Growing into ministry

Posted in Leadership

A church with over 10,000 people may be difficult to imagine for those used to small, close-knit congregations. Not so for Mark Conner who was the senior pastor of CityLife Church in Melbourne for 22 years.

Appointed to the position in 1995 at age 33, Mark already had knowledge of the way CityLife worked. Both he and his wife, Nicole, had held leadership positions at Waverley Christian Fellowship (later CityLife Church), and Mark had been on staff at the church for 10 years. His father, Kevin Conner, was also the senior pastor from 1986.

Mark was able to build on the solid teaching of his father and the vision of the church’s founding pastor, Richard Holland. But he came into the senior pastor position with his own ideas and skills.

“I had a strong focus on seven strategic shifts – from self to God, from in-reach to outreach, from events to relationships, from ministers to equippers, from consumers to coordinators, from church to a kingdom mentality, and from the older to the younger,” Mark explains.

People responded to the new direction and the shifts in attitude, and the church community quickly began to grow. In the words of former pastor Richard Holland, Mark is “the multiplier”.

Mark made huge changes – including the 2004 name change from Waverley Christian Fellowship to CityLife Church – and established new ministries. He also introduced multi-site campuses for the church, which now has four sites in Victoria – Knox, Casey, Manningham and Whittlesea.

Over 10,000 people now call CityLife Church home. Many also attend one of the 540 life groups being run through the four campuses. Congregations have also been established for those who speak Mandarin and Cantonese.

“I think casting vision is one thing; seeing it through over a number of years, and doing that effectively, is another, and [Mark] did both of those things extremely well,” Ray Henderson, Chair of CityLife’s Board of Elders from 2007-2016, told Eternity magazine in February 2017.

In August, Mark will share his experiences and insights about vision, strategic leadership, communication, discipleship and church growth with members of the Uniting Church at the Uniting Leaders conference.

Having concluded his position at CityLife in February 2017, Mark and Nicole have relocated to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

“I decided it was time for a change,” Mark says. “I’m hoping that I can now focus on teaching, writing and coaching others towards more fruitfulness – to help others to lead and grow their own church communities.”

The Uniting Leaders 2017 conference is one of the President’s National Ministers Conference for 2017. The three-day conference takes place from Tuesday 22 to Thursday 24 August at Hope Valley Uniting Church (1263 – 1265 Grand Junction Road, Hope Valley, SA). The conference will include keynote addresses from Mark Conner and Nancy Beach, in addition to workshops, networking opportunities and time to connect with other Uniting Church leaders. For more information or to register, please visit

Read more about the history of CityLife Church, please visit


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