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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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

You are invited to join us for an exciting season in the life of our church as we continue with our Next Level Innovations (NLI) initiative. Please join us for these events. We are thankful to be part of this process and learn more about this special place we call Clarendon UMC. We are excited to see where God is calling us to go next through this NLI project – and we need your voice and your vision to do this!


Your NLI Team (Nii Armar, Erin White, Kevin Sweeney, Gary White, Pastor Tracy)

Breakthrough Prayer

Faithful God, pour out your Spirit upon us. Empower us to break through toward a new season of faithfulness and fruitfulness at Clarendon United Methodist Church. Fill us with the living love of Jesus and give us courage to claim and pursue your vision, without limit, for the church and for our lives. Amen.


Proposed Innovations


innovations report

The Innovations Report is the product of the Innovations Weekend held recently (Jan 25-27) at the church. It was written by a team from the NLI coordinator that came together to listen and discern what our church was ready to do to go to the ‘next level’ of God’s calling on your community. The report is based on an interactive process between the NLI team and our pastor, our church leaders, and the more than 80 congregants who participated in some part of the Innovations Weekend.

CUMC members, and CUMC members alone, decide if we adopt the Innovations at Church Conference on February 19th.

Town Halls

Sunday, February 3 | 9:45-10:45am
Corry Hall

Wednesday, February 6 | 7:30-8:30pm
Corry Hall

Sunday, February 17 | 9:45-10:45am
Corry Hall



Innovations Weekend Combined Service

Listen to the special combined Worship service on Sunday, January 27 as a culmination of our Next Level Innovations Weekend.

We welcomed guest speaker Rev. Rhonda VanDyke, a leader in the Virginia Conference of the UMC, and the NLI Weekend Team presented the innovations report to the congregation.

Watch the Presentation of the Innovations Report



additional information (click to download)

Innovations Weekend Presentation
The full presentation from the Weekend Innovations Workshop held on Saturday, Jan 26 in Corry Hall, with insights into CUMC and the NLI process.

ExecutiveInsite Report
Tells the “demographic story” of our neighborhood, with “insites” into demographics, religious beliefs, and common practices.

ComparativeInsite Report
Provides a broad comparison of the demographic profile of our neighborhood with the demographic profile of congregants.

Demographic Studies

In-depth analysis of the key Mosaic segments in our neighborhood.

G25 Urban Edge (62%)

A06 Jet Set Urbanites (13%)

A01 American Royalty (4.5%)

C13 Silver Sophisticates (4.1%)


Summary of Proposed Innovations

(please note that this is only a summary. please click the button below to download the full report)


1. Vision Alignment


“The Lord answered me and said, write the vision, make it plain on tablets so that a runner may read it.” — Habakkuk 2.2     

When a church is clearly aligned around a vision and their own identity, it is much easier for the staff, leadership, and the congregation to do the work of making disciples for the transformation of the world. The gifts of the community are best stewarded when there is clarity of vision and purpose; there is less burnout of leaders and more engagement of the entire community in focused purpose. We believe this work will be the foundational innovation that can launch Clarendon UMC to new levels of excellence in all that they do.


2. Next Level Decluttering


You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. — Ephesians 4:4-5 (MSG)

We were very struck by the story you told us of your recent decluttering experiences. We were impressed at how the CUMC community came together to do this work and the stories of a new feeling of freedom and empowerment thanks to that effort. We thought this wonderful event felt like a ‘tipping point’ for the work this church seems ready to accomplish, so we challenge you to innovatively continue to declutter in additional areas.


3. Radical Hospitality


Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. — Matthew 10:40

Mystery worshippers helped the CUMC congregation see that while they are friendly, they are not always intentionally welcoming. Leadership noted that while there are five or more visitors on an average Sunday worship, they often don’t return to the church.

To help in this arena, form a new Hospitality Team (HT) to include two trustees, two members of the ENGAGE team and three others with gifts of hospitality. Young adults should be included among team members. This team’s goal will be to develop a comprehensive plan for significantly improving the hospitality of Clarendon.


4. Who is my Neighbor?


Love your neighbor as yourself. – Matthew 22:39

We heard a great desire to reach new people from every group of people we interviewed this weekend. But, with this desire came many questions — how do we reach people? We see them in our neighborhood, but we don’t know how to connect with them. How do we know our neighbors better, and build relationships with them that work?


5. Deeper Discipleship


Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. – Matthew 28:19–20

Clarendon UMC (CUMC) has invested well in offering a contextual discipleship with children and youth through engagement in the music ministry. What has been lacking are opportunities for children and youth not engaged with the music ministry, as well as young adults and mature adults who need deeper discipleship. The desire for opportunities for spiritual development was raised in many ways over the weekend. Currently, a discipleship plan does not exist, so, the oversight of this developing plan will fall to the new staff person who fills the role of directing discipleship. The goal of the discipleship plan is to develop an overall discipleship strategy for current members as well as for those seeking on on-ramp as new members.



Town Halls


Now that Innovations Weekend is over, Clarendon UMC will hold several Town Hall meetings within the next 30 days to discuss this report and recommended innovations.

The NLI Town Halls are opportunities to ask questions and reflect together on the Innovations Report. There are 3 town halls scheduled before the church conference (congregational vote).

All those who attend Clarendon UMC are welcome to come!

Sunday, February 3 | 9:45-10:45am
Corry Hall

Wednesday, February 6 | 7:30-8:30pm
Corry Hall

Sunday, February 17 | 9:45-10:45am
Corry Hall

Have a question or comment? You have two options:

  • Look for a bright green question box at various places around the church. (Hint: right now it is in the social hall on the stage)

  • Click below to submit a town hall question online!



NLI Church Conference


Tuesday, February 19, 7:30-8:30 PM

This is a Congregational Vote where we, and we alone, decide whether or not to adopt the Innovations.

To pass, the entire report must be approved by 70% of the members present (i.e., those who vote). Before this 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.

Only Clarendon UMC members are allowed to vote, but all are welcome to attend.

If we decided to adopt the innovations, then 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.


When: February 19, 7:30-8:30pm, Sanctuary

Who: Clarendon UMC members (voting); All those who attend Clarendon UMC (observation)


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!


Clarendon United Methodist Church is nestled in the heart of the Ashton Heights neighborhood of Arlington, VA. It has an active congregation of families, young professionals, older adults, children, and youth who are striving to become disciples of Jesus Christ.  We have committed to praising God passionately through our worship, serving others in Christian love, deepening our faith through the study of God's Word, the Bible, and proclaiming the Good News that is our salvation in Jesus Christ.  We strive to live out our faith, acting with Christian love, respect and forgiveness toward one another, and recognizing that we are all members of one body of Christ.