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Sunday to Sunday
How Jeremy Schroeder & Declaration Church Survived Hurricane Harvey
December 27, 2018 SundayU

Justin talks with Jeremy Schroeder, the Communications Director from Declaration Church in Houston, TX. Jeremy got his start at Declaration during the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey... volunteering to utilize social media to mobilize his church to help the community. His story is amazing. Listen through to the end - we've got a HUGE surprise for Jeremy.  

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1:0:01Learn how to grow your church and engaged your community from Sunday to Sunday. This is the Sunday to Sunday podcast.

Speaker 2:0:12Hey y'all, this is Justin Dean. Thank you for tuning in to the podcast. We have a very special episode for you today. I get to talk with Jeremy Schrader, a declaration church in Houston and uh, he is the communications director there and he has an incredible story of how he got started during Hurricane Harvey. You've got to hear this story. It is so impactful and there's so many things we can learn from it, uh, for the church, uh, and things that you can apply at your church no matter where you are, no matter what size your church is. I loved getting to talk to Jeremy during this interview and, uh, listen all the way through to the end because we have a huge surprise for Jeremy at the end. You're going to love it. So I'm going to jump right in to the interview and we will see you again, uh, in the new year with fresh new episodes of Sunday to Sunday.

Speaker 2:1:13All right, Jeremy Schrader. Thanks for joining me, man. You're with a declaration church out of Houston, right? Yes, that's correct. Well, I got wind of your story a little bit from some friends and I wanted to bring you on the podcast because I think this incredible story, I wanted to personally just hear more and uh, and get to know you better and what you're doing their declaration. Um, first off, congrats on being a new father. I know you got an eight month old son at home, so, uh, you obviously are not getting any sleep. Very little. Yeah.

Speaker 2:1:52That combined with, uh, you know, we just finished up Christmas, so that was, that was quite the season. You guys have a good Christmas. Yeah, man, it was awesome. It was great. We had really a really awesome you did to Christmas Eve services and they were packed out and yeah, we had a great. That's so cool. Yeah. So how big is the church? Give us an idea. How about Sunday? We average somewhere in the 450 range and credit that includes our kids, which is about 40 percent kids. So we have a pretty healthy kids ministry. Um, we're a mobile church, we meet in an elementary school. Nice. We're in and out every week and that's a lot of fun. You guys set up and tear down every week? Man, I do not miss those days. We had a few campuses like that at Mars Hill and it was, you know, bringing it in the trailer at 5:00 AM.

Speaker 2:2:39Oh yeah, yeah. Not, not fun, but we're looking forward to hopefully starting. We're talking about some things in the future here about moving toward getting an a building. So we're all very excited about the potential of not having to set up and tear down anymore. And how old is the church? Uh, we will be three years old in February. Okay. And how long have you been working there? Uh, I started. So interestingly enough I kind of started as a drummer. I'm a musician first. Um, so that's how I first got connected to the church. I started playing drums and I'm probably about six months. Then I was like, I had just finished a marketing degree and I was like, Oh hey, I can help out in some other areas. So I just started serving, volunteering, doing that stuff and it's just kind of slowly ramped up since then.

Speaker 2:3:25And Are you full time now? A pretty close, 30 hours a week. So yeah, we're, we're, we're almost there. Oh, that's like quarter time and in church come world. I know, right? Yeah, for real. Exactly. I mean it's 30 hours of scheduled time that I've been more time than you actually get paid as well. Tell me, tell me a little bit more. So during Hurricane Harvey, obviously that the area was, was pretty devastated by that. Lots of people were in the Tomi kind of how that's when you started volunteering at the church. Right. And stepping up and kind of, it kind of coincide with that. I had started a little bit before that, but that's really rare thing. Got going. So um, you know, when, when the storm hit, it's kind of crazy just living in Houston, you know, between July and I guess about November, you're like you're ready for a hurricane at anytime, you know, like it's just, that comes with the territory of living in Houston.

