We are sending out a monthly email about NLI each month. Sign up for this email by emailing Hannah.
Read past emails below.

JUNE 27 
My name is Laura Godwin and I’m a member of the NLI team. As we work through the self-study process, we are reminded that the goal of NLI is to make good churches great. In our NLI prayer, we ask God to help us “become the church he desires us to be.” This prayer is both ambiguous and clear. While we don’t know what God has in store for St. Mark’s in the coming months and years, the Bible offers a clear picture of the church God desires us to be.

The book of Acts tells the story of the early church, which the girls small group studied during Lent. For the first disciples, spreading Jesus message was dangerous and ultimately led to their arrest, but that did not stop them from sharing the Gospel. And they could continue sharing Jesus’ message because they were united. Acts 2:44 says “And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.” ALL. Shared EVERYTHING they had. They saw each other’s needs as their own.

If you’re wondering how we do that or if we do that, I’d recommend you take a look at the Student Ministries program. Our students day in and day out are showing love to one another in tangible, visible, practical ways. Whether it’s listening to stories, remembering important details, or showing up when needed, they don’t judge each other and fully embrace individuality and uniqueness but still know that their love of Christ is enough of a bond to be a united community.

When I was in youth group, I was part of a group known still to this day as the 8th grade girls. We brought drama and chaos along with us wherever we went, but we also brought each other. Even 12 years later I count them as family. And that’s what I pray for the students that walk through our doors today. That they would find their community to fully rely on as they walk on their individual faith journeys.

That’s also my prayer for our church. If you haven’t yet found your family here, I pray that you spend some intentional time in prayer about what needs to change to make that happen. Maybe you need to personally open yourself up to this family. Or maybe you can offer suggestions for how we can be more welcoming or loving. If you have found your family here, I pray that you spend some time in prayer about how you can grow and strengthen that family.

We have a lot in common with the early church. We have the holy spirit to guide us as we navigate doing church together as family. And like the first disciples, we have the common bond of our love for Jesus Christ and the acceptance of Him as our savior.

“People are hungry, starving for belonging and acceptance. We have been welcomed in to the generous heart of God and if we live well together, we light the way home for countless weary travelers.” Let’s live well together, as a church family, showing love to one another on daily basis.

APRIL 26
My name is Rick Wingen and I’m a member of the NLI team. I attend the 9:45 worship service and the Thursday night men’s Fellaship group, and I also lead a middle school guys small group. My role on NLI is to collaborate with the rest of the team to learn about the challenges we face at various levels.

Denominational churches face many challenges and it’s important that we, as a church, understand them. NLI has been focused on learning more in order to help guide and educate the St. Mark’s community. I believe NLI represents our hope to overcome the challenges that we face and will continue to face as a denominational church in an ever-evolving culture.

Part of our role on NLI is to lead a self-study of our church. The purpose of this is to introduce our church to the Weekend Innovations Team. This helps the group of leaders who will guide our NLI Innovations Weekend (October 18-20) learn more about the church before the actual weekend takes place. Our job is to gather the information so that we can learn more about ourselves as a church and, when the study is completed, the church can benefit greatly. We’ll look at where our church has been, what comes next and how we want to share Jesus with our community. The NLI team will work on this throughout the summer and submit the study in September. Keep us in prayer and be sure to keep your calendars open for October 18-20!

MARCH 7
My name is Betty Schiele and I am a member of the Next Level Innovations (NLI) team at St. Mark’s. I was raised Baptist. My parents were very involved in the church and my siblings and I were expected to follow in their footsteps. However, my grandmother’s father was a Methodist minister in South Dakota, so moving from the Baptist churches we attended growing up to a Methodist church was not a huge step. Many of the hymns are familiar and on the surface, worship and Sunday school, youth and children ministries are the same. The history, of course, differs.

I signed up for the Sunday evening Gospel study. As an NLI (Next Level Innovations) committee member, I was strongly encouraged to attend but it is also a study that Jim and I could attend together. I did the reading for the first session and found myself deep in the history of Wesleyan doctrine. I had never really given much thought to where the Methodist beliefs came from, but now I want to know more about John Wesley and the history of Methodism. What was the faith struggle and what challenges did he face?

Going from there, what is my/our current faith struggle and what challenges do I/we face? It is a given that if churches aren’t willing to adapt, they will not survive. Churches all over are facing this struggle and some are thriving and some are dying.  St. Mark’s is in the midst of this struggle. So far we are hanging on but shouldn’t we be doing more than just hanging on?

