Read past emails regarding NLI below.

NOVEMBER 25
Good morning, St. Mark’s friends –

We want to share the results of the Next Level Innovations vote from yesterday. First of all, we were grateful for such an amazing turn-out for this called Church Conference. There were 185 people in attendance with 175 who were eligible to vote as professing members of our church. The NLI Innovations motion passed with 82% voting in affirmation to move forward. Thank you for the ways in which you as a church have engaged so fully in this discernment process these last 18 months. You have prayed, participated in learning sessions and retreats, attended and communicated fully in Town Halls, and shown up to bring your voice and vote. This has been an excellent example of how Christian community can embrace God’s plans for the future with grace and truth-filled presence and love.

And now we move to the next part of the journey. As explained in the Town Halls and previous communications, we will have a task force for each of the four innovations. Thank you for your continued engagement. Several of you have already signed up to be on these teams to bring your gifts to the work now needed to move forward with recommendations and plans for these endeavors. If you sign up, we will ensure that you are on one of the task groups. If you have not yet had the opportunity to sign up, please do so within the next two weeks (by December 8). The sign-up boards are outside the office area, or you can click HERE to make your preference known. The NLI Team will present the slate for these innovation teams at the December 10 Guiding Council meeting.

We have been given a suggested timeline for each innovation, and though there is flexibility, we do want to capture the momentum that we currently have and keep moving forward. By accepting these innovations, our church will have ongoing coaching by our mentor, Rev. Marg Kutz, who you met at the Innovations weekend. This coaching is for our pastor and teams for the next 18 months. We can expect prayer, mentoring, teaching, facilitating, and assistance in discerning the ongoing presentations to our church for implementation and plans. We also have the continued data from district and other resources as we work out specifics.

This Thanksgiving holiday is a good time to count your blessings. We hope, among the gifts in your life, you can count your church here at St. Mark’s as we continue to Grow, Live, and Love as Followers of Christ.

-Pastor Fran and the NLI Team

OCTOBER 25
Post Weekend FAQ Regarding NLI

In case you were unable to be with us last weekend or have some questions about what’s next with Next Level Innovations, below are links to a few documents.

Post Weekend FAQ
For questions about what’s next

NLI Innovations Report

Note From Pastor Fran
For Pastor Fran’s email that went out Monday

NLI Saturday Retreat Workbook
For data collected about the church, community & St. Mark’s

 TOWN HALL MEETINGS

St. Mark’s will hold Town Hall meetings within the next 30 days to discuss this report and the recommended innovations. The dates for these Town Halls are as follows:

  • Sunday, November 10 at 12:15 p.m. Lunch and Discussion
  • Monday, November 11 at 6:30 p.m.

Please feel free to share observations and comments in preparation for the upcoming Town Halls by emailing: stmarksnli@gmail.com and a staff member will respond that your email was received and passed on to our church NLI Team in preparation for the conversations at the Town Halls.

CALLED CHURCH CONFERENCE

Sunday, November 24 at 12:15 pm
The congregation will vote on this report at an official Church Conference led by the District Superintendent on Sunday, November 24 at 12:15 p.m. We are all invited to a lunch following worship that morning, then the called Church Conference will be held. If the report and innovations are approved by a vote of 70% or more of the members present and voting, the NLI process will continue. Our mentor, Rev. Marg Kutz will assist our leadership in implementing these innovations. If the report and innovations are rejected, the NLI process will be deemed complete. Rev. Kutz’s ministry with our congregation will be concluded and the resources of NLI will move on to other churches.

OCTOBER 22
What a weekend!

We had been preparing spiritually and practically as a church for this past weekend, our Next Level Innovations weekend in our church. It was a phenomenal 55+ hours of intentional prayer, interviews, conversations, focus groups, gatherings, workshop/retreat, worship, and fellowship. Our “fine nine” church NLI Team members from St. Mark’s, along with countless leaders and participants, made the sharing purposeful, enjoyable, and grace-filled. The six members of the Weekend Innovations Team (the team that coached us, led the conversations and process, and wrote the innovations) described our community of faith at St. Mark’s as a “welcoming, loving, energetic, and passionate congregation.” I couldn’t agree more with these words and am intensely honored and proud to be on this journey as your pastor. Thank you for the faith, effort, and attitude of wonder you have brought thus far.

We have been praying for this journey for 15 months as a church and God is working among us. After a year of prayer and study, the Weekend Innovations Team presented our congregation with recommendations for how St. Mark’s Church can best move into our mission to “grow, live and love as followers of Jesus Christ” – a plan for how we can make it a reality for our growing and thriving community for years to come. Rev. Marg Kutz, a member of the Weekend Innovations Team, delivered a powerful message. She encouraged us to harness the power God has given us, to express our faith to “all that the light touches,” and to work through that power, beginning in our corner of Midlothian and throughout God’s Kingdom. A scripture we heard was this: “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:7-8).