Speaker 2:4:22So you're always somewhat prepared for that and even with this one, you know, like you, you hear that one is coming and there's a high chance it's gonna hit and so you do some preparation, but you never really know what's going to happen. I feel like a large percentage of the time you get like the gloom and doom from the weather forecast and that it hits and then you see all the meme shared of the launcher blown over. It's like we will rebuild. So it's like nothing happened, really need a new meme from storms. I know, right? Yeah, we do. We need to make some new stuff. Um, but yeah, so you just don't really know. Um, and even leading up the week leading up to harvey, like they really didn't know what was going to, how bad it was going to be. They knew it was going to hit.

Speaker 2:4:58They had a pretty good track at that point of where it was going. Beat us. Don't really know. So what made harvey so devastating was that once it got on top of Houston, obviously hit the coast and then bounce back out into the Gulf and the land. So it, it had strengthened going to the Gulf of Mexico, hit um, you know, a little bit south of us. Went back out into the Gulf restrengthened and then came over Houston and just parked there. It stopped for like three or four days. However, the, the low pressure and high pressure just kept it right on top of this. Um, so, you know, even leading up to it, I remember we weren't even sure if we were going to cancel services on Sunday. I think came in like Friday night, Saturday morning is when it really is getting bad and that week we're like, you know, we're going to still have church, like what's gonna happen.

Speaker 2:5:41So on Friday we ended up recording a service just to be ready to go just here in here in the offices. We just recorded a quick little, you know, a few songs and a message and you know, we knew like, okay this is, this looks like it can be pretty bad. So then as the weekend continues, obviously services were canceled and then up over those next few days the ranges keeps coming down and coming down and coming to, I think I saw somewhere we got like part most, like it was enough to cover the entire city of Houston with 27 inches of rain. I'll remember seeing like these time lapse videos of freeway overpasses to where it was like over four hours. The entire. Yeah, it was just out of nowhere. So I'm like I said, you know, you're ready for a hurricane but you don't really know what you're preparing for it.

Speaker 2:6:27So you know, after all that happens, a lot of us are stuck in our houses, can't really do anything and then as the water kind of starts to slowly come down at least as the main part of the storm passes, that's really when things now if like kick into gear, right? Um, you know, so it, it started out like everybody just do what you can. So it started, I remember I was stuck not at my house, did not flood, all the streets around me were flooded where I could drive in my neighborhood. I couldn't go anywhere. So even I was stuck at my house and I just kinda started following on facebook what was going on and I noticed like my pastor hopped on and they were like in a boat going out to do boat rescues, like getting people in my college was. And that was like the first big thing that, you know, we've kind of started seeing is all these rescue started happening.

Speaker 2:7:08That was a cool thing too to see like because overall the big thing that I love to see about hurricane harvey as a whole is how people came together. I mean it was a really divisive, like 2017 with super divisive. It was trump's first year in office. There's like all sorts of political crazy stuff going on. But all of that just went away. And people who have been here in Atlanta, I mean we knew so many people who were just like, we're getting in the car and go in and help. But yeah. Well that's what was crazy. It was like people live all over. Yeah, I like, it was everything just like poured in and you know, we had people, a bunch of people from Louisiana is called the Cajun Navy, came in with all the boats and was doing boat rescues off of roofs. But like people were sending out like instagram messages like hey I'm stuck at this location.

Speaker 2:7:45Somebody come get me, you know, like. So that's, that was really the first part of it. Like over the first couple of days was just getting people say first getting people out of their houses. Because I heard stories of people, you know, like the water was rising in their house. They didn't have anywhere to go. So they would punch a hole in their roof to get into the attic, or sorry, they climbed into their attic and punched a hole through the roof to get up onto the rooftop. There was just nowhere else for them to go. Um, so yeah, people getting saved like that and um, that's, that's really, that's like the first, like immediate response part. So then, you know, we'd take that a couple days later and then it's like the water has started going down, you know, obviously the parts of downtown where we're underwater for quite a while, but in our area, you know, it wasn't, it wasn't more than a couple of days, but you still have people that they don't have a place to go there.

