After Blacktown Baptist Church’s (BBC) long-term pastor of 7 years stepped down in November 2022 we conducted a church health survey as a normal process when a pastor steps down, and as recommended by the Baptist Association. Alongside this the Association indicated they may be interested in partnering with Blacktown Baptist in a more direct way than the Association normally would. We conducted the survey and results came through before easter. Tony and Nick presented the results along with the recommendations on 2 April. You can watch the video here, and read the recommendations here. The general health of the church was good, however, there were some critical weaknesses that could affect the viability of the church if not addressed soon. The two main recommendations were to bring on a transitional leadership team and an Intentional Interim Pastor, followed by a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the BBC and the association. The transitional leadership would ensure our leadership team is well-supported and not overburdened. The Intentional Interim Pastor ensures we have a pastor for 3-5 years and eventually have a long-term pastor whilst the church continues to grow. The Association sees Blacktown as an area of growth for NSW and wants to see Blacktown Baptist Church become a resourcing church, you can read about types of churches here. These recommendations also support the resourcing church vision, by bringing experienced leaders onto the transition team and the Intentional Interim Pastor to help the church become more sustainable, with high growth, strong volunteerism and training new leaders to plant churches. Blacktown Baptist is now going through an information-gathering and discernment process since this decision will change the course of the church's direction. These questions and answers seek to address the gaps in knowledge around the recommendations and the church's current situation. It makes up a component of the process, we will also meet for prayer and discussion with the elders and the Baptist Association.
Watch the video from Nick Barber, Gen1K - Church Health Facilitator by clicking here.
The association is involved because they have an interest in investing in the Blacktown area and see more people in the area come to know Jesus. The association has resources, such as expertise and experience, that they are willing to share with us. We are a healthy church in a strategic location, and the association sees us as a potential partner for growth. To benefit from their resources, we would need to join them in a partnership. The eldership agreed to explore this possibility and discern God’s will for our church. Finding a pastor is not easy these days. One out of ten Baptist churches in NSW/ACT are without a pastor, and some churches take more than three years to fill the position. We hope that with the association’s help, we can find a pastor sooner. There are many other benefits, such as ensuring leadership is resourced and moving towards a focused goal for the church. The eldership pursued this conversation with the belief that God might be at work in this situation.
Greater West for Christ is a regional ministry of the Baptist Association of NSW & ACT that empowers churches in Western Sydney to work together for the gospel. It started as a group of churches that wanted to support each other and then became formally recognised by the Association. It offers support and resources for church health, church planting, chaplaincy and more. Tony Calman is the Church Health Leader for Western Sydney.
We would want to partner with the association because the association will invest into the church over an agreed time period. They would do this with people, strategic planning and potential resources for specific projects. This investment would/could create longevity in our leadership (both elders and an intentional interim pastor) as there would be more people to share the burden of leadership and maintain the governance of the church. Ultimately the members would need to decide if they believe this is what God is wanting for His church and the community.
BBC would work alongside the Baptist Association to draw in the resources we need to continue the healthy growth of our church. They are aware of our situation and our needs. They would help us find solutions to the immediate problems and create a sound plan for the long term. They would also support us in finding the funds to invest in initiatives, such as OOSH. They would ensure that any projects are well planned, with agreements in place with the church and qualified people running the project. We would not have to invest in anything without appropriate support. We would only go ahead with feasible plans that align with God’s will. We would pray and ask God to provide for us, trusting in his plan and his provision.
The Association is working on a step-by-step approach to partner with us. They do not have endless resources, and they want to be strategic in how they invest in churches. They will invest more as we work with them in partnership, but they need to see how they can help before making commitments. This will come as we work with them more closely. The commitments from the association are open in nature because they want to ensure they are committing the right type of help to BBC at the right time. They also want to see a level of commitment from us, as a partnership is a two-way street. Blacktown is a focus area for the Association, but they also need to ensure how they treat our church is consistent with how they treat other churches in the state. A transitional leadership will be far more active in addressing pressing issues, as they will have more time to volunteer to the church. Detailed commitements from the Association will be listed in the MOU. God calls us to have faith, and it is important to seek his discernment. He rarely gives us all the answers before we step out in faith.
