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(Left to right) Paul Simpson from Pittwater Uniting Church, New South Wales, and Mike Wardrop, intergenerational discipleship developer, South Australian Synod. Photo by Dianne Jensen.
(L—R) Paul Simpson from Pittwater Uniting Church, New South Wales, and Mike Wardrop, intergenerational discipleship developer, South Australian Synod. Photo: Dianne Jensen

Ready, set, jump!

It will take a leap of faith for our churches to grow. That’s the message from the inaugural Uniting Leaders conference held at the end of August at Newlife Uniting Church, Robina. Dianne Jensen reports.

Lay and ordained leaders across the generations were encouraged to step up and out into new models of leadership at the three-day Uniting Leaders conference (UL16) on the Gold Coast, an initiative of the South Australian and Queensland Synods and Newlife Uniting Church.

Guest speaker Karen Wilson, executive minister of Riverview Church in Perth, used the analogy of parachute jumping to illustrate the importance of venturing beyond the enclaves of traditional ministry.

“For our churches to grow it’s going to take faith-filled leaders, strong and bold and courageous leaders who hold to the truth, who step into places others won’t go,” she said.

“We are never meant to do ministry alone, we are meant to do it in God’s spirit.”

A panel on Gen Y leaders discussed the challenge of participatory leadership, doing ministry “with” and not “for” young people.

One panel member asked, “Are we focused on getting young people into our services or on getting them into mission?”

She added, “The church is not going to be saved by young people, it’s going to be saved by Jesus.”

Rev Kynan Brookes, senior minister at Hope Valley Uniting Church in South Australia, spoke about perseverance.

“Staying the course is one of the greatest challenges to the leadership role. Perseverance is knowing how to climb the mountain again and again,” he said.

“Learn how to stay encouraged … ‘Christ is thy mentor’ means more than reading scripture, [it’s] knowing Jesus in a deep way and allowing him to speak into the context and to read your heart.”

The conference was coordinated by a network of Uniting Church evangelical leaders (EL250), including Rev Nigel Rogers, CEO/general secretary of the South Australian Synod.

Nigel believes that there are good reasons why leadership is on the Uniting Church’s agenda.

“We are used to talking about ‘the leader’ as someone who has to be all things to all people as opposed to leadership being a collaborative responsibility. We talk about every member ministry in the Uniting Church, so this is about finding new expressions, talking about leadership rather than the leader,” said Nigel.

“When we get the leadership responsibilities right it allows us to say, ‘You’ve got a place, you’ve got a path to serve in the life of the church,’ and it creates a deeper understanding of leadership.”

If you are interested in this story, you might also enjoy the Church Unchained podcast episode on simple church. Visit soundcloud.com/uniting-church-queensland

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