Speaker 2:8:31Houses are flooded, it's just a mess and how it goes, like it's going to take the government usually a couple of days to mobilize and get help. So what was crazy about him, it was so cool, is to see the local church mobilized and there's a bunch of places across the city that like by the time government aid got there, by the time we got there, they're like, we're good, you know, like people have taken care of us already. Um, so that's kind of how everything started on our part of it. So at that point we averaged, we were maybe a 300 person church and you know, we didn't have a whole lot of manpower anything, but we just said, hey we're, we're here to do what we can, we want to help in any way we can and everybody kind of jumped in and the things that they felt like they could do.

Speaker 2:9:10And I was like, I don't really know what I can do, but I can document what's going on and I can share what's going on and you know, kind of be a bit of a network and see what else is going on in the city. So that's really where I jumped in and started getting on social media once we all got in. So what the office that we're in now, it's kind of like part of a warehouse office park type thing. We had just moved into one little one room office as part of it and even that, like this was two weeks before the hurricane hit and we were like, I don't know if this is going to be a good thing for us. God felt. I felt like God was pushing us into this, say like, Hey, go do it. And we were like, can we afford it?

Speaker 2:9:45You know, what's going on? But we took that step of faith and crazy enough, two weeks later it hits and there's this big open warehouse right next door to us. So they hadn't built out yet. So we go and talk to the owner. We're like, hey, there's this empty warehouse. Can we make this our base to start, you know, maybe collecting some stuff for people. And he's like, yeah, sure. It's all y'alls. Go, go. Yeah. So we have, yeah, it was crazy. Like, and that's, I feel like that was kind of the theme of the next few weeks as things happened is there was a need and God provided for it. Um, you kind of have to just, you can't just go back to normal. Right. It can't just be like, okay, well this is ron this week, like you were a few weeks. Yeah, I mean that's kind of the thing.

Speaker 2:10:22I mean, life normal life is like, it's probably shut down. It's probably been about a month that you weren't going to work, like there wasn't really anywhere to go. A lot of people couldn't get anywhere, you know, like an hour still out. Then gap power's out in a lot of places. It was just, it was a mess. So, you know, and it, it takes, I would say, you know, we just passed a year anniversary of that and there's some people that are just now getting their lives back to normal if you, if you will. Um, but yeah, so it was, it was a pretty crazy experience to see it all, all grow and see how God provided for needs. And that's where we stepped in most was with that warehouse. We kind of just started putting some calls out on social media, you know, like, hey, we're collecting some stuff here.

Speaker 2:11:08If you want to make any donations, you know, we can accept it here. You know, water, diaper diapers were a big thing that I didn't even really think about. Not having a kid yet at that point. Yeah. Like you need diapers, you know, food. And then, you know, cleaning supplies were a big thing too, so we just started collecting what we could into this warehouse and to help our local community first is really where it started and we did everything we could help out around here. And as that continued to grow, that's where like God kind of just blew my mind with, with how um, how things can, can work through social media and through networking that way because where there had been divisiveness and craziness before, now all of a sudden it was a tool for connecting and, and putting our city back together.

Speaker 2:11:50So we started filling up this warehouse and then we would hear and another part of the city, Hey, we don't have any bottled water, here is anywhere, have some. I'm like, I look out like, yeah, we have pallets of it right now, let's get a truck, will get some over to you. Um, you know, so we started doing that and you know that that just kinda continued to grow. It seemed like there was times so that like it would empty out. We'd get to the end of the day, we'd have an empty warehouse like I guess we're done and then the next day we go down there again and it's full of stuff. We're getting like, you know, like at its height we're getting 18 wheeler shipments from like North Carolina and California. Like all this stuff is coming here to the point where we need to be in a spot where like it was accessible.

Speaker 2:12:26Yeah, exactly. It was. It was pretty easy to get to and so it kind of turned from like a distribution center for our local community into this big thing that we're getting stuff sent out to the whole city. We had people connecting with like I think there was former military guys that got ahold of a helicopter that we were sending them shipments and stuff that they were air dropping into parts of the city that you couldn't even drive to like. Well in the midst of it you don't really think anything of it because you're just like, hey, what can we do to help? And then all of a sudden we get past it and we finally like a month later, it's like, what did we just do? What I love about this is, I mean, you know, three to 400 people, that's a pretty good size church, but it's also a smaller church.

