Previous Strategic Plan

The Strategic Plan of the Uniting Church SA in 2007-2012 focussed on six key directions:

  1. Conversion growth: introducing more people to the Gospel
  2. Raising leaders: training of future leaders of the church
  3. Growing disciples: focus on discipleship to nuture people in their faith
  4. New models: reimagining church in fresh expressions (i.e. in forms other than the traditional Sunday servcie)
  5. Raising our profile: increasing awareness of the Uniting Church in South Australia
  6. Championing justice: advocating and activating the Uniting Church on issues of social justice

The 2007-2012 Strategic Plan Report

In January 2011, Malcolm Wilson took over as Associate General Secretary and Strategic Plan Project Manager, succeeding Rev Russell Knight. Malcolm reflects on his past two years as project manager.

A firm believer in guidelines and regulatory processes, Malcolm Wilson believes that strategic planning is essential for defining the direction of the Uniting Church in South Australia. He is acutely aware of the need for change within the church to become more relevant in today's society.

"A Sunday morning church service with four hymns is no longer relevant to all," Malcolm opines. "We are a diverse denomination – we need to capitalise on this in order to deliver church in a way that is relevant to a broad spectrum of people."

While able to identify the significant achievements that have occurred as a result of the 2007-2012 Strategic Plan, Malcolm also recognises that measuring the longevity of some initiatives and the 'success' of some campaigns is challenging.

"Conversion growth is difficult to track and record. A confirmed church membership is no longer a measure of how the denomination is tracking," he explains. "We need to get serious about 'fresh expressions' and 'loosen' the requirements around what it means to be a part of the Uniting Church in SA."

"Fresh expressions are generally different and relevant forms of church which then require a discipleship path to be taken in order for conversion to happen," Malcolm continues, outlining the strong links between fresh expressions (Key Direction 4), discipleship (Key Direction 3) and conversion growth (Key Direction 1).

"The formation of a Leadership Development Council shows the Strategic Plan providing encouragement for positive, ongoing leadership opportunities," Malcolm comments on Key Direction 2.

"Raising our profile (Key Direction 5) has had a significant impact for elevating the Uniting Church brand, with an extension of this being the newly launched 'CommUnity Day.'"

"Some great projects also came out of Key Direction 6. It is encouraging to consider the possibility of re-energising some justice-related initiatives in the future."


Key Direction 1: Conversion growth

The objectives of this key direction were:

-       To foster an environment where introducing people to Jesus is key

-       For every Uniting Church congregation/faith community in South Australia to actively engage with Matthew 28:19-20

-       To improve stewardship of God's gifts

-       For every congregation or faith community to see people grow into faith within their communities

"Conversion growth" was the name given to Key Direction 1 (KD1). For some members of the team, this title seemed straightforward. Others, however, felt that it was ambiguous. The reflection and discussion surrounding this topic caused a complete team change, as the originally appointed team could not discover a way to move forward with the key direction.

Rev Ruthmary Bond was instated as the team leader for the final two years of the Plan, taking over from earlier leader, Rev Roger Brook. Other team members included Benji Callen, Rev Brant Jones and Caryn Rogers.

One of the first decisions made by the new KD1 team was to redirect its focus. The term "conversion growth" had negative associations for some team members, so the focus was put instead on "faith sharing."

A nonverbal DVD entitled "KEY" was produced as the KD1 team's first project. It was distributed with related material for worship services, sermons and small groups. Every Uniting Church congregation in South Australia received a DVD pack and it was also offered to interstate synods.

A weekly devotional application, or "app", was the second project worked on by the team. Entitled "50 ways to share your faith", the app, available through email, and both Android and iOS app stores, provides users with a weekly faith story, sharing personal anecdotes and suggesting ways to share faith with others.

Since its launch in October 2012, over 1000 people in 16 different countries have begun to use "50 ways." The long term goal is to produce a similar app that will share a story daily, rather than weekly. You can find out more about "50 ways to share your faith" by clicking here.


Key Direction 2: Raising leaders

The objectives of this key direction were:

-       To establish and develop a centre for leadership

-       To establish a Leadership Development Council

-       To appoint a faculty for the centre for leadership

-       To launch the Australian Leadership magazine (click here for more information)

The team behind Key Direction 2 (KD2), or "Leadership Core Team," comprised Rev Dr Andrew Dutney, Rev Dr Graham Humphris and coordinator, Rev Dr Ian Price.

