Neartown Church

Pastoral Team

Russell Cravens — Pastor

Before planting Neartown Church, Russell Cravens was a teaching pastor at an 18,000 member church on the south side of Houston. Since moving to attend Houston Baptist University in 1997, he has grown to love the city of Houston more and more. This love for inner city Houston has compelled him to leave his suburban lifestyle and position of influence at a megachurch to minister to the people here, bringing the message that “In Christ, God restores.”

Russell enjoys spending time with Jeanie, his wife of 12 years, and his 4 children. When not with his family, you’ll find Russell at a local coffee shop, studying or building new relationships.

Andrew Minchew — Etcetera

Andrew is a husband to Susan, and a father to Billy. He enjoys spending time with his wife and child; visiting local museums and parks; and watching documentaries. Andrew and Susan also enjoy having company over to their home for board games and Susan's delicious baking and cooking.

Kelly Stevens — Bookkeeper Plus

Kelly was born and raised on the south side of Houston and attended the University of Houston. Kelly and her husband Tobey love living in the city and enjoying local restaurants. They both enjoy racing in triathlons and are Ironman Finishers.

Cristen Crites — NTKids General Manager

Cristen was born and raised on the south side of Houston. She attended Baylor University and married her High School sweetheart Jonathan. Cristen and Jonathan moved into the city after getting married and have lived here for five years. Cristen has two young boys, Lincoln and Henry, as well as a dog named Scarlet. She enjoys the city's parks with her family, trying new restaurants, sewing projects, and is excited to be working with the kids at Neartown Church.

Cody Davis — Church Planting Resident

Cody was born and raised in the Houston area. He is studying Church Music at Houston Baptist University and leads worship for Quest, a weekly worship service at HBU, with the band Refuge. Cody enjoys spending time outdoors (especially near water), watching epic movies, and learning about technology.

Brandon Durham — Church Planting Resident

Brandon is a country boy who grew up in the deep woods of East Texas, and comes to join the pastoral residency after pastoring a church in Taipei, Taiwan for 3 years. Regarding that time, he says “My time in Taiwan made me painfully aware of my own brokenness and desperate need for God’s sanctifying work in my life and ministry. I’m grateful for a church like NearTown; for their invitation to deal honestly with the broken places, and to love and be loved on, as I participate in community.”
Brandon enjoys reading biographies of great preachers and missionaries, as well as writing, fishing, hunting, playing basketball, lifting weights, and watching good movies. Brandon can be seen driving fancy cars on the weekend, as a valet at Perry’s Steakhouse near Memorial.

Giovanni Arias — Church Planting Resident

Giovanni was born and raised in the north side of Houston. He typically goes by Gee or G. He is finishing his BA in Christianity at Houston Baptist University. As a side project, he is starting up a clothing company (A. Alexander Clothing Co). Gee loves being around other 24/7. He loves the arts in general (music, painting, drawing, photography, you name it.) You can find him at hipster coffee shops, playing basketball, watching movies, buying shoes, or eating food.