Pastors & Staff

Rev. Leslie Byrd
Senior Pastor
Rev. Leslie Byrd joined the staff of New World United Methodist Church as the Senior Pastor on July 1, 2019.  Leslie served in the local church since 9th grade in a variety of roles and felt a call to Ordained Ministry in 1991 and spent the next several years completing her education.
 
She attended Texas Wesleyan University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Christian Education and then attended Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University with a Master of Divinity and a concentration in Pastoral Care and Counseling.

Pastor Leslie’s first career was in advertising and her first job was as a paste-up artist, darkroom technician and assistant printing press operator at an insurance company. She went on to work in a bank marketing firm and later managed her own Free-lance graphic design business for several years.

Her favorite food is anything Mexican or Italian and she is an avid movie enthusiast Her favorite movies include Apollo 13, Baggar Vance, The Guardian, Finding Forrester, and The Hunt for Red October. TV favorites include anything HGTV, This is Us, and New Amsterdam. 
 
That which brings the greatest joy is her family – especially her two young grandsons.  “Grandparenting is the greatest!” she will tell you.  She is grateful to God for every moment of her life and every moment is truly a gift.  Her favorite scripture is Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
 
Pastor Leslie has been married to her husband, John, for 40 years, whom she me in 6th grade. They have three grown children and two grandchildren.
Rev. Erin Sloan Jackson
Associate Pastor of Missions

Rev. Erin Sloan Jackson, Associate Pastor of Missions and has been on staff at New World since September 2014. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration from Baylor University and a Master of Arts in Ministry from SMU Perkins School of Theology. Erin is an ordained United Methodist Deacon. Erin is professionally certified in youth ministry, and has been serving in ministry in various capacities for over twenty years.

Pastor Erin’s first job was in telephone sales for Olan Mills Studios. Her favorite food is fresh fruit and her favorite movie/TV shows are Office Space, Brooklyn 99, The Office, This is Us and whatever soccer game is on TV.
 
Pastor Erin says the thing that brings her the greatest joy is spending time with her family around the dinner table, watching her kids play sports and also spending time in solitude creating art.
 
Her favorite Bible verse is Micah 6:8, “God has told you what is good and what the Lord requires of you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.
 
Pastor Erin has been married to her husband Dennis for over 20 years and she is a mom to four awesome kids, Trey (19), Nate (17), Kat (14) and Lucas (5).

Kathy Alexander
Director of Children’s Ministry

I began in the New World Pre-school staff in 2013, as Lead teacher for the 4-year old class.  In 2016 I accepted the position of Director of Children’s Ministries.  Ministry with children has been a lifelong passion for me.  Getting to share the Bible and help them begin building the foundation they need to continue growing as Christians throughout their lives is very exciting to me.  I am continually blessed by the children I work with and I am always learning from them.  One of my favorite scriptures is “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14. For me working with children is a sacred calling.

It is hard for me to pick just one favorite food, my favorite dessert is cheesecake with some combination of chocolate and nuts.  I love Chinese food; especially Orange Chicken, and Cashew Chicken is another favorite.

My favorite movie is “Steel Magnolias”, I love the bond that is formed between the women in the movie, and the support they are for one another.

My greatest joy is my family, my happy place are family get-togethers, sharing meals, playing games, watching sports, etc.  My husband Mike and I have 3 children, David, married to Stephanie, Brad married to Amy, and Susan.  We are blessed with 3 beautiful grandchildren, Anna, Jack, and Rilla.  Mike and I have served in ministry for 40+ years and what an amazing adventure it has been and continues to be!   

Another favorite Bible verse of mine is Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  This verse carries me through good times and difficult times.

Joshua Bender
Multimedia Director
Joshua Bender joined New World as the MultiMedia Director in August of 2020. Previously, Josh was the sound engineer for New World beginning in 2015. Josh graduated from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio in 1996 with a Bachelor of Specialized Studies degree (B.S.S.) in Music, Audio Production and Theater Sound Design. After graduating Josh moved to New York, New York where he spent 10 years working on a multitude of Broadway and Off-Broadway productions. Credits include, Sound Designer; I am My Own Wife, Associate Sound Designer: Big Bill at Lincoln Center, Associate Sound Designer; Belle Epoch at Lincoln Center, and Associate Sound Designer; The Rivals at Lincoln Center. Josh rekindled a love with his high school sweetheart Stacy Bender-Dubiel in 2012 and moved to Texas shortly thereafter to be with her. “It’s an absolute Blessing to be a part of the New World family!
Steven Couch
Director of Worship & Music
Steven Couch is a conductor, organist, pianist, flutist and published arranger/composer. He holds the Bachelors of Music Degree in Church Music from Friends University, Wichita KS and the Masters Degree in Choral Conducting from University of Texas at Arlington. Steven has composed and arranged hundreds of pieces for use in worship and concerts. He has arranged and/or orchestrated for Kristen Chenoweth, Esera Tualo, Nell Carter, Cynthia Clawson, Mark Hayes, Marvin Gaspard, Greg Gilpin, The Turtle Creek Chorale, Resounding Harmony, Credo of Dallas, the New Texas Symphony Orchestra, and many other church groups, civic ensembles, choirs, orchestras and soloists. Steven currently serves as Director of Worship and Music at New World United Methodist Church in Arlington. Steven is a member of the American Guild of Organists, The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship, National Flute Association, American Choral Directors Association and on the board of the Dallas Chapter of Chorister’s Guild.
Gail Hall
Director of Communications
Hello! I have been on staff at New World UMC in several different roles since 1992. I started as a substitute teacher in our Mother’s Day Out program. This transitioned into a teaching position and I stayed with our MDO as it evolved into New World Preschool. I taught in all of our classes and also served as the Assistant Director and Director for a short time. I retired from our Preschool in May 2015. I enjoyed my time off, but was very excited when I was offered the opportunity to go back to work at New World as the Director of Communications. I’ve been in this position since December 2015. 
 