Those in worship Sunday received a paper copy of the innovations and had the benefit of hearing an explanation from members of the Weekend Innovations Team. If you could not be with us, you can click HERE to read the innovations.  You can also watch the message and presentation online through our Live Facebook stream HERE, or listen to the sermon and NLI presentation from our church website HERE.  Please take the time to become familiar with this report and its meaning, as the recommendations could have tremendous influence on the direction our church takes in the future. We will come together again in November to vote on whether or not we would like to adopt these recommendations and it is important we are all knowledgeable on what we are voting.

Next Steps

St. Mark’s will hold Town Hall meetings within the next 30 days to discuss this report and the recommended innovations. The dates for these Town Halls are as follows:
• Sunday, November 10 at 12:15 p.m. Lunch and Discussion
• Monday, November 11 at 6:30 p.m.
The congregation will vote on this report at an official Church Conference led by the District Superintendent on Sunday, November 24 at 12:15 p.m. We are all invited to a lunch following worship that morning, then the called Church Conference will be held. If the report and innovations are approved by a vote of 70% or more of the members present and voting, the NLI process will continue. Our mentor, Rev. Marg Kutz will assist our leadership in implementing these innovations. If the report and innovations are rejected, the NLI process will be deemed complete. Rev. Kutz’s ministry with our congregation will be concluded and the resources of NLI will move on to other churches.

Please feel free to share observations and comments in preparation for the upcoming Town Halls by emailing stmarksnli@gmail.com and a staff member will respond that your email was received and passed on to our church NLI Team in preparation for the conversations at the Town Halls.

I am excited about what the future of St. Mark’s looks like with these innovations in place and guiding our steps. Thank you for taking the time to consider them and to pray for the future of our church. I look forward to seeing you at the vote on November 24.

Blessed to be your pastor,
Fran

OCTOBER 16

Next Level Innovations is THIS Weekend: Bracing or Surrender

I grew up in Norfolk and spent most of my adult life in the Tidewater area until moving to the Richmond area. One thing you learn about life in Tidewater VA, especially this time of the year, is Hurricanes. Hurricanes are a part of life and are expected. We have hurricane routes for evacuation; we have hurricane survival kits; we have interactive hurricane maps. It’s what we do. As we have seen in the weather news the past couple of months, we will often know for days and days and days that a hurricane is coming. We see the images on the weather channel, follow the potential paths, and track whether it will “hit” us or not. It’s an entirely different experience living in Richmond, though we do get some effects of hurricane events. Probably a better example here is a big, blasting snow storm that’s on its way.

Certainly we all know that weather is a part of life. It is filled with changing dynamics that are immanent and to be expected. This is the nature of weather. Our Spiritual lives, both individually and as a community, are also marked with immanent and expected changes. The writer of Ecclesiastes wonderfully stated that there’s a time for everything – for all the life seasons – to everything, turn, turn, turn, as Pete Seeger sang. We’re talking about big, news-worthy events and seasons, and how we live into them, through them, and with them. Living is all about these seasons.

As a church, we are in a very important “season.” We’ve been talking about “Next Level Innovations” for a year and a half and now the NLI Weekend is here! This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will be a crucial weekend for our church’s life as we share stories, hear interviews, learn, and dream in a church-wide retreat, and have an exciting worship service together this Sunday at 10 am. We will engage in this weekend as a church, but we are also called as individuals to engage in what’s happening as well. I want to share briefly about this individual engagement and how we can see our spiritual preparation for what’s coming.

A few weeks back a devotion written by my favorite Spiritual Director shared about the inner experience we have to life events, especially as we see them coming. The devotion explained that, a lot of times, when we see a seasonal change occurring, our inner response is to “brace,” – you know, as in “Brace for impact!”  But in a book called The Wisdom Way of Knowing, an Episcopal priest and teacher Cynthia Bourgeault, shares that “Bracing” is the opposite of “Surrender” spiritually. In our faith lives, it is actually Surrender that is a spiritual practice – not Bracing. I want to share this short paragraph with you this week as we enter this time together:

In any situation in life, confronted by an outer threat or opportunity, you can notice yourself responding inwardly in one or two ways. Either you will brace, harden and resist, or you will soften, open and yield. If you go with the former gesture, you will be catapulted immediately into your smaller self, with its animal instincts and survival responses. If you stay with the latter regardless of the outer conditions, you will remain in alignment with your innermost being and through it, Divine Being can reach you. Spiritual practice at its no-frills simplest is a moment-by moment learning not to do anything in a state of internal brace. 

