Strategic Support & Regional Development Group

Grae McWhirter / Associate Director - Strategic Support & Regional Development

The Strategic Support and Regional Development Group includes the Communications and Events, Kiah Ridge, Ministry Standards, and 10 Regional Ministry Teams. 

We know that to move towards 1000 healthy churches in a generation, we need fruitful partnerships and for that to be evident in healthy, vibrant, strategic regional expressions from border to border and ocean to outback. It is so good to have Association teams embedded in our regions with an amazing group of Regional Ministers leading the way, contextualising the Gen1K goal and our shared vision right across NSW and ACT.  

In 2023 our regional ministers developed their teams, some starting teams, some growing teams, and all of them being more strategic and focussed. Our regional ministries grew as networks understood more about their purpose around the 4 Rs: relationship building, resource sharing, raising leaders and reproducing.  We held our second ever Regional Teams Conference in 2023 at Kiah Ridge where the Regional Ministers brought their existing teams, or prospective team members, to share stories, work together, be inspired, and get strategic towards the Gen1K goal. Our Baptist Ministry Centre specialists in Leadership, Health and Multiplication joined that conference to develop our regional teams with the goal for every region to have someone dedicated to those three areas, and have them connected to our BMC specialists to further those key elements of our Gen1K goal.  

Our South Coast region officially became an affiliated ministry in 2023, now making 8 out of our 10 existing regions affiliated ministries.  

We started a new pastors’ network in the Cumberland area of Sydney, with plans to plant or replant more networks in 2024 so that by the end of 2025, every pastor across our movement can have the opportunity to connect with other leaders in their areas.  

I encourage you to read stories from each of our 10 regional ministries in this report and get a glimpse of what God is doing as we partner together in meaningful and fruitful ways.  

Meanwhile other expressions of partnership and support were evident during 2023 in our Ministry Standards Team as numerous churches were assisted and resourced and lots of work done to ensure we are helping our churches to have everything they need to be safe places for women and men of all backgrounds, experiences and across all generations.  

Our Communications and Events Team worked hard in 2023 providing opportunities for partnership to occur in spaces like our Gatherings and times where our different Association teams provide specialist events, conferences and training towards the Gen1K goal. The C&E team keeps us all well-informed and focused on our shared vision and goals. 

Kiah Ridge went from strength to strength in 2023 too, with a wonderful bounce back from the Covid years, with a full calendar, being a space where churches, schools and community groups meet and where God works. Check out the Kiah Ridge report here too. 

In 2023 we prayed together. We held monthly online prayer gatherings and encouraged personal and group prayer by distributing our Let’s Pray Together calendar. God works when people pray. In 2024 we plan to further encourage purposeful prayer individually, in churches, regions and across our movement. 

Having meaningful partnerships is crucial, but often not easy. 2023 brought some challenges to our partnership in the work of the Gospel. While not blind to the realities and pain in those challenges, by God’s grace, we reaffirm our commitment to loving, purposeful, missional partnerships to continue moving towards our shared goal of 1000 healthy churches in a generation.  

Kiah Ridge

Lorna Harper / Kiah Ridge Centre Manager

2023 and He was still good.  Every day.  

This year saw Kiah Ridge continue to build on its successful return to operation post-Covid, noting an average of 15% increase in our three main indicators; bed nights, meals served and venue revenue.  We also enjoyed increases in our ministry and church bookings overall – so great to see God’s place being used by God’s people.  

Guest booking confidence returned to full strength, although the typical uplift in group numbers we see year on year was far more modest than in previous years.  Groups also faced a new challenge of guest numbers potentially fluctuating at the last minute, as people now decide to not travel if unwell rather than soldier on.  In response to this new challenge, we pivoted our cancellation policy to create a hybrid offer for guests affected in this way.  

Operational costs rose yet again this year, most notably power and food costs.  The depth of experience amongst our team yet again enabled us to overcome these hurdles, as we flexed and adapted what we offer, sometimes even from booking to booking, to take advantage of best pricing and special offers to enable us to maintain competitive pricing and value for money on all our stays.   

