From Pastor Neil
Here is an NLI update, as reported to the St. Matthew’s Church Council on February 28, 2018. After more than a year of preparation, we held our NLI Retreat weekend in October 2017. The weekend culminated with a celebration worship service and a presentation of our NLI report. This report describes St. Matthew’s areas of strength, areas of weakness (where we have room to grow) and outlines five Innovations that are designed to help us take the next steps of faithful ministry. After much discussion and two lively town halls, the Innovation Report was accepted by an 84% majority of members present at a called Church Conference in November. The five Innovations are in the areas of: vision alignment; communications; worship; discipleship; and generosity.
Work is underway on several of the Innovations and you will be hearing much more about them in the coming weeks. At its January meeting, St. Matthew’s Church Council approved a seven-member Vision Alignment Team (VAT) consisting of: John Alexander, Leeanne Alonso, Carolyn Andrukonis, Karen Chevalier, Earl Conklin, Beth Lanthier and Boe Workman. The VAT is just beginning its work of discerning God’s vision for the next season of St. Matthew’s ministry. They will be meeting with our mentor, Reverend Reggie Tuck on March 18. One of the primary questions they are considering is: what does God’s preferred future for St. Matthew’s Church look like? As part of their work, they will be asking the entire congregation to join them in the discernment process. So, I want to ask you – as part of your Lenten spiritual discipline to pray for God’s guidance for St. Matthew’s Church. Ask God to help us dream God’s dreams for our church and community. Ask God to give us courage to move into the future with confidence and faith and hope, not fear and anxiety. Ask God to help us grow closer to Jesus and have a clearer picture of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
In other NLI news, a Discipleship Team is being formed and is meeting this week to start envisioning a plan that will strengthen our ability to be and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Members of the Discipleship Team are: Annette Landers, Chris Ligon, Jenny Ligon, Gail Krieder, Sean Moran, Susan Moran, and Keisha Smith. The Trustees are exploring ways to improve signage in and around the church. And, starting on March 18, we will be offering Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. The Church Council, VAT, and Discipleship Team, along with other church leaders are reading Membership to Discipleship: Growing Mature Disciples Who Make Disciples by Phil Maynard so that we can have common language as we carry out God’s mission together. Members of the Discipleship Team will be attending an Intentional Discipleship workshop led by Phil Maynard on March 15. These were all action items outlined in the Innovations Report.
As I said above, some of this work is just beginning and you will hear a lot more in the coming weeks. More importantly, you will be invited to grow closer to Jesus in your own life and participate in the discernment and decision-making processes as we dare to imagine what God is dreaming – not only for St. Matthew’s Church, but for the community and the world that so desperately needs to have a life-changing encounter with Jesus. God has blessed St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church with an abundance of gifts, so that we can be a blessing to the world.
Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,
On Sunday afternoon, we held a called Church Conference to vote on the Innovations we were given in the NLI Report. Here are the results of the voting:
Total votes cast, 150: Yes, 126 (84%); No, 24 (16%).
I want to thank everyone who participated in the town halls and came out on Sunday afternoon to participate in the Church Conference. Whether you voted “yes” or “no,” your passion to do God’s work and commitment to St. Matthew’s Church is evident. Please continue keep St. Matthew’s UMC in your prayers as we work together to fulfill God’s dreams for the church and community.
Attached is the link for the NLI Report St Matthews Final Innovation Report 10.15.17.
What is Next Level Innovations (NLI)?
NLI is an investment in our larger churches that have a recognized potential for reaching more people in their community and inviting them to become disciples of Jesus. These churches have healthy and coachable leadership (clergy and lay).
NLI is based on similar programs in other UMC conferences, such as Missional Church Consultative Initiative (MCCI) out of West Ohio Conference and Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) from the Missouri Conference. Like the above mentioned programs, NLI has multiple components including a foundation of prayer, monthly clergy training, two to three laity training events, an intensive weekend of church study, a detailed report and recommendation for innovations specially developed for the church, and follow up coaching for a year or more.
Who is Invited to Participate?
District Superintendents have carefully studied and selected potential church participants. Churches selected have met size, health and potential growth requirements. Leadership, both clergy and lay, should be teachable and ready to lead change.
What is the Church’s Commitment?
NLI churches commit to a number of activities over a period of three or more years. They commit themselves to a practice of daily prayer for the ministry of their church. They support their pastor’s participation in monthly training. Each church forms an NLI team that helps the pastor implement the training they receive. Church leaders participate in two to three training events designed for laity, around issues such as breakthrough prayer and stewardship. Church leaders and attendees participate with a consultation team and mentors in a weekend long intensive study of the strengths and weaknesses of their church, and the best potential innovations to move forward. Upon receipt of the NLI report and recommended innovations at the end of the weekend, the church will hold a series of town hall meetings to decide whether or not to proceed with the innovations. If the innovations are accepted, the church then works with their mentor to implement the innovations. If the innovations are not accepted, the mentoring, peer groups and laity training come to an end.
