How to Throw a Block Party

This week on the blog Nathan Adams discusses what he learned attending a block party for “National Night Out”.  Considering a gathering of your neighbors?  Consider Nathan’s advice.

Hosting a party is an art. It takes a special person to put together all the necessary details – confirming guests, coordinating food options, securing a venue, airing up balloons, advertising, and loading tables/chairs. Then when the event finally happens, remaining available to everyone as the consummate host to answer questions, direct traffic and shake all hands.

I was recently reminded during “National Night Out”, that I am NOT one of those special people. Seminaries should start having a ministry class on event planning before more Greek and eschatology. No offense Dr. Lyle or Dr. Stiver. We could measure the success of any event by the headcount, but I am learning that a truer sense of the impact of your block party comes from your utilization of local talent. How many neighbors, Sunday school classmates, family members or friends are helping host? How many jobs are you handing out? Someone can bring a dish. Another can manage the flow of the bounce house. A few can set up. Another crew can clean up. Most anyone can invite through flyers, Facebook or word of mouth. Doling out assignments to 12 may be better than feeding 5000.

Becoming just one amongst many hosts instead of THE ONE is helpful on many levels. We can alleviate a ton of self-imposed pressure, work out our trust muscles and share ownership with people we care about it. So, whether you’re hosting a fall festival at Johnston Elementary or a neighborhood association at Alameda or a parade around the River Oaks/Elmwood Triangle, your next best event may happen when other people are throwing it.


Donna Lanier

Donna Lanier describes herself as a senior citizen, mother to three daughters, grandmother of several grandchildren, and a retired librarian. She is one of the lovely ladies of the Lydia Sunday School class.

Can you tell me about someone who had a big impact on your life?  My parents (and family) gave me a wonderful, Christian legacy. My grandfather and his family started out in a sod hut on the Texas plains when he was eleven. My father owned a Luby’s Cafeteria and was one of four boys. I grew up at First Baptist, Wichita Falls, where both my grandfather and my father were deacons.  My birth mother actually died when I was a year old. They found cancer while she was pregnant with me, but there was limited treatment at that time.   My dad remarried when I was five, so the mother I have now is the mother who raised me. Her daddy was a preacher and editor of the Baptist Standard back when Kennedy was running for president.  My mom’s dad was very much against a Catholic being president because he felt like a Catholic president would owe allegiance to the Pope and the Catholic Church as his first loyalty. He later changed his mind and actually met with President Kennedy. We have a picture of them sitting in rocking chairs in the Oval Office.

How has your life been different than you imagined it would be when you were younger?   I can answer that one very easily. Divorce was not in my vocabulary. I envisioned a life like my mother had. She kept the books for the cafeteria and was very involved in the WMU, but she really didn’t work outside the home. I thought I would be a preacher’s wife, taking care of my children and my home. I did not envision my marriage ending after eighteen years and having to start over and raise my children by myself. But God is good. I can remember making a comment during that difficult time that God had blessed me because I could see His protection in so many ways. I also remember people looking at me like I was nuts. I was going through a divorce, had lost a large house and any financial security I thought I had. On the surface, it didn’t look like there were very many blessings in my life.  The girls and I went through some difficult times, but I think they came out stronger for it. When you go through something really difficult, it gives you more self-confidence. You did something you didn’t think you could do, survived something you didn’t think you could and that gives you the confidence to believe you can attempt things that you might otherwise assume you couldn’t do.

What are you proudest of personally and professionally in your life?  Personally, I am proudest of my children, my three daughters. They are all people of whom I am very proud to say I’m their mother. Professionally I am proud of my teaching time in the classroom, but I most enjoyed my years as a school librarian.  As a librarian, I had those kids that loved to read and were looking for a certain book. Being able to put that book in their hand gave me a real connection with them. And sometimes the library is their safe place. That’s a good feeling to be able to provide that place. I think my strength is helping. In the library, that’s what you do. You help.

