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Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Psalm 127 v1


Engaging with the Emerging Generations Mark McCrindle, McCrindle Research

Community connection not just social networking

Making church relevant for the emerging generations is not just a good ideait’s essential.

Today’s Australians aged Under 30 are the most formally educated, materially endowed, and technologically supplied generation ever. This has created more connections than ever, from texting and blogging to twittering and instant messaging. They are logged in and linked up. Technology has been a social enabler and a social risk reducer. It has allowed them to fill a social need yet while some have used the technology as the lifeblood of offline friendships for others their Facebook community has been all too one dimensional. When we research Generations Y and Z, it is clear that these connections haven’t met their need for authentic community. There is a sense that the blogging, messaging, and tweeting is more about posturing and positioning than belonging and being. There is a longing for a community where they didn’t always have to be ‘on’.

The desire for meaning and contributing not just accumulating

Today’s young Australians, having benefited from the last 18 years of economic growth are the most materially endowed generation ever. Yet despite this -or because of it- they are actively searching for more. Particularly after this economic party has ended, many young people in our focus groups openly discuss their spiritual interest. The church did not get a great review from the young people interviewed. Their perceptions were of a big structured institution rather than a community of people with a passion and a purpose. Coming of age in this incredible 21st Century has created “expectation inflation”. Many had visited the virtual worlds like SecondLife or online interactive games and found them wanting. As one young person told us, “when I’m bored, I Google myself”. In this Web 2.0 world of online profiles and YouTube where the strap line is to “broadcast yourself” there was a yearning for Someone or something bigger than themselves. It was expressed that the defining challenge of their generation was supposed to be climate change but for many it was more cause célèbre than a personal passion. Yet the church was not viewed as the place where this spiritual yearning would likely find resonance.

The search for awe, not just more

This educated, entertained and endowed generation have experienced so much so young that they aren’t amazed anymore. They live in a culture without awe and transcendence. In reviewing the research findings, it became clear that these post-modern church critics make some important points that the church should take note of. They expressed a desire to explore issues of truth and spirituality, but with others and in a structure that was real, relevant, and relational. The generation gaps are obvious, and the cultural gaps between the church and Australian youth continue to grow.

From positional to relational, from controlling to involving

It is essential that Christian leaders remain uncompromising in communicating the timeless truth of the gospel and God’s word, while being relevant in how we connect and engage with our everchanging community. As our national research showed, Australians haven’t rejected Jesus, or even Christianity, but they have rejected the church, or more accurately their perception of it. We have all seen the result of groups that failed to accept the reality that every organisation, program or idea is just one generation away from extinction. Making church relevant for the emerging generations is not just a good idea- it’s essential. Clearly it is ineffective to design it for them and push it on them. Rather we need to design it with them and communicate it through them. It is about engagement and involvement. Leading yet responding. Our commitment should mirror the request of Paul in Colossians 4:4 “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should”. Mark McCrindle, a Director of McCrindle Research is a social researcher with an international reputation for tracking the emerging trends and analysing the diverse generations. McCrindle Research. Phone: +612 8824 3422. Email: 5

