Mike & Julie
About Mike & Julie
Mike & Julie's Story
Raised in a Mennonite community in Arthur, IL, Mike experienced a strong foundation of faith with his loving parents, three siblings, and a host of extended family. This solidified a deep appreciation for the vital role of family and faith. Mike was also quick to catch the entrepreneurial spirit as his family was involved in multiple business ventures. This influenced him to pursue a career in business and he graduated from Crown College in Minneapolis, MN with double degrees in Business Administration and Christian Ministries-- plus played basketball for the college team!
Julie was literally born in the Champaign, IL house that her parents still call home, just a few years after Happy and Dianne founded The Vineyard Church in that same home. Hence...This has always been the church she loved and called her own. From helping in kids’ ministry--to being impacted by the Spirit during the 90s revival meetings --to worshipping in the dilapidated garage where teenagers gathered--her formative years were experienced here at the Vineyard. Being the only daughter in the middle of four sons, Julie learned early on how to navigate a love of family and a fierce sense of individual identity in the Leman household that was filled with some very big personalities.
Mike and Julie often joke that they don’t actually know for sure when they first met, but they began to cross paths when Mike’s family made Vineyard their church home in 2000. At that time, a move of the Holy Spirit brought many people from Arthur and surrounding areas to The Vineyard. In fact, it was the seeds of this move that laid the foundation for our first campus in Sullivan, IL.
Mike and Julie’s real connection was made when Mike’s sister became Julie’s teammate on her college volleyball team at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais. That heart connection became the foundation for the love that would join their lives and God’s destiny.
In July of 2004 Mike and Julie were married in the original auditorium of the Vineyard and hosted their reception in the chapel just one week before the church broke ground on the current Urbana auditorium.
Mike began his career at his family’s manufacturing business, but after several years, God challenged him to step out and try something different. Leaving the family business was one of the most difficult and risky decisions he had to make, but it was part of learning to follow God’s lead in his life. It was a fruitful move and for the next 10 years, Mike worked in leadership positions for several companies in areas of biotechnology and clean energy at the University of Illinois Research Park. Formal ministry was not on his mind, but the Holy Spirit was equipping Mike in so many ways for his future role at The Vineyard.
Julie began her career in education as a 6th-grade reading teacher at Edison Middle School in Champaign, the very school she attended as a young girl. She took this job after she was unable to persuade her father, Happy, to hire her at the church! He had promptly said no and told her to get a teaching job. Julie obeyed, but because she sensed a call to ministry, she enrolled in night classes of both Vineyard Leadership Institute and Vineyard Bible Institute-after wrangling middle schoolers all day. She graduated in 2009 with fresh confidence in God and His gift of leadership in her life.
Mike & Julie quickly plugged into church life by hosting and leading a small group in their home. They came to love and appreciate the life and connection that small group brought not only to them but also to the people they gathered. They continued to lead and multiply groups for more than 12 years and saw many lives transformed by the Spirit.
After their first child Ty was born in 2008 Julie left the middle school and stayed home to care for him. Meanwhile, Pastor Jim Egli asked Hap if he could hire Julie as part of the small group team and this time Hap was ready to say yes. Julie joined the Vineyard staff in 2009 and discovered she loved to connect people into small groups, coach small group leaders and write weekly Lifelines. She began to occasionally preach, finding her voice as a communicator and her deep love for God’s Word.
During these years their family began to expand and soon they had 2 more children--Tate, and Maggie. Julie continued to grow in her role on the small group team, eventually leading the team. Meanwhile, Mike continued to work in the research park with start up companies, learning many valuable leadership lessons.
In September 2014 former Executive Pastor, Ron Brown, came to Hap and said he was leaving for a new job. He believed that Mike and Julie together were God’s choice for the job of Executive Pastors. This was a surprise since Mike had never considered joining Julie in ministry, but after much discussion and prayer, they accepted the challenge of taking on the Executive Pastor role.
Together they set out to enhance the team culture of the staff. Over the last five years, they have worked hard to build a culture of honor with their team that reflects the presence of God and the heartbeat of His kingdom. They love releasing men and women to their full destiny and continuing the long legacy of love for the Holy Spirit at this church.
Mike brings years of business experience, financial wisdom, a gift of mediation, and a hunger for partnering with the Spirit to see people set free! His strength and endurance are an incredible asset. Julie loves to use her teaching gift to co-lead our preaching team and is serious about hearing what the Spirit is saying each week so all people can grow and be encouraged in their walk with Jesus. Together, Mike and Julie are passionate about creating Kingdom culture in our church family.
In 2018, the need for a senior leadership transition became clearer. After much prayer, wise counsel, and God confirmations, Happy and Dianne along with the rest of the Senior Executive team, (and Jesus!) chose Mike and Julie as the next senior leaders of the church. Just weeks later that they would discover they were expecting another baby. Surprise! A baby and a church, in the same year. In July of 2019 they officially accepted the role of Senior Pastors of The Vineyard Church of Central IL. and on August 8th, they welcomed their 4th baby, Molly Mae. The Holy Spirit loves to surprise us! Come, Holy Spirit!
Mike and Julie are committed to partnering with Jesus in building a church where everybody gets to play and Jesus is the Head. They are incredibly grateful for the men and women who work alongside them to make this a family that passionately loves God and one another.
To Happy and Dianne, they want to express their incredible gratitude. Mike and Julie consider it an honor and privilege to carry on the legacy that you are trusting to them.
To their incredible team -- they say thank you. Our church is made better by the wonderful people who work to see God’s kingdom come, His will be done ,week in and week out.
Mike and Julie are honored to love, lead, and serve as your Senior Pastors.
Together, we will change the world with Jesus.