Ballina Uniting Church have made use of the Synod’s Growth Fund to help start a new informal faith group.
The funds will allow for a ministry agent to continue to serve the existing congregation while continuing to grow the new faith community.
Ballina Uniting Church minister Rev. Pablo Nunez told Insights the grant helped directly reach new people.
“When we were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, as many other congregations, Ballina Uniting started to produce online services,” Rev. Nunez recalled.
“Those services, quite simple in format, were shared around our community and our region, and we started to receive messages from people that were exploring faith for the first time in their lives, people exploring other Christian traditions and many burnt out Christians that were searching for a reconnection.”
“As soon as it was possible, we started to host them for meals and conversations, focusing on listening to their questions, their frustrations and their hopes. Slowly, the group started to interact, and by September 2020 we were receiving constant questions about why we couldn’t meet regularly, so we started Lunch With Punch with around 10 adults and eight teenagers.”
Rev. Nunez said the group has since grown to around 30 adults and 10 children, meeting twice a month. Many of them, he said, have joined the Ballina Uniting Church congregation, and three members of Lunch With Punch have joined the Church Council.
Rev. Nunez said he found the application process to be, “very practical and helpful.”
“The process made us think deeper, process further, and plan with a long term vision,” he said.
“The preparation in three different time frames was very helpful to help us refine and define our goals, and the details needed for the project assisted us in checking blind spots, enlarging our vision and developing a better network of support for our team. The communication with the Committee was very fluid, they were always available for a chat, and presented questions that were incredibly helpful in the process, helping us to ground our project in reality, which was hard but ended up being the change that we needed to move ahead.”
“One of the things that we realised in the process was that there is a vast difference in projects based on continuing an existing ministry, and a project focused on growth.”
“We needed to refine our perspective to think about, pray about, plan about growth, which demanded a change in our vision, in our goals, and in our prayers. Growth is not easy to measure or to achieve, but it needs to be in our focus, otherwise we won’t achieve it.”
“We can’t continue to waste time in unrealistic conversations while waiting for an ideal scenario that won’t arrive- we need to get our hands dirty in the reality of reaching out, sharing God’s love, and creating places of true exploration of Biblical faith.”
“I hope people can see how easy this model is to be reproduced in different contexts.”
The Synod growth fund is the way that local congregations can access the Future Directions resourcing framework.