Volunteering at Baptist Churches NSW & ACT

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Carolyn has recently finished volunteering in her role as Chair of the Ministry Standards Committee at Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT. Below she reflects on her time in this role and encourages others to consider volunteering.

Who are you and how do you fill your time?
I am a Social Worker and Adult Educator who’s worked in the child protection, domestic violence, and mental health sectors for over 25 years. I am also an Elder at Green Point Baptist Church, and mum and step mum.

I’ve been a Christian for most of my life. I made a personal commitment to follow Jesus after being involved in a serious car accident. The accident made me consider that my life may not be that long, and I needed to make my own decision not just follow a family decision.

What role did you take at Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT?
I have volunteered on the Ministry Standards Committee for twelve years and been Chair of the Committee for eight years.

The role of the Committee is to see if there have been breaches of the Code of Ethics and Conduct by recognised or accredited Pastors. It’s about bringing fairness and justice to that process and supporting people as much as we can. Sometimes we have to take disciplinary action, but our role is also to encourage pastors to grow and strive to do better.

What made you decide to volunteer?
I was approached by a pastor of church I’d been at who knew Baptist Churches NSW & ACT was looking to fill a role on the Committee. I wouldn’t have thought to offer my services otherwise, but when I was approached I saw how I could be a good fit.

How has Baptist Churches NSW & ACT changed over the time you have been volunteering?
I have seen a lot of growth in the standards role while I have been volunteering, particularly since the Royal Commission. For example, the paid role has grown from one part-time position to a whole team. The work has also grown in volume and professionalism over this time. There have also been massive changes in how churches have understood the importance of child protection and other standards issues.

What has been the most rewarding and/or challenging part of serving in this way?
Many parts of the role have been rewarding. I worked with a diverse group of volunteers who brought different expertise and experience but were united in serving to bring about better-quality standards within our churches. I was also involved in the early stages of developing the Creating Safe Spaces and Advanced Creating Safe Spaces training.

I have seen a shift in how our churches have understood their role as places of safety in the community. We should not just respond to the requirements and laws, but more and more churches are wanting to lead the way. It’s particularly helpful and rewarding when we are working with pastors who are open to learning and growing from the experience.

One of the biggest challenges has been when people are less on board. As Baptists we don’t have a hierarchical structure, which makes taking disciplinary measures hard. Sometimes the outcome is unsatisfactory for everyone involved.

What would you say to someone thinking about volunteering?
Volunteering is a great way to understand how Baptist Churches NSW & ACT works and supports churches. When it comes to volunteering, there are a wide range of roles. For example, the Ministry Standards Committee needs people with a range of expertise, including Social Workers, Psychologists and Legal Advisors, as well as those with ministry experience.

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