“It will take the growth and development of regional ministries which are healthy,
vibrant and strategic for us to make headway in our common goal to see 1000 healthy
churches in a generation across NSW and ACT.”*
As a movement of churches, we understand that we are Greater Together. Churches across NSW and ACT are brought together in regional networks which provide support, collaboration and accountability. But the Canberra area had lacked this kind of regional leadership for 10 years, and there had been an increasing need for strategic direction for the area.
In July 2022, Nick Barber was appointed Regional Minister for the Canberra area. Beginning with ad hoc collaboration and slowly growing partnerships, the Canberra regional network has begun to thrive. Now only one year old, the region already has a leadership team: Phil Waugh (Multiplication), Matt Glowacki (Leadership Development), Aiden Luke (Church Health) and Mandy Grey (Children and Youth).
But it hasn’t been a simple process. Canberra is a difficult environment for churches in many ways, and they have the second lowest proportion of Baptist churches to population (second only to Blacktown). There have also been additional challenges for setting up a regional hub. They are the only region that crosses state lines, meaning their churches are dealing with different laws and regulations, including laws regarding discrimination and conversion therapy. The are also one of the few regions which covers both a large urban centre and country towns, such as Goulbourn and Cooma.
In October 2023, just over a year after the newly reformed regional ministry was launched, regional ministers from across the movement gathered in Canberra. “We were there to learn, share, encourage and be encouraged,” says Grae McWhirter, Associate Director for Regional Development. “We saw what God was doing, and prayed with Nick and the team about what God could do as His people in the Canberra region partner together to develop leaders, grow healthy churches and plant churches. I’m looking forward to seeing what God will do in the region in 2024 and beyond.”
The new leadership team has identified the need to plant churches across the region. But the bottleneck is leadership – they do not have the leadership pipeline necessary to plant healthy churches. So Leadership Development is their top priority. Many of the churches in the region are small, so the team recognised that individual churches did not have the capacity to run the training required on their own.
In response, a new regional hub is being set up in a former community centre contributed by Mosaic Baptist Church. The regional hub will be fitted out as a centre for regional growth, starting with training children and young people in leadership using the Association’s Leadership 101 material, a training course specifically designed for junior leaders who are serving (or soon to begin serving) in an area of local church ministry.
Reflecting on Ezekiel prophesying into the valley of dry bones in Chapter 37, Nick has reflected to his new leadership team how God brought life back into the bones in two parts. Firstly, there was structure (tendons, flesh and skin) but no life. Then, God breathed life into the bones and they “stood up on their feet”.
Resonating with the process, the team can see how God is putting structure in place, and they are excited and energised as they look forward to what is to come.
*Grae McWhirter, Associate Director for Regional Development