As if shepherding a congregation through a pandemic wasn’t challenging enough, Pastor Frank Hart of NewChurch, Katy is facing the challenge of replacing a significant amount of equipment that was stolen from the congregation. NewChurch is not worshipping in permanent facilities presently and stores its Sunday morning necessities in a trailer. Here are the details from Pastor Hart.

Tell us who discovered the theft and how and when it was discovered.
It was 6:30 am on Sunday, I had one shoe on, and I got a phone call from Ed (who manages our setup team). He says, “I don’t know how to tell you this… Our trailer is gone.” He called the Sheriff’s office to report the theft, while I scrambled together a few microphones and the little “coffee house” P.A. from the back of my closet. It just happened to be the sixth anniversary of our church, and that was the same tiny sound system we used in the beginning.

What was in the trailer?
Everything we use to make church happen on Sunday morning. We had about $100,000 worth of sound equipment, lights, cameras, computers, stage platforms, curtains, things for children’s ministry, a couple of handmade logo signs that my dad built for us, our drum set, keyboard, our lectern—all kinds of stuff. Everything.

This theft made the local news. Tell us about that experience and the opportunities it provided.
The Sunday we found out the trailer was missing I made a short video telling everyone what happened and put it on YouTube in place of our worship live stream. It got a lot of attention and was viewed more than a thousand times. One of the people who saw it works for a news station.

So, on Monday I got a call from KPRC. They wanted to do a story on our stolen trailer, and we were on the six o’clock news. I put together a GoFundMe so people would have an easy way to contribute if they wanted to.

The next day I got another call from KPRC. They wanted to do a follow-up story, they said someone had called into the station and wanted to give a sizeable donation to help with our lost equipment. It turned out to be a very friendly guy who gave us a regular-sized check for $1,000 and promised to give another thousand if our GoFundMe increased by $1,000.

How has your congregation responded to this situation? Have others responded? How?
People have stepped up and blessed our church like crazy. It’s been incredibly encouraging. Members of our congregation gave generous gifts right away, as soon as they heard the trailer was stolen.

And we’ve had multiple $5000 and $10,000 gifts from around the country. One of the most amazing was from a
guy I used to go to church with called me and said he wanted to help. He said he doesn’t really attend anywhere in-person right now, but he watches our live stream on Sundays. He told me how much he loves our church and how much our online ministry means to him. Then he gave us $15,000.

Right now, we’ve been given between $40,000 and $50,000 to help us replace our stolen equipment. That’s not enough to get us back to where we were, but it’s certainly enough to get us back on our feet. It’s also extremely encouraging. Sometimes I can start to wonder if all the extra time and effort to push our ministry online and through social media is worth it—I think this experience has shown us that it is.

You have had a bit of a challenge with your congregation’s insurance. Can you tell us about that?
When we first bought the trailers and the gear in 2015, we made sure to have insurance coverage on both the trailers and the contents. About a year later, they canceled our policy and replaced it with another one. The premium was about the same so none of us thought anything about it. None of us noticed that they removed coverage for the trailer’s contents. Let this be a cautionary tale—always check the fine print.

Navigating this experience, what advice do you have for other pastors and congregations?
You mean besides making sure their insurance actually covers what they think it covers? Ha.

And here’s another very practical tip for portable churches: We didn’t have our logo or any identifying graphics on our trailers because I thought that would make them a target for thieves. I’ve come to understand my thinking was flawed. Apparently, those things are great theft deterrents—I guess it’s easier to steal the whole trailer than to break into them on site. Unmarked trailers are easier to drive away anonymously and sell. Lesson learned. I’m having the NewChurch logo put on our surviving trailer.

God has definitely used this experience to encourage me. In the week-to-week struggle of church ministry, it’s easy to not be aware of how valuable the things we do actually are to people. We say things and do things, and hardly ever get to know how those words and actions have made any difference to anyone. But Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there you find your heart.” The generous response of so many people shows me that God has truly used the ministry of NewChurch to touch people’s heart and lead them to Jesus. Thanks be to God!

Most of all, stories like this are poignant reminders of the passing nature of earthly treasures and the permanence of heavenly ones, “where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).

If you are interested in helping NewChurch with a financial donation, go to NewChurch.Love/give.

Jon Braunersreuther, D. Min.
Director of Districtwide Strategy
Mission Strategist—Area D