The team addressed the task before them on three fronts: maintaining a missional leadership focus for the presbytery, providing educational resources, and tackling the matter of effective leadership amongst the clergy and laity.

The Leadership Core Team accomplished a number of things. They secured important guest speakers for the Presbytery and Synod meetings; launched the Australian Leadership magazine; saw the theological college focus on missional leadership.

The team evolved over five years, as its goals and directions changed. In particular, the development of the theological college saw a significant amount of the team's focus move to the Leadership Development Council of Uniting College for Leadership and Theology, which has continued to develop the work of education for leadership.

The leadership focus of the college led to a number of changes: its name changed from Parkin-Wesley to Uniting College for Leadership and Theology (Uniting College); a Leadership Stream was established as one of the four streams of education; a full-time Leadership Director was appointed; and an increased emphasis on mission in all streams. You can learn more about the Uniting College for Leadership and Theology by clicking here.

While the achievements of the KD2 team have been significant, the work of transforming the culture of the church to more effectively engage Australian society is an ongoing task. With many aging and declining congregations, reaching younger generations continues to be a challenge. Furthermore, it is apparent that, while there are many people enthused by opportunities to offer in ministry, the capacity of the Uniting Church in South Australia to pay for and support that ministry and education is limited.

While Uniting College will continue to have a strong focus on missiology and leadership, it is clearly the responsibility of the church as a whole to ensure the ongoing development of missional effectiveness in congregations, schools and agencies. In order to ensure momentum is not lost, the team suggested that the Standing Committee (or another group) provide a strong watch with respect to this issue over the next few years.


Key Direction 3: Growing disciples

The objectives of this key direction were:

-       To assist congregations in focussing on discipleship

-       To help congregations to create and resource discipleship pathways

-       To recommend discipleship resources, programs and strategies

The Key Direction 3 (KD3) Discipleship Core Team – consisting of Rev Sandy Boyce, Rev Simon Dent, Craig Mitchell, Rev Peter Morel and Matt Sarre.

"Discipleship is about learning to follow Jesus among a community of disciples. You can't simply tell people how to be disciples – they must learn by living. That involves everyday conversations, living examples, sharing stories and learning from each other, as well as teaching and service", says Craig Mitchell, the KD3 convenor.

Discipling includes vital worship, Christian community, mission engagement and intentional faith development, each contributing to a life-long growth in Christian discipleship. The team worked from the assumption that there are already many churches keen to be effective in discipling, and sought to tap into and encourage people's enthusiasm and energy.

"We were intentional in considering discipleship for the 21st century, and exploring the range of resources that would be most helpful for congregations," Craig continues. Rather than a big budget approach, the KD3 team sought to foster interest in discipling as a 'grassroots' movement.

A Growing Disciples website, growing-disciples.org, Facebook presence and Twitter feed was developed to help resource churches. The team gave emphasis to resources that addressed the radical nature of Jesus' call to follow him and pattern our lives on his.

Resources included Becoming Disciples, a DVD that examines the Gospel of Mark through a Bible study by Vicky Balabanski and music by Robin Mann (excerpts are available to view here). 'Practices of faith' print resources produced by the NSW Synod provided a focus on living as disciples in community. Dave Andrews, creator of Plan Be, provided a resourcing session at a Presbytery and Synod exploring The Beatitudes as a manifesto for Christian faith and life.

A Book Club, set up at Uniting College and now operating from Pilgrim Uniting Church, has 20 sets of different resource books for congregations to use. Topics included: prayer, mission, reconciliation, spirituality, leadership, and the 'emerging church'.

Leadership teams also participated in 'Welcoming Church' worships, the 'Train the Trainer' event and 'Pathways in Discipleship' workshop, to assist leaders in identifying the strengths and gaps in their processes for growing disciples of all ages.


Key Direction 4: New models

The objectives of this key direction were:

-        To engage in conversations about 'fresh expressions of church'

-        To encourage congregations to engage with people outside the church

-        To encourage and resource three new and different 'fresh expressions'

-        To encourage and resource three church plants and strategies

Team convenor Rev Rob Stoner, Rev Ruthmary Bond, Rev Andrew Robertson and Rev Trevor Whitney embraced the idea of developing new models, defining the team's direction towards 'fresh expressions' of church early on.

The team aimed to foster new models of church and assist in the creation of new church plants.  They also defined what a fresh expression church is.