Like BBC, the Association’s vision is to see people come to faith in Jesus by supporting healthy independent churches like ours.The Association is providing all the information they have so this process is transparent, and we can make an informed decision. They want to help us grow in a healthy way, not to control us or impose their agenda, but to partner and work with us. The transitional leadership will ensure the church’s viability and continuity. It is important to remember God has entrusted the Association with the care of the group of churches. BBC has always expressed the desire to support the work of the Baptist Association, demonstrated clearly in the church’s constitution. We must seek God’s guidance on the answer to this question.
No, the association would not commit to a partnership and then not support us. The association has a shared goal of investing into Blacktown, as part of their vision of 1000 healthy churches in a generation. The association wants to see revival in Blacktown and people come to know him, and they would not make a commitment like this and then do nothing. The association also values strong partnerships that facilitate networks of leaders, churches, missionaries, disciples and church planting pioneers. The association has a shared goal of investing into blacktown, you can read about it on their website https://www.gen1kmission.org.au/annual-assembly-gen1k/. Detailed commitements from the Association will be listed in the MOU. We trust the Holy Spirit is at work and putting people in place to protect Blacktown Baptist.
No, the Baptist Association does not have another plan for Blacktown Baptist that we do not know about. The Association has the same goals as we do: to see the church grow and thrive. The Association has been transparent with us about their recommendations and their process. The Association has some dreams and visions about what Blacktown Baptist could be, but they are not hidden or secret. The Association is committed to a step by step process that will involve consultation and communication. Some details may seem unclear because the Association does not know yet what resources they will need to provide to support the church after the initial recommendations are accepted. Once they are partners, they will be able to discern more about the church and determine what they can commit further. We pray that God is guiding this process and we can always trust him.
Yes, there are risks in accepting the recommendations. Any change involves some uncertainty and challenge. However, there is also a risk in staying the way we are. We may miss out on God’s best for the church and our community. God calls us to step out in faith and follow his guidance. We need to pray and discern if this opportunity is what he wants for us. The elder’s have considered the risks involved, if you would like to know more details please speak to them in person or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The first vote will decide if we will partner with the Baptist Association by adopting the main recommendations and creating an MOU. It will include; 1. To bring on an intentional Interim Pastor, 2. To bring on a transitional leadership team with the vision of becoming a Resourcing Church, 3. Authorise the eldership to create an MOU with the Baptist Association. A secondary vote, at a later date will confirm the activation of the newly created MOU.
The Baptist Association of NSW & ACT has helped other churches recently by partnering with them to address their specific challenges and opportunities. For example:
BBC may not require a name change or different language in our gatherings, but the transitional leadership team will look at our unique situation and work with the congregation to improve the areas needed to become a resourcing church.
According to the definitions in the Baptist Association document found here, there are 4 main types of churches. There are small churches; home churches and those that hire space can fit in this category. There are local churches, like Blacktown Baptist where people attend from the surrounding community and the church has a focus on serving that community. Regional churches are often large and see people come longer distances to attend, the most well-known in Sydney is Hillsong, not Baptist, but the concept remains true.
A resourcing church is usually a local or regional church. ‘Resourcing’ describes more the condition of a church and how it is operating rather than the size or type. It runs in a sustainable way, with a high rate of participation and volunteering. People are regularly joining the church, it is training up new leaders, and would arguably have a surplus of people to serve. After people attend for a few years God may call them to serve elsewhere or help start new churches. A resourcing church is more about having a sustainable healthy church that is growing enough that it can release people over a long period of time (3-10 years). It is not a revolving door of new people coming in and then leaving. There is no reason a resourcing church can’t still feel homely and as a family.
A resourcing church is a church that has a clear vision and strategy for reaching its region with the gospel, and that equips and empowers other churches to do the same. Blacktown Baptist Church can be a resourcing church even though it is not a regional or a large church. It has a history of raising leaders and sending people out to serve the community and plant new churches. Some examples of churches that have grown out of Blacktown are Doonside, Toongabbie, Riverstone, and Windsor. Blacktown Baptist Church is not just focused on their own church, but on sending people out to share God’s message across Blacktown. God wants to see his message spread across Blacktown, and a resourcing church is one of the ways to do this. Being a resourcing church also means being generous and blessing others. When we are generous, we are often blessed more. To become a resourcing church, Blacktown Baptist Church needs to go through a 3-5 year transition period that will ensure the foundations of the church are ready. After the transition period, we hope the church will be sustainable enough to become resourcing. This could be a 10 year goal.
