Rev Grae McWhirter Team Leader  

I’ve always been fascinated with popular expressions, buzz words and catch phrases which rise up for a time. During 2020 we’ve heard lots of these phrases in an “unprecedented” year. We’ve had to learn what it means to “pivot”, “adapt”, “innovate” and be “resilient” during various stages of “lockdown”. This world-wide “pandemic” has impacted all of us, and we have seen its effects on our pastors and leaders as well as on our Baptist Ministry Centre teams.  

During 2020 the Gen1K Leadership Development Team  has had to “pivot”, “adapt” and “innovate” while continuing to recognise, raise, release and resource leaders. I’m grateful for Shelley Ashton (SRE Facilitator), Louise Bartlett (Co-ordinator of Children and Family Ministries), Jenny Casey (Co-ordinator of Pastoral Accreditation and Recognition) and Steve Dixon (Director of Baptist Youth Ministries), and the many people they lead in their own ministry teams. I’m also grateful for our Leadership Development  Regional  team members : Phil Blair (Central Coast), Nic Cassar (Hunter 100), Emma Nungari (Greater West for Christ), Dale Skewes (Riverina for Christ) and Leeanne Smith (Transform Southern Sydney) as they work in their regions to recognise, raise, release and resource leaders. I’m thankful for our Gen1K Coaching  team which had to postpone its scheduled training but developed resources and provided coaching for leaders through this challenging year.  

Just before the lockdown, we were able to hold our Pastors and Leaders Day  with Richard Black who encouraged leaders to grow in self-awareness and care. However, when the world changed, our events did too. The Gathering  was cancelled, preventing our churches and their leaders from meeting together to learn and be encouraged. Instead, the BMC team worked together to provide a Pastor and Leaders  Q&A  Zoom every second week. This helped support leaders, not only with the latest information about how COVID restrictions impact church life, but to hear stories, share ministry resources and ideas so that they too could “pivot”, “adapt” and “innovate”. We launched a Facebook group for Pastors and Leaders to share resources and to provide a weekly devotional from our BMC team to encourage leaders to be “resilient”. Our Leadership Conversations  Conference  was run completely online with Pastor Steph O’Brien Zooming in from the United States, sharing perspectives from her book “Stay Curious”.    

9 pastoral leaders were accredited at our Annual Assembly. New applicants began the process but the journey for accreditation and recognition has been slowed without the ability to easily have face to face interviews. Our Accreditation Review  was also slowed but continues as we develop an updated strategy of affirming leaders across our movement. Watch this space as the rewrite project is aimed to be completed in 2021. While our Leadership Incubator  (previously called Post-accreditation days) was reviewed and refreshed, those training days were postponed until 2021.  

Pastoral Placements
During 2020, 54 churches were searching for a solo or senior pastor. Of those, 13 called a new leader. 20 of the 54 churches continued with or engaged an interim pastor to lead them through transition. It was encouraging to meet with a number of church Leadership Teams and Pastors Search Teams via Zoom and face to face to encourage and assist in their journey. A majority of those 54 churches were left without a senior leader because their pastor had retired or moved out of pastoral ministry. While we have some excellent leaders entering further leadership roles (with 5 of the 13 new pastors going from Associate to Senior roles), the demand for leaders is still greater than the supply. We want to recommit ourselves therefore to working hard to recognise, raise, release and resource leaders.   

Looking ahead
With that in mind, we are reshaping our Leadership Development events and training in 2021, learning lessons from 2020. Some of our events and training will be face to face, others will be “hybrids” (with face to face and online access), and other events and training completely online. We are launching Insights,  a new iteration of the Q&A (replacing the Pastors and Leaders Day), as a monthly Zoom to encourage and equip our leaders. We are developing an online Leadership Menu  tool for leaders to intentionally develop and grow in their leadership. We are launching an Associate Pastors Retreat  to encourage leadership development amongst those growing leaders. Our team will continue to strategise, “pivot”, “adapt” and “innovate” across our various ministry specialties to recognise, raise, release and resource leaders so that we can see 1000 healthy churches across our movement in a generation.  

