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Next Level Innovations

St. Matthew’s Vision Alignment Team Update 

Vision Alignment Team Discussion – Sunday November 3

St. Matthew’s Vision Alignment Team (VAT) has been exploring how the congregation can focus and align strategy, programs, and activities to enhance the Church’s impact on the world. A description of their efforts along with a draft of a revised purpose and values statement is available at this link. The VAT will be hosting an information a discussion session about their work on Sunday, November 3, starting at 10:15am (during the Sunday School time) in room 302. Everyone is invited. Contact Earl Conklin if you have any questions.


New Service Schedule starts September 8, 2019 (UPDATE)

9 a.m. Traditional Worship

11:15 a.m. Modern Worship

10:15 a.m. Sunday School for All Ages


NLI Update from the Strategic Worship Team: Recommendations to Church Council -March 19, 2019

The Strategic Worship Team was created to evaluate the current worship schedule and identify ways for all age levels to engage with both Sunday School and their preferred worship style.
Language from the NLI Report: The team will evaluate the current schedule with a goal to provide an opportunity for all age levels to engage with Sunday School and worship.  In particular, there was an expressed desire for the youth to be able to participate in the modern worship service without having to choose between Sunday School / Confirmation and worship.

The team recommends the following:

·New service schedule

8:30 a.m. – Traditional worship

9:45 a.m. – Sunday School for all ages

11:00 a.m. – Modern worship

·Offer Children’s Worship for both 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. services.

·Ensure a robust offering of Sunday School options for all ages.

·Begin new schedule in September with the start of a new school year.

In addition to eliminating the conflict between Sunday School and services, the committee considered the following advantages to this recommendation:

·The modern worship service is given equal value to traditional worship.  There is a perception reflected in the survey comments that attendees of the modern service don’t feel as valued as the traditional service attendees.  Given the logistical/time constraints of the current service schedule, the modern worship team is limited to the scope of worship experiences that could be offered during this service.  The later time would allow for more creative planning of the modern worship experience.

·Given the rehearsal time needed for traditional choirs before service, the early service is preferable for the traditional service so adults/youth/children aren’t leaving Sunday School early each week for rehearsals.

·In addition to considering the service preferences for our current congregation, the committee also considered which option might allow for growth.  The modern worship style seems to have the widest appeal for young families and youth, so offering it at the later time seemed the best option.

***Please note that this recommendation is not a final decision.  Church Council has the authority to make the final decision regarding a change to the worship schedule.***

We appreciate that the data doesn’t offer a clear solution.  We could spend months gathering additional data, debating options and considering the merits and challenges for each one.  We understand that making a change to the worship schedule later this year could negatively impact church attendance.  We also believe that not making a change to the worship schedule could also negatively impact attendance as there will continue to be a conflict between the modern worship service and Sunday School.  In the interest of providing closure for this NLI initiative, our team came to a consensus on this recommendation for Church Council.

You are welcome to share any additional thoughts or observations you have by emailing Mandy Lloyd,, or speaking with any member of the NLI Strategic Worship Team: Nancy Cappel, Susan Ely, Ken Landers, Lyle Minter, Cathy Moberly, Darold Plate, and Elaine Steele.

We will be hosting a town hall meeting on Sunday, March 24, at 4:00 p.m. to discuss the information learned from the survey and the committee’s recommendation to Church Council. We invite you to continue the conversation with us!


NLI Update from the Strategic Worship Team- March 12, 2019
Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete the survey!  The team met in February to review the data and results were shared at the Church Council meeting on February 27.  In our on-going effort to ensure transparent communication throughout this process, we are now sharing the data with the congregation.  Survey Summary  We received multiple comments/questions about an option to offer simultaneous services – i.e. a traditional service in the sanctuary at the same time a modern service in the social hall.  The committee does not recommend this as a viable option for St. Matthews at this time.
The committee will meet again in March to finalize our recommendation to Church Council.  After reviewing the data summary, you are welcome to share any additional thoughts or observations you have by emailing Mandy Lloyd,, or speaking with any member of the NLI Strategic Worship Team: Nancy Cappel, Susan Ely, Ken Landers, Lyle Minter, Cathy Moberly, Darold Plate, and Elaine Steele.   We will be hosting a town hall meeting on Sunday, March 24, at 4 p.m. to discuss the information learned from the survey and the committee’s recommendation(s ) to Church Council.  We invite you to continue the conversation with us!

