CUMC Next Level Innovations

Next Level Innovations (NLI) is an initiative within the United Methodist Church in Virginia to help congregations reach more people in their communities. The NLI initiative engages with healthy churches to help them become even stronger and move to the next level in terms of growing their membership and engagement. The NLI initiative for our area is led by the Rev. Dr. Sarah Calvert, who serves as our facilitator along with her team to analyze information, run key events, and suggest Innovations.

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NLI Frequently Asked Questions


What does the NLI process look like? How far along are we?

Over a year ago, the District Superintendent identified CUMC as a church with capability and potential to reach more people in its community. We were invited to enter the NLI process, which has 3 phases:

  • Phase 1: Training & Resourcing (completed) Pastor Tracy received training in areas like leading change, breakthrough prayer, visioning for change and aligning with staff and laity, stewardship of resources, etc. alongside clergy of other churches.

  • Phase 2: Self Study & Innovations Weekend (June 2018 - January 2019) The purpose of the self-study is to gather information about our church and share with the NLI staff who will analyze it. Our Innovations Weekend is the time when the church can come together to learn about the study, provide input on the vision for the future, and hear about the suggested Innovations.

  • Phase 3: Living Out Innovations (future) This phase is when CUMC will work to execute the Innovations, should we vote to adopt them.

Who is involved in NLI? And what do they do?

  • Clarendon UMC NLI Team (4 people): The role of our church’s NLI team is to conduct a church self-study and to help organize the Innovations Weekend (January 2019) where the real action happens. Our NLI team includes Nii Armar, Gary White, Kevin Sweeney, Erin White, and Pastor Tracy.

  • NLI “Weekend Innovations Team” (8 people): The “Weekend Innovations Team” is a group of experienced, trained United Methodist staff and pastors from around our region who are facilitating our NLI process and writing the Innovations Report. 

  • Clarendon UMC attendees and members (everyone!): The entire church is invited to participate in the Innovations Workshop, and members can vote to adopt the suggested Innovations.

Who decides what the Innovations are?

The Weekend Innovations Team will create the suggested Innovations based on the research about CUMC, our neighborhood, experience of other churches, and the congregation’s visions, concerns, and goals for the church shared during our January 26 workshop.

Who gets to decide if we adopt the Innovations?

CUMC members, and CUMC members alone, decide if we adopt the Innovations at Church Conference on February 19th. To pass, the entire report must be approved by 70% of the members present (i.e., those who vote). Before that conference, we will have a period of prayer and discernment, including three Town Hall meetings, giving us a chance to reflect on and ask questions about the Innovations.

What happens if CUMC adopts the Innovations?

The real work of innovation begins. Church, clergy, mentors, and NLI staff resource persons work together to accomplish the Innovations outlined in the Innovations Report.  This process will continue for approximately 18 months.