Discipleship & Leadership Development Group

Craig Corkill / Associate Director - Discipleship & Leadership Development

The Discipleship and Leadership Development Group includes the Affirmation of Ministry, Baptist Youth Ministries, Children and Families and Special Religious Education Teams. 

I continue to be profoundly encouraged as I interact with many leaders and churches who are keen to engage more deeply in the areas of discipleship and leadership development. 

Over the course of 2023, we saw 147 leaders engage with strategies that coach them towards the multiplication of disciples, leaders and churches, which exceeded our target of 130. This investment into leaders is foundational to our Gen1K goal as (to quote Neil Cole): “If you can’t reproduce disciples, you can’t reproduce leaders. If you can’t reproduce leaders, you can’t reproduce churches. If you can’t reproduce churches, you can’t reproduce movements”. 

Working in conjunction with the Church Witness team, 2023 saw even more churches focus on making disciples and disciple-makers. When looking to disciple people to faith, we continued to see churches use approaches such as: ‘Bible Discovery Method’, ‘Plan A’, ‘Faith Runs Deep’ and ‘Alpha’. Churches seeking to make disciple-makers often engaged with ‘Building A Discipling Culture’, with 25 of our churches either currently being trained or having recently completed the training. 

After being piloted in 2022, in 2023 we witnessed an emerging group of churches beginning to engage with Leadership Pipeline training – an intentional approach to developing leaders at every stage of church life (from volunteers through to senior leadership). For further details, email Craig Corkill at ccorkill@nswactbaptist.org.au 

At the commencement of 2023 we had 32 churches searching for a pastor, with most being Senior/Sole pastor roles. Encouragingly, this number reduced to 22 by the conclusion of 2023, however we are starting to see the availability of potential Associate Pastors become a challenge. As an Associate Director and a part-time Morling lecturer, can I encourage you to both pray into this situation and engage in ‘I see in you …’ conversations with those in your church family who have potential to engage in pastoral ministry.  

Coupled with the call to raise up more pastors is the need to further develop the capacity of those already serving in pastoral ministry. Two new initiatives were commenced during 2023: 

  • ‘The Glasshouse’ – a training program for new (under two years) Senior/Sole pastors had its first cohort of nine pastors commence in early 2023. Feedback from this cohort has been incredibly positive, as it has provided training tailor-made to address the opportunities and challenges these new pastors are facing. 
  • ‘Adaptive Leadership Training’ – a training program that equips church leadership teams in how to navigate significant change (based on the work of Tod Bolsinger) launched with its first cohort in 2023. Churches engaging in this training were quite diverse (from large multi-staff churches to simple churches) which provided an opportunity to explore this training in very different contexts.

In addition, our second training cohort of pastors not serving in Senior/Sole pastor roles (eg. Associate pastors, Children’s and Families pastors, Executive pastors, etc) gathered to further develop their gifts and potentially encourage them to consider engaging in Senior/Sole pastor roles. This initiative (called ‘That Thing’) has now been rebranded in 2024 as ‘LeadUp’ (6-7th May @ Kiah Ridge). 

We look forward to growing engagement with both discipleship and leadership development initiatives into 2024 and beyond. 

Accreditation & Recognition

Jenny Casey / Team Leader - Pastoral Affirmations

This year was an encouraging one. The Affirmation of Ministry Guidelines voted in at the Annual Assembly in May 2022 meant that 2023 was the first full year of the new process. Changes now enacted include applicants who have been accepted for recognition, can now move directly to accreditation once they have fulfilled the academic requirements.

  • In 2023 we conducted interviews for new applicants for both recognition and accreditation, with some still being interviewed under the previous system when people could apply directly for accreditation.
  • One recognised minister has applied for accreditation, and they have begun the process of moving from one form of affirmation to the other. We expect to have several more move from recognition to accreditation in 2024.
  • During 2023 the Confidential Questionnaire, the screening document used with all new applicants, underwent a significant reworking, and we hope to have the new version ready for use in 2024.
  • A number of new process and policy documents were formulated in 2023, and still more are being developed in order to underpin the new process.
  • In 2023 we held six Leadership Incubator days with accredited and recognised minister candidates. These days are an important part of the candidates’ formation, and are a combination of resourcing, training and cohort building.
  • Part of the new affirmation process is the empowerment of local regions being trained and equipped in order that they might conduct their own interviews with applicants. In 2023 a group of new panel interviewers were trained in Greater West for Christ, with a view to them beginning the process of conducting their own interviews, with support from the AOT, in 2024. This will then be rolled out in other regions in 2024 and beyond.
  • In 2023 we held the annual Accreditation Service at Macquarie Park when 11 new ministers were accredited. The service was a wonderful acknowledgement of these new ministers, their calling and faithfulness, and the way in which God has equipped and gifted them.

