Large Church Initiative 2015

April 20–22 • The Woodlands, TX


Limitless God. Boundless Possibilities.

The Large Church Initiative (LCI) is a conference that will equip you as a pastor or church staff member to be more effective in your ministry for the Kingdom. We at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in The Woodlands, Texas are excited to host LCI this year. Our theme for 2015 is “Imagine.” We want to help you take what you’re already doing and imagine how it can be greater.

In addition to hearing from brilliant keynote speakers and learning from informational workshops, LCI is a time of renewal for you as a church worker. We know leading a community can often drain you of your physical, spiritual and emotional resources. We want to offer you the opportunity to relax, worship the Lord, spend time in prayer and connect with others experiencing the same trials and victories as you.

No matter your role in the life of your church community, we’ll have something for you. Won’t you join us for this extraordinary event?

Contact Mark Sorensen at with any questions regarding LCI 2015.

Large Church Initiative April 20–22, 2015 The Woodlands UMC

Recordings of the main session speakers are available on the LCI 2015 YouTube channel.

Conference Schedule

LCI 2015 Conference Schedule

Main Sessions

Opening Keynote

The Woodlands UMC Story

Dr. Ed Robb, Senior Pastor, The Woodlands UMC

Planting a church and growing it to an 11,000-member congregation doesn’t happen overnight. The Woodlands UMC has been around for over 35 years, and Dr. Ed Robb has been there every step of the way. He’ll share the journey of how the church and its neighborhood matured together.

Monday Evening Speaker

Top Down, Who’s Around?

Justin Wise, Author, Digital Media Strategist and Consultant

If you’ve ever felt like the world is moving at mach speed, you’re not alone. A world connected through technology presents not only amazing opportunities to your church, but stubborn challenges as well. Technology must remain a means to an end, not the end itself. Learn how to keep a pulse on your people while embracing social technology in new and profound ways.

Monday Evening Keynote

Do All… by Faith

Rev. Mark Beeson, Senior Pastor, Granger Community Church

History is filled with moving accounts of ordinary people who responded well to God’s intensely personal invitation. They adjusted their lives to join His mission and He poured undreamed-of grace into their lives. They lived differently. They did by faith what the faithless couldn’t dream of doing without it. Can you imagine what you could do, if you would do all you can… by faith?

Tuesday Morning Keynotes

The Making of a Masterpiece:
Build the Kingdom by Building Leaders

Rev. Jessica LaGrone, Dean of Chapel, Asbury Theological Seminary

Are you an artist? The answer may surprise you. God can use you to make a masterpiece as you invest in the people He has placed in your life. By encouraging, nurturing and mentoring others, you may be a part of the blending of talents that becomes a great work of God. The key to building the Kingdom may be as simple as building up the leaders around you. Find out how you can leave a legacy that may someday be known as your greatest work of art.

Building a Thriving Church

Rev. Ken Werlein, Senior Pastor, Faithbridge Church

Nobody wants to miss out on God’s plan for their church, but many do. Every church ends up somewhere, but only a few end up there on purpose. Whether you’re planting or revitalizing a church, you will benefit from mastering four critical insights to Nehemiah’s leadership in seeking to build a thriving church.

Tuesday Afternoon Speaker

When Right Isn’t Working

Kem Meyer, Author, Church Communications Coach

What do you do when your intentions don’t yield the outcomes you’re working for? Worse yet, what if your efforts push things the opposite direction you’re aiming? Are there other options besides give up or push harder?

Tuesday Afternoon Keynote

If My Church…

Rev. Rudy Rasmus, Senior Pastor, St. John’s Church

What would happen if the church and the people who inhabit them turned toward God like never before with humility, prayer, and sacrifice?

Tuesday Evening Keynote

I’m Just a Glove

Rev. Pete Briscoe, Senior Pastor, Bent Tree Bible Fellowship

When I was six years old, I learned the secret to surviving and thriving in ministry. Then I forgot all about it until my ministry world started to crumble around me. Our church was growing, we had a brand new building, the finances were healthy, and I was dying inside. In the midst of frustration and failure, I remembered the profound lesson I learned as a little boy and started to live it. It’s true, it’s crucial, it’s mostly ignored and it can change everything.

