Brent Parker would be the first to tell you that his road to becoming pastor of The Woodlands UMC’s Woodforest campus was beyond unlikely.
For starters, he was ordained as a Disciples of Christ (DoC) minister and not a Methodist. So when Jeff Olive, who was at the time the Texas Annual Conference’s (TAC) Director of New Church Starts, approached him about leading a Methodist congregation, Brent knew it would mean having to walk away from a denomination that had been good to him.
At the time, the Parker family were living in Longview, Texas, where Brent was the associate pastor at First Christian Church, a DoC congregation. Though it was a good position and they were enjoying the town, the family also desired to come back home to the Houston area, where Brent had studied Education at the University of Houston and previously worked as a youth minister in The Woodlands area from 1998 – 2004 before heading to TCU’s Brite Divinity School.
“I was sensing God stirring in me,” he says about their time before leaving Longview. “He was inviting us into something new.”
Jeff mentioned churches all over southeast Texas, including the yet-to-exist Woodforest expansion of The Woodlands UMC. Out of all the possibilities, Woodforest was the only one Brent felt passionately about. He was intrigued by the idea of returning home.
Unfortunately, it was also the only opportunity Jeff felt was basically off the table. The district was already in the midst of a nationwide search to fill the position at Woodforest, a new campus in what is one of the most anticipated master-planned communities north of Houston.
It seemed obvious that the UMC would prioritize a Methodist minister for the job, but Brent continued to insist to Jeff that it was the only position to which he felt called. At one point, Jeff invited Brent to attend a UMC training event in Dallas, hoping to encourage him to become more open to a move to the UMC.
“Let it be part of your discernment process,” Jeff told him.
Brent showed up and, from the moment he walked in, realized he knew half the room. Over the course of the event, the worship and conversations began to warm Brent’s heart and to give him peace about switching denominations. Woodforest was the position that still called out to him the most though.
Over time and many interviews, the TAC began to warm to the idea as well. In retrospect, Brent can see the Lord at work throughout the whole process, making the impossible possible.
“I’m fairly convinced God didn’t allow a single United Methodist pastor to come down here for a face-to-face, because God knew a Methodist would pick another Methodist any day of the week,” he says.
As they moved forward in faith, God continued to open doors for the family, including a perfect position for his wife, Kori, as Associate Athletic Director at The Woodlands Christian Academy.
“They offered her a job on the spot,” Brent says. “One thing after the next kept happening like that where it was like, ‘Really?’ As if we doubted. It sounds fictitious, but it’s not. It was a great work of non-fiction.”
Brent joined The Woodlands UMC staff in the summer of 2015, and The Church at Woodforest launched the second Sunday of January 2016. In the time since, its growth has far exceeded expectations.
“God had set this in motion, that this was the time and I was the person to be a part of seeing this happen,” Brent says. “Something about me and my unique gift set — whatever that is — was necessary, and God was gonna need that and need me for this Woodforest community to grow and become what He intended it to be. And that’s where the excitement begins, because I don’t know what God’s waiting to do out here. Don’t pinch me. I’m excited to be a part of this team. It’s a dream world.”
Brent was brought into full connection as a UMC Elder at the May 2017 gathering of the Texas Annual Conference.
Brent and his wife, Kori, have three children: Caedmon, Kai and Kingston.