Rev. Mark Sheets to be Named Director of Congregational Excellence


The New Places for New People movement in the Missouri Conference will have a new friend come this July. Bishop Bob Farr intends to appoint Rev. Dr. Mark Sheets as the next new director of Congregational Excellence for the Missouri Conference beginning July 1.

“I’m excited about the energy and creativity Mark will bring to the table,” said Bishop Farr. “He is a starter and believes that God is calling him to do this work.  Mark has a proven track record of building diverse teams around him which aligns with the Conference’s priority on race and culture and will help us in connecting with younger and more diverse people in our mission fields.”

Sheets grew up in First United Methodist Church St. Charles. He enrolled at the University of Missouri-Columbia with ambitions of becoming a high school history teacher, but shortly before classes started, he attended a Chrysalis event and started considering his call to ministry. At first, he thought he might just go ahead and get his degree while considering the call, but he soon found that the university was taking the teaching thing seriously right off that bat, so he changed his major to psychology.

While in Columbia he started volunteering with the youth ministry at Community UMC and felt he had found his niche. He attended Garrett Seminary in Evanston for his Master of Divinity degree, and then starting in 2004 he served Leadwood/Irondale for a year followed by serving as an associate pastor, still with youth ministry, at Concord Trinity in St. Louis. He had just completed his Ph.D. in youth ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary in California, thinking that would cement his role as youth ministry for life, when he got the call to move across Missouri to serve as senior pastor of Good Shepherd UMC in 2011.

Although very experienced and educated in ministry, this would be his first time dealing with the business end of oversight of a large congregation. The nitty-gritty of finance meetings and year-end reports had always been someone else’s job. But he found a supportive community at Good Shepherd to help him grow into the position.

“Larry Fagan was a real mentor to me as I was getting started there, and that whole community was so grace-filled,” Sheets said.
As a youth pastor, Sheets had been having a blast, which is why he wasn’t looking to change from that role. As a senior pastor, he still found fun, but it was a different kind of fun. Rather than throwing pumpkins off the roof of the church, he was working on how to better serve the community and build momentum in the church’s ministries.

“There were different puzzles to solve,” he said.

And he kept that fun. The church started the annual Shepee Awards for staff, modeled after the Dundee Awards from the satirical comedy “The Office.” And they tried a lot of creative ideas, going into it with the expectation that many wouldn’t work, with about half for the attempts being radically successful, and half tanking.

A new direction that Good Shepherd leaned into heavily is multi-site ministry. Now its primary campuses are 9555 N Oak Trafficway in Kansas City and 2800 NE 64th St in Gladstone, but it has also just launched a new location Called Brewchurch at an entertainment venue called The Rino in North Kansas City, and it is running its online church like a campus to itself rather than a video feed of an in-person church. All locations have live preaching, and Sheets and his staff write the sermons collaboratively and personalize them for each location. The multi-site expansion wasn’t only good for reaching new people in new communities, it has also been good for the people who were already there. Some members who didn’t have active roles as volunteers are now in leadership positions at the new location.

“It has changed their sense of value and community,” Sheets said.

Another change in the church was spinning the ministries geared toward helping marginalized people off into its own non-profit organization so it would be better able to partner with government agencies and other revenue streams. A Turning Point now has a $375,000 annual budget.

“We’re doing so much more ministry through A Turning Point than we would have ever been able to do if we had just kept it as a ministry within our church,” Sheets said.

With the next move, Sheets is looking forward to working toward finding new paths forward in ministry with Missouri’s 700 United Methodist churches rather than being focused on just one. 

“I’m really excited to partner with all kinds of churches, at whatever stage their ministry is in,” he said. That might mean working with thriving churches to help them share their ministry and best practices with others, and it will also mean working with struggling churches and helping them find ways to move forward. He’s also excited about the role his office has in establishing new churches in new communities. 

Sheets is married to Yanela, and they have two sons, Alejandro and Joaquin.