Speaker 2:13:04Like I want people to hear this and, and know that through the power of social media and just connecting people, seeing needs and trying your best to try and figure it out. I mean this was all probably done from your phone too, I'm sure you didn't have Wifi for them. So are part of the city. Got kind of put back together. We had power running here pretty cool. So I was able to hop on a computer and do that. But I mean that's really what it was. It was mostly through networking, through social media, through the. My favorite story of the whole thing is actually we got a shipment of. We had two pallets of boxes of bananas. So I'm like, okay, great. Like thanks for helping. What do we do with this? And so I went down to check it out. They're not even like good, like they're mushy and I'm like, they're still like, they're not brown, they're just like yellow and mushy because they've made it.

Speaker 2:13:52It's what I guess September at this point in Houston, like engrossed in your last few days. I'm like, okay, so what do we do with this? So I'm like, well here we go. Like I post that on social media, we have these bananas, we don't have anything to do with them. If you want to come pick some up for like, they're not good to eat, but if you want to make banana bread or whatever, you know, come for it. So there is a few. Yeah, right. We had a few ladies come and like grab something to go make banana bread. But then somebody commented on the post, I ended up connecting with them. There's a church downtown that their ministry, they do addiction recovery and their ministry is fully supported by selling banana bread fund their entire ministry. Yeah. So I got connected to the people that do that.

Speaker 2:14:34It was like, we have these bananas, do you want to? They're like, yeah, sure. So we loaded up onto a truck, take it to them, and they took all of them. I'm just like, okay, God, cool. Like how, how you can take something that I look, I was like, I don't even know what to do with it. You got like, I've got a purpose for that. So yeah, it was, it was just crazy to see, like I said, every even needs that we, we didn't know were needing to be met. Like stuff like that could go to support. And it was, it was. So man, I love it. I, I think that that's great. I applaud you for jumping in. I mean, you weren't even, you know, on staff at that point you were just like, what can I do to help the churches, you know, shut down.

Speaker 2:15:09Obviously we don't really need greeters or for a while like, you know, but you just kind of stepped in and, and figured out, um, what could be done. And I'm assuming the church wasn't too active on social media before then I had just thought that was kind of the area where I had said like, Hey, this is an area I can help out because there was nothing before, there was not a lot going on. It's like I can at least get on and post some things. And it's not like you had a network already built. Totally. No, no, not at all. We've already built like, you just got to get it. There was not much of anything and really it just came down to, you know, like people would start sharing stuff and then you just never knew the connections that could be made through that.

Speaker 2:15:49Yeah. Um, and that was what was, was cool to see is just like, you know, us, that it felt like, you know, we're, we're a small, I mean not a small church, but overall a small church. We didn't have a building, we didn't have a building. We were operating. Right. Yeah. And to just see, you know, like everything that was needed. Like I said, like God just would bring this and bring this. And then bring this person that needed this and just to see how all those things were connected and interconnected. It just blows my mind how it all I love. And it was just the Providence, just the warehouse that was available, the landlord being willing to just let you use it. I mean, like everything just kind of seemed to, to fall into place. Yeah, totally. And I think your willingness, you know, for you and as a church really just be able to be used.

Speaker 2:16:32So figure out what needs, uh, there were uh, and meet them. I think that that's incredible. I think we can, we can all learn a ton from that, you know, not only just, you don't need to necessarily have a solid plan or a network or anything in place, you just need to be able to be willing to be used. You know, when the time comes. So well that's a big thing that. And I think it, it rings true, especially during that time. We say a lot, nobody can do everything but everybody can do something. And that was the perfect example of it because know me, it was a perfect example is like I don't know what I can do, I can get on social media, but sure enough like that became such a, a, a connection point for like all of these other things to happen.

Speaker 2:17:13And a lot of it came down to like other networks. We had partnerships we already had with some other churches in the area. But yeah, just seeing people jump in where they could and the things that they're passionate about, I think it really was a big turning point for us as a church. Not just, you know, obviously you know with what we were doing. But I think a lot of people saw that moment of like, Hey, this is, I can make a difference here. Like I can jump in. And I liked the feeling of being able to help people. And I think we saw a lot of momentum come from that. It's probably something you all experienced together that helps change the culture. And Jojo, Julia, you're a year, a year and a half out from when this all happened. I mean, some are still, you know, their houses were destroyed from the water and uh, are still recovering from that.