Maintaining staffing levels was another mountain to climb in 2023, as we saw critical shortages in available staff in both the Hospitality and Grounds/Maintenance sectors.  We operated at less than a full complement of team throughout 2023, making prudent use of contractors where necessary.  This brings additional burden for us all and we have had to be careful to manage this well to avoid exhausting our team.  Everyone has rallied and we are so grateful that God continues to stir the hearts of everyone on team for His mission here.  

The foundations of our Association relationship building from last year stood firm and every Association booking from 2022 returned in 2023, with some booking ahead into 2024.  From Ministry Health to Regional Ministers to State Kids Camp – a whole raft of wonderful events for our current and future ministry leaders. 

2023 brought a start to a planned program of improvement and maintenance works for our venue buildings and other assets.  We commenced the installation of a larger cool room and new freezer room – a much needed resource for our Catering Team.  This wonderful new facility will bring them valuable additional buying power to combat cost increases as well as to future proof our catering operation to welcome consistently larger group sizes in years to come.    

Following the flooding events of 2022, our Dining Room carpet was at long last replaced just prior to Christmas.   

What started as a repair of our Main Centre Rear Veranda soon turned into a replacement as it became clear that the years had taken its toll on this favourite spot for an early morning coffee.   The new veranda is built from weatherproof materials with new outdoor furniture and a new roof for use in all weathers. 

And for those following this part of our story each year, our Egyptian Christian Church returned again in 2023, this time broadcasting online the name of Jesus live from Kiah Ridge across the Middle East.  Quite a thought, someone in such a faraway land being eternally impacted by something happening at our small piece of paradise here in NSW.  

Ministry Standards

Jonathan Bradford / Team Leader - Ministry Standards

The Ministry Standards Team exists to serve and resource churches in promoting a safe church culture.  This continues to be a crucial task to achieve our Gen1K goal of a thousand healthy churches in a generation, as well as to fulfil government regulations and legal obligations. 

In 2023 we hosted 125 Creating Safe Spaces training workshops with 4000 participants in NSW/ACT.  We continue to enjoy strong partnerships with Churches of Christ NSW/ACT, and the Baptist Union of Victoria, and we have recently entered a new partnership with the Baptist Churches of Western Australia. Training workshops are available in person or via Zoom, and are fully translated into Korean and Mandarin languages.  More information and bookings are available here: 

We continue to be encouraged by the high levels of engagement and support from churches with our Safe Church Health Check audit tool which allows local churches to demonstrate their compliance with the Child Safe Standards. 23% of our affiliated churches have now fully satisfied the requirements of the Safe Church Health Check, and an additional 20% of churches have submitted an application which is still progressing. Meeting the Child Safe Standards is mandatory for churches in NSW so we strongly encourage all affiliated churches to engage with our Safe Church Package and lodge a Safe Church Health Check. 

Our Safe Church Team Network Evening in May 2023 saw strong attendance numbers as church leaders gathered to hear expert guidance to assist local church leaders in responding to claims associated with child sexual abuse. Since 2019 churches have received 49 claims via the National Redress Scheme, and 25 common law legal claims. In total approximately 25% of our affiliated churches have had to respond to a historic claim in recent years.  These sensitive matters are often very challenging for local church leaders and we appreciate your prayers for justice, wisdom, and compassion for all parties involved. 

In late 2023 we completed a number of significant update projects. On 1 November 2023 we launched our updated Safe Church Package of model policy and procedure documents, and our updated Safe Church Health Check. We were encouraged to have large numbers of local church leaders attending the launch webinars and many more people watching the webinar videos online. Our Baptist Assembly at Padstow on 11 November 2023 approved an updated version of the Code of Ethics and Conduct for Baptist pastors, as well as an update to the Procedure for Handling Allegations document which governs the complaint process managed by the Pastoral Standards Committee (previously known as the Ministry Standards Committee). And in early January 2024 we launched a significant update of our Creating Safe Spaces training program which included a 20% reduction in the length of the online module, updated video content, refreshed workshop presentation, and the addition of a fifth lesson specifically designed for leaders in church governance roles.  

Building a safe church culture is a shared responsibility for all church leaders.  We thank God for the opportunity to support church leaders in this crucial task and we thank you for your prayer and encouragement.