Wednesday Morning Keynote

Box Theology

Rev. Olu Brown, Lead Pastor, Impact Church

It is difficult for people to allow God to be God and not to place God and their understanding of God in a box. To experience God in God’s fullness, we have to take our perceptions of God out of the box.

Breakout Workshops


Ad-Ministry-ation: Advancing Ministry Achievement Through Effective Administration

Jim Neikirk, The Woodlands UMC

In-depth insights on church governance and administration, including management and how to run a productive meeting.

Capital Campaigns: Building a Solid Foundation for Church Growth

Gary Laugharn and Mark Merrill, The Woodlands UMC

Overview of planning, designing and implementing a capital growth program, as well as how to gain congregational support.

Considering a Columbarium: Bringing Christian Burial Back to the Church

Brent Thorson, Eickhof of Columbaria Inc.

Death Care is a huge part of the ministry that all churches provide. The rise in popularity of cremation and the use of a columbarium on church grounds is allowing many churches new ways to care for the deceased and grieving. Hear about the history of church burial, ways your church can bring a columbarium ministry home, and tour The Woodlands UMC columbarium.

Defending Your Ministry from Critical Risks

Paula Burns, Insurance One Agency

Gain practical tools to assist in reducing risk in the following critical areas of ministry: communicating with youth/social media risk, transportation risk, child protection policies, building use agreements, and special events.

Executive Pastor: If, When, Why, How?

Mike Bonem, Mike Bonem Consulting, LLC

It’s a trendy title, with a growing number of churches creating the role of executive pastor/director. But is it right for your church? We’ll explore what an executive pastor does and the rationale for creating the position. We’ll also look at the common reasons that it doesn’t work.

Why Give? Why Give Now? Growing a Culture of Stewardship and Generosity

Jim Sheppard, Generis

Get a snapshot of stewardship trends from fundraising consultant and Generis CEO, Jim Sheppard. Get practical, actionable ideas from churches that are doing well in developing generous people, including strategy development and building a culture of generosity.


The Big Question: Growing Churches or Growing People…or Growing Churches That Grow People?

J.D. Walt, Seedbed Publishing

Instead of asking, “How do we grow our church?” and examining the answers, we will ask, “How do we grow people?” and see where that leads us.

Bringing the Holy Seasons to Life for Children

Kasey Rogers, The Woodlands UMC

Learn how to create and teach fun, hands-on curriculum that brings special seasons like Advent and Lent to life for 3-year-olds through 6th graders. We’ll show you how to reach the whole family with activities, easy-to-follow calendars and an end-of-season family worship experience to tie it all together.

Building a Student Ministry that Balances Fun and Discipleship

Bob Swan, The Woodlands UMC

Hear The Woodlands UMC student ministry story and discover how to build a student ministry with a focus on Jesus that calls students to service, nurtures mature faith, and creates community.

Bypassing Disc Media: Discover On-Demand Bible Study Resources

Daniel Cooper, Right Now Media

Find out how to equip people in your congregation with digital resources such as Right Now Media.

The Confirmation Journey: Equipping Young Believers and Leaders in the Church

Jennifer Sims, The Woodlands UMC

Confirmation is more than just a classroom series — it’s a journey! Learn to engage not only students, but also the entire family, into a journey toward deeper faith and active discipleship. This workshop will be co-led with Susan Kent, Pastor of Worship.

Doing Life Together: Creative Bible Studies for Women

Jessica LaGrone, Asbury Theological Seminary

Explore ways to create relevant, meaningful and creative Bible study for women’s ministry. Combining elements of worship, teaching, community and story, you will find resources to take your study to a deeper level of experience together. Participate in creative exercises that you can take home and use, share ideas and find inspiration for the next great season of your ministry.

Engaging People in Their Golden Years: Senior Ministry

Don Meador, The Woodlands UMC

A general overview of what constitutes a dynamic ministry for, with, and by senior adults in a large church. A review of the activities and ministries offered at The Woodlands UMC will be included.

