Centres of influence

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It’s often said the best way to measure the effectiveness of a church is to have it removed from the local community. Think seriously about that for a moment—if your church was shut down, displaced or destroyed, would it be missed by the people around it?

If the answer is “No” then—sorry—your church is dead, or at the very most on life support. “But our worship services on Sabbath morning are so alive,” you might say. Terrific. But is a church really “alive” if it’s only making some [literal] noise in the community for one hour in a 168-hour week?

[It’s about] you and I taking the gospel out of the church service and into our lives . . . Being missional means more than just personal responsibility. It means personal action.

“It is through social relations that Christianity comes in contact with the world,” said Ellen White (The Adventist Home, p 428). “Over and over again the light has been given me that we should establish in all our cities small plants which shall be centres of influence.” (Testimonies for the Church, Vol 7, p 115)

It’s something the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) New Zealand is looking to address through its Church Partnership Program. Launched in September last year, the initiative hopes to transform churches across the country into “My Family Centres” that will provide resources and support for families in the community.

“Together, ADRA New Zealand and the North and South NZ Conferences have a vision of being a Church recognised for loving its community and providing programs that strengthen families,” said ADRA New Zealand CEO Matthew Siliga.

“The strength of our Church is that we are in 120 sites across the country, in every major suburb in each city and every other town,” he said. “Sharing our skills, interests, passions and faith has the potential to change the face of the communities we love so much.”
 


ADRA New Zealand volunteers collect clothing for the Welcome Baby initiative.

That potential is already being realised. Nearly 30 new community programs have already been established, with churches providing local residents with job skills training (called “Pathways”), family budgeting (“My Money”) and parenting assistance (“Toolbox”).

Another program proving to be a hit is the “Welcome Baby” initiative, which endeavours to provide young mothers and vulnerable families with clothes for their newborns and infants (up to 12 months old).

Churches participating in the program receive 40 packs of new clothes and nappies to serve as the basis of their “clothing library”. Each pack is valued at $NZ250, which mothers can exchange for another pack as their baby grows.

While the distribution of clothes is the core activity of this program, Welcome Baby also allows churches to build relationships and support mothers at an important stage of their lives.

“Being a mum, especially for the first time, can be very stressful and scary,” said Ina Louw, Welcome Baby coordinator for Papatoetoe church. “I’m glad I can share some of my experiences and what I’ve learned over the years with these young mothers.”
 


A young mother opens her Welcome Baby pack with her children.

ADRA New Zealand’s Church Partnership Program is precisely what it describes—a partnership. The North and South NZ Conferences have thrown their full support behind the initiative, with other not-for-profit organisations such as Parenting Place also getting involved.

“Through the Church Partnership Program we can be the presence of Jesus in our communities,” said North NZ Conference lead pastor Eddie Tupa’i. “Together we can actively transform life in New Zealand in the image of, and for the glory of, God.”

South NZ Conference president Pastor Damien Rice said in order for churches to be truly “missional” they need to step out into their communities.

“[It’s about] you and I taking the gospel out of the church service and into our lives—our homes, neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces and social clubs,” he said. “Being missional means more than just personal responsibility. It means personal action.”


For details on how your church can get involved, please go to <www.adra.org.nz/national-projects-2>.