Questions from the Congregation

Where noted, the answer comes from communication with Rev. Dr. Sarah Calvert, our NLI facilitator, or from the CUMC Innovations Report.

1. Why do we need to declutter our Finances?

  • Sarah Calvert: This came from the people we interviewed - essentially the church asked for more of this, that is why it is here. We had requests for more transparency, and to make it easier to understand financial pictures of the church. We also find this is a best practice in order to move on to more stewardship of generosity and capital campaigns later in the Innovations process.

2. Why so much focus on the G25 demographic for evangelism and connections efforts- especially since this is a group who isn’t interested in organized religion?

  • Sarah Calvert: You already have G25's in your congregation - mostly those who grew up in church and find something good at CUMC. There are more of these in your neighborhood and building these bridges will mean - more people find Jesus who would never have done so at another church. 

3. Will we lose the great focus we have on supporting children in our church?

  • No. In fact, the demographic data we looked at shows a large bulge in the under 17 group over the next few years. The report asks that the Neighborhood Connections Team spend time deeply understanding the community using data, prayer, and research. Because G25s make up the largest local population, we will naturally try to understand how to reach them. But the NCT will also think about the broader needs of the population. Also, Innovation 5 on Deeper Discipleship pushes us to create opportunities for everyone in the church- young and old- to deepen in their walk with the Lord.

4. How will be respect both the history in the building and the historical nature of the building itself during the refresh?

  • Innovations Report: While the history currently preserved via photographs in the Social Hall is deeply meaningful to Clarendon, it is important, especially in spaces shared with guests from the community, to showcase a vitality of the present and hope for the future. For guests to feel welcome, they need to feel like they can see themselves represented in the space.

  • Sarah Calvert: Can the people visiting the church first see themselves as welcomed (literally - are there spaces that they are comfortable with and they see themselves in the space)? After they feel welcome, then they can understand the history. Right now – it’s a lot of history. Comments from mystery worshipers helped us see this better, as well as the youth, young adults, and newcomers. The theme "feels like the 1950's" was said quite a few times. If you weren't born in the 1950's, then this makes it hard to see yourself as visually welcomed.

5. Vote process

  • What will be on the ballot? Just a question asking if you vote yes or no to implement the Innovations report.

  • Can we have a voting window, like on election day? No. The vote will occur at a sent time (likely over about 20 minutes) at a called church conference as outlined in the Discipline.  It must be presided over by a District Superintendent.

  • Can I leave after I vote? Yes. After you cast your ballot, you may leave.

6. Does the Weekend Innovation Team & Mentor have specific examples of successful business practices other churches followed to integrate all the tasks and manage competing demands that are bound to arise when trying to complete concurrent NLI projects? We keep hearing that we do not need to stop doing anything to go through NLI. Yet, we may burn people out (multiple folks on multiple committees and teams given their roles). Do you have examples of churches that downsized a current committee/ project to dive into NLI? 

  • Almost all of our NLI churches have downsized their administrative functions to free people up to do ministry rather than do meetings. It just made sense given the nature of the plans. If approved, these Innovations are the strategic tasks for the next 2 years. It affects almost all parts of the church, so new leaders are needed. We have not had a church that has been unable to recruit new leaders because when you set a vision, are clear about the tasks, then people will join in and help.  The current leadership, including clergy and staff will not be able to do this alone.

  • All of the NLI churches - all of them- have seen new leadership and new people who had not had roles before in ministries step up because they believed in the vision and the process, appreciated the clarity, and knew the work was defined, and not infinite. Working the Innovations will not be “business as usual”, as you are doing something new and visionary.

  • Examples from other NLI churches:

    • One church ended up scaling back some standard “institutional maintenance” meetings into quarterly meetings. Once they had their Innovations, this left more time to do the Innovations learning and work in between those quarterly meetings.

    • One of our first cohort churches went through the vision alignment process and started experimenting with not doing events that didn’t line up with the vision and also narrowed the focus of their missions projects, which were overlapping and extensive in nature. They have found that doing a few things well, rather than too many without enough help, has been a huge change for them.

7. How will decisions be made to allow staff to support implementation of NLI efforts?  If staff are asked to support NLI implementation, then what process will be followed to shift staff from their current responsibilities to NLI tasks? 

  • Job descriptions and staffing usage are jobs for the SPRC. That is why they are in on the visioning process. I am not sure why this would hold things up - the congregation is setting a strategic direction and the staff will be there to implement it - there is nothing unusual about that, except most churches never bother to outline it clearly and make it a called church conference. NLI has extensive laity involvement, so this is not intended to be staff-led work except where noted in the Innovations.

8. Can we adjust the timelines- for example, if we want to move faster in one area or slower in another?

  • Sarah Calvert: I'd ask that you talk it through with me first and keep them in the order we set them overall. We have specific reasons for keeping visioning first, for example - it helps the rest of the process move forward. We also don't hear a lot of call for a capital campaign yet, but as the decluttering and refurbishing work goes on, you will probably find you need it -that's why it’s toward the end.

9. If our knowledgeable and experienced lay leaders are supposed to keep doing what they are doing, how well prepared are these ad hoc teams to reshape CUMC's policies and procedures?

  • Many of those existing knowledgeable lay leaders are meant to be deeply involved in the NLI process- in fact, the Executive Committee, Trustees, SPRC, Finance, and Stewardship are all called out in the NLI report. The new teams meant to be created will all be led by individuals selected by the Executive Committee.

  • Sarah Calvert: fresh eyes and new gifts can see stuck places much more readily - and new gifts will be offered in our experience. This is how we de clutter, right? Ask for new eyes to help us see our “stuff”!?

