planted a church in League City called The Watershed (UMC), and having served as lead Pastor of Parkway UMC in Sugar Land (before coming to Good Shepherd UMC). I have also served as an associate pastor in some incredible churches – Memorial Drive UMC, Clear Lake UMC and Faith UMC – Richmond. It has been an amazing journey so far! I have been married to my very best friend, Ginger, for 22 years and counting. We have 4 kids and a grandson who keeps us young and busy!
I have led multiple churches on journeys to create robust discipleship environments, moving from larger groups to smaller groups. Have focused on creating expectations, training, communicating with the congregation and more. My most recent focus has been on building out even smaller environments, including bands, accountability relationships and coaching relationships. Each church has its own unique culture, so one size doesn’t fit all.
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!!
Discipleship – I can serve you church to help you create your own discipleship studies. Studies that are developed with your churches language and culture in mind only help to enrich the congregants experience and growth. We created and developed 4 Discipleship Pathways that consists of 3, 4-week courses (12 weeks for each pathway).
Teresa serves as Director of Adult Discipleship Ministries at Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. Her passion is seeing persons grow more in love with Jesus Christ in a way that makes a difference in their relationships with God, self, others, and the created world. Her role in that work is teaching Scriptural principles, modeling spiritual disciplines, and equipping leaders to do the same.
Teresa earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and a professional certification in Christian Education through Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. She currently serves as an instructor in the certification program at Perkins and as chair of professional certification on the Texas Conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Ascending Leaders.
Married since 1982 to Ken Rossy, Teresa and Ken have a son and a daughter, both married, and two grandchildren with one more on the way. They enjoy travelling, gathering with friends, babysitting their grandchildren as often as possible, book clubs, and walking together. They are both active in Chapelwood UMC as members and leaders. I am an experienced Christian educator who has a passion for developing leaders who will disciple others.
I can assist in: Leadership development – setting goals, creating mission and vision statements, character development, integrity, reliance on Scripture for Christian leaders. Bible study methods – hands on practice and training to enhance Bible study for adults. Team building – best practices for managing a team of staff or lay leaders.
Amy is called to pray, write, preach, and grow the body of Christ in the great adventure story God is writing. She loves to help people find Jesus and see them discover the significant purposes they’ve been created for. Having grown up in the United Methodist denomination, she now leads at Upper Room Heights, helping others get connected to their faith, individually and in a diverse community. Her devotional, Third Person: Thirty Days with the Holy Spirit, opens the door to a deeper Christian spiritual experience. She and David have been married for twenty years and have three daughters, Natalie, Sophia, and Ella.
Amy serves the church in several key areas, including discipleship, prayer, social and racial justice, and spiritual formation. Having been a volunteer leader inside and outside of church settings, she has a vision for how to apply faith in Christ to the struggles of life, often in innovative ways. Through technology, unique experiences and personal interaction, Amy has formed deep relationships, started groups, created, and led Bible and topical studies for diverse audiences, coached other volunteers to step into ministry leadership and was an essential contributor to the launch of Upper Room into the Greater Heights area. She curates the vision for the culturally relevant spiritual growth model of Upper Room Heights - for all age groups. She is heavily engaged in pastoral care efforts, which help the church maintain the flexibility needed to provide ways for people to grow spiritually and in community. She founded the near decade old prayer ministry that grew to include weekly prayer services, a rotation of volunteers, creative methods of prayer, training on intercession and inner healing, as well as partnerships with other churches and ministries around Greater Houston. This ministry is now venturing into the digital space to broaden and encourage people to pray – for themselves and others – wherever they are in the world. Her experience with social and racial justice is heavily connected to the learning and personal experience of being a volunteer and on staff at multi-ethnic church. Her heart, ways of thinking and actions have been challenged and shaped through the opportunities of walking in life and faith with others different from her. She continues to seek out new ways the congregation can partner in the justice efforts in Houston.