How Next Level Innovations Will Work for Your Church

You’ve received an invitation – please discuss with your Church Council/Leadership Team and show them this information.

  • You might wonder: What is different about NLI? It was formulated by Virginia pastors who have already grown large churches, and developed out of successful programs across the UMC that help churches move to the next level of innovation.
  • You might want more information about how we got to this program: Two church consultation models NLI was developed from were HCI (Healthy Church Initiative) from the Missouri Conference (Bob Farr’s book “10 Prescriptions for a Healthy Church” gives you a look at that model; here is a website about it: ) and West Ohio Conference’s Missional Church Consultation Initiative:  We used these models to learn from and adapt to Virginia medium to larger churches.
  • If you have further questions, feel free to contact Rev. Dr. Michelle Holmes Chaney ( with questions about how this might work for your church, or contact your local District and ask for the NLI coordinator.

How do you get started?

  • Discernment by your District Superintendent that your church is good – but could be great!
  • Invited to an Invitation Banquet – bring 4-6 key leaders who will help your congregation make the decision. Consider staff and lay leadership that will help communicate information about the possibility of becoming a Next Level Innovations Church.
  • After hearing more about it at the banquet, enter into a time of prayerful discernment with your church leadership – is this the right step and the right time for this church?

If your church discerns yes, after a vote of your Church Council/Leadership Team, attend the Orientation event with a team of 4-6 key leaders. This team will be working this entire multi-year process together, so choose carefully who is best to go on this journey, communicate back to and teach and lead change with your congregation. At the orientation, you will be notified who your church mentor will be for the entirety of the process.

The entire process will cost the District and Conference over $12,000 for each church. We have sought out grants, and other outside income so, so far, this investment has not changed the District apportionments. If your church decides to go forward, the direct investment from your church will be covered in at the Invitation Banquet, but expect approximately $3,500, paid over three years. In addition, there are books, meals and other materials for the clergy peer group and laity groups that will need to be purchased by the church and/or pastors.

Phase 1

During Phase 1, the senior clergy of the church will be in a Peer Learning Group with 6-7 other senior clergy from similar churches. Associates and other clergy in your church are welcome to be part of your church NLI Team, but this group is specifically designed for the Senior Pastor. This group will be receiving training in areas like leading change, breakthrough prayer, visioning for change and aligning with staff and laity teams, stewardship of resources, and other topics of need for this size and location of church.

Phase 2

Phase 2 begins with a full self-study of your church, led by your church’s NLI leadership team.

Your church will have a presenter from the District staff come to the church to lead a Ministry Focus Event open to everyone in the church. The purpose of this is to emphasize alignment of the ministry of your church with the vision and mission of the church, and to help the church to begin to understand the NLI process and the upcoming weekend.

Phase 2 continues with an Innovation Weekend, where a full team will come to your church, interview key leaders and staff, hold training events in evangelism and discipleship, and present a recommendation of several key Next Level Innovations that should take your church to the next level in making disciples for the transformation of the world. The weekend will conclude with an encouraging worship event to highlight the ongoing work of the church, and the possibilities yet to come.

After the Innovation Consultation weekend, the church will enter into a season of discernment for 30 days as to whether they accept the innovations proposed, or choose not to move forward at this time. The innovations are purposely packaged together – all or nothing – to encourage taking on some harder innovations with some easier ones. Hopefully the work done to this point will result in a vote at a Church Conference of 70% or more of the congregation to go forward. If the church is not amenable to going forward, the resources of the mentor and peer groups will end.

If the vote is yes, Phase 3 begins. The church’s mentor will be an integral part of the accomplishment of the innovations, with training, ideas, and working through the process of implementation. District staff and special trainers are available, depending on the particular issues of your innovations. We feel this is a critical point of the program – your church is not left alone to figure out how to accomplish the innovations. Expect one to two years in processing and implementing these innovations.

NLI is not a ‘one and done’ process, and we will encourage churches to continue to invest in further coaching around ongoing areas of need. There may be reunions around particular issues for the clergy peer group as well.

It is hoped that by working on the next level of innovations for this church, it will in turn encourage other churches, and this church and its leadership will become a resource for later cohorts in the Virginia Conference.