10. What happens if we vote yes and something just flares out- it doesn't move forward, we get stuck, etc. What then?

  • Sarah Calvert: We will be there to help.  We learn as much from the stuck places as we do from the successful places. Also - the visioning coming first is intentional - it helps the rest make progress – it’s like building the track for the train to get on. That's why keeping things in order is important.

11. What "resources" does the District offer during NLI implementation- can you give specific examples? Is it just staff time from our Mentor, Rhonda? or something else? Do they write us a check? Do they bring special training onsite to CUMC?

  • Sarah Calvert: We do a lot of training, the Mentor works with teams (you'll see specific places mentioned in the innovations) and Tracy, and we help move things along as you need. You'll be very surprised - you have ALL the people and leaders you need already at Clarendon, of this I am sure.

12. Who has access to those resources- just Pastor Tracy? For example, can other members of the NLI teams speak to Rhonda or Sarah?

  • Sarah Calvert: I often talk to and train teams, etc., but our main contact is Tracy, so we aren't doing things she doesn't know about. We work very hard to keep the pastor always in the loop; she is the one we have invested in training and provide ongoing resources to throughout the next two years or so.

12. What is Rhonda's (Rev. Rhonda VanDyke) role - to provide advice on occasion, to give us workplans, etc?

  • Sarah Calvert: Rev. Van Dyke has advice, can help brainstorm, can help teach and provide people and resources. It all depends on what you find you need. Also keep asking in the Clarendon community - you all have so much talent there, we could see that!


Post-Innovations Weekend FAQ


1. Where did this Innovations Report come from?

  • This is a report that came from the Innovations Weekend we held recently at the church.

  • It is based on work done with your pastor, your church leaders, and a weekend spent with the people of your church (see below).

2. Who wrote the Innovations Report?

  • A team from the NLI coordinator came together to listen and discern what your church was ready to do to go to the ‘next level’ of God’s calling on your community.

  • Generally, the team consists of the NLI team members who work in revitalization and leadership development, other pastors who have been through the process, conference leaders in vital congregations, your district superintendent, and your church’s assigned mentor.

3. Why did they suggest these particular Innovations?

  • The Weekend Innovations Team came with no pre-conceived ideas of what would work for your church. We listened very carefully to the leadership interviews, focus groups with newcomers, your youth group, and at an all-day retreat with anyone who wanted to attend. As we listened, we looked for patterns in the ways the Holy Spirit is moving at your church, and we put those in the report.

  • In addition, your church did a self-study, a survey on discipleship, and was visited by mystery worshippers – we studied those reports as well.

4. Why are some of the Innovations so specific?

  • You would be surprised how specific some of the dreams and hopes of your leaders, newcomers, youth and congregation members can be! When we repeatedly heard the same ideas, we shared them as an Innovation.

  • One of the ways to delay the change process is to spend significant time and energy in making smaller decisions.  Specific innovations with some specific instructions are a way to help move forward and more directly to trying a new thing.  These are often used to help overcome ‘stuck places’ in a church that can move toward greater innovations.

  • Specific innovations will often be offered on a trial basis and not as a permanent change so the congregation can test out the innovations and find out what works and what doesn’t work.

5. Why are some of the Innovations not so specific?

  • In some areas, it becomes clear that there is an adaptive challenge, which is one that requires new learning and study. There are some solutions and resolutions that the District and your mentor can help train for, but there are still issues that need to be worked through. In those cases, we asked that teams be formed, goals given, and deadlines worked towards to make sure the congregation is working on an issue, even if the exact resolution isn’t yet clear.

  • Because your NLI mentor was part of the weekend and writing team, they often have some ideas to explore with your pastor and leadership but not a firm answer.  The less specific innovations give the church and the mentor room to explore and develop what is needed next.

6. What if I don’t understand one of the Innovations?

  • Please ask questions! We would be happy to explain what we are asking and where we discerned the innovation.

  • We are suggesting to the Pastor and NLI team that they collect questions before the town halls and the WIT team can have the answers back in time for the town halls, so everyone can hear the answers.

7. What if we want to do something sooner or later than the timelines in the report?

  • The timelines exist to help with accountability and prioritization.  We have already had churches speed up the timelines for innovations that suddenly became clearly a priority – as long as the preliminary work of the innovation is done, that is a perfectly wonderful change!

  • However, we will be in contact with the pastor and the NLI team about the timelines that are not being met. Often this is because of things beyond the control of the team, or is part of the ongoing struggles a church may have with alignment or volunteer or leadership recruitment. When timelines are missed, the District and Mentor will seek to help get things back on track.

8. What happens next?

  • Please attend one of the scheduled town halls mentioned in the report to discuss and ask questions.

  • Then attend the church conference on the date in the report to vote on the Innovations Report.

9. Can I vote for one or two of the Innovations and against the rest? Or just vote against one Innovation?

  • At the church conference, the only vote will be to accept the Innovations Report and proceed forward to implementation, or to reject the Report and end the Next Level Innovation process. The vote must be 70% of those members present in the room.

  • The reason for the all or nothing vote is that we have both pointed out some easier fixes that need to become prioritized because they remain undone, AND we have challenged the congregation to some goals that are more of a stretch. Most groups of people would choose to do the easy pieces and put off doing the more challenging ones, so we have linked them all together because we believe they are part of a process of the whole toward a next level for the church.

10. Who can vote at the Called Church Conference to vote on the Innovations Report?

  • Members of the church in attendance. Proxies are not allowed.

11. What if there is a less than 70% vote?

  • The NLI process ends, the mentor and District teams are redeployed to those churches continuing in the NLI process.

12.     What if we approve the Innovations?

  • The work begins! Teams will be formed, training, coaching and mentoring begun, and the first deadlines approach to help keep everyone on task and accountable. Your church is off to the Next Level!