1:1 with international students — in a study space not a social space

Recently Luke, who leads our FOCUS ministry, shared some principles of cross-cultural interactions with the student leaders of the Uni Fellowship. We needed this training because increasingly our 'Aussie' ministry is also becoming international. The difference really is between high and low English competency, and what is the dominant culture of the group.
One comment he made in passing was that Chinese students have told him that the idea of meeting up to 'drink a coffee' is an unusual cultural thing for them. If they were going to hang out with friends, they would eat a meal, not just drink coffee.
Then he asked if a meal would be a better context for 1:1 ministry, and they said that this wouldn't work. Rather, they suggested that the best context for 1:1 ministry would be a meeting area in the library. Since 1:1 ministry was about studying the Bible, a study space made more sense to them.
Interesting, isn't it, how a European Australian constructs 1:1 ministry in a social space, whereas a Chinese person might prefer to see it in a study space?

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Tasmania’s vision for hub churches

From 2000 to the present, there has been a deliberate church planting effort in Tasmania by a network of pastors called The Vision 100 Network (vision100.org). I was a founding elder of the first of these church plants, Crossroads Presbyterian Church, and have watched the gradual expanding of this network, from two initial mother churches to 12 churches.

Of these 10 church plants:

  • 4 were planted by the Christian Reformed Church of Kingston (CRCK),
  • 2 were planted by One Way Christian Church, itself a daughter church of CRCK,
  • 2 were planted by Cornerstone Presbyterian Church
  • 1 was planted by Crossroads Presbyterian Church.

In other words, Christ has used a few mother churches to make this church planting ministry happen.

In this brief article, I want to make five quick observations of this type of mother-daughter church planting. This is not meant to be a global assessment of Vision 100's work, but rather a few thoughts particularly about mother-daughter church planting:

1. Small churches can be church planting centres

While CRCK is a church of over 500, Cornerstone has around 200 people, Crossroads around 100 and One Way less again. You don't need to wait until you are a big church to help start new churches. There are some things that make church planting out of a larger church much easier and our church plants are getting better at building healthy structures to help them to grow larger. But at the same time, we have seen that small churches can think big.

Also, a network of churches can allow multiple small churches to partner together in planting new churches  — as Crossroads and CRCK did in planting Cornerstone, and One Way and CRCK did in planting Redeemer.

2. Church planting gets into the culture of the church plants

From the very beginning, the leaders of The Vision 100 Network articulated a vision to 'plant churches that plant churches'. We did not want just one church plant, nor just one church planting centre. And this culture has gotten into the church plants, so that two 'daughter' churches — One Way and Cornerstone — have already planted 'grand-daughter' churches, with others in the network currently planning to do the same.

3. Serial church planting requires deliberate leadership development as well as external recruitment

For churches to sustain themselves while also sending out new pastors, leaders and members to begin new churches, there needs to be great systems in place to develop leaders. The Ministry Training Strategy (MTS) has been a very important part of our network's culture. And on the other side, some of the hardest experiences in our history have surrounded lack of leadership, or possibly ill-suited leadership.

More than just internal leadership development, we have also needed to bring new leaders into our network, to keep the network growing. Both Cornerstone and One Way have recruited senior leaders from outside Tasmania and we are working at improving our ability to recruit from outside, so that we are not limited by our own capacity to raise up leaders.

4. Serial church planting impinges on the ministry of the senior pastor

Those pastors who have lead church-planting churches — David Jones, Brian Vaatstra, Graham Sayer, Campbell Markham and myself, have been personally committed to the cause and our own ministry work has been bent out of shape by this commitment. To facilitate multiple church plants will affect your work hours, work routines and personal life.

It might lead you to straddling across multiple churches for a season, as Campbell has done, or leaving the comfortable mother church to be the planter yourself (as both Brian and David have done). Don't expect serial church planting to happen while the senior pastor sits comfortably behind a nice oak desk.

5. Not all of it will 'succeed'

In addition to the 10 surviving church plants, there were also 5 church plants and 2 'service plants' that were shut down (and 1 church (iChurch) morphed to become a AFES FOCUS ministry: actually a 'success', even though it doesn't help the church planting 'scoreboard'). Not everything you try will work. And these failures to establish self-sustaining churches come at great cost to the finances and morale of the mother church and the planting team.

We are currently asking the Lord for wisdom to learn from our short history, and we are thankful for founding of Geneva to help us in future planting. But we are also ready for future 'failures' to be part of cost of seeking to obey the Great Commission in our evangelism and church planting.

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Radio advertising is a cheapish option… does it work?

The Uni Fellowship of Christians (UTAS), were successful with a $20 000 grant application, to experiment with a whole bunch of O Week ideas to, God-willing, boost our impact during O Week significantly. With this money we are trialling a whole range of things we normally don't do, because we haven't had the time, money or energy, to see which things help and which things are a waste of time and money.

One of the things we are trying out is radio advertising. We are going to have an advert on the community radio station which broadcasts out of UTAS, and on the local Christian radio station.

For around $500 per station we get

  • a 30 second ad produced for us — we provide copy they do the rest
  • a week of radio play
  • 3 times a day

Not bad eh? 

Now I have no idea how many of our target people actually actually listen to these stations... nor how effective this kind of promotion will be in raising awareness. But I'm keen to give it a shot. 

And if it has some kind of effect, we'll add it to our regular suite of promotions.

Here's the advert that Edge Radio produced for us.

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