Contextualism A Place for People Andrew Duffin, Director NBRS+PARTNERS

I now see ministry staff using this word ‘contextualism’. How well does my church sit within the neighbourhood? Do I understand the fabric of my neighbourhood? If it is an established context then most likely the white Anglo Saxons who slaved so hard to establish a church have long moved out or if the context is a brand new suburb such as in the ever expanding Sydney west, do we really understand the emerging culture and demographics? How do we do church in a relevant context? Trends in building design are slower than trends in fashion. We’ve all noticed that over the last 20 years ministry staff are wearing less and less. Gone or going are the gowns with collars and bands. They want to meet people on their level – dress like them. Likewise our church buildings want to meet people where they are at. That’s why so many emerging churches meet in schools, community centres, in private homes: places that are human scale and comfortable. Not a place where your only memory is of being forced to dress up for an uncle’s funeral, thinking this is way too serious and too cold. Contextualism is all about breaking down the barriers... The No Barrier Church. I’m sure there is a chord here where churches want to be open and more gracious to all comers. Walk down any street and the forms, the shapes and the transparency reflect who we are and define the psychological attitude of the the church entry the smallest little portal to squeeze through that it becomes so disarming and disengaging? We have somehow created the place where we want people to enter as the narrowest and most impenetrable. From the outset we create a disconnect. Look at shopfronts... it’s all about maximising display... in other words what you get is what you see. After 2000 years the relevance of Jesus Christ is very fresh and cuts to the marrow whatever your culture, whatever your DNA. Those who make up the church carry the message of Jesus and so the people in our streets look to us to see Jesus. Our Christian meeting places need to be transparent, welcoming, truthful, open, part of a community, humble and contextual.

For a long time architects have advocated contextualism: the idea of contextual fit. Does the form and fabric sit within the streetscape, the neighbourhood patterns, and texture of the adjacency?


Facilitate Growth Growing Congregations are self funding... Tim Sims, Managing Director Pacific Equity Partners

Financial strategies need to be seen in the context of the challenge that churches face in the current times: Contrary to commentary that we are quick to believe and quick to repeat there is no evidence that Australia is becoming less willing to commit to God and less willing to seek God than was the case 50 years ago; the oft repeated special challenges that we face as a church are also not validated by the research, for example which suburb we find ourselves in matters little, the age and experience levels of the ministry team, even the number of people on the ministry team matter little when it comes to growth. While Australians visit churches in surprisingly large numbers regular attendance has declined dramatically. The traditional incumbent church model looked to its own youth as the source of future generations. Under this model the dramatic increase in divorce rates starting in the mid seventies has driven declining attendance; a tradition of largely ineffective adult evangelism brings little relief. The resulting age profile underpins accelerating decline over the next 20 years. And yet very large numbers are actively seeking God in our churches; they do not stay because they do not see evidence of a life transforming community and experience. Some simple realignments in the way we behave as church communities could result in dramatic growth under God.

To facilitate this growth will require careful attention to the presentation and capacity of our premises and careful planning and sequencing of activity. We need to be aware of how to raise funds and where to deploy them to best effect. The wonderful truth appears to be that as the fundamentals are fixed all aspects of growth are self funding to the point where significant surplus needs to be deployed elsewhere.

We need to be aware of how to raise funds and where to deploy them to best effect.

‘Now it is required that those who have been given trust must prove faithful’’ 1 Corinthians 4:2


Heritage Demystified Robert Staas, Director NBRS+PARTNERS

The principal intangible heritage attribute of the Christian Church is the Gospel, which is transferred intact from generation to generation but the physical heritage of churches involves an established pattern of purpose built buildings and surrounding development. Because these church sites have been the focus of social activity in many communities throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and are generally prominent they often attract heritage listing. Buildings designed in a traditional style responding to the strict liturgical requirements of Victorian ecclesiology are however often a barrier to contemporary worship patterns though they have intrinsic levels of significance for their historic, social and aesthetic values to the wider society. These values inevitably lead to the imposition of heritage planning controls by local and state government agencies. Heritage has now become one of the many hurdles to be overcome in the development of changing patterns in the use and development of church owned buildings and sites. Government intervention in the listing of church buildings is often not well received by church authorities who see it as an unwanted additional level of bureaucratic interference with the primary mission and ministry of the church for the spread of the gospel. It is also seen as an unreasonable financial burden on communities where buildings are dilapidated and budgets are limited. Australia is very conservative in this regard, protecting its limited built heritage for the benefit of future generations through strict planning controls that often hinder the objectives of the church to reach out to the unchurched in society who see the historical trappings of the traditional buildings as evidence of their irrelevance to contemporary living. How then can church owned heritage buildings and landscapes evolve or be adapted to allow for a more open and inclusive character that maintains the significant elements of the past while fostering interaction with those seeking to make meaningful connections in their search for spiritual fulfilment. Some innovative solutions are beginning to be seen both in the re-ordering of the interior of existing church buildings and in the construction of new worship centres adjoining heritage buildings. Specialist heritage consultants can work in creative partnerships with architects, planners and building users to provide a way through the maze of heritage legislation and to assist with the care and maintenance of significant existing buildings.

