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Bold plan for 1000 Baptist churches

Every Baptist church in NSW and the ACT is being encouraged to plant a church or help support a new church under an ambitious strategy to grow the movement from 340 churches to 1000 healthy churches by 2050.

The Gen 1K vision of the Baptist Churches of NSW and ACT has a dual focus – planting new mission-focused churches and revitalising existing ones.

“Our three-year goal coming up at end of 2016 is 30 new churches and we probably won’t quite hit that but we will get close,” says the network’s associate director of church planting, Stephen Bartlett.

He stresses that the 1000 target is a long-term aim that will require a reorienting of the church culture towards developing leadership and discipling people for mission.

“Our churches are obviously very diverse in their capacities and situation and so it’s not a one-size–fits-all but it’s a culture statement – are we going to be connected with new work or not?” he says.

“It doesn’t mean you have to take on the responsibility of being a parent church yourself but we want to see everyone in the game.

“Obviously one of those ways is to plant but it’s not the only way; it could be being a prayer partner or being one of a number of supporting churches to a plant in a region, doing it collectively. But that’s how we’d like to end up, seeing each church involved in that way.”

First mooted in 2011, the Gen 1K strategy was formally adopted as a key plank in the movement’s vision in 2014 and is still in its early stages of putting in good foundations for growth.

Since 2014, new churches have been planted at a rate of six to eight a year, which is no faster than the level of church planting in earlier years. What is new is a big improvement in their survival rate.

“Fifteen years ago only four out of every ten plants were flourishing through to the longer term, whereas now that’s up to 85 or 90 per cent … and we’re heartened by that,” Bartlett says.

“We want to give every plant as much opportunity to flourish as possible so it’s lovely to see that and now we want to concentrate on getting the multiplication rate up.”

He says the key factors in ensuring a new church’s longevity are being connected to a parent church and working with church planters to provide a peer support group, intentional coaching, assessment processes and ongoing training.

“We have had an annual summit for our planters for a number of years that has become like a peer environment for ongoing equipping, so planters are seeing they’re part of the bigger story rather than out on their own,” he says.

Achieving a threefold increase in churches within a generation is “completely outside our human capacity,” Bartlett acknowledges.

“We realise if God doesn’t show up in all of this it won’t happen – we’re reliant on him. Of course we want to steward our capacities in strategising and developing leaders and the ecosystem in our movement that would be most conducive to flourishing pioneering work but in the end it’s the work of the Spirit,” he says.