Here link to pdf doc explaining the different types of churches described by the Baptist Association: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MFNj0KKiNZvK1WUesBVgPTJY7MJoSN6g/view?usp=sharing
Resourcing is the wording the association uses to explain the status of a church. More details can be found here: https://www.gen1kmission.org.au/annual-assembly-gen1k/
As we have been discerning our future through the pastor workshop and subsequent surveys, BBC indicated that our church wants make an impact on the community. While the wording wasn’t that of a resourcing church, the sentiment is the same. BBC has been a resourcing church in the past, helping plant many other churches in western Sydney; Doonside, Toongabbie, Riverstone, Windsor. And we can do this again. We want to be God’s vessels, and a resourcing church is just a word that helps describe what that can look like. God calls us to seek his kingdom first, not our own. It is not about us, but about sharing what we have with others.
No, we will not see people leave all the time if we are a resourcing church. The church will first focus on becoming sustainable and healthy before empowering people to go where God is calling them. People will be released to other places over a long period of time, not immediately. It will not be like people join and after a year we ask them to go somewhere else. Empowering people will look more like training people and letting them choose to support other churches, like Nanu or Chris and Emmah. Jesus will release people at the right time and not earlier. He knows what is best for us and his kingdom.
To become a resourcing church in a 3-5 year period, we would need to make a number of changes in our church structure and culture, many have existed at some point at BBC. Here are a few; first, we would need to have a strong and diverse leadership team, composed of elders, transitional leaders and ministry leaders who can oversee and guide the different areas of our church life. We would need to invest in our leaders with training, by providing them with ongoing coaching, mentoring and pastoral training that can help them develop their skills and potential. We would need to foster a culture of discipleship and fellowship among our members, by encouraging them to join and participate in home groups where they can grow and support each other. We would need to expand and improve our ministries, both within and outside the church, by offering more and better services, programs and events that can attract and serve more people. We would need to engage with our community, by identifying the needs and opportunities in our local area, and by collaborating with other partners to serve and bless our neighbors. We would need to increase the level of volunteerism in our church, by cultivating a spirit of generosity and service among our members, and by recognising and appreciating their contributions to the church. We would need to ensure the safety and functionality of our buildings, either by fixing or replacing them.
Yes, the Baptist Association recommended an ‘intentional’ interim pastor with experience and skills for building churches. This is different to an interim pastor. The probable scenario is to bring in Tony Calman for the next few years, but we can explore other options. An intentional interim pastor is different from a permanent pastor. They focus on the overall strategy of the church, planning and placing leaders in the ministries that are needed to run the church effectively. They oversee the church and empower other pastoral people to work in hands-on areas. They also help the church prepare for the transition to a permanent pastor with a strong missional heart for western Sydney. The primary purpose of a transitional leadership is to plan, implement structure and empower people to grow BBC. They want to move the church from being stagnant to being a resourcing church that serves and influences the community around it. They also want to bring on a visionary leader who has grown churches before with a specific skill set. They will help make the dreams and priorities of BBC a reality, as described in the surveys and workshops over the last few years. They will seek God in all their decisions and follow his guidance.
The Baptist Association can help us get a long term pastor. They have the expertise and resources to find the right pastor who can lead us to become a resourcing church. A new pastor could be raised up through ministries of the church. However, before they can help us, they need our vote to support the church more actively. They also need to provide us with an intentional interim pastor and a transitional leadership team who can prepare the church for the next era. And most importantly, we need to pray and seek God for his guidance and will in this process.
The church is in a critical moment. We have growth and good momentum, but also have a risk of the leaders and volunteers burning out and stepping down. We have a vision of being a church that actively serves the community and resources others, but to achieve that we need to see a larger change, not just a slow growth. Our church has been in decline for a while and only recently seen an increase. We have also seen a decrease in serving and available leaders. We have fewer ministry leaders and elders than before. We have significant administration burdens, property works to complete, safe church obligations, gaps in ministries like home groups and community mission. Without action and investment in our church, the health and recent growth may turn back to a decline. We would seek support from the Baptist Association because they have the experience and skills to help us build on the good health and make the church even more alive. We would welcome their help avoid the risk of burnout among the leaders and the governance system breaking down. God wants to protect the foundations of the church and have us seek him to resolve weaknesses. He wants to continually refine who we are as a people and improve regardless of what is written in a survey results. He always wants to improve us and use people to help others.
