Three years ago, the Hurley family left North Coast Church in Perth, so Brendan could be an assistant minister at St George’s Anglican Church, Bluff Point (with a focus on young families and evangelism). Bluff Point is a northern coastal suburb of Geraldton, Western Australia, with a population of around 1400 residents. Brendan and his family are financially supported by Bush Church Aid.
How do you raise up an army of eager and well-equipped volunteers? That’s a tough question for any church to answer. In regional WA this is especially challenging.
There’s several reasons for this. The first is what some people call the brain drain. Every year we see our best and brightest head to the big smoke so they can go to university. Young adults studying at university are such a benefit to churches. Many of these students give up their free time to serve at Sunday School, youth group or at all sorts of other fantastic ministries. Often these young adults are zealous, energetic and enthusiastic. They are gold for any church. But in regional WA, there is a smaller pool of people in that 18-25 age group. It can sometimes feel like there is this massive gap in our churches here.
Then there is the transience. Fantastic Christians in regional WA constantly come and go. Just as you really start to get to know people and start to think, “they’d be a great fit for that ministry”, they let you know that they’re moving. Their graduate program has finished. A great job opportunity has come up in Perth. They want to move back to the city to be closer to family. Over the last few years, we’ve had this happen time and time again. I totally get it. I’m not resentful. We trust God and we wish them all the best. But it’s still a challenge for our churches, seeing these wonderful folk leave.
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Then I remember again that wonderful promise of Jesus: he is still building his church.
It would be easy to get discouraged. Sometimes I do. But I try and remind myself of reality. God is still a good Father and is still sitting on the throne. None of these things have happened outside of his gracious, sovereign will. My generous Father knows what our church needs. Then I remember again that wonderful promise of Jesus: he is still building his church. The gates of hell will not overcome it. He is breaking new ground all the time, claiming new territory for heaven. Satan and hell cannot stop the spread of his gospel. Remembering again that God is in control, that his gospel is powerful and that he is providing what we need is a great comfort. It’s cause for thanks, praise and constant prayer.
But as wonderful as that comfort is, there is still the day to day challenge of resourcing our church and its ministries. So what are we trying to do at our church to raise up an army of well-equipped, gospel-minded volunteers? As I’ve hinted at already, we pray. We ask God to raise people up. We definitely should do this more than we do. But we are seeking to make prayer the foundation of all our ministries.
Next, we preach Christ. I know that doesn’t sound novel or radical. But it’s essential. It’s our conviction that the gospel drives everything in the Christian life. So every Sunday we seek to magnify Christ. We want to show our people the glory, love and splendour of the Lord Jesus so that their obedience and service will be genuine, joyful and from the heart. If people are captured by Christ’s gospel, they will be inspired and motivated to serve.
Thirdly, we equip. Over the last few years, we’ve been patchy with this. We’ve tried to run a course here and a workshop there. We’ve moved some of our ministries away from just being rosters, to being teams so that people can collaborate better and share ideas. Recently, we started something new to help equip our people better than ever before. We’ve started a two-year training course called Entrust (based on 2 Timothy 2:2). Every Wednesday morning about ten of us get together and learn skills for interpreting the Bible, learn about biblical theology and learn how to communicate the Bible clearly to others (e.g. how to give a talk, lead a Bible study, do evangelism, etc). Mostly we have retirees coming because they have the free time to come. Many of them already serve in our church, but we’re hoping that Entrust will better equip them for that service.
It’s clear that as we do these things, we still have a long way to go. But it is exciting to see what God is doing among us. More and more that army of eager and well-equipped volunteers is starting to grow. Praise God!