Church at school: Does it work?

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Elia Crevar prays with students before chapel at Central Coast Adventist School. The chaplain’s role is key, linking the school to the ministry of Haven Campus Church, which meets in the same venue on Saturdays.

It sounds like a win-win: strengthen the relationship between education and faith by planting a church on the campus of a Seventh-day Adventist school in Australia. But is it working? To find out, a multidisciplinary team of Avondale academics has received $50,000 from the Church in the South Pacific to fund a first-of-its-kind study.

The team will study five plants: Church in the Fields at Macarthur Adventist College south of Sydney; Gateway on the Cooranbong campus of Avondale School and on the Taylors Hill campus of Gilson College west of Melbourne; The Haven at Central Coast Adventist School, and; Refresh at Northpine Christian College north of Brisbane.

It will analyse the status of the plants and the impact they make on surrounding churches. It will also make recommendations about the connectedness, effectiveness and health of the plants. The aims? To bring greater synergy between pastoral ministry and the ministry of teaching and between church plants across Australia to better meet the spiritual needs of students.

"What is God doing through you that will help make a bigger impact across the faith of the church?"

“We’re all on the same team,” says Avondale Seminary Head Dr Kayle de Waal, the lead researcher. “We want to see what different members of the team are doing and then share that with others. We’re looking to not only provide a clearer vision but also basic guidelines for this ministry because no working strategy exists for launching a church plant on an Adventist school campus.”

de Waal and his team—colleagues Dr Rick Ferret, Pastor Mike Parker and Dr Erika Puni, with Dr Jason Hinze from the Discipline of Education—will share their recommendations with each plant to help build capacity for ministry development, discipleship and evangelism.

“Good pastoral leaders are doing great work for the kingdom on these campuses,” says de Waal. “We want to come alongside and ask, ‘What can we learn from you? What is God doing through you that will help make a bigger impact across the faith of the Church?’”

The team will use qualitative and quantitative research methodology. It will interview the senior ministers and head elders of the plants and of three surrounding churches and the principals and the deputies of the schools. It will also host focus groups to give ministry leaders and members of the plants and teachers at the schools an opportunity to listen to other perspectives. And it will survey members of the plants and of the surrounding churches.

“Investigating the status of five church plants on Seventh-day Adventist school campuses in Australia” is part of the Church in the South Pacific’s Mission to the Cities strategy.

The Adventist Church operates a worldwide network of more than 8000 primary and secondary schools enrolling more than 1.7 million students. The Church in Australia operates more than 70 schools enrolling about 13,000 students.

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