“So you’re travelling for six hours to take part in a 90 minute meeting?” I could sense in that question another unspoken question “Is that a good use of Association resources?” My answer to that unspoken question would have been “Normally no! But in this case yes!”
What was the setting? Ken Clendenning (Director of Ministries), myself (Associate Director – Church Development), plus Des Daniels and Arthur Rickersey drove to Hughes in Canberra to participate in the Monthly Association Prayer meeting. That meant leaving Sydney before 3.00pm and I eventually got into bed at 1:30am the next morning! An Association Prayer meeting is that important to us!
We are committed to establishing a “Comprehensive prayer and intercession culture that underpins all Association activities”. We have a bold vision of seeing “1,000 Healthy vibrant churches in a generation” (Gen1K), and this is quite impossible without the supernatural activity of God. A complete dependence on God typified by earnest, consistent prayer is essential for this dream to become a reality. Gen1K is not just about church planting, although church planting is an essential element! Gen1K is also about our existing churches being revitalised and re-energised for effective ministry.
Prayer is the starting point, the mid point, and the end point of Church Revitalisation!
Let me illustrate this with the story of the children’s ministry at “The Hub” Baptist Church. “The Hub”, formerly Grafton Baptist Church, had been in a decline phase for a number of years. Long enough for that congregation to become desperate in prayer for God to do something new. A new pastor and his young family came and things began to change: a major facelift of premises, a new church name, and the dream of a vibrant children’s ministry driven by their location on the doorstep of a local school. The largest impediment to this was found in that the only children in the church were the three children of Stephen and Jane (the pastors of the church).
About two years ago, at the end of a meeting with Stephen at a local coffee shop in Grafton I asked, “Mate, how can we pray for you and the church?” his answer was quite specific. “Pray that two families, with children, would come and stay!” and so the ministry team and others through the Baptist Prayer Movement started praying. It was such a joy to hear from Stephen about 4-5 months later that “half our prayers had been answered” One family with kids had come and stayed.
Jumping forward 18 months, the church has a part time Children’s Pastor, (who relocated from the ACT to Grafton with no guaranteed income!), they have been donated playground equipment worth $20,000 by a business man who believed in their vision, the children’s church numbers are now more than 25 (This is about the size of the whole church a few years earlier) The Hub now has SRE in the local schools with the local primary school using the newly renovated church hall as an overflow venue. To top it off the church now sponsors one of the local children’s soccer teams. Banners with the church’s name and logo are at the soccer fields every week and the uniforms show “’The Hub’ A Baptist Church in Grafton” Families continue to come and stay. I counted 17 children in the church service when I visited a few weeks ago. This is not even listing the great changes that have occurred in the wider church family. God has been certainly doing a “New Thing” in regards to children’s ministry at “The Hub”
And it all started with Prayer and a God shaped Dream!
The common phases of Prayer in Church Revitalisation
- Churches get desperate enough to pray.
- God starts to develop a desire for something bigger than the church’s present reality. This is Vision!
- They then get desperate enough to become selfless. They pray for impact and blessings beyond their own comfort. No longer longing for the past “Glory Days” to return, or for enough people to fill their church and rosters. They become willing to pay the high price of change, they lay down all their own agendas
- Churches start praying, realising that the “God sized dream” is beyond their own, or any humans, skill and capacity. This is humbling themselves. ‘If my people who are called by name will humble themselves and pray… I will hear from Heaven… 2 Chronicles 7:14
- Churches pray not “for things to change” but “until things change” this is persistence.
- They share and celebrate the answers as they come, this builds faith and expectancy to continue to dream and imagine.
In our Association the majority of our churches have a need for vibrant Children’s and youth ministries. A common mistake they make is that they think they need programs that will cater for children’s needs in order to attract families with children to come and stay at their church. I believe this is not the case!
What I believe happened at the “The Hub” is that they dared to dream of what God could do for the sake of the community. This faith filled outward focus, combined with the evidence that the church was willing to make changes in order to see the dream become a reality, attracted those families BEFORE the church had programs to minister to them. They have sought to allow God to draw people to them through vision rather than by consumerism i.e. offering what we can do for your family.
I feel privileged to have partnered with them in prayer through the various challenges of this unfolding journey.
Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” this means our part is to dream and imagine. And when we do that it will always drive us to our knees.
Do you want to find out more about Gen1K Church Revitalisation?
Please email Ian Altman for more information or to get a copy of Gen1K Church Revitalisation. Email: email@example.com or complete the below form.