Are we willing to look inward, evaluate and work to fulfill our mission “To Grow, Live, and Love as Followers of Christ”? Do we want to be a part of something bigger? Or do we just want to show up and let someone else drag us along?

We have the opportunity to look at ourselves and what we are doing right and what we need to improve with our current ministries. I encourage you to attend our Ministry Focus Event this Sunday, March 10 from 12-2 PM in the CLC. Lunch will be served and there will be childcare. You will have an opportunity to share what excites you about St. Mark’s. Every ministry needs a champion! Click here for more information.
I look forward to seeing you there!

JANUARY 31
My name is Ron Flournoy and I am a member of the Next Level Innovations (NLI) team at St. Mark’s. The NLI process is about casting a refreshed vision for St. Mark’s so that we may become the church for all people.

When is the last time you ventured into uncharted territory? There have been events in my life like getting married, having children and changing jobs. In each new experience, I did not know what the future would hold.

Venturing into uncharted territory is scary because there is usually not a clear path. You may not know what the final destination is or how hard the journey will be to get there. Feelings of doubt and uncertainty can cause fear and anxiety. This typically motivates us to quit and run for safety. It takes courage to keep moving forward when you are not sure where you are going.

As a person of faith I find courage through prayer, reading the Bible and consulting with friends and family. When I let go of my need to control things and allow God to lead, He restores my faith and strength to keep going no matter what. Only by continuing the adventure into uncharted territory can we discover amazing new things.

The NLI team invites you to join us for a spiritual formation study during the season of Lent. These sessions will be held on Sundays from 5:30-7:00 pm in the Fellowship Hall beginning February 24. Other dates include March 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, April 7 and 14. These lead up to our ministry focus event later this spring where we get the chance to express all the things we love about St. Mark’s!

NOVEMBER 29
My name is Hannah Hopper and I am the Communications Leader for the Next Level Innovations Initiative at St. Mark’s.

Our Breakthrough Prayer for this season is below and I’d like to focus in on one line in particular:
Dear God, may your Holy Spirit fall on us like a mighty rushing wind, opening our eyes to see the wonders you are already doing in our church and community. Remove our current limitations that prevent us from being the Church that you desire us to be. Fill our hearts with awe, like the first disciples. Help us discern the work that you are calling us to do so that we can be the Church to all people.

There have been several moments this year where I’ve found myself in awe of God working through our middle & high school students and I’d like to share a few of those with you. I have been serving with our Student Ministry for almost 6 years, and I have witnessed tremendous growth of the ministry during this year in particular.

The first year I helped with Youth Sunday, we had 8 students involved and no student musicians. This year, I experienced God’s presence in a powerful, unexplainable way as I had the opportunity to lead worship with a full band of 10 students and 27 more who helped lead at each service.

When I first started volunteering, there weren’t any other regular volunteers. Now there is an active Student Ministry Team with 10+ volunteers that are with our students most weeks.

We took 3 kids on the first mission trip I was involved with; this year we took 15 on our trip to Philadelphia and I watched them serve and care for God’s people in big, life changing ways.

There are a lot of good things that have come out of the ministry this year. At our SMT meeting last month, our students shared about their experience with small groups. Of everything I’ve mentioned, I have to say the most exciting moment for me was getting to hear that these kids are experiencing community with God and the people of St. Mark’s in authentic ways and ultimately taking ownership of their faith.

How is your heart being filled with awe? It’s my prayer for you that you are able to be filled with awe as you reflect on what God is doing in our church and community. Continue to pray with us as we prepare for all God is calling us to this coming year!

NOVEMBER 1
My name is Karyn Kimball and I am serving as the Prayer Coordinator for the Next Level Innovations Initiative here at St. Mark’s. This week I had the pleasure of attending a Breakthrough Prayer Workshop taught by Rev. Dr. Sue Nilson Kibbey, with several others members of our congregation. All I can say is, “WOW”, the possibilities are endless. We need to ask ourselves these questions:

·        “Do I believe in the power of prayer?”
·        “Do I believe God speaks to me?”
·        “Am I brave enough to listen and act when I hear His call in my own life and in the life of my church?”

What we learned this week is that if we believe, if we pray, if we listen, and if we act Boldly and Bravely, God will show us the way to the future of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church.

Join us on Tuesday, November 13 from 6:00–7:30 pm for our Breakthrough Prayer Workshop to learn more about what you need to do to help move St. Mark’s into God’s future. We are providing a spaghetti dinner catered by Joe’s Inn for this event. If you plan to join us, please RSVP here https://stmarksmidlo.com/nli/rsvp/.

God Bless,
Karyn