Thinking about your family many years from now, knowing they may hear this recording, is there anything you’d want to say to them? Any wisdom or advice you’d share?   I don’t know. I may have to think about that one and email you. I’m not sure that’s something I could come up with right on the spot. (longish pause). I guess I’d give the standard advice. Love God. Love your family. Which they all do. I would add that I hope they have the courage to be themselves as who God made them.  I spent a lot of years trying to be someone that I thought everyone else wanted me to be–parents, husband, and church friends.  It took a major upheaval in my life for me to figure out who I was and that that was okay.  God gives us all different gifts and we don’t need to try to be someone we are not.


If you have feedback or want to suggest someone for an interview, please email

Brother Richard

Brother Richard is the pastor at Shining Star Fellowship located on the corner of South 3rd and Palm. He describes himself as a relational person and energetic. He loves Christ and a good challenge. He says, “Evangelina (wife) and I are a tremendous pair…”

Do you feel like your job is your calling? My job is my calling. I really don’t see it as a job. It’s actually developed into a way of life. I’m doing exactly what I love to do. I wake up in the morning and say “Ok, Lord, what would you have me do?” I am waiting to see what awaits me. Can I say it’s an adventure?

What do you know about God?  That’s one of those questions you can’t get your arms around. I think one’s knowledge of God begins at a personal level and that level has an intimacy which I think is probably the best way to understand and to know God. You’re walking and talking with God. Therefore, he becomes real because he’s a major part of your daily experience. It’s that sense that you have that he’s with you all the time.

Can you share a favorite story about your spouse? When God called me into vocational ministry, I had a wonderful job. I was running a company, and I enjoyed that. We wanted for nothing. I came home one day and said, “Evangelina, I feel the Lord is leading me to resign and go full time to seminary.” She thought for a minute. It was a long minute. Here was her response – “I know that if God is calling you into ministry, and because I trust your love for Him, then I’m with you. So, whatever you decide to do, I’m with you.”

Tell me about someone who impacted your life. While I was living in Maryland I worked for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. My supervisor was a man named Joe Frazier (not that Joe Frazier). He was a wonderful guy. He called me Rev. We would read the blueprints together and make sure everything was running smoothly on the job. He once looked at me and said, “Richard, what are you doing here? With your skills, I recommend seriously that you leave here and see what you ought to be doing.” Impacted my life. I took his advice. I got out of there.

What did you do after that experience? I started attending Essex Community College, following what Joe had said. That’s when my draft number came. They had those lottery balls on TV. Mine was 52. Most of my friends who were a year older than me, they were heading straight to Vietnam. When my ball dropped, on my birthday actually, I thought here we go. I went straight down to the Air Force recruiter and took a test. They said Mr. Darden you have a high aptitude and we want you to go into electronics (flight facilities/equipment repair). So I went in with a guaranteed job promising six years to the Air Force.

What are you most grateful for? Pioneer Drive. I’ve been associated with PD since December of 2000 when Shining Star started. Over these many years, the support has been a tremendous blessing – to serve full-time and to get to be whom I am. That’s a real commitment.

What is one of your favorite movies and why? I love the classics. I have a favorite actor – Charlton Heston. I love the 10 Commandments. I love El Cid. And I also love Ben-Hur. They are all on my shelf. And Denzel Washington in the Great Debaters. I love the themes, and I love how they’re presented. They are wonderful stories, which are fulfilling. When it comes to TV today, I’ll turn it off and put on my old classics.

Katy Hibbs

Katy Hibbs is a mom and a Speech Language Pathologist. She is married to Jordan and has two boys Henry, 4, and Samuel 6 months. She describes herself as kind and outgoing.

Do you feel being a mom is your calling, why or why not?   It is a very important part of who I am. I’ve always wanted to be a mom ever since I was a little girl. Having worked in the elementary schools, I can see how important it is to raise your kids and instill good morals and values in them. It is a big job, and I don’t take that lightly. As far as my calling, that’s a loaded question. Is my only job in this world to take care of them? No. I feel like there’s a bigger picture out there. I’m working on tapping into that. I think there are a lot of different parts that make up your calling in life. Right now I’m focused on raising two boys, helping other people, and being a good wife.


