One key Association strategy is the building of strong leadership and networks that seek to live out our collective commitments to church health, leadership development and mission in each region of NSW & ACT. These will necessarily be tailored to the unique needs of each region while aligning with the overall Gen1K Vision.
Historically many regions operated with the structure of a regional association that was an Affiliated Group of the NSW & ACT Association. Increasingly however, regional networks are being re-imagined not as separate legal entities but as Affiliated Ministries – part of the Association’s own operations with direct access to its administrative support.
GREATER WEST FOR CHRIST (Affiliated Ministry)
Rev Mark Chapple, Regional Minister and Exec Director, GWFC
In 2020 a real opportunity was taken hold of by GWFC ministries and many of our churches of the Greater West by faith in a particularly challenging time.
Parts of the Greater West were impacted by fires and floods at the beginning of the year and testimonies to Gods miraculous control of our environment were beyond what we could have asked or imagined. All I can say is that the desperate prayers of the early months continued into 2020 as COVID took a hold on us all and GWFC prayed like it never has prayed before. Weekly prayer gatherings by Zoom right across our churches and cities. Two lots of 40 Days of prayer and fasting, turning to God in repentance and asking for deliverance and direction. Right across the Greater West we have prayed and prayed and prayed and the rally to prayer has been beautifully responded to by our God. Our churches have also embraced digital technology as a tool for both worship and connection. Our Missional endeavours in programmes like COACH and Chaplaincy have actually grown in such a challenging environment. We have had clunky moments and challenging times where many would say they tried something and it didn’t work. Outside of seeking God in prayer, arguably the most important thing GWFC has done has taken this challenging environment and through a campaign called the New Church Paradigm has started trying to address the effectiveness of the church in the Greater West. We have asked over and over again these same 5 questions in multiple environments as a way of seeking to understand God’s agenda for our region.
- Is the church broken or in trouble?
- Why do we do what we do?
- Why don’t we change?
- What is the New Church Paradigm?
- What would happen if Church leaders asked the above 4 questions?
As we enter 2021, we continue to cry out to our Loving God, and in view of God’s mercy will seek to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This will be our worship as we choose not to conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, able to test and approve what God’s good and pleasing and perfect will is. (Rom 12:1,2 applied)
TRANSFORM SOUTHERN SYDNEY (Affiliated Ministry)
Rev Grae McWhirter, Regional Minister
2020 was a year of challenge for all churches in southern Sydney, as it was everywhere. It was encouraging during this time of isolation, to experience increased connection and intentionality as we continued to pursue our vision to see “100 healthy churches transforming the southern suburbs of Sydney”.
Our TSS team in 2020:
- Grae McWhirter (Regional Minister)
- Virginia Edwards (Admin Manager)
- Tim Burns (Church Health)
- Ken Kamau (Church Planting)
- Leeanne Smith (Leadership Development)
A key strategy for 2020 was establishing 6 networks with 6 leaders facilitating connection, encouragement and strategic partnerships with the pastors in their local area.
- Canterbury East – Teri Capehart
- Canterbury West – Rachel Stuhr
- St George East – James McMaster
- St George West – Ian Duncum
- Eastern Suburbs – Rob Feeney
- Sutherland Shire – Marc Rader
2020 was a landmark year as, finally, TSS purchased a new ministry centre in Hurstville as the legacy of Hurstville Baptist Church which was previously compulsorily acquired by Georges River Council. We are grateful to God for this provision and look forward to fitting out and opening the new centre with greater capacity to collaborate and grow in 2021. We were also able to take steps with the remainder of the funds from Hurstville to invest and explore business opportunities to ensure an independent and ongoing income stream for mission and ministry in southern Sydney for generations to come.
We were excited to see growth in church planting in our region as the Marrickville church plant under the leadership of John Cavanaugh takes shape. With a couple more planters starting to gather teams, we’re looking forward to launching our new ministry centre with at least two church plants “incubating” here, establishing teams and growing towards locating in the places God is calling them. Exciting times ahead.
HUNTER BAPTIST CHURCHES (Affiliated Ministry)
Rev Kevin Warner, Regional Minister
With all its challenges, 2020 still proved to be a significant year for the Hunter Baptist Churches. It saw the transition from the old HDBA structure through to an Affiliated Ministry of the Baptist Association, together with the continuing generational shift in the local H100 Executive and its leadership. The Hunter Churches continue to flourish under Matt Brown’s emerging leadership and it’s exciting to see how God has been raising up a new generation of gifted leadership for our region.