Essential Building Blocks for Children’s Ministry

Lori Trupp, The Church of The Resurrection

Enhance your children’s ministry with these essential elements and techniques.

Growing Bigger, Feeling Smaller: Connecting People Through Small Groups

Lauri Lueder and Rev. Elizabeth Moseley, Highland Park UMC

Hear the story of how Highland Park UMC, a 100-year-old church steeped in traditional Sunday School, developed its group ministry, successfully adding a small group component without sacrificing or compromising the Sunday morning education model. Learn what worked, what didn’t, and how they are using groups to help people grow in a relationship with Christ.

How Will We Ever Make Disciples of All These People?

Ken Werlein, Faithbridge Church

Large churches are tops at producing powerful worship experiences on Sunday, but rarely is discipleship more than an afterthought to “keeping the machine running.” Find out how to move disciple-making from the fringes to top priority. This seminar will focus on how God transformed one Houston church of 3,000 en route to prioritizing discipleship.

Imagine Real Influence: Stop Masquerading as a Giant

Leo Tyler, Healthy Soul

Transformative influence comes from an authentic heart overflowing with God’s compassion, connectedness and courage. Leaders who refuse total transormation masquerade and pray their underdeveloped self is never exposed. Learn to stop living in fear of exposure.

Men’s Ministry: Speaking to Men in Their Language

Rob Renfroe, The Woodlands UMC

Thirteen years ago, The Woodlands UMC began a ministry for men that brings together 500 guys weekly for study and service. In this workshop, you’ll find out what we have learned about attracting men to the church, helping them grow in their faith, and encouraging them to live a life of service.


Establishing Strategic and Effective Missions Ministries

Dr. John Hull, The Woodlands UMC

As churches grow, their missions ministries should also mature in direction and effectiveness. We’ll take a look at how your missions ministry can have a greater impact for the Kingdom of God.

Involving Your Church with Social Action

Dr. Michael Waters, Joy Tabernacle AME

Most churches struggle with developing social action ministries and preparing their members to engage in social action initiatives. We’ll explore biblical, historical and contemporary church engagements in social action and provide a methodology toward establishing ministries within the local church context, thus fulfilling God’s call to act justly and to show mercy.

Serving Locally: Meeting Community Need Through Local Missions

Susan Kent, The Woodlands UMC

Developing a practical local missions strategy and ways to market and manage your volunteers.


Building a Better Brand Through Visual Communication

Mike Sims and Scott Brinkmeyer, The Woodlands UMC

See how cohesive visual design can unify your church ministry graphics into a brand family that confirms messages instead of confusing. We’ll look at the strategic design approach The Woodlands UMC used to clarify and strengthen relationships between the ministries and the main church identity, and how you can do the same.

Cut the Clutter: Less Is More in Church Communications

Kem Meyer

Smart communication systems don’t have to be complicated. Learn to clear out the clutter and noise from your church communications and move beyond bulletins, brochures and bake sales.

Effectively Ministering to a Special Needs Community

Cheryl Vandiver, Highland Park UMC

A conversational-style discussion with audience participation covering an overview of programs within HPUMC Special Needs Ministry, the mission/purpose of special needs ministries, elements of start-up programs, and maintaining the ministry. Co-presented by Ramsey Patton.

Inviting Singles into the Church Family

Steve Lallier, White’s Chapel UMC

We will discuss experiences, insights gained and future plans from a church effectively ministering to singles. Learn about their specific needs that can be effectively served through a targeted, faith-based ministry that might not be met in traditional family and children-oriented programming. Also discover unique things they have to offer your community.

Keep Families Connected: Creating Space for Young Learners In Nursery, Preschool, and School Enviroments

Linda Wilmoth, The Woodlands UMC

Learn how to use your church’s facilities during the week to bring new families into your congregation through a Christian school. Linda will share about Children of The Woodlands, a preschool still going strong in its 36th year, and The Woodlands Methodist School, which already has 175 students in only three years.

Multi-Sites: A Conversation

Jeff Olive, Texas Annual Conference

A guided discussion and Q&A with several churches in the Texas Annual Conference that have or are in the process of implementing multiple church sites.