As we continue to fulfill God’s Gen1K vision we know that equipping and empowering leaders is fundamental. We are blessed at the calibre of leaders we see applying to be accredited and recognised, and we are encouraged that God continues to raise up faithful servants.

Baptist Youth Ministries

Sarah Alarcon / Team Leader - Baptist Youth Ministries

Quick stats:  

  • 1054 young people in local churches have been directly supported either through our BYM events or through the equipping and support of their local church leaders.  
  • State Youth Camp 2023 had 20 churches and 330 youth and leaders in attendance.  

2023 was a year of significant change for Baptist Youth and Young Adults ministries. We celebrate all God did in the hearts of youth and young adults across our churches. 

Mid 2023 saw the farewell of our Team Leader Steve Dixon after 11 years leading the Baptist Youth Ministries Team. During Steve’s time in leadership, we celebrated the fruit of key initiatives such as Revive Combined Youth Nights, Youth Pastors Conference, State Youth Camp and many others. His leadership saw the growth of our team to include a skilled staff team supporting and resourcing local churches. We are grateful for Steve’s investment in the area of youth and young adults and continue to pray for him in his new role of CEO of Bedford College. 

In a season where youth and young adult ministries are still recovering from COVID effects, many churches are facing challenges particularly in the areas of developing volunteers, filling vacant paid roles, compliance requirements and the increasing mental health needs of young people. In 2023 we sought to provide support to our local churches by offering:  

  • mental health training,  
  • pastoral support and connection for leaders, 
  • equipping of leaders,
  • assistance with development of role descriptions and pastoral placements, and
  • delivery of some of our key initiatives that give opportunities for churches to gather together and be involved with the wider Baptist Community.

A key initiative toward healthy youth ministries was launched by our team this year, titled the ‘Healthy Youth Ministry Framework’.  This online tool helps a youth pastor examine the current reality of their youth ministry, highlighting the strengths to celebrate and the areas of potential growth to attend to or seek equipping for. This online tool then connects the youth pastor with a BYM team member, provides access to resources and supports the desire for a healthy youth ministry. With over 15 churches engaging with this tool in 2023, we celebrate the opportunity it will provide local churches. 

In its 9th year our State Youth Camp focused on the theme of ‘All Things New’ and was a peak experience for over 330 young people and their leaders from 20 churches across NSW and the ACT. Supported by a team of more than 50 volunteers, this event continues to be a highlight of our annual calendar. We’ve heard many stories shared of how this event has encouraged young people and led many to baptism, higher engagement in church community and deeper relationship with Jesus. 

2023 also saw our inaugural IMPACT Gap Year Cohort commence.  After 2 years of discerning and planning we were able to welcome our first 5 students. A partnership with Morling College, our IMPACT Gap Year is designed as a program which enables young adults to have space to spend a year growing in their faith, sense of self, community and ministry. With supporting academic study options, a cross-cultural exposure trip in partnership with Baptist Mission Australia and many fun-filled experiences, the initial year of IMPACT was a resounding success. We look forward to growing this program in future years. 

With the appointment of our new Team Leader Sarah Alarcon (previously SYC director and IMPACT program coordinator), our BYM Team spent the final months of 2023 discerning and planning our focus areas for the next 3 years, with a desire to align our focus with the Gen1K vision to see 1000 healthy churches, with healthy youth and young adult ministry expressions, in this generation. 

Children & Families Ministries

Louise Bartlett / Team Leader - Children & Families Ministries

Quick stats:  

  • Connect – 3 key ministries, 10 regions, 90 churches, 250 people, 1000’s of children, young people and families 

The Baptist Association Children and Family Ministries team works towards inspiring and equipping churches to welcome children as fellow disciples. In 2023 we continued to resource and equip leaders, further develop State Kids Camp, reorient Connect and looked to develop some new initiatives in the leadership space.

Connect has been a mainstay of equipping kids ministry and SRE teachers since 2019. In 2023 in consultation with BYM, Connect expanded to be for all Next Generation ministry teams. This has been a positive step – igniting conversation, collaboration and encouraging more seamless approaches to ministry with children, young people and their families. Connect 2023 was held in 10 regions across NSW and the ACT, involving over 250 people and 90 churches. 


We launched “Leadership Development 101”, a video and reflection guide designed for teens and tweens as they start serving in ministry. Modules in the course include leadership, team, specific skills and care. The course can be worked through by a single leader or in a large group format. The material is presented by teens who have been involved in leadership at their own churches and who have taken up opportunities to lead at State Kids Camp. A number of churches have already used the material and we look forward to adding a few optional ministry specific modules in 2024.

