Planting a Church
Peter Carolane has led a team in planting a new congregation in Melbourne's inner-north. Essentials asked him how they have gone about it.
1. Please tell us when and how this church plant started.
1.1 Initial Research for the Plant
Throughout 2012, Revd. Peter Carolane, Bishop Stephen Hale (with assistance from Archdeacon Condie and Bishop Huggins) investigated the viability of a church plant in the inner-north.
In December 2012, Peter Carolane held the first meeting for people interested in the plant.
1.2 Planning, Prayer and Vision Meetings
In February 2013, Peter formed a steering team of nine St Hilary’s people who started meeting weekly to plan the launch of the church plant
Midway through the year, two extra people joined the leadership team from St Jude’s Carlton.
In March 2013, a vision development day was held at Northcote Town Hall including about 25 people who inputed into the formation of the vision statement. The results from this day were further refined by the steering team and Peter (see below).
Following this, Peter held monthly prayer and vision meetings at the Abbotsford Convent, and the Northcote Town Hall
2. What was your initial Vision?
Imagine a church community that cultivates an open and charitable dialogue about Jesus with the “no religion” tribes of Melbourne’s inner-north Colossians 4:5-6
Imagine a church community whose active and transformative presence is dispersed in the neighbourhood like yeast in dough Matthew 13:33
Imagine a church community that nourishes spiritual seekers and inspires creatives John 4:13-14 ; Ephesians 2:10
…cultivating life in our neighbourhood
3. Please describe your team: paid and volunteers
Volunteer Leadership team (see 1.2)
One full time staff, Peter Carolane
Lay leaders of ministries are:
Kids’ Church: Led by Christine Andrzejewski with a team of 7
Music Ministry: Led by Luke Singleton with a team of 12
Community Groups: overseen by Tim Clare with a team of 10 leaders leading five groups
Sunday Service Roster: Led by Penny Van den Berg with a team of 32
Play in the park: Led by Lee Hodson and Eliza Clare with a team of 4
Communications officer: Led by Andrew Watson
63 out of 81 adults (77%) involved in ministry leadership
4. What is the underlying theory/rationale for your team's composition and operation?
Rationale for leadership team’s composition:
For the leadership team
People who were locals
In some ways you have little control over who you have in your team. Sure, you can filter people out, but you might be surprised at the composition of your team. God brings all kinds of people with different backgrounds and skills.
For the plant congregation, I was also committed to recruiting:
1) Young parents with young pre-school kids so as to build up the children’s ministry from the start.
2) People who could help with children’s ministry
3) Musicians to make a strong band. Too many church plants flounder around with terrible music, and I didn’t want to do that.
5. How do you get the money for your budget?
Relationship between the plant and St Hilary’s
Peter Carolane and Stephen Hale developed an MOU between St Hilary’s and the plant which was signed off on by the leadership of both groups. The MOU includes important details such as:
A generous financial support from St Hilary’s of $60,000 over three years ($30k, 20k, $10k) plus an initial extra $10k as seed money.
St Hilary’s to manage the finances for the plant.
The plant would not be a congregation of St Hilary’s but a new worshipping community under the leadership of Peter Carolane and his leadership team and would seek to become an Authorised Anglican Congregation.
The leadership team started giving to the plant in July 2013, and from August others were invited to start giving. This accrued some savings and a buffer for the plant for when it took over the payment of Peter Carolane as full time minister on October 1, 2013.
During the vision series in February 2014, MCA called for the congregation to sign up to financial partnership. By June, MCA is receiving $10.5k per month (via mainly electronic transfer (including small cash offering of about $500 per month) = roughly $126 per year.
With the current reserves of about $45k and the St Hilary’s giving of $30k + $10k (seed), MCA is financially stable and in a good position to make more ministry decisions that might incur cost.
The next major expenses will be a vicarage in the inner-north, children’s worker, setup verger, and office rental.
An attractive office has been offered to MCA in Merri Street Brunswick. This is looking likely to come through.
6. What strategies are you working with?
The Community Groups represent our main strategy for discipleship and mission. They call people to commit to each other as their primary spiritual family. As members disciple each other, people are motivated to mission. Community groups directly achieve the following aspects of our vision:
(1) dispersed in the community like yeast in dough
(2) charitable dialogue with ‘no religion’ tribes
(3) nourishing spiritual seekers
Getting a network of Community Groups established is challenging for a church plant. We have three main obstacles to overcome:
…unfamiliarity with each other, so feel awkward joining groups
…confusion about what Community Groups are, so feel nervous to commit
…finding a monthly rhythm that works for the group members
We believe, however, that these obstacles are surmountable through prayer, patience and persistence. Already we are seeing signs of progress.
Where are the community groups now?
Five groups with leaders
The groups are in their early stages and taking baby steps
Some congregation members are still trying to work out which group to join
Each group is experiencing different levels of energy and clarity of mission
What to expect in the next six months?
Most groups will continue to make adjustments to their approach, and may look very different by the end of the year
Some groups might choose to stop altogether for various reasons, and the members have the option to join other groups or start a completely new group
If a group folds or merges with another, we should not think this is failure or a sign Community Groups don’t work. An entrepreneurial culture of mission and discipleship includes allowing some of our plans to fall over and others to soar. The young adults group, for example, was originally going to be a group that met in (and reached the customers of) a particular cafe, that didn’t work out, then it was going to be a musicians based group, but we couldn’t get that happening, then we changed it to be a young adults group - and now its happening.
Most groups will focus on community building before they start attempting mission
Some groups will be strong from the start and find a natural energy and opportunities for mission
The group leaders will start meeting in June for coaching and accountability
We will start to hear stories during Sunday services of God working through the groups
Where do we hope to be at end of the year?
Each group finding healthy stability
At least 80% of adults in groups
The members of the group committing to each other as ‘spiritual family’
Each group giving mission a go
Stories of God moving through the groups
7. What is your relationship with the Diocese?
Merri Creek Anglican is an unofficial Anglican church - another way we think of it is a trial congregation
We have full support from the diocesan leadership including the Archbishop, Registrar, Bishop and Archdeacon, Regional Council and local parish of St Philip’s Collingwood
We have submitted papers for the approval of Merri Creek Anglican to become an Authorised Anglican Congregation. This means we are classified as a parish with geographical boundaries as such but a congregation who is reaching a a specific group of people and therefore is going to be authorised. Once we are authorised, then we will be able to get an ABN, and open our own accounts etc. We will also be required to have two synod representatives
Where do we hope to be at the end of the year?
Merri Creek Anglican will have been an Authorised Anglican Congregation since July/August
8. What challenges have you found in leading this plant?
I have found people to be very supportive.
Challenges have included:
Working on my own after working in a large staff team at St Hilary’s
Not having an office yet (working from home and cafes)
Knowing how to motivate people to get involved in Community Groups when they are busy professionals with little kids
Managing expectations for what kind of church we can be at this early stage