Speaker 2:17:56So, um, it's, it's great that you guys are still there and active and growing and, and you know, being a part of it right there in the middle of it. Yeah. Well, and that's something else cool that we've been able to do to that from that, you know, like we didn't want it to become a thing where it was just, you know, we were here when it flooded. We're here to help and then okay let's just go back to normal life. We're trying to keep that going. So even, you know, like I think there was those floods and Carolina recently we kept our, so our then we kind of branded our relief efforts as the flood of love. It was kind of a joke at first. Our Pastor said something about that and like it's like Hashtag flood flow is like that actually kind of where it's like good job.

Speaker 2:18:34So we've been able to keep that going on and we've kept receiving some donations into that fund that we can again, turn around and like we've sent some stuff to Carolinas when it flooded or sent some aid to some other places. So, you know, even saying how that has been catalyzed to not just, not just our area, not just our city in that event, but how it's continued to help people across the people poured in donations and help to you guys. It's great to see you kind of given that, uh, back and continuing now. That's incredible. Yeah, absolutely. Well, what's your role like today? You're, you're Kinda, uh, you know, 30 hours a week you said, uh, you know, almost full time at the church continuing this role. What's your, what's your day to day look like? We're sometimes. So my official title now is communications director, which has, you know, and probably most people know that's like the master of all things sales into a lot of stuff.

Speaker 2:19:22Um, so, you know, at, from there, from, from harvey happening, it kind of stepped more from, you know, not just social media but into more email stuff and then I've along the way have picked up how to do some graphic design work. I do a lot of photography and we just were able to purchase some video gear so I'm getting into making some more videos. Um, yeah. So it's, it's really all things communications at this point. I mean I'm, I'm the prototypical one man team doing it all, making it all happen week to week as far as that goes. Um, yeah. So, you know, it's, it's kinda grown over the past year or so. You know, I was part time for most of this year. Um, I guess still technically part time, but I treat it like my full time job. Um, you know. Right. That's, that was one of the other crazy things too, even for me personally that that got kind of used through all that is that I had just, well I had left my job as a teacher, as a music teacher before I left that job in 2016 and had spent a year just teaching lessons and kind of doing some other stuff and my big source of lessons in August kind of just got pulled out from under me completely unexpected.

Speaker 2:20:29So I was just left in this point of like, all right, God, I don't know what's next, like I don't really know what you have for me. And then harvey hit, so I didn't have much time to think about it even I kinda just jumped in and then as that continued and grew, I was like, oh, I see what you're doing here. Okay. So you know, I've, I've just bought what it was doing. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I didn't, but he definitely did. So I've spent the past, you know, year plus. Excuse me, I'm really just diving in and trying to learn as much as I can through, you know, through your podcast. I dived into to Brady's podcasts, all the facebook groups and all the things and just trying to get my hands on as much information as possible and trying to learn how to say to serve in my calling.

Speaker 2:21:11So yeah, it's been pretty wild. And you, you said you got a degree in marketing, where's that from a Texas a and M, a West Texas a and M. Yeah, I did it all online because I was, I was originally a music major for awhile and then I started touring. I actually toured with David Dunn for a little while, um, when he was first getting started and then was doing the music stuff. I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. I'm in the midst of all that and so ended up dropping out of school, but the music stuff kind of took off. I was like, well I don't really need a degree for that anymore. Like what else would be helpful? Maybe marketing. So I kinda just did that and that's what's even crazy about that. Looking back as I didn't even know what that was going to be, you know, like I was like, I'll get a marketing degree but I'm going to be a musician.

Speaker 2:21:55So, um, you know, to even see how God kind of start planting the seeds for where I am now years ago and has watered that into, into where it is now. Do you think this is what you want to do now? Like continue to work at the church and be an administrator? Oh yeah, for sure. I felt a call into ministry a while ago and just never really. I mean I felt like, well I'm playing drums, you know, like I'm doing music. I guess that's it. Yeah. Without even knowing what was going to come. But now that I'm, I'm into this role, music has kind of taken a back seat, which is, if you'd asked me that like even two years ago, I'd be like, yeah, that would never happen. But I love it, man. It's been so much fun getting in and learning how to do all this stuff.