Worship Team NLI November 2018 Update

We enjoyed hearing from so many of you during our Listening Sessions in October and November.  Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas with our team!  To meet the current needs of our congregation and to carry on in our mission to invite and welcome new people to our church, St. Matthew’s will continue offering both traditional and modern worship services as well as Sunday School on Sunday mornings.  The team agrees that the best time to make a change in our Sunday morning schedule will be either May 1 or September 1, 2019.  We are currently drafting a survey to share with the congregation to solicit input on proposed schedule changes.  Surveys, both online and paper copies, will be published in January.  The team will meet again at the end of January to review the results of the surveys.  We aim to submit our final recommendation to Church Council at their February meeting.  Ideally, we will have at least 6 weeks to communicate any change in the Sunday morning schedule to our church community.  Keep in mind that no final decisions have been made at this time, and our goal is to ensure transparent communication throughout this process.

If you have additional thoughts or questions, you can email Mandy Lloyd,, and/or connect with any other member on the team: Nancy Cappel, Susan Ely, Ken Landers, Lyle Minter, Cathy Moberly, Darold Plate, and Elaine Steele.  We invite you to continue the conversation with us!

NLI Update October 2018


Fall is a busy time at St. Matthew’s, and NLI is no exception! In September, the Vision Alignment Team and Church Council members met with St. Matthew’s NLI Mentor, Rev. Reggie Tuck, who led them in a discussion on discerning the values that best characterize St. Matthew’s. The Worship and Communications Teams have been meeting since this summer, and just this past Sunday, the Worship Team hosted two of three planned listening sessions. A total of 60 people attended both sessions and shared their thoughts on worship. The next listening session will take place Tuesday, October 23, at 7:00 pm in the sanctuary. If you’re unable to attend, but would like to share your thoughts with the Team, please email Mandy Lloyd,

The second session of Financial Peace University began on October 7. As you may recall, one of the five NLI recommendations we received suggested offering Financial Peace University. So far this initiative has been a great success.

Another NLI recommendation being implemented this fall is the formation of life groups. A successful pilot program was held last spring, and 3 life groups involving 37 St. Matthew’s members began meeting in September. The groups are meeting on a weekly basis through the end of this month. We have one adults group, one parents of teens group, and a blended young adults/young families group.

As we move through the fall into the Advent season, you’ll see additional opportunities seeking your participation. I hope you will take advantage of them, so that we can include your input as we take this journey.

Please feel free to contact me with your questions, suggestions, and ideas.


Amy Chai

Church Council Chair

NLI Update from the Strategic Worship Team
Listening Sessions Scheduled in October
The Strategic Worship Team was created to evaluate the current worship schedule and identify ways for all age levels to engage with both Sunday School and their preferred worship style.  As part of the team’s discernment process, we invite you to attend a Listening Session and share your thoughts with us.  We are specifically interested in the following information:
  •  Why is corporate worship (worship with others) important to you?
  •  Which service do you usually attend and why?
  •  What factors impact your worship attendance decisions?
We hope you can join us at one of the following sessions:
– Sunday, October 14 @ 9:45 a.m. or 11:15 a.m. in Room 302 in the Adult Education Wing
– Tuesday, October 23 @ 7:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary
If you are unable to attend a Listening Session, but would like to provide input to the team, please email Mandy Lloyd,

NLI July 3, 2018 Update

I would like to introduce to you the members of our NLI Strategic Worship and Communications teams. The Strategic Worship Team is tasked with evaluating the current worship schedule and identifying ways for all age levels to engage with Sunday School and worship. The Communications Team will develop a strategic communications plan that will contemplate updates to St. Matthew’s website and social media presence, as well as address the ways we communicate to those within and outside of the church through our bulletins, symbols, and signage.


The members of the Strategic Worship Team include: Nancy Cappel, Susan Ely, Ken Landers, Mandy Lloyd, Lyle Minter, Cathy Moberly, Darold Plate, and Elaine Steele.


The members of the Communications Team include: Susan Adams, Fran DelVecchio, Kim Lauer, Chris Laughlin, Keith Robertory, and Lori Taylor.

These groups will begin meeting shortly, and we will be sharing their progress as they move forward. Additionally, each group will be looking to the congregation for feedback and input as they do their work. Stay tuned for these opportunities. I want to thank these members of our congregation for agreeing to help lead us as we discern how best to address the critical issues of worship and communication. Please keep these team members and their efforts in your prayers.


The Vision Alignment Team has also continued their work. The members of the Vision Alignment Team are John Alexander, Leeanne Alonso, Carolyn Andrukonis, Karen Chevalier, Earl Conklin, Neil Hough, Beth Lanthier, and Boe Workman. At their last meeting, they considered a draft presentation created by Boe Workman, which includes the feedback St. Matthew’s members provided during the NLI Weekend last fall and input from the Discipleship Committee. The Church Council will hear more about the VAT’s progress and plans for congregation outreach, which they expect to begin in the very near future. This outreach will occur in multiple forms and in a variety of settings so that everyone will be able to provide input.


Please continue to be in prayer for our church as we implement the NLI Report Recommendations, and please feel free to contact Neil or me with any questions, concerns, or comments.






Amy Chai







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.

In Christ,




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.


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