What is the Clergy Commitment?
Clergy participants are expected to attend approximately nine NLI meetings – these will be held locally for the majority of the work day. There will be associated reading and projects with these trainings. Clergy are then expected to return to their church and with the help of their NLI team begin to implement the ideas and innovations about which they have learned. Clergy will help organize, prepare for and fully attend the Innovation Weekend.
Topics that are likely to be included in clergy training are all from the larger church perspective, including breakthrough prayer techniques, how to lead change, stewardship, discipleship, staffing, and aligning vision with staff and laity. Special topics may be designed for the needs of each particular group of churches.
What is the District Commitment?
The District will provide leadership and administration for NLI and secure outside funding to offset much of the significant cost of this ministry. The district will secure training locations and leaders and district staff will participate fully in each of the NLI weekends. The district will arrange for and oversee the Innovation Mentors for each church. The District is giving significant staff time to the development of this process and these churches over the next several years, all without increasing the apportionments. This is possible due to the income from the new District Offices and grants from the Virginia Conference and the Virginia Foundation.
What is the cost?
The overall cost of NLI exceeds $10,000 per church. Each church will be asked to contribute $3,000 over the course of three years; $500 for the first year, $1500 for the second and $1,000 for the third.
In addition, clergy will be asked to purchase books and materials for their training and each church will be asked to cover the cost of hospitality and meals for the weekend Innovation Consultation team.
How is this different from every other conference/district program we’ve seen come to us over the years?
First of all, this program has been developed after a study of several very successful programs in other conferences and states – this model of super-charged training of the clergy, mentoring, and an intensive weekend study, followed by individualized plans for growth has been used over and over again over the last ten years or so to revitalize congregations throughout our denomination.
We didn’t want to just take someone else’s model though – we think Northern Virginia churches are unique, and large churches in our area have significant struggles that are not the same as other churches. So we invested the past year in interviewing and designing this program with a team of large church pastors who have already succeeded in growing large churches in this area. The team committed to bringing you the best resources they wished they’d had as they grew their churches- and that became NLI.
This was never intended to be a one size fits all program; each church will take what they need from the program and contextualize it to the current situation. Each church will have an individual mentor, so it is not just information shared, but a plan to implement with accountability as well.
There is also a significant investment of Conference and District funding and staffing. These investments would not occur if there was not significant belief that NLI will make a difference in these churches and in their communities for Christ.
What if we already have a mission, vision and strategic plan set out, or in development?
NLI is intended to work with the church wherever it is in its lifecycle to help move to the next level. As a church lives in to their current strategic plans, the pastor may develop more resources and the laity may find available training through NLI that can help their current strategic plans. The innovations that will come from the Innovation Consultation Weekend will not occur until year 2 of the NLI process, and at that time the church can discern if those innovations become a new part of the strategic plan, or they can choose not to implement them.
How much laity time and effort will this take?
How much clergy/staff time and effort will this take?
Each church should have an NLI team that has been oriented to the process, and will assist the lead clergy in communications and accountability. During the first year, this group will meet at one Orientation meeting, and 2-3 additional times with the lead pastor for training, as needed. There should also be a team working to prepare for the Innovation Weekend Consultation that will occur in the second year; they will do a self-study of the church and prepare for the special weekend. After the weekend, if the church goes forward with the Innovations, there will be substantial laity teams working on each of the Innovations.
For the first year, the major time commitment will be for the lead pastor. There will be approximately nine full or partial day meetings to develop resources, insight, and leadership techniques specific to large, Northern Virginia churches to help lead changes that are to come. The pastor may need additional help or scheduling work-arounds, and the church should be prepared to allow this time investment. Other clergy and/or staff can plan a role in both some of the training events and in assisting the pastor in implementation and administration.
Who is our mentor, and how does that part work?
Mentors have been recruited and will be assigned to churches by the NLI District team, including your District Superintendent. Our mentor is Reverend Reggie Tuck, Senior Pastor of Messiah UMC in Springfield.
Mentors are for the whole church, and will probably most often have a one-on-one relationship with the pastor as well. They will coach, resource, challenge, and help implement innovations throughout the entire process. Your church will not be alone in figuring out what to do next – you will have a mentor who has already done this work in their own churches and ministries.