Covid-19 has brought many challenges to the world – but it hasn’t stopped the Gen1K vision from moving forward in the NSW Central Coast region! The ‘Garden Network’ is made up of its original ‘resource’ church, Narara Valley Baptist (lead by Craig Corkill), and Greenhouse Church (lead by Benj Gould) which celebrated its first birthday in March. During the pandemic, the Network announced the planting of a third church – ‘Meeting Ground’, planted by Narara Valley Baptist’s teaching pastor Will Small.
In an interview with Benj, Will explains that the dream was to start a “less program-centric” simple church that met around a table for a meal in people’s homes. “Benj going on the journey of planting Greenhouse Church, and seeing how Pastor Craig was very okay with being different but united and the idea that we can be local, autonomous churches that are connected in a network,” Will explains, “Got me thinking that maybe another type of church could exist within this family of churches.”
With ‘Meeting Ground’, the Greenhouse Network is pursuing the “mixed economy” approach – the idea that in order for any type of person to find a fitting spiritual home, we need all sorts of different churches. Benj understands this as he says, “There are certain people that would just never walk through [Greenhouse Church] doors, that would find a place with [Meeting Ground].” As Jamie Freeman, the Association’s Gen1K Mission Team Leader, puts it, the Network is “planting ‘rhinos’ (conventional churches) and ‘rabbits’ (simple churches)”.
In Will’s words, Meeting Ground is “a home for the spiritual misfits”. He explains, “I’ve often felt like a ‘misfit’ in terms of spirituality…I don’t want to back away from the questions or the messy, difficult parts of faith. But sometimes, if you go into that stuff you can end up feeling lonely and on the fringe. Our heart is to create an environment where people who have barriers against mainstream churches can come and feel safe, feel seen, feel like they can bring along their spiritual trauma or doubts, and go on a journey towards some sort of reconstructed faith.”
Although in the early days of his own church plant, Benj is on board with this new plant. “Our Association has a vision of 1000 healthy churches in NSW & ACT by 2050…and for us on the [Central] Coast, that means we need 40 healthy Baptist churches in the next 30 years,” he says. “Our network feels a responsibility to take the bulk of those, and plant lots of different types of churches.” Will agrees, explaining that his vision is not just one living room: “For people who are going to thrive in this kind of small, relational church environment, we want to create more spaces like that – sharing the church-planting vision so that more people can find a spiritual community.”
While Meeting Ground cannot currently meet in homes and share meals due to Covid-19 restrictions, they’ve been doing fortnightly online gatherings – encouraging people to still meet “at the table” over food. There are around 25 people joining in, and they use the ‘breakout room’ feature of Zoom to chat in smaller groups. I spoke with Will who shared that even a family who were keen on joining Meeting Ground but moved to another area has been able to stay connected thanks to Zoom. “There has been lots of tangible love and pastoral support in the group,” Will said. “One family recently had their second baby and almost everyone in Meeting Ground has dropped a meal off at their house. The energy is high, our online meetings feel rich, we’ve welcomed some new people in during this time, and we feel like this season has not stopped us from laying some great foundations for the future.”
If you’d like to connect or hear more about this journey, email Will at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out how one of our other churches have also gotten on board with the ‘Gen1K Mission’ vision, here.