We often talk about volunteering because we have a mismatch between our needs and our resources. We have many ministries that need people to serve, but we do not have enough people who are willing and able to serve. We welcome newcomers to join us at their own pace, and shouldn’t not expect the same people to volunteer for everything. We invite more people to share their gifts and talents with us, not just suggest others. Jesus calls us to follow and serve him, even when it is hard. We need to lay down our lives to feed his sheep.
The entities at risk are the elders, the pastor, the admin staff and the ministry leaders. They are facing a lot of pressure and stress due to their small numbers and the limited number of people willing to support them. They are responsible for overseeing, leading and supporting the various aspects of our church life. However, with the current situation, they may be experiencing burnout. We need to address this issue and find ways to support and encourage our leaders. We also need more people to step up and use their gifts in leadership, as the previous call for nominations had no volunteered candidates. We need to identify and train potential candidates who can take over roles when they finish their terms, retire or leave. We need to safeguard the foundations and governance of the church so that everything can run smoothly, and we can fulfil our mission.
The constitution says that if the church closes, the leadership would decide that the church is no longer viable to run with the numbers, leadership and volunteers. The congregation would cease to meet, along with all programs and initiatives. No funds would go to members. The building and remaing accounts would be given to the Baptist Association or a like-minded group with a similar governance structure.
If Blacktown Baptist Church chooses to continue without the Baptist Association’s help, there are a number of things that could happen. The elders believe that if the church can find the right leaders for ministry, eldership and pastor, it will slowly continue to grow. However, without gifted leaders stepping up, the church will likely see burnout amongst the leadership group and could see a collapse of the governance structure. This is a dire situation but also a very real risk. Only a few people stepping down could cause this to happen to the church. In this scenario, the church would need to shut down and hand over the building to the Baptist Association or a like-minded group with a similar governance structure.Without support and investment, it is unlikely that we will see the church reach its desired goals as expressed in recent surveys. It will be a longer process, potentially taking decades.
The pastoral search committee would need to be unpaused and find a new leader, so we can continue to look for a long term pastor. In the mean time the church would need to find an interim pastor, or continue asking people in the congregation to preach, or have no messages and the Sunday gatherings might be something else. People in the congregation would need to step up into leadership, administration, and pastoral care roles (without an interim pastor) to cover some of the work a pastor may do. If the issues with the buildings increase someone from the congregation would need to lead a project to address the safety issues. The church may stay in this state for a number of years while we look for a long term pastor. These are just some of many things the church would need to do to stay operational.
There is nothing wrong with seeking a pastor without the association’s specific help, but it will be harder to find one. Especially a visionary who will grow the church and reach out into the community in the way that we desire. It is currently taking churches years to find pastors, as pastors are leaving the profession in large numbers, and not enough are entering the workforce. The elders have been praying for God to help the church in a miraculous way, and God could be presenting an opportunity here.
We need to transition because our current growth is not sustainable without more leaders. There is a risk that our leaders will not have succession or be overburdened if they have to carry the load by themselves. Transition is an opportunity to expand on the great growth we have seen recently and see more people come to know him. God is offering us an opportunity to partner with friends and achieve more than what we can do on our own. If God is wishing for our church to have slow growth, then there is nothing wrong with our current situation, but we should not settle for less than what he has in store for us.
The question is whether we are achieving our mission to respond, represent and renew. We arguably have a small impact on our mission based on our current activities as a church. We do not have home groups, there are no prayer gatherings, most activities happen on a Sunday, we do minimal things in the community and have little investment in international mission. If we are not achieving our mission, then we should not be content with the state of the church or its sustainability. Jesus wants to refine us personally and as a church. We should have a holy discontent about being stagnant. We are providing a great place for the community to use, but we need to keep maintaining and upgrading the building. God calls us to respond, represent and renew. Getting support by people who want the same thing could help us to achieve it.