‘Heritage is the legacy of both physical and intangible attributes that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations.’

In recent years the focus of church building and use has changed in a way which means that new buildings are sometimes not as distinctive or as aesthetically significant as those of an earlier period and it will be interesting to see if such church buildings are valued by future generations in the same way society values those church buildings that we inherited from our past.



elevance in church music is highly subjective. It is easy to link relevance directly to trends in popular music, seeking to appeal to the musical tastes of our congregations. And to some extent, that thinking is useful. But to assume we can know their musical tastes would be in error. Ultimately, what is unique about church music is its role in generating corporate participation in praise and teaching through song. In this way, church music is a strong witness to the world. Accordingly, the test of music’s relevance is not its degree of resemblance to secular music styles, but rather, its capacity to generate participation in corporate singing. However, in my observation of churches in Australia, the issue appears to be more nuanced than this. It is not a question of participation or nonparticipation – it is a question of the type of participation that is occurring. Too easily, generic congregational norms can be imposed upon a congregation that in fact has a unique identity. With global communication, we see music at mega-churches and assume that particular music is relevant. We can impose it on our churches, even if inappropriate, and expect participation of a certain kind. The question, then, is how can we keep worship music relevant for the congregations God has placed us in? The focus must then become how well the music serves God, and serves our unique congregations.

This places music correctly as one of many elements in a church service. It prevents music being elevated to a greater status, where expectations of its potential become unreasonably high, and assessments of its effectiveness become unreasonably harsh. One way to serve our congregations is to know them and love them. This requires engaging in regular dialogue about church music, and being responsive to these discussions, as we carry out our roles with genuine servant leadership and love. As two parts of the one body, music teams and congregations must endeavour to co-own the vision for serving God through music, in turn co-owning concern for the relevance of music into the future.


How Can We Keep Worship Music Relevant? Greg Cooper GARAGE HYMNAL


We ask Michael Thomas... Minister Willoughby Uniting Church

From A to Build Q1 Q7 What does it mean to be an established church in an established Sydney suburb in 2011? It is a huge challenge. Getting the attention of the community around us to tell our story is getting more and more difficult. The credibility of the Church is at an all time low and we need to win people over with integrity, clarity and freshness.


What is the challenge for the church to claim relevancy in the community? The challenge is to remind people that we have a message and a lifestyle that is relevant to them in their complicated post modern lives.

Q3 Do you think people are unsure of what goes on in

a church building? People are very confused. Many think we live and think like the 1950s are still going. Others think we are hypocrites who don’t practice what we preach. Most are pleasantly surprised when we persuade them to give us a go.


How did you encourage your people to capture your vision for a new church? Dogged persistence.


What was the most difficult part of planning and constructing the new church? Overcoming peoples negativity that finally progress would be made.

What is the best part of completing this project? Having a fresh modern face to put out there for people to respond to. 21st century life is different and basic requirement like climate control and space are taken for granted in the other parts of people’s lives.

Q8 What is something you have learnt during the process

of planning and building? Big challenges can be overcome if you take them one step at a time, compromise and maintain a sense of humour.


How can you use infrastructure to grow your new church? Infrastructure will not grow a new church, but it sure helps the community building happen.

Q10 How will you use the new church facility to connect

and reach into your community? Openness to community use is the key. Thinking the building belongs to us and rationing it’s use sends a poor message. Making sure we develop positive relationships with the groups using the building is the key. Our key sentence is “A contemporary, progressive and welcoming church” The modern, flexible and stylish suite of buildings communicates this.


