Click here for a link to the PDF of the Merger document.
Below is a paper outlining the background and issues we are facing as we look at our morning services and continuing the merger that brought Halswell and Spreydon together as South West Baptist Church
What has led us to this point?
In late 2011 and throughout 2012, Halswell Baptist Church and Spreydon Baptist Church talked and prayed together about the anticipated growth in the South West of the city and how we could reach out to people moving into the area with the love, message and hope of Christ.
We looked at different ways we could support each other as sister churches, or in shared mission projects, but through this process sensed God calling us to the much more radical choice of fully combining to become one church together. So, we merged as one church. Halswell and Spreydon became South West Baptist Church.
We believe 3 things are vital to our mission in South West:
• The growth of specialist ministries to meet the growing needs of people in the area (e.g. after school programmes, preschools, 24/7 workers etc)
• The growth of Neighbourhood Communities so that we all have a place to belong, grow and serve
• A place to gather on Sundays together as one church to unite around the Word, worship and vision
There have been many positive steps during the first 2 years as South West Baptist Church, including the combining of our:
• Youth & children
• Young adults
• Global mission support
• Pastoral care
• Finances and administration
• Staff and elders
• Combined events
There are other areas not going so well, yet:
• The approach we took of building up the Sunday morning congregation at Halswell as a base for growing Neighbourhood Communities has not been effective (1)
• We have noticed a lot of ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘our site’ and ‘their site’ talk that indicates we haven’t completed the merger yet. There has even been talk about de-merging. This is somewhat understandable as joining structurally is relatively easy but joining lives, hearts and minds is far trickier and takes more time. This was never going to be easy and we have certainly made mistakes, but we are committed to going forward and completing the merger to the point where we all see the new body of SWBC as us
• Our morning gatherings are a key area where we are stretched:
•We have three Sunday morning gatherings all one hour apart (9am, 10am and 11am) and geographically very close together (7 or 8 minutes by car)
• This is stretching our children’s work, worship, hospitality, welcoming and preaching. Alan is probably the most obvious point of this stretch as he has regularly been speaking at all 3 services to help build unity, common preaching and to ensure there has not been the sense of a gathering being more important because it has the Senior Pastor
• We want to do our gatherings well, improving the quality, depth and connection with people. There is much we could develop here
• We hoped to be going to a new large church site at Wigram. This would’ve allowed us to reduce the number of morning gatherings (to either 1 or 2). We are exploring options of other sites where we could gather as much of the church together at one time as possible. These include a greenfield build, purchase and renovation of an existing building, develop the Spreydon site or partnering with other existing organisations on a shared building
The immediate problem is, until then, we are stretched in our morning gatherings
• We explored having a 10am service at Spreydon and a 10am at Halswell. However, we couldn’t fit everyone at these two services
• We could, however, all fit in two morning gatherings at the Spreydon site. This would allow us to combine kids, worship and preachers so that we could reduce the present sense of stretch while strengthening the quality of our gatherings and uniting us closer together
Where do we want to get to?
We sense a call to be one church in mission in the South West of the city. This means:
• We will be dispersed in Neighbourhood Communities, life groups and ministries
• We will worship together with as many people together at one time and place as possible and we want to do our gatherings well, improving the quality, depth and connection for people
• We want to be united as one church
How do we get there?
We are asking the church to consider options to help us move ahead. As a leadership, we have prayed and looked at many options. As we have considered each one, we have asked:
– will it help us in mission to South West?
– will it strengthen our Neighbourhood Communities, life groups, ministries and gatherings?
– will it unite us as one church?
While we are open to other options,we are suggesting two:
1) Begin the move towards gathering together as much of the church as possible in as fewer times and spaces as we can on a Sunday now by asking everyone to come to either the 9am or 11am gatherings at Spreydon site
2) We continue with 3 gatherings at 2 separate sites for now as we move towards a gathering for as many of us to be together at one time and in one place for worship. For this to happen, we would ask Duane or Ants or both to lead the Halswell work in the development of Neighbourhood Communities, ministries, gatherings and to strengthen our unity
Process for decision
We are looking to make a decision over the next six weeks. Between February 1 and February 20 we will talk with leaders and church groups seeking their input and prayer. We will hold two open meetings to consider options on Tuesday February 24 and Wednesday February 25. After these meetings, we will summarise all the options, considerations and perspectives and make this available via the website and in paper form to the church. On March 3 we will have an open prayer time to pray together. The elders will then make a decision based on recommendations from the Core Leadership Team as to a way ahead.
Once a decision is made an implementation plan will be established to allow timely and careful planning. Any change will be carefully explained and appropriate steps put in place.
1. Would the lack of a second gathering space in Halswell hinder the mission to the South West by reducing our presence in the community?
– We want to increase our presence mainly through our Neighbourhood
Communities and ministries operating from all church sites and in the wider area. Although having more gatherings closer to people would have a degree of missional benefit, we believe it would be minimal considering how close the two current sites are and the fact that most people drive
– Any mission loss would be outweighed by better gatherings
– If close walking distance to as Sunday service was the key mission factor, then we should look at having gatherings in more neighbourhoods. Both our own church experience in area congregations and our current understanding of mission in New Zealand leads us to believe proximity for a morning service is not a key barrier to people coming to church
2. Other churches are developing a multi-site basis for services on Sundays
– We are focusing on the SW of Christchurch, which isn’t so large as to
demand multiple gathering sites. Our present sites are much closer than churches in multi-site model would normally operate
– Being dispersed throughout the week in our vocations, ministries, life groups and Neighbourhood Communities we want to come together as one on a Sunday
3. It’s good to have a smaller gathering for people as some people prefer smaller churches
– This is true. However our aim is to reach the growing South West community. If we do that we will inevitably grow
– Our church has a wide range of ministries and connected trusts that care for many people. If we split into a number of smaller congregations we would lose the base of people, leaders, skill, prayer and financial support that makes this possible. We want to grow our base for the sake of new ministries and the growth of existing ministries
– Looking forward we sense the Neighbourhood Communities can provide the smaller, relational place of belonging
4. Some people would have to drive further to a gathering
– we don’t think the distance is unreasonable and if it was a key factor we could use church vans or arrange neighbours to provide rides for those who would struggle to travel independently.
5. It was promised in the merger that we would always have a Sunday gathering at Halswell
– No, it was promised that we would be one church coming together for the sake of mission to the South West of our city. There were various options around Sunday gatherings, including Wigram, Halswell site and Spreydon site that were discussed, but ultimately we merged around mission together
How can I be part of this decision?
We would appreciate your prayers and your thoughts.
– You can share these at the two open meetings (February 24 and 25) or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
– If your life group, ministry or Neighbourhood Community would like to discuss these potential changes with one of the leadership team please email Alan and he will arrange for one of us to attend your next meeting
– Take the time to complete one of the surveys we will send out seeking your thoughts and input
(1) Neighbourhood communities begin when 4 or 5 people commit to anchoring the forming of relationships, prayer and reaching out where they live. Others can join them, at varying levels of involvement, regardless of which gathering they attend on a Sunday. With this in mind we will focus more on getting these small nucleus underway and less on a particular service as a basis for neighbourhood groups beginning.