Speaker 2:22:37And I feel like half the time I don't know what I'm doing and faking it till you make it and doing that whole thing, but it's a blast. And I just love how, you know, all of really communications in the church can be used as an outreach tool can be used. Sometimes. It's tough because, you know, I feel like when you're a church communicator you don't always see the fruit of what you're doing, you know, like, you know, that you're making an impact, but you don't see the direct. You don't always. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So you know that that part is fun. I think, you know, during Harvey, obviously that was, I got a taste of that. I got a taste of like, oh, this is making a super direct impact. Right? And so that's really what kind of stirred that passion up in me to say, well, what else can we do with this?

Speaker 2:23:20Well, Jeremy, I love, uh, I love hearing this. I love hearing your heart behind it. And, and, uh, just how impactful you guys were during this time. And in particularly, you just how you stepped up. I mean, you know, there's low, like you, you know, you don't seem like the type of guy who wants to really take credit for that, but honestly, that's, that's a huge thing that you did. You stepped up, you use the skills that you had and you figured out the rest and you're continuing to do that. And uh, and so I don't know how much you follow us and what we do. We've got, you know, we've got the conference that we, that we do every year and uh, you know, we've got Sunday you a online training and things like that. And so, uh, as we come to the close and 2018 here, I wanted to do something, uh, to where we're, you know, we, we just give away something and teamed up with my friends at Church media squad, uh, Michael Busey and ski and the team over there and we kinda just dreamed up.

Speaker 2:24:23But, you know, what can we do? Let's pull our resources and uh, let's, let's throw this out there. And I kind of wanted to just hear people's stories and I'm glad that that years surfaced up here. Carol and John, uh, at declaration church actually nominated you for this. And so, uh, we are choosing you to, uh, to win our grand package here. We're going to fly the way, wanted a fly you out here to Atlanta next year. We're going to put you up in a nice hotel. We're going to get you a rental car or give you a VIP ticket to that church conference and it's not going to cost you a thing. We're going to take care of all of it. And on top of that, you're getting a month of a church media squad, which is unlimited graphic design services. So I know you said you Kinda taught yourself graphic design to try to figure that stuff out. Now, at least for a month, I would suggest planning out your next 12 months and sermon series and just thrown it all out and getting it all.

Speaker 2:25:27Try to get them to do as much as I can in a month for you. But they're excellent. We use them for our own graphic design needs and uh, and it's, it's, you know, high quality stuff. So hopefully that's helpful for you for a month and we're going to give you a year of a Sunday, you so you can continue to get that training, connect with the community, a download all kinds of resources for you. You'll have that for, uh, for the next year, but I'm looking forward to meeting you, shaking your hand, giving you a hug. Yeah, man. I mean the next year I think it's so awesome. Thank you so much. I'm like blown away. So incredible. You're welcome, man. I, I think, uh, I think you deserve it at, of all the nominations we had a, we had some really good, um, people who, who all deserve this, but, uh, when I heard your story, Carol submitted that and uh, it just kinda touched me. I wanted to get you on here and here more. And then, uh, John submitted as well. I don't know if they talked and both submitted, but they both submitted the, your name and uh, it, it Kinda just kept coming up. So yeah. Wow. Uh, hopefully you're available September 17th and 18th next year I'll make myself available. Hey, if I'm, if I'm not going to have to, I get some reprieve from graphic work. Maybe that'll now. There you go. Let them run it while you're gone.

Speaker 2:26:52Well, we'll, uh, we'll coordinate all that with you. I'm excited for you to come out and that'll be so great. I'm so excited. Very cool. Well, thanks again for coming on. Uh, and uh, thank you again for sharing your story and for all that you do, I pray just continued blessings for her declaration church and what you guys are doing there and I love hearing that you're continuing to help other tragedies around the country in the world. So congratulations on all you guys have done. Thank you. Yeah, and thanks for having me on me. I really enjoyed it.

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