The start of the process would look like a successful vote to adopt both main recommendations from the Baptist Association and the MOU. This would include bringing on a new ‘intentional’ interim pastor, most likely Tony Calman, and a transitional leadership team with 2-3 more experienced leaders connected to the Baptist Association. The first change would be that the interim Pastor (if we have one) would hand over the pastoral role to the Intentional interim pastor, who would work with the transitional leadership team on foundational aspects of church life, such as affirming the values, mission, priorities and strategic plan. The goal is to move towards being a church that actively serves in the surrounding community and beyond. The leaders would also seek skilled people to serve in the life of the church and ensure our obligations as a safe church are met. The Baptist Association would continually review the level of investment and ensure the growth continues, moving towards a sustainable church that can eventually see people empowered to plant other churches. This is a step-by-step process that requires prayer and seeking God’s direction. Potential ministries that BBC could invest into include community engagement, chaplaincy, COACH programme, Alpha in Prisons, One Heart Blacktown, renovations, and developing a leadership pipeline.
After the elders and the association complete the MOU, and the final vote passes at the members meeting, the elders would work with the Association to identify the people who would come as transitional leaders. The Association will also recommend an intentional interim pastor; at this point it will most likely be Tony Calman. This could happen within a few weeks of the vote passing and potentially before the end of 2023.
The transitional leaders offered by the Baptist Association will most likely be church leaders and pastors of churches with a similar vision, bringing their experience and expertise. Each person would come with varying levels of commitment, and would help as required. They will work with elders recognised by the church, but their availability to attend Sundays could be very limited. We hope that anyone who is helping Blacktown will be as engaged as feasiblibly possible, however they may not become members. Specific details about how this may work will be outlined in an MOU. If you have other further questions of this nature please email the elders at email@example.com.
No, the leadership will only ask as much as they do now, which is regular giving and giving for specific projects. The leadership will not ask more financially from the congregation than what is sustainable, however personal sacrifice is always a part of following the path Jesus calls us to walk. They are likely to find other funding models other than asking the already committed congregation. We know that God will provide for our needs, whatever our situation in the future and he calls us to have faith.
No, the transitional leadership will not take over the church. The elders and ministry leaders will still be part of the team. The transitional leadership will help us make some changes that are necessary to achieve our mission of serving the community and becoming a resourcing church. These changes will be done with consultation and explanation. We don’t have to change everything, but we have to be open to change. Detailed commitements from the Association will be listed in the MOU. If this is God’s plan for us and we can trust that he will work for our good.
Yes, consultation will include the church members. Leadership can make recommendations, but the people should collectively seek God’s vision and decide together. This process will be people-empowering and God honouring. The leaders will ask the members to seek God and pray and ask him how they should vote. There may be less voting overall, but the congregation will be engaged and contribute more to decisions before they are made, they will still vote for decisions that require their approval.
A transitional leadership team would be a group of experienced leaders that the Baptist Association has a connection with. They would join the team and the congregation for the transition period, but they may still maintain their affiliation with other churches. Detailed commitements from the Association will be listed in the MOU. Their goal would be to help BBC grow and thrive. First, they would appreciate and equip the current and potential leaders of the church, and address the issue of burnout among them. Second, they would discern and engage with the congregation to determine where are we now. Third, they would protect and strengthen the foundations and governance of the church, and deal with issues like policies, safe church, WHS, and property works. They would also help make the dreams and priorities of BBC a reality. Finally, they would seek God in all their decisions and actions, and follow His guidance and direction for the church. Up to 50% of the leadership team may be new transitional leaders, so 3 elders and 3 transitional leaders.
Yes, the property will remain BBC’s. When mentioning this concern to the association they said it would be a “disaster” if the property was sold. The BA wants to support self-sustaining churches that look after their own properties. The Association is interested in finding more property to plant churches in Blacktown, not sell it. In fact, GWFC was looking at one point to help BBC secure an adjoining property to increase in size. This is in line with the Association’s overall plan. With that said we should remember that the property belongs to God and we are the caretakers.
Yes, it will take faith to see these recommendations bring about the change we need. We need to have faith like Peter who walked on water when he trusted Jesus. We also need to pray and work together as a church to follow God’s plan. Faith is always required when we trust God and his promises.
The essence of how we worship on Sundays would stay the same. The initial focus would be to ensure the church is sustainable. The most noticeable change would be having new people lead and serving, and the style they bring. There would be no reason to change the gatherings on Sunday right away. The Sunday gathering has already gone through some changes in the last 7 years. It is now much more engaging; with each other and God, this is a good reason for why we are in good health. There may be changes to the Sunday gathering, but are unlikely to be at the beginning and would happen with consultation.