CHURCH WITNESS TEAM
Kelly Crawford – Team Leader
The Gen1K Church witness team includes evangelism, public engagement, disaster relief and partnerships with Baptist World Aid Australia (BWAA) and BaptistCare NSW & ACT.
2021 proved to be a year of challenge and opportunity with the launch of several major initiatives to equip and empower individuals and churches. This includes the launch of the Plan A website through Crossover with materials aimed to help everyday Christians talk about Jesus. 2021 also saw the launch of a national domestic abuse training initiative, created, and funded by Baptist partners, called the Safer Spaces Toolkit to help churches address domestic abuse and build relationally healthy cultures.
In addition to these projects, 30 churches were mobilized for evangelism through BDC and Plan A and 80 students were trained in evangelism principles through a partnership with Morling College.
The Church Witness Team contributed to the launch of the Justice 2021 report along with other state Baptist unions and Baptist agencies. A first of its kind, this report outlines 8 key justice areas where Australian Baptists have some “skin in the game”. Fourteen Baptist leaders from NSW and the ACT were trained at Converge on some of these justice issues to advocate with their local MPs. Nationally, over 60 leaders were trained. The Baptist Association also made submissions to national parliament on a constitutionally enshrined First Nation Voice to parliament and to NSW parliament on the proposed Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill.
In 2021, seven Baptist organisations formed a learning community to grow together in an understanding of walking in justice with First Nation peoples of Australia. These organisations (including BWAA and BaptistCare) have committed in 2022 to a series of workshops to listen to and learn from First Nation leaders.
Disaster relief and recovery work through our Association of churches continued in 2021 with counselling in bushfire-affected areas on the South Coast, relief projects in Pambula and Kurrajong, and over $50,000 distributed in flood-affected parts of NSW. A disaster recovery chaplain was also hired in the Riverina to support drought, fire and Covid-affected communities and churches throughout that area.
BaptistCare furthered it’s connect grants program by enabling grants to churches in the Northern Rivers and the Central Coast, and BWAA continued its commitment to grow church relationships, with 28 churches engaging in formal partnership with BWAA to connect with communities in Bangladesh, Nepal, Uganda, Cambodia and the Middle East.
NSW and ACT Baptist churches also supported disaster-affected communities in PNG, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, East Timor, the Middle East and India through significant support of BWAA projects in those areas. The Church Witness Team looks forward to continued partnership in 2022.
- A major highlight of 2021 was the growth in Baptist partnerships that saw the launch of the “Plan A” website, the Safer Spaces Toolkit, and the Justice 2021 Report.
- The Association of churches continued disaster relief and recovery work in several areas including the north coast, Riverina, South Coast, lower Blue Mountains, and the Hawkesbury Valley.
- Baptist World Aid deepened its commitment to partnering with churches with 28 churches joining in formal partnership to support community development projects in Bangladesh, Nepal, Uganda, Cambodia and the Middle east.
In 2021, through a partnership with the Baptist Association’s drought relief funding, Baptist churches in the Riverina supported the hiring of a disaster recovery chaplain for the Riverina region. Steve Maynard was brought on part-time to support individuals and churches in the region who had been severely affected by drought, fire and then the Covid-19 pandemic. Steve has been supporting the region as it deals with mental health effects exacerbated by years of climate challenges.
In December of 2021, a Sydney-based church reached out with a desire to offer some financial support to a rural church. Through the connections that Steve Maynard had made in his disaster recovery work, he was able to suggest a rural church with a desire to hire an outreach worker. This partnership has now come to fruition and is just another example of the fruit that God grants when we partner together for the sake of His kingdom.