I was struck by this amazing insight around Surrender. Like all of you, I have never personally experienced a process like Next Level Innovations, even as a pastor. I have experienced workshops, special services, Vision and discernment retreats and processes in other churches, and even led some of them. But NLI is unlike any kind of coaching process I’ve ever known or led in 30 years of ministry. It is comprised of:

  • a prayer emphasis that we have engaged in for over a year;
  • a dedicated team of individuals that have committed themselves to learning about present-day church dynamics, opportunities, and challenges;
  • an 8-week Spiritual Growth study of our Christian understandings of church
  • a year of peer pastoral learning;
  • a full community study to give us data and insights to the neighbors around our church;
  • the full picture of our present community of faith done as a self-study involving statistics, discipleship factors, and how we are aligning with our community;
  • an assessment of our Vision, lay involvement, financing, and staffing;
  • input from all components of leadership, youth, newest members, and long-time members;
  • mystery worshippers who have attended our services to share their experiences;
  • and an outside team trained to guide us through the weekend we will have together.

Many will say that we have done this before….I say, we have not done it like this.
And the weekend is just the beginning of our learning, discernment, and potential season as a church, to journey from good to great, and especially to go where God needs us to be for the future impact we make for the Kingdom as a church.

  • To be chosen for this journey is Blessing.
  • To answer the call to experience it is Courageous.
  • To move into the days ahead gracefully is Surrender.

So, if you ask me about this weekend and how I am preparing for it spiritually, my answer will be “I am surrendering.” Surrender requires pliability and release and wonder and trust. These are not always easy parts of discipleship for any of us. It’s not always easy for me. But I am dedicating myself to soften, open and yield so the Divine Being, Christ, can reach me as a disciple and pastor – and us as a church. Would you pray for and join me in this Spiritual Discipline of Surrender?

I am looking forward to all that God is doing with us in this holy time.
Love, Fran

OCTOBER 9
St. Mark’s Friends! I am so excited about our NLI weekend!

If you’ve already sent your RSVP, we’re looking forward to learning with you on the 18th. If you’re still on the fence, read below. We hope you’ll join us!

Every day I go to work with the sole purpose to help our schools continuously improve. We work through professional development, accreditation, and advocacy to help even the best schools move programs, policies, and procedures from good to great. And with NLI, that’s exactly what our church has the opportunity to do.

One of my favorite parts of every accreditation visit I go on is the meeting with parents. To hear parents talk about the school and what it’s done for their child makes me fall in love with every school I see. (Also, I almost always cry which is no surprise to anyone who knows me well.) And at the end of the meeting, we always ask what the school could do differently or what could be changed to make it an even better community. Even the parents who gushed about their child’s experience always have something to say at this point. Because even when you love a place, you can see the ways it can improve.

That’s what the NLI Retreat is about. It’s about sharing why you love St. Mark’s. What makes it great and how it’s made a difference in your life and faith. But it’s also about sharing what St. Mark’s could do better. Where is the church falling short and how can we make improvements.

Just like school accreditation, the NLI Weekend Team (a group of church peers) will take all of the feedback they receive over the weekend and offer up Innovations to the church. Things that will take St. Mark’s from good to great and help us better engage with our community.

Here are some things you might be thinking…

But Laura, I’m shy and sharing sounds like an absolute nightmare. I think you should show up anyway. You’re probably a great listener and thinker and the world needs more of those. There will also be learning opportunities so it’s not just about sharing – that’s just the part I’m most excited about personally.

But Laura, I’m training for a marathon and have to run 14 miles that morning so I can’t be there at 9. I think you’re an incredible human being for running a marathon. And it’s absolutely okay to come when you can! Just let us know you’ll be there so we have a seat for you.

But Laura, I have to take my child to a birthday party that afternoon and be the chauffeur and personal shopper. I think you should come and stay as long as you can. Parenting, to me, is one of the highest callings and one of the most God-honoring things that happen in this world. Your work and perspective matter a great deal at our church. (Childcare is available, so just let us know who will be hanging out with our awesome staff that day.)

But Laura, we’ve done this before, and I just don’t think anything is going to change. I respectfully disagree. We’ve never done NLI before and I’ve been going to the church for 26 years. I hear from schools all the time at the start of the accreditation process that it’s just something they want to be done with and by the end, they’re so excited by the affirmation they received and the support given as they move forward to be a better school.

And if you’re still on the fence, you get to hang out with your awesome church family for the day. How often do we get to do that? Plus, there will be food.

OCTOBER 3
My name is Kristen Blome and I am a member of the NLI team. Have you ever tried to teach someone how to “match” their clothes? I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sent a child back to change because what they chose to wear for (insert the name of some big event) was a mismatch of plaid, stripes or clashing colors. Or the amount of times in our twenty-year marriage my husband has asked, “Does this go together?” We know that if our clothes don’t coordinate with each other, things just look – off. We don’t go.

