Church Planting 6

NEILSTON

[David Broderick is the ‘I’ in this and following accounts as he was both a member of Queen’s Park Baptist and a part of the local Neilston community.]

The three home groups of Queen’s Park Baptist Church in Neilston are working towards a church plant of their own, and this began with a number of Queen’s Park members moving into the Neilston area over a relatively short period of time. Living in a village gives a greater sense of community than is usual, and such was the case in Neilston.

As a means of reaching into the surrounding area, a number of Alpha courses have run in Neilston over a few years, but they have found it difficult to hold onto the people who came through the course, and they did not become part of a home group even though most also went through discipleship courses. This is a major issue both for Neilston and Queen’s Park Baptist Church generally, because such a transition from Alpha to home group has rarely happened to date.

The most recent Neilston Alpha group met on a Monday night, while the home group to which I belong met on a Thursday night; the other two Neilston home groups meet on a Wednesday and Thursday night. This makes integration of the Alpha folks into a home group even more difficult than it otherwise would be, since those who have attended a finite Alpha course lasting ten to twelve weeks often struggle with the open ended nature of a home group – not to mention the issues of integrating with a number of new people in a group that is on a different evening than they were used to.

Our home group wrestled with the issue, and a course of action was decided upon. The Alpha course and our home group have now merged, with the new and relaunched group meeting on a Monday night. This created a ‘new’ home group of nine or ten people, and the group will spend the next few weeks working through some of the Icthus discipleship material that is based on a ship voyage.

At the end of those six weeks, the group will be reviewed to ensure that the ex-Alpha people have settled in the new group, and have become comfortable with praise, worship and prayer being a part of the group life in a way that it wasn’t in the Alpha course itself. All of the people who came to the Alpha have remained as part of the ‘new’ group, and one or two others have started coming, too.

I am Pastoral Leader for the Neilston home groups, and, as such, I was directly responsible for moving the work on in the village. However, the speed of development of the church plant at Neilston has been slower than the Queen’s Park leadership church had anticipated, since the they had originally envisaged that the new church would be in existence by the end of 2001.

The forward direction the Queen’s Park Core Leadership Team had foreseen was an increase in the frequency of the Sunday evening services that are held once a month in Neilston; but those people involved in Neilston felt that the right path to take was to recognise and establish a local Core Leadership Team to drive the work on, to receive and make real the vision. The work would not then be dependent upon one person.

The Neilston Core Leader Team was formed in March 2001, and there are now seven people who work together to lead the work in the village forward. I feel (as do the rest of Neilston Core Leadership Team) that the right leadership is critical to any church planting project, and that the leadership team should be in place well before the plant actually takes place. It is relatively easy to ‘plant’ a church by just throwing members and money at an area, but the success of the plant depends very greatly on the right leadership of that plant. As Singlehurst wrote: ‘The role of leadership is crucial in any church’s strategy to reach its community.’

As we build towards a local church plant in Neilston, I know that things have not moved as fast as Queen’s Park might have hoped here; but I also know that moving in the right direction is more important than the speed at which we move. Though the direction that we have taken in Neilston is not what Queen’s Park would have anticipated, I believe it to be the right way; and I believe that, in this year of 2002, we will see growth which demonstrates that to be true. As I oversee the work in Neilston, I see ongoing discipleship and training of all believers as a critical issue that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, not just for Neilston but also for Queen’s Park as a whole.

In Neilston, the move of our home group to a Monday night to accommodate the guests of our local Alpha course puts into action a principle that I believe is vital for church (not just Queen’s Park) as a whole – that the church is flexible to accommodate people, instead of expecting the people to be flexible to accommodate the church.

The Neilston Core Leadership Team was appointed, not elected, and the Christians in the Neilston home groups have given us a clear mandate to lead without referring everything back to them first, and we appreciate the trust that has been placed in us. The issue that we have most recently dealt with was that of what we call ourselves in the community, so that we have an identity that means something to the community but does not put them off.