Louise Bartlett, Children & Family Ministries Facilitator  

The Children and Family Ministries Team exists to help churches welcome children as fellow disciples. In 2020 our energy was focused on supporting and resourcing leaders in a difficult season.      

Our team spoke personally with leaders from close to 200 churches. Alongside phone calls the team created webinars and resources, shared stories, provided coaching, partnered with Morling College and other denominations to help navigate a way forward that emphasised children and the nurturing of their faith.  

Advocating and resourcing churches to welcome children as fellow disciples was our key focus as churches grappled with responding to COVID-19 and restrictions on ministry. Many churches were encouraged by stories of families more deeply sharing and nurturing faith together. Creative ways of continuing to connect the generations across the church were sought.  

While those things are to be celebrated, by the end of the year a number of churches were finding that some families were not returning to gatherings and a number of leaders were stepping away from ministry with children.   

2020 and likely 2021 will shape the church and will have a significant impact on the faith formation of children. It is an opportunity for churches to discover and create Spirit inspired ways of being the church that genuinely encourages the flourishing of faith in children. The Kids and Family Ministries team looks forward to supporting churches as we go forward.  

Rev Steve Dixon, Youth & Young Adult Ministries Facilitator 

What a year to navigate in youth and young adult ministry!!!  We had a real mix of experiences supporting those leading young people this year.   

Our annual Youth Pastors Conference went ahead in February as planned with minimal disruption. Cath Tallack from Arrow Leadership and Dave Morrow  from Gateway Baptist Church in Queensland inspired and challenged both our thinking and approach to leadership.  

Our Revive youth nights were not able to take place this year due to the limitations of gathering such numbers of people in the one place. This was disappointing but only one of the many disruptions to what ministry looked like for churches and young people.   

It was with much joy that we received a significant grant that facilitated the appointment of a number of new staff roles. Rachel Stuhr  (who also works as the Youth Pastor at Auburn Baptist) and Pete Alarcon  (who is part of Erina Community Baptist Church) now serve as Regional Youth Support Workers – focusing on training and equipping youth ministries outside of Sydney. Emma Pendleton  (from Thornleigh Community Baptist) was appointed to facilitate our State Youth Camp internship program, and Fiona Gardner  (who also works as the Youth Pastor at Toongabbie Baptist) is coordinating our youth mental health resources and training. These appointments allow for a significant increase in how we can support youth ministry across our Baptist family of churches.   

The sixth instalment of our annual State Youth Camp was online for the very first time!!! The messages from Allyson Beddoe  from Kiama Baptist Church and Kiran Skariah  (Pastor Skar) on the theme of ‘belong’ were engaging, inspiring and challenging. Sarah Alarcon  did an amazing job leading the team and navigating the best way to facilitate the event. Youth Pastors have again shared with us the life-changing experiences for their young people with every group able to identify the impact the camp has made on the teenagers they work with. Additionally, our State Youth Camp provides significant opportunities for younger pastors and leaders to continue to develop in their ministry skills.   

It is a privilege to lead this team and to be part of what God is doing in and through our youth and young adult work across our movement. 

Shelley Ashton, Special Religious Education (SRE) Facilitator  

2020 proved a challenging year for SRE teachers across NSW as we dealt with the pandemic through school closures from mid Term 1 until the start of Term 3. SRE teachers were given the green light to return to schools within the first few weeks of Term 3 under tight restrictions. In the vast majority of cases SRE teachers were warmly received back into schools and provided wonderful connections with staff and students through the challenges 2020 brought.  

2021 will see the start of the year return with similar restrictions to 2020 but we are prayerful in some of those easing so we can resume more normal arrangements in schools.   

2020 also saw our team expand with Lysander Lawrence taking on the High School Coordinator role for one day a week and Shree Varghese returning from maternity leave in October. She is currently serving in an admin role one day a week. Shelley continues to serve on the Commission and Board of ICCOREIS and on the Department of Education Consultative Committee.