What is one lesson you have learned from being a mom?  I’ve learned that I’m not patient when trying to teach patience. That’s an area that I need to work on as well. Every day there’s probably something new I’ve learned about myself, but patience has been on my mind lately.


Has anyone helped you become a better mom?   My mom, Diane King. She is very loving, very pure – not a mean thought in her mind. My father worked a lot while we were young and my mother was on her own with my brother, sister, and I. We didn’t make life easy for her at times, but she loved us unconditionally. She set a good example for me of how to be a good mom.


What is a favorite story about you being a mom?   When Samuel was a week old, we took him to our pediatrician, the wonderful Dr. Wiley, for his check-up and one-week shots. Henry came with us, and he became very upset when the nurse came in with the shots for Samuel. Henry’s face turned angry as he watched the nurse give Samuel his shots. After the nurse had left, he told me the nurse was a mean person, and she is never allowed to hurt Samuel like that again. It’s been nice to see Henry and Samuel’s bond develop and my prayer is for them to always have a love and devotion for each other.


How has being a mom affected your marriage?  It’s made it stronger. You have to come together as a team. It’s made both of us less selfish. It’s brought a depth that wasn’t there before having kids. After Henry was born and seeing Jordan hold him in his arms for the first time, I had a deeper love for him. I rely on him a lot, and he is a wonderful husband and father to our children.


If you have feedback or want to suggest someone for an interview, please email



Dr. Brad Barham


Dr. Brad Barham joined Pediatric Associates in August 2015 and is married to Stephanie (Eiland). They have two children together, Norah 3 years old and Elliot 2 months. You can find them most Sundays worshiping at the gathering.  Brad will be leading worship some Sundays for the gathering as we search for a new worship leader for the gathering.


How do you feel about being a father?   It’s hard. And rewarding and enjoyable and frustrating and miserable. At different times. It’s taught me how selfish I am. It’s the most time-consuming thing I’ve ever done. You don’t get a break. It’s not a 9-5. You’re always a dad. It’s a constant battle of time for me. Do I spend this time on me or other things or on nurturing my children and their growth? I care about their happiness, but my goal isn’t for my kids to be happy. My goal is for my kids to one day love the Lord and to affect change in the world somehow. My job is to foster an environment where they can really get to know what loving the Lord means for them.

What did your parents do to help you become a parent?   Support would be the word that comes to mind. I don’t have helicopter parents. Their position always was, “we want you to do what you want to do.” And I see the value in that, but a lot of times I wanted them to tell me what to do. Like getting into medicine, they never said, “you should do this.” They said, “you should do what you enjoy.” They’ve always been there for me and would do anything for us (my family).

How has being a parent affected your marriage?   You’re a little more on edge. There’s always something to take care of. It gets harder and harder to devote that time to one another. We’ve (also) learned a lot about each other. It’s garnered in me a lot more respect for Stephanie, as a mother. She’s not an uber-domestic gal, but she jumped into the role of motherhood. I remember being delighted. She’s a fierce mom who loves her kids. Where I’m impatient, she’s always patient with Elliot. Where she can be impatient with Norah, I’m pretty patient with a toddler. We complement each other well. I think that it’s given me a new perspective on Steph. I didn’t have doubts she would do well; I just wasn’t sure what it would look like because she’s such a laid-back, kind of free spirit personality.

How does your work affect the way you parent?  A lot. As a pediatrician, I’ve spent the last five years learning about kids and why they do what they do. I think it’s helped me a lot as a parent. I think I became a better pediatrician once I had kids, but I also think it has helped my parenting skills to understand the developmental aspects of children. There’s always that element of “what am I missing” (when I am spending a lot of time at work)?  I think the thought of being away affects me more than my kids feel it yet, but time will tell. I work on a team of doctors who are great and work together to cover and help each other be available for their families.

 If you have feedback or want to suggest someone for an interview, please email

I’m A Fan!