Mystery Worshippers: The Top Things Visitors Won’t Tell You about Why They Are Never Coming Back

Eric Kelly McFarland

This workshop will help you see how your church is viewed from the outside so you can serve others by making guests, seekers, and regular worshippers feel welcome and wanted. You will leave with a checklist so that you can have a mystery worshipper attend your church and hear first-hand about your congregation from a visitor’s point-of-view. Will your church pass the test?

Pastoral Care: Cultivating a Compassionate Community

Cliff Ritter, The Woodlands UMC

Discover implementation and support strategies for large membership congregations, volunteer recruiting and training methods that build a caring community of support, and how to develop and integrate a professional counseling center into the life of the church. Susan Jones, Director of Grace Point Counseling Center, will also speak.

The Social Church: Effective Online Strategy For Digital Communications

Justin Wise, Think Digital LLC

Web, email, and social media work best when an intentional process is steering the ship. Discover how to craft a system for your church’s social media and online content that gets the results you want.

Strategic Outreach Through Sports and Recreation Programming

Garrett Ritter, The Woodlands UMC

An interactive look at using recreation and fitness as an outreach ministry at your church. Key topics will include staff health, children’s and adult sports, fitness programming and partnering.

What I Don’t Know About Growing a Church

Dr. Ed Robb, The Woodlands UMC

Join Dr. Ed Robb as he shares wisdom and experiences from his 30+ years as senior pastor at The Woodlands UMC.


Fresh Ideas and Timeless Traditions: Creative Planning for Traditional Worship

David Hobson, Centenary College and First United Methodist Chruch, Shreveport

Multi-media presentation on creative worship planning in traditional worship.

Good News, Bad News: Ministering to Millenials

Mike Baughman, Union Coffee

Most churches say they want to connect with rising generations, but are rarely willing to take the steps necessary. This workshop will take an honest look — good news and bad — at the deep shifts necessary in order to engage rising generations. Hear lessons learned from 15 years in ministry with Millenials in traditional and non-traditional settings.

Setting the Stage for Success in Worship: Best Practices in Media

Mike Sims and Steven Bedingfield, The Woodlands UMC

It’s not about the equipment. Good production is built on intention and solid relationships. Presenters will share examples and best practices for worship production in any environment, with any budget.

Vamos a Adoremos Juntos: Starting a Spanish Language Service

Robert Lopez, Crossroads District, Rio Texas Conference

Learn from real-life stories of past and present Spanish/bilingual service starts and find out what the initial steps are to beginning a Spanish service.

What Can a Sermon Learn from a Song?

Jason Miller, Granger Community Church

The Wesley brothers invested in the power of songwriting, believing songs could form people in ways that sermons never would. But what if that could work the other way? Can preachers adopt the best intuitions and insights of songwriters in their sermons?

Our Speakers

Mark Beeson

Mark Beeson is lead pastor at Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana. He leads, inspires, informs, motivates and equips other church leaders to share the hope of Jesus to a hurting world. In 2013 he was named Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church.

Pete Briscoe

Pete Briscoe pastors Bent Tree Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas. His ministry also includes “Telling the Truth,” an international media outreach that includes a nationally syndicated daily broadcast heard on nearly 500 local radio outlets across the USA.

Olu Brown

Olu Brown serves as the Lead Pastor of Impact Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Impact is a growing, multicultural congregation that is making a global impact by sticking to the basics and taking the “churchiness” out of church.

Jessica LaGrone

Jessica LaGrone is the Dean of the Chapel at Asbury Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky. She is an acclaimed pastor, teacher, speaker and the author of Namesake: When God Rewrites Your Story, and Broken and Blessed: How God Changed the World Through One Imperfect Family.

Kem Meyer

Kem Meyer is a communications coach, noted speaker and the author of Less Clutter, Less Noise. She teaches church leaders how to understand common worldviews and how to remove barriers that keep people from connecting with Christ.

Rudy Rasmus

Rudy and his wife co-pastor St. John’s United Methodist Church in Houston, one of the most culturally diverse congregations in the country. Pastor Rudy coordinates domestic and global anti-hunger initiatives in conjunction with concert tours by longtime friend and church member Beyoncé Knowles. He is the author of the book, Love. Period. When All Else Fails.