I’ve spent a large part of my adult life “matching.” My degree focused on Public Relations and journalism; and a big part of that was learning to know your audience. Messages need to be tailored to your audience so it can make the biggest impact. When I plan events, it is necessary to know my audience. I focus on who we want to attend the event – what do they want to see, do and feel. When I focus on the “who,” what I want or need to offer at the event is so much easier to plan.

A big part of Next Level Innovations is learning about the community surrounding St. Mark’s and identifying whether or not we “match.” We have been given some invaluable insight regarding the community around us. St. Mark’s is surrounded by families, retirees, working couples and singles. NLI is helping us determine if we are doing the best we can to serve the needs of our community. A church can have the best intentions and offer many wonderful things; but if it isn’t what its community needs, how effective is it really? Is there something else the church could offer that is needed? We need to know our audience to make the biggest impact – as I learned all those years ago in college.

I cannot encourage you enough to attend the church-wide retreat on Saturday, October 19. We will learn together about the church’s neighbors and how we can be the best St. Mark’s we can be. We need to learn how and if we are “matching” – not plaids and stripes – but the needs and wants of our community members. Our God has given us the best message to share with the world. Let’s find out together the best way to deliver it to our community.

SEPTEMBER 19
“Am I in the right place? Is this 11551 Lucks Lane?” I was volunteering at the front desk of the church when I heard a person asking me those questions. Now everyone knows what I should have said, “Yes, you’re always in the right place when you’re in church,” but of course I just said, “This is St. Mark’s church, how can I help you?”

Well, I needed to help by finding the meeting this person was at St. Mark’s to attend but at that point no one was there to conduct the meeting. We began to converse and then this person said, “I always wanted to come to church but my partner of 27 years said we wouldn’t be welcome so we didn’t go. My partner died 5 weeks ago. Was she right?” My brain said, “WOW,” my mouth said, “Jesus welcomes all, so do we.”

As we have prayed the NLI prayer, we have prayed for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes, see our wonders, remove our limitations, and to be the church to all people. My eyes were opened. I saw the wonder of having a group at St. Mark’s for this person to attend. My heart ached that this person was limited by the world church view. How can we become the church for all people?

Perhaps, we are taking one step by St. Mark’s participating in the NLI process. You and I can find ourselves at 11551 Lucks Lane on October 19 for an opportunity that does not regularly happen. You will be in the right place. You can attend the all-church retreat and give your input as to where St. Mark’s, as a church, might take its ministry to a higher level. Through this retreat the visiting team will get a vivid picture of who we are, the DNA of our church. The visiting team will share this with us on October 20 at our service along with recommendations for growth.

You might be a new attender to St. Mark’s, a lifetime member, young or old. Remember: All are welcome. Don’t miss an opportunity to grow, live, and love as a follower of Christ.

AUGUST 29
Hello everyone, this is Joe Wetzel and I am a “Next Level Innovation” or is it Innovator? You see, when I retired from my old daily routine, I had to discover a new me for the next phase of my life journey. The closer my official retirement day got, the more I realized I needed a plan. I needed to know my options. I needed to find a way to stay relevant. I needed to know my gifts and where they would be best utilized. I wanted to be defined more by what I would presently be doing and less by my past. The process took time, careful thought, creativity, self-evaluation and research. My ideas were numerous and needed editing, guidance, clarity, input from others, and most importantly prayer and trust in something greater than me.

The process for planning St Mark’s future is called NLI and it reminds me a lot of what I had to do to prepare for the next chapter of my personal life. The NLI committee has processed and studied different ideas about what can make us a successful, vibrant, and relevant church. Presently, we are looking at the community around us and analyzing the different categories that make it up and what it is expected to look like in the future.
Our next step is to involve our congregation and seek your input. We have set the weekend of October 18-20 as the time to do this. We are inviting everyone to participate in some way over the course of the weekend. There will be different opportunities given depending on what ways you may be serving or by categories of peer groups. The sessions will be conducted by a visiting group of facilitators and will be held with confidentiality in mind. The goal is to hear from you as to what we as a church may be doing well, what we may not be doing so well, and what you envision for our ministry in the future. To move our church forward in a relevant and meaningful ministry, we need a plan – a road map.

In his book “Love Does,” Bob Goff talks of the greatest commandment being love. One of the main themes throughout his story-telling is that if you love someone or something, you will value them/it. You will interact with them/it and you will work at being present. My hope and prayer is that you care enough about your church and its future mission to be present on the weekend of Oct. 18, 19, and 20. Please mark your calendars now and join us. I promise someone will listen. Let us Pray:

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 to discern the work that you are calling us to do so that we can be the Church to all people. AMEN.  

Footnote: If you don’t know who Bob Goff is, ask me! He inspires me so much and I would love for you to have the same experience.

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