The partnership across the Hunter Churches continues to be encouraging, with H100 Executive meeting fortnightly for prayer and discernment, representing 9 of our various & diverse Hunter Churches.
With our vision for 100 healthy churches, a key focus continues to be developing and encouraging young leaders. In addition to our emerging leaders network, our Pastoral Ministry Internship (PMI) program under Nic Cassar has focused on those considering or starting a journey toward Pastoral Ministry or mission. The interns experienced the Global exposure trip with GiA (just prior to Covid shutdowns), BA’s 3DM discipleship training, spiritual retreats, prayer walks and partnership missions. We also are commencing our gap year program in 2021, focusing on young adults having a year of learning and service around the theme of ‘head, heart, hands’.
After 12 years as Regional minister, it’s a blessing to hand over to Matt Brown (Swansea), ably supported by Tim Coller (Morisset), Andrew Cole (NewVine), Nic Cassar (NewCity), Lyn Morris (Mayfield) and the rest of the H100 Executive team.
RIVERINA BAPTISTS FOR CHRIST (Affiliated Ministry)
Rev David Strong, Regional Team Leader
Pastors Networks. Pastors’ networks are crucial for the mutual strengthening of our faith and joy in Christ, but because our normal retreats were not possible in 2020 we have been gathering monthly by Zoom.
Raising leaders. The Riverina Training Hub has had about 8 students enrolled in the Bush Apprenticeship in the past year. This leadership training has been a joy, and we consider it to be strategic for Christ’s kingdom in the coming decades. We would love to extend this across the region using Zoom in 2021.
Drought and Bushfire Funds. Through the generosity of churches across NSW and ACT we have received over $45,000 for drought and bushfire relief which has been a privilege to distribute.
Focus for 2021. This year will be a focus on church health, seeking to strengthen and resource churches in Christ in various ways. We have been exploring ways to lift the administrative burden off regional churches.
COAST CHURCHES NETWORK (Affiliated Ministry)
Rev Craig Corkhill, Regional Team Leader
Whilst 2020 certainly contained a range of new challenges, we are again incredibly thankful to God as he is powerfully at work on the Central Coast of NSW!
Baptist churches in our region proved to be adaptive and innovative in the midst of a rapidly changing ministry context. Here’s the ‘highlight reel’:
- Geographically based mid-week groups were commenced in a number of churches early in the pandemic, providing pastoral care, relational connection and neighbourhood missional engagement.
- Sunday services rapidly moved from in-person gatherings, to livestream options, and then to hybrid experiences.
- Ministry training moved to online platforms, providing greater access at more convenient times.
- Youth and children’s ministries developed online experiences for young people that provided spaces of connection and learning.
- Where needed, seniors were equipped with training to access online resources.
In keeping with our Gen1K Vision of 1000 healthy churches in a generation, ‘Meeting Ground’, a Simple church in the suburb of Wyoming was planted as a collaborative initiative from both Narara Valley and Greenhouse churches. Planted during COVID, they began meeting online, but as restrictions have eased, they have also commenced in-person gatherings. Meeting Ground has steadily grown to the point where multiplication to a second location is anticipated.
Greenhouse Church at Long Jetty was planted last year and has already experienced tremendous growth and is currently exploring options for a larger venue.
Planning was commenced for a regional gathering of church leaders across the Central Coast – the first of its kind in our region.
Our regional leadership team welcomed a new team member, Sue Wilson from BaptistCare. It is hoped that Sue’s appointment will further strengthen collaboration between local Baptist churches and BaptistCare as we seek to bless the Central Coast region.
Rev Michael Bate, Regional Minister
2020 was a year that brought many challenges and obstacles, and into this environment regional ministry has had the opportunity to shine like never before.
The start of 2020 saw the end to a horrific fire season that ravaged much of the South Coast. The churches of the region and the Baptist Association were able to provide support, resources and elements of respite into what was a catastrophic event for many in the region as they sought to rebuild lives, homes and businesses.
The Covid19 pandemic brought many challenges to churches, ministry and to life in general. Rapid and constant change saw many under stress, the nature of which they had not encountered before. Pastors gathered to pray regularly, to talk about their approach to the constant change and were able to not only empathise and support one another, but to share their experiences and approaches to different aspects of the “new way” of doing church and ministry. Not only were stories, struggles and challenges shared but ideas, technology and resources were also shared to ensure all churches found their own unique expression of staying connected, meeting online and remaining missional to their communities in a variety of different ways. As a result the churches did not retreat but were challenged to find new expressions of ministering the love of Christ for this time in many and varied ways.
