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May 19, 2015

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Lindsay Jones

Hi Neil
I was the national Baptist church health consultant tasked with implementing the 'Growing Healthy Churches' focus around the country. Murray Cottle and I wrote the material around the 'ministry-led' model of leadership structure and practice (adapting some of it from the American Baptist Churches of the West)
I have to say that some of your descriptions/impressions are lacking (at least in relation to the intended model above).
The original description was 'Staff-led model', which we then deliberately changed to avoid the impression that the Pastors were in charge. The model was set up to create several things: separate out governance from ministry management; match authority responsibility and accountability together; empower pastors and ministry leaders to get on with things... A key contextual example for us was the N.Z. school system, reformed under the 'Tomorrow's Schools' document.
To say that 'plans and programs have to be agreed by him' (the pastor) is an exaggeration of the practice.

Neil Brighton

Hi Lindsay,
Thanks for the comments. There is a huge danger in writing about something you have only spent a few weeks learning about, so I'm sure there are bits that are wrong or misleading. I'm also aware from UK life that in practice Union life is a mix of nuances, contradictions and agendas and while I've not understood those in a NZ context I'm sure they are there.

But I think, in Christchurch at least, what is happening is somewhat different to the original 'healthy churches' focus. And by comparison with the UK, however, all the churches I visited or ministers I spoke with lead much more 'Pastor led' churches. Even those which are most traditionally baptist.

My observations are also based on what churches say about themselves. For example, more than one congregation has "Each Staff member will develop an annual plan, including goals expected outcomes and the resources required. This plan requires the agreement of the Senior Pastor" in their constitution. And the language used by many in the websites suggests being Pastor led.

jonathan robinson

Hi Neil, appreciate you comments. As an outsider (previous coming from independent churches in UK) who has become an insider (now a NZ baptist pastor) I think you have certainly nailed a significant part of our church spectrum in this and your other post. OTOH the longer I have journeyed with the NZ baptists the more diversity I have come across, so while I think your analysis rings true for possibly even a majority, that is far from the full story. Appreciate you spelling out your impressions in a public space for us to interact with especially in contrast with UK Baptists of whom I have little experience.

I'm currently working with my congregation to develop a far less pastor-centric model of church, as much for my own mental health as for the benefit of the church, although I hope and expect it will be of real benefit to the church going forward. Interestingly though there is real resistance to this - despite the obvious need in our situation - as the sense that there should be "one person at the top" is very strongly ingrained.

Andrew Diprose

Interesting insights on NZ Baptist life

Andrew Diprose
(A New Zealander currently ministering in Italy)

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