My favorite food would have to be anything at a Mexican restaurant. Who doesn’t love a place that serves chips and salsa as soon as you’re seated? Part of the dinner experience is the conversation so having chips just makes the meal last longer. My favorite movies are Steel Magnolias and Fried Green Tomatoes. Yes, I know I’m going to cry every time I watch them, but I can’t help myself. It makes my heart happy to see the love these characters have for each other.
 
My greatest joy would have to be my family. My husband, Tim, and I were married here at New World in 1985. We were blessed to be able to raise our two children in this church as well. Our daughter Heather and her husband Chris live in The Colony are expecting their first child at the end of 2021 and our son Ryan lives in Jackson, Wyoming. 
Sarah Henson
Director of Student Ministry
Hi! My name is Sarah Henson and I have been on staff here at New World since August of 2018. I grew up in Houston, Texas, and went to Texas A&M to recieve a degree in Business Administration and a focus in Marketing and Non-profit Business Management. I grew up “a youth group kid”, however, I first began to notice and pursue my call to ministry in early college when my youth pastor from my home church recommended me for a youth ministry internship at a Methodist church in Houston. After just one summer at the church, I immediately recognized I had a passion for students and loved mentoring and walking alongside teenagers. Growing up in youth group my youth pastors always showed me love and grace that helped me understand the love that God has for me, and this is my hope as a youth pastor now for the students here at New World!
 

I graduated in 2021 from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary with a Masters in Theology and Youth Ministry.

My favorite food is tacos, though I am enjoying learning how to cook more! My favorite movies are Mamma Mia, all the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies, and any romantic comedy. 

My greatest joy is the people I love – community, friends, and family are very important to me! I also love to travel to new places. I am recently married to my husband Blake, we have been together since our sophomore year of college where we met at Texas A&M. We hope to be able to travel our bucket list soon, but for now enjoy roller skating, biking, and cooking together!

My favorite bible verse is “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” -Colossians 3:1-4

Heather James
Director of Operations

Heather James joined the staff of New World United Methodist Church as the Director of Operations on February 5, 2018. She attended the University of Texas at Arlington and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Business Administration.

Heather’s first career was as an Account Director for a marketing agency working with some of the biggest brands in the consumer package goods industry. After 17 years, Heather was called to find a different path that nourished her soul and made a difference in the world. Working for New World feels like coming home to her.

Her favorite foods are Mexican or Sushi. Her favorite movies are Love Actually and The Holiday but mostly you will find her with a book in her hand on any number of topics. TV favorites include This is Us, Escape to the Chateau, So You Think You Can Dance and any documentary on PBS.

Her favorite scripture is Philippians 4:6 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation pray with thanksgiving and present your requests to God.”

Heather has been married to her husband Matt for 20 years and they have two children Hayden and Megan. They also have a new rescue dog Harper who has brought some much needed joy and excitement to their lives. In her spare time, Heather loves to read, travel, journal, be creative, calligraphy and when time allows…sleep.

JinAh Kwon
Organist and Music Assistant
Jin Ah Kwon, a concert pianist, began playing the piano at the age of five. Jin Ah graduated with a Bachelor and Master degree from Seoul National University in Korea. Currently, Jin Ah is working at Tarrant County College as an adjunct faculty and completing her doctoral degree at the University of North Texas. She has won many international piano competitions including, 27th Chopin international competition, New York international Competition, 9th London international Competition, and 2017 IMKA music competition, and UNT concerto competition. After a successful debut with the Russia-Tombov Philharmonic Orchestra, she started to perform at many halls around the world including Carnegie Hall and Seoul Art Center. Previously, she worked as an organist/pianist for 3 years at a church after coming to Texas.
Jim Penson
Facilities Director
Jim was born in Illinois and moved to Texas in the 1970’s. A lifelong bluegrass musician, Jim is also a luthier, and builds, repairs, and restores string instruments. He has four adult children who live in Austin, Florida, and Chicago. Jim has been in many bluegrass bands, including The Front Porch Boys, with Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett. In addition to his full time job here at New World, Jim also teaches: Bluegrass Banjo, Frailing Banjo, Mandolin, Guitar, Dobro, Lead and harmony singing, Wernick Method bluegrass jamming. As a facilities director, he is responsible for the physical buildings of the church and grounds, and loves his job.
 
Amber Walter
Preschool Director
I joined the staff, as the Director of our Preschool, on January 9th, 2016. I began working for NWP in 2013 as a Pre-k/4-year-old teacher and fell in love with the program and the families immediately. I knew from the first day this is where I am meant to be.
 
Every job that I have had has been in public service. My first career was in cosmetology. I worked as a hairdresser and an esthetician from 2003-2008 in Fort Worth, Texas. I loved it but when I married my husband in 2007 and moved to Arlington, I decided to be a stay at home mom.

My favorite food is Thai and my favorite movies are I Can Only Imagine and Steel Magnolia’s.

The things that brings me the greatest joy is children They are the greatest gift that God could give us.

My favorite Bible Verse is Luke 18:15-17. 15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

I married my husband Andrew in 2007. We have two children, Kristen (22) and Sabrina (26). I was raised by grandparents in Virginia and moved to Texas when I was 15 years-old. I believe that because of the love and support that my grandparents gave me is one of the major reasons why I am who I am today.