Ken Werlein

Ken Werlein is founding pastor at Faithbridge Church in Northwest Houston. In addition to preaching God’s Word, Ken’s ministry includes mentoring young leaders and working to strengthen other Kingdom-minded ministries in local and global communities.

Justin Wise

Justin Wise is a social media strategist and digital communication consultant. He is the author of The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication. He teaches churches how to build their online community and influence them to take action.

Worship Leaders

David Dunn

David is a singer/songwriter based in Nashville and signed to BEC Recordings. David’s career has taken him around the world and even included an appearance on TV’s “The Voice.”

Cameron Hammon

Cameron is a worship leader on staff at The Woodlands UMC. In addition to leading worship, Cameron and her husband, Matt, form two bands: The Rebecca West, and Olivette, which uses music and the written word to advocate on behalf of abuse victims.

Louise Kramer

Louise has been the director of music ministry at The Woodlands UMC since 2001. Under her direction, the Music and Fine Arts Ministry has established ten ensemble opportunities, which include choirs for all ages and musical styles, an orchestra, a handbell choir and a variety of other ensembles.

Josh Price

Josh, a worship leader on staff at The Woodlands UMC who works mainly with The Loft, has been leading churches, student ministries and camps in worship for over a decade. He has been on staff at some of the largest churches in the nation in addition to releasing his own albums.

Mark Swayze

Mark is the director of contemporary worship at The Woodlands UMC. A recent transplant from the San Antonio area, Mark and his band have traveled around the world leading worship at churches, conferences and camps.

Venue Location

The Woodlands

Part of the conference experience is networking with others in attendance who are working in ministries similar to your own. The Woodlands Convention and Visitors Bureau has detailed information on area dining and attractions for you to enjoy while you rub elbows.


The George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) is the closest airport to The Woodlands. We suggest SuperShuttle for your transportation to and from the airport; the current one-way rate between IAH and The Woodlands is $34.

Directions from George Bush Intercontinental Airport

Follow the Terminal Road to John F. Kennedy Blvd. Head south on John F. Kennedy Blvd. and then take the Hardy Toll Road. Continue on Hardy Toll Road to The Woodlands, where it will merge into Interstate 45. Take exit 77 from Interstate 45 and turn right at the signs for Lake Woodlands Drive. Take the loop, crossing the highway and continuing for one mile. The Woodlands United Methodist Church will be on your right.

Hotel Information

Hyatt Place

Nightly Rate - $229
1909 Research Forest Drive
The Woodlands, Texas 77380

Drury Inn & Suites

Nightly Rate - $134.99
28099 I-45 North
The Woodlands, Texas 77380

Residence Inn

Nightly Rate - $209
9333 Six Pines Drive
The Woodlands, Texas 77380

Hilton Garden Inn

Nightly Rate - $229
9301 Six Pines Drive
The Woodlands, Texas 77380

Fairfield Inn & Suites

Nightly Rate - $189
16850 I-45 South
The Woodlands, Texas 77380

Best Western

Nightly Rate - $85
17081 I-45 South
The Woodlands, Texas 77385

Conference Sponsors





Trusted Vendors

The Large Church Initiative has provided leadership conferences for the past 20 years. We meet once each year, hosted by a strong church. “Large” in United Methodism indicates 300 or more in the average weekly worship attendance. Our goal is inspiration and best practices from the host church—and from outstanding well-known keynote presenters. The Steering Committee is made up of volunteer senior pastors of large churches.

Tim Walker

Dr. Tim Walker, Chair

The Woodlands United Methodist Church (TWUMC) is a 11,000-member congregation located in suburban Houston, Texas. TWUMC is an evangelical Methodist church offering eight live worship services each week in three unique worship styles. TWUMC webcasts worship live online at It offers dynamic Christian programs for all ages, placing special emphasis on discipleship, missions and outreach. TWUMC also runs an accredited preschool, a private elementary school, and a licensed counseling center. The TWUMC mission is to “Win people to Jesus Christ, disciple them in faith, and help those in need.” Learn more at and