I’m a fan. With the recent Olympic games not too far behind us, maybe you can relate to the idea of looking up to someone for their talents or abilities. Athletes are often easy targets for our adoration as they compete on a big stage and are physically impressive. Now, I follow some athletes, (exclusively bearded greats from the Houston area) but my true interest is in ministry. I promise that’s not a church answer. I really love to bore people to death with talk about ministry and how it helps or doesn’t help people. This past week we welcomed Bob Lupton to our community as he challenged us to detoxify our methods for ministering to the poor. You can read more about his work online at or in his most recent book, Charity Detox. For me, Bob has been like the Lebron James of ministry. However, I did discover an important new insight from meeting someone I’ve admired from afar through books and blogs. He is not a hero to be admired, but simply a regular guy sharing what he has learned from living out his faith in Jesus. So, here’s a few things I gained from the recent visit of my once hero, now more relatable figure:

It’s ok to ask questions. The first step to sharing the good news more effectively with more people is to make sure we are holding on loosely to our time-honored practices for ministry and remaining open to new ideas and methods. Sometimes questions lead to us to the difficult points of discovering we were wrong or leaving behind “our” way, but isn’t this also the first step in following Jesus?

Everyone has something to contribute. This is not a merely good theory for working with families in need; it is a Biblical perspective on our identity as church members, neighbors, parents, spouses, and co-workers. When we truly believe God wants to use them and us, then the dynamic of our relationship(s) shifts from one-way to mutually enhancing.

Worship God alone. Never elevate people or their opinions (including your own) to a point where you become more of a disciple to a certain way of thinking than you are to Jesus. Learn what you can from people and ideas you come across, but always make sure your filter, foundation and final word are found in the Word that became flesh.

Take Five

An interview collection of Pioneer family members, guests, neighbors, and partners.  We hope these spark a renewed curiosity in people and help us love more by listening better.

mabryChris Mabry and his wife Rachel help lead a class for young married couples at Pioneer. They have a little girl named Claire and are expecting another daughter very soon.

How have you been brave lately?                                                                                                                                                                          When you’re doing something you’re not comfortable with, that takes courage which I relate to bravery. My wife was saying she needed an end table for our soon to be girl’s nursery. And I took it upon myself and said, “Let me do it.” We had a lot of wood from my daughter’s play set that we just disassembled. With that, I was able to make a table which I’ve never done.

Favorite movie and why?                                                                                                                                                                                     Princess Bride. It has everything. It’s funnier than you remember. It has witty dialogue. The characters are great. It’s got stories that tug at everybody’s heart. There’s a girl to be rescued. There’s a bit of revenge plot in there. There’s game theory, which is anytime you’re matching wits with somebody. You’re trying to think ahead of what they’re going to do. It’s the whole wine scene. I use this in my every day, in a sense.

What song reminds you most of your youth?                                                                                                                                                       My dad introduced me to music. Anywhere we traveled in his car we were listening to his music. We talked about music. The song that sticks out the most is Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin. The little boy wants to be like his father, but his father never had time for him. When the father has time, the little boy has his own family and doesn’t have time for his dad now. Dad hangs up the phone and realizes his son did grow up to be like him (in that way). I always thought the little boy wanted to be like his dad, but now that I am a father, and my dad is at the point where he is, I think about the relationship between father and son. I try to make time for my dad as much as possible.

What is a favorite story about your spouse?                                                                                                                                                   Rachel had every intention to deliver Claire with no drugs, all natural. We went to the physician, and we were after the due date. Our physician said, “I don’t think you’re going to get to have this baby the way you want to (naturally).” You don’t tell Rachel anything like that. It turns out; she ends up having Claire exactly how she planned to. She’s got one of the strongest wills that I’ve ever been around. And she’s one of those people who, if she says she’s going to do something she’s going to do it. With marriage, that’s huge. I know she’s got my back.

What fills your cup?                                                                                                                                                                                          Interacting with other people. My absolute favorite thing is making my daughter laugh. She’s got this laughter that fills you for days. I also like spending quality time in relationships I find to be meaningful & learning also.  Any adventure or new things.


If you have feedback or want to suggest someone for an interview, please email