South Coast Life Church plant into North Nowra as we continue to focus on the Gen1K vision and the region launched a website to foster prayer and a greater sense of connection between the churches.
NORTHERN RIVERS DISTRICT ASSOCIATION (Affiliated Group)
John Wilson, Regional Minister
I am honoured to be serving the 10 Baptist churches of the Northern Rivers in my role as Regional Minister. These churches are situated between Grafton and the QLD border.
As with everyone else, 2020 brought significant challenges, particularly to how we communicated and networked, not only with our Association, but also amongst the churches in our Northern Rivers region. One of the blessings that has come out of this most unusual year, has been a greater use and comfort level with Zoom and other associated resources, which has enabled us to connect more regularly and simply. We anticipate that much of this use will continue into the future, even when (or if) things return to normal.
Back in 2017, in response to the Association’s Gen1K vision, we in the Northern Rivers developed a church planting and leadership development vision called NR30. This vision is as follows:
- 30 Healthy Baptist Churches in the Northern Rivers
- 30 Dynamic Leaders trained for service
- By the year 2030.
This vision is focused in three broad areas:
- Currently, in partnership with Morling College, we are training a growing number of next generational leaders that feed into the NR30 vision.
- We also have our eyes on several communities within our region that we believe God is positioning us for church planting in the next few years.
- Church health is also a vital strategy of the NR30 vision, so we gather regularly (face to face, or via Zoom) as a body of churches to support, encourage and pray for each other. This also involves tapping into the various health resources within our movement.
It is a privilege to serve God and His people. We will continue to enjoy His love and faithfulness, and the joy of serving Him together in 2021.
WESTERN DISTRICTS BAPTIST ASSOCIATION (Affiliated Group)
Rev Wayne Spencer, Regional Minister
The Western Districts area is in a time of transition with Ridgecrest campsite ministry looking at becoming their own entity and the Western Districts looking at becoming an affiliated ministry of the Association.
This is exciting as it will free us up to focus on ministry rather than logistics. We ask for prayer as we make this transition.
As I write this and look out my window, gee twelve months makes a difference. Things are green, dams are filling up, most farmers took in a great crop with yields well above average.
However, this year we’re not concerned with drought, we are concerned with the impact COVID has had on our churches, along with the rest of NSW. But we are determined people out here in the west. We now need to encourage each other, spur one another on, to not get out of the habit of meeting together, but to press on and support each other.
We look forward to what God holds in the future for us, with a time of transition comes new opportunities, new ministries, new ideas. We now need to listen to God and see what he has in store for us.
MID NORTH COAST & NORTH COAST
Rev Pete Davies, Regional Minister
The Mid North Coast Region of Baptist Churches, runs from Tea Gardens in the South to Wauchope in the North, and includes the rural communities of Stroud, Dungog, & Gloucester, slightly to the west. Eleven churches in all, albeit very varied and diverse in locality, size and style. The North Coast Region of Baptist Churches takes in 5 churches in all. From South to North, Kempsey, Nambucca Heads, Boambee Community, Coffs Harbour, & Sandy Beach.
Like all regions the “big ticket” item for most of our churches over the last 12 months has been Covid19! All the churches needed to cease face-to-face gatherings and many transitioned into some form of online services. By the beginning of 2021 almost all of the churches in the regions have returned to some form of face-to face gatherings.
Many of the pastors and some members of church leadership teams took up the opportunity to join in the Associations fortnightly Q & A sessions. This not only helped alleviate isolation it actually increased a sense of connection both in our region and across the whole State and ACT. Many of the churches have appreciated the great job that the Association has done in making the ever-changing government rules and regulations more “user friendly” and accessible especially for the smaller churches.
In the Mid North Coast, most of 2020 our Pastors Gatherings morphed into a few online meetings with varied take up. By November we were able to have a face-to-face meeting with the obvious precautionary measures.
A few churches in the regions have felt the added pressure of trying to do pastoral search during this time and also some pastors who were starting new ministry positions certainly had to seek to build relationship with their new churches in a very unusual setting.
Generally the churches in these regions are enjoying a fairly stable experience, with quite a number of churches having actually seen a growth in church health despite the Covid disruptions. Certainly most of our churches are reporting an increase in the openness to change that was not as present “pre-Covid”. Given the very unusual year we have all experienced I think that, Praise God, we are in a strong place to face the challenges of what the “new Normal” will look like as we move forward.