New Faith Communities




Rev. Jason Burnham    

Jason is a graduate of Centenary College of Louisiana, and the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, where he received his Master of Divinity degree. Pastor Jason served St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Bryan, Texas for 5 years, before relocating to The Woodlands to serve as the founding pastor of Covenant Methodist Church in June of 2011. Pastor Jason and his wife, Lauren have three children: Addison, Aidan, and Sam.

I have planted two new churches in very different contexts using very different models. At St. Luke’s Bryan, a new church was formed out of the remnant of a closed church. The mission field included a few newly developing neighborhoods in West Bryan (an otherwise rural context). At Covenant, we deployed the parachute church plant model with encouragement from nearby Methodist churches. The mission field is located in a master planned suburban context. In addition, I have consulted many other planters and potential planters. 

These experiences have taught me to flexibly respond to the missional needs of the community as God is raising up a new church. I don’t bring a cookie cutter approach to the work, but trust the Holy Spirit is consistently birthing new things.   


Rev. Michael Gienger    

Rev. Michael Gienger is an ordained elder in the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He received his undergraduate degree in Religion, concentrating in Christian Ethics, from Baylor University, and his Master of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. Michael has been serving as co-pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Galveston, Texas since 2014. Central is a hybrid church plant/revitalization that is making space for hopeful skeptics and the spiritually homeless through a generous orthodoxy and focus on justice ministries. Michael's top five CliftonStrengths include strategic, ideation, intellection, connectedness, and futuristic.

Michael was appointed as the (re)planting pastor of Central UMC in 2014. Since that time, Central has transformed from a dying congregation to a thriving community. In addition to re-planting the church itself, Michael has been able to establish smaller "new faith communities" within the larger Central structure, including the Couch Surfers - a weekly surfing group. Michael can help congregations think through new ways of engaging with people outside of their community through nontraditional, creative, contextual expressions of "church."


Rev. Dr. Jeff McDowell

Hello, I’m Jeff McDowell. I joined the Texas Conference in 1998 and have served Sugar Land First United Methodist Church as both an associate pastor and now as Senior Pastor and was the founding pastor at The Harvest United Methodist Church. I have been married to Paula for 30+ years and have two adult children. I am a life-long learner and love to read and study in various fields. Before Covid – we loved to travel and visit new places or just lay on the beach. I have always been someone people came to when they needed help with a problem. The key is listening and understanding before attempting to find a solution. If having someone with practical ministry experience think through your circumstances and context and brainstorm some potential ways forward, I would be honored to work with you.

Perhaps my greatest privilege in ministry was being the founding pastor at The Harvest United Methodist Church. Being a planter requires several diverse and sometimes unusual skills not taught in seminary. Some are only learned by experience. If you are a considering leading a new faith community or already doing so, I would love to walk alongside you. God used my Doctor of Ministry in Evangelism to prepare me to plant The Harvest. Studying with Dr. Scott Jones and Dr. William J Abraham shaped my thinking on what it means to do evangelism. I would love to share what I have learned about evangelism. Putting it into practice allowed the churches I have served to receive several Texas Annual Conference Copeland Awards.

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!

In 2007, my family and I started a new church in League City called The Watershed that met in a school for 5 years before finally building its first phase building in 2013. By God’s Grace and the partnership of the TAC, the church thrived through the Great Recession of 2008, the immense change in our culture towards the universal Church and the incredibly high costs of buying land and building in the modern age. Along the way, I learned important and sometimes hard lessons about work-life balance, caring for your family, finding leaders, thinking outside of the box, and gaining traction in the community. I have a passion for new faith communities and would love to be a sounding board and idea-generator for any new faith communities.

Rev. Michael Whang

Hi. I'm Rev. Mike Whang, an ordained elder currently serving Oikon United Methodist Church, a new faith community started in October of 2020. Born in Seoul, Korea, raised in Los Angeles, I came to the Texas Annual Conference by way of Duke Divinity School. Prior to seminary, I worked in corporate sales for the Los Angeles Clippers, and studied music production at the University of Southern California. My wife Lisa and I are blessed with two girls, Zoe and Haven.

My specialization is in creating a culture of discipleship, community, and responsibility. To be clear, I do not specialize in nor have much interest in creating attractive fast growing worship services; but creating an intentional, financially self-sustaining faith community that is devoted to rhythms of spiritual formation and social justice are my passion. Our multiethnic church plant, made up mostly of millennials, began in the pandemic entirely online, and became self-sustaining within our first 9 months. If your congregation is interested in birthing a new community devoted to practicing the way of Jesus, I would be glad to help.