Our team collaborate regularly with other state associations to share and create resources. During National Baptism Week a webinar looking at our Baptist theological and practical approaches to the baptism of children was held, resulting in the development of new national resources specifically to support churches in acknowledging and celebrating faith steps of children. These will be launched for National Baptism Week in 2024. In 2023 Louise Bartlett was elected as the Chair of the Australian Baptist National Next Gen delegated body. 

State Kids Camp, for kids in years 4 to 7, ran again in July 2023 at Kiah Ridge. SKC sees churches connecting together to provide a peak experience helping kids to take steps in following Jesus. SKC also provides an opportunity to develop young leaders as they serve alongside the team with a mentor, growing and learning together. We are working through ways to multiply State Kids Camp and be strategic in the opportunity for leadership development in this space. 

It was encouraging to see a number of churches fill vacant kids’ ministry staff roles with people from within their own church who sensed a call to serve in this space.  The Children and Family Ministry team created events and resources, shared stories, provided coaching and advice, partnered with Morling College and other denominations in training leaders. We advocated for a way forward that emphasised children and the nurturing of their faith.

The team looks forward to supporting churches as we continue to not only pass faith down from one generation to the next, but also to pass faith around with all generations following Jesus – learning, serving, celebrating and praying together.  


Children & Families Team

Special Religious Education

Shelley Ashton / Team Leader - Special Religious Education (SRE)

2023 saw a return to pre-Covid arrangements in schools and SRE operated without interruption in the broader sense. 

2023 saw around 65 Baptist SRE teachers either retire from teaching or move to other churches and continued their authorisation under a new Provider. We had 50 new teachers authorised, some returning after a break from teaching previously but mostly new recruits. As of the end of 2023 we had around 470 Baptist authorised SRE teachers which is only slightly down from the previous year’s total of 480.  

Training was strong across three modes of delivery. We had around 130 people access our online self-directed course and another 200 or so access training via Zoom and face-to-face. Many other denominations also access our training. We offer a great resource for Providers who don’t have the resources or staff to provide training for their teachers. We continue to partner with Australian Christian Churches in delivering our Essentials Training via Zoom. In 2022 we launched our Refresher Training which was widely accessed in 2023 as we aimed to streamline retraining requirements for current SRE teachers. 

Other training and support for SRE teachers and coordinators were offered through the Connect Days run in partnership across three teams in the Association: Children’s and Families, Youth Ministry and SRE. We offered professional development training for our coordinators via Zoom workshops and a Mental Health and Wellbeing Webinar which was run by Fiona Gardner, a member of the BYM team who is also a mental health trainer. 

Our small team of three continues to service our SRE teachers through training, admin support and guidance.  

Frances Schramko continues to be an invaluable asset to our team administratively, supporting my role and freeing me up to focus on training, and supporting our teachers and coordinators as well as maintaining our online training course. 

Lysander Lawrence continues to support our high school SRE teachers and serve on the High School Working Group which is a subcommittee of ICCOREIS. At only one day a week his role is limited, but he focuses mainly on curriculum review and support, as well as liaising with high school teachers and negotiating with schools when there are timetable issues to work through. 

Our teachers are doing amazing things in their local school communities bringing Jesus to a generation of children and young people who have little to no concept of who God is. We are facing increased opposition to SRE with many groups openly challenging the place SRE has in class time in schools. 2023 saw increased activity in this space and our teachers faced greater opposition than in the past.  

Other challenges include the increased requirements around compliance and keeping upskilled in training. This is a big ask for our mostly volunteer cohort of teachers. They are passionate about teaching SRE and persevere, but they would certainly value continued prayer and open support from their local churches and church leaders as they go into their local schools to teach each week. 

2023 also saw the implementation of a digital enrolment system across all public schools, with a number of issues in its roll out. If this is implemented well, we do anticipate our enrolment numbers will actually increase as parents have better ways to be informed that SRE is on offer in a school. 

I have confidence that 2024 will be an exciting year for SRE and we are looking forward to not just maintaining our current numbers but seeing many new people feel called to teach SRE and share Jesus with kids in their local community. We seek increased prayer coverage against opposition, asking God that doors which have been closed for a number of years will be reopened, and for opportunities to see SRE back in schools that haven’t had it for some time. We also seek the raising up of more people to fill the gaps, as we anticipate SRE numbers increasing after the Covid depletion and now with the completed roll out of the digital enrolment system expected mid-2024.