What can you say about the cost of planning and building? With high property values in this area, the numbers seemed big, but property rationalization brought the funds needed.

Willoughby Uniting

Church Planting Scott Sanders, General Manager The Geneva Push

The Geneva Push, an Australian church planting network is

focusing on raising up a new generation of church planters. The organisation is a rallying point, drawing together different networks and denominations to start grounded and growing churches throughout the country. Geneva is working with existing networks, denominations, Bible Colleges and parachurch organisations (e.g. MTS & AFES) to provide best practice assessment of potential church planters, effective coaching, a strong peer network and specific training to equip church planters for the hard work of starting a new church.

things for choosing the right venue: Visibility Close parking Obvious entry point Adjacent rooms Flexible meeting space Landscape layout Adaptable seating Own your AV system Portable Storage Short lease

‘thousands of new churches evangelised into existence across Australia... 15

Vision + Planning for Churches James Ward, Strategy Planning Communication NBRS+PARTNERS

Making the Most of Every Opportunity

Master planning differs from design in terms of scale, scope, and timeline. Church ministry growth development generally occurs through a three-tiered process, comprised of strategic planning, master planning, and project planning. The strategic plan is the first step to distinguishing the overall vision and fundamental ministry goals of the church. It is most commonly expressed in textual form, with supporting statistics and figures. The scope of a strategic plan includes intangibles such as the history of the institution, future goals, mission statements, core values, organisational strategies, capability, funding base, possible partnerships, organisational plans, and goals. The timeline of a strategic plan is as long as the plan is valid - ideally, well into the future. A master plan looks at the church community for the next 5 to 25 years. Here, the scope is the physical boundaries of the site. Concept plans, diagrams, and estimates of costs and schedules demonstrate how the strategic plan will be realised physically on the site. The master plan looks at the site in its entirety, laying a framework of how individual buildings and social areas relate to one another and developing a consistent approach by the church as a whole, and a phasing schedule of how this will be realised on the site. An interpretive plan should develop alongside the master plan, each one informing the other to ensure consistency between message and physical development. A Project Plan describes the physical design of one element or group of buildings, or a facility. It turns estimations and visions from the master plan into a realisable design solution. The timeline of a project design is generally 6 months to 3 years. Here, specifics such as, capacity, size and shapes and the materials of facilities, and circulation or flow are determined and detailed. The scale of a master plan is more specific than a strategic plan, looking only at those physical aspects within the current site of the church. However, the scale is still broader than the design and construction of specific buildings, or portions of the site. Only prevailing principles for future design will be laid out. The master plan looks at the large-scale, physical make-up of the site and the conceptual organisation of the site. This includes establishment of welcoming entrance ways, movement and circulation throughout the site, an architectural style that connects the site, and ordering and placement of specific facilities, and infrastructure. These plans are determined through an analysis of the site - determining which natural or inherent features of the site are appropriate for which uses - and subsequently arranging facilities on the site to best serve the future goals of the congregation.

Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17.

The Master Plan looks at the large-scale, physical makeup of the site and the conceptual organisation of the church.


Masterplanning ANALYSIS People served

Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Constraints

Activities performed

Assets needed

Strengths of the site are traits that are well-appreciated, desirable to maintain, and parallel to the goals and visions laid out in the churches strategic plan Weaknesses are aspects of the site that are currently sub-standard or lacking, but could be improved.


are features on the site that have not previously been recognised as valuable or are not yet being used to their full potential.

Constraints are traits of the site that cannot easily be changed and must be recognized as challenges to work around.






Gregarious (2011) was a one-day conference to support Churches and Christian organisations across Sydney in reinventing their worship spaces...


Gregarious (2011) was a one-day conference to support Churches and Christian organisations across Sydney in reinventing their worship spaces...