"A 'fresh expression' could be seen to be a group of people who are engaging with God in the world, and with life, faith and spirituality. The group must be intentional, regular and on-going. It must be a connecting point for people who won't join a conventional congregation and should offer appropriate worship.  In addition the group must be linked to an existing Uniting Church structure," Rob now summarises.

In an attempt to make this definition better understood, the team produced 'Pendulum', a brochure which gives a brief outline of fresh expressions in South Australia.

The Key Direction 4 (KD4) team was also assisted by a fresh expressions research trip undertaken by Rob and Rev Ian Price to the UK. The trip resulted in the publication of Fresh Directions: Developing mission-shaped church and ministry.

In 2009, the team allocated funding for the 'Esther Project', a new model of alternative church focused on Christian storytelling and drama. This was presented at Fringe 2010 by Rev Sarah Agnew.

The team also organised a number of other events, including 'Re-generate' and hosting Dave Male at a Presbytery and Synod meeting in 2010 (resources from Dave Male's presentations are available here).

Seed funding was made available to congregations to develop 'Fresh Expression Churches'. Funding was limited, but in 2011 and 2012 the team partnered with Uniting College, Anglican and Lutheran churches to develop a course "Mission-shaped Ministry," training leaders in how to plant and lead a Fresh Expression Church. Of the 26 Fresh Expression Churches established in South Australia in the past five years, 21 are still going strong.

Other team members throughout the progression of KD4 were Rev Sarah Agnew, Rev David Hoffman, Di Price and Rev Dr Steve Taylor.


Key Direction 5: Expanding our profile

The objectives of this key direction were:

-       To develop and launch a Uniting Church SA branding campaign

-       To develop a communications plan for the Uniting Church SA

-       To develop a coordinated media strategy

-       To investigate new ways of promoting church ministries

-       To increase the interactivity of the Uniting Church SA website

Focussing on 'Expanding our profile', the Key Direction 5 (KD5) team consisted of Jill Freear, Mark Henley, Julie Johinke, Rev Dr Tony Nancarrow, Sarah Urmston, Shannon Short as original Team Convenor, and Bindy Taylor, who took over the role of convenor in 2012.

Initially, the group resourced advertising and promotional campaigns from churches globally to generate ideas for profile raising. A resulting advertising campaign was developed to build awareness and increase goodwill amongst the general public with people aged 35 to 50 as the primary focus.

The team commissioned a survey to determine public awareness and perceptions of the Uniting Church SA. The survey found that 92% of people had heard of the Uniting Church in SA but identified awareness by SA's younger population as "slipping".

A dynamic and reenergised version of the Uniting Church logo was created, 'Uniting Church. Uniting People.' which is now actively being used as the primary branding of the Uniting Church SA.

The 'Uniting Church. Uniting People.' campaign symbol '&' was utilised to connect the church with the community. Each 'Uniting Church. Uniting People.' campaign focused on a theme pertinent to the SA community. The first theme, 'Loneliness,' focussed on social isolation, particularly at Christmas time.

The team also produced a 'welcoming church' guide to assist congregations with newcomers to the church.

A television advertisement was produced to highlight the issue of loneliness and promote the Uniting Church as a church that listens, cares and builds community. A free booklet titled 100 ways to spend quality time with your kids (available here) accompanied the TV advertisement. Uniting People banners were erected around South Australia (60 in total). The team created another new booklet at Christmas time, 100 ways to celebrate Christmas (available here).

The final campaign launched in 2012 was 'CommUnity Day'. This provided a two-edged opportunity to celebrate the Uniting Church in SA turning 35 and to publicise the work of Uniting Churches in the community. CommUnity Day is now an ongoing project that will be celebrated every year on and around June 22. More information on CommUnity Day is available here.


Key Direction 6: Championing Justice

The objectives of this key direction were:

-       To develop and resource new social justice communities

-       To resource ministries with marginalised groups

-       To increase the church's capacity to engage and respond to justice issues

The Key Direction 6 (KD6) team members were Deanna Howland, Rev Jenni Hughes, Rev Ian Hunter, Charlene Kent, Peter Russell, Rev Michaela Tiller, Kate Tretheway and Team Convenor, Rev Peter McDonald.

In the initial planning stages, the KD6 'Championing Justice' team identified five objectives that they hoped to achieve. They wanted to develop ways to actively seek relationships with marginalised people; to encourage solidarity with practical action to support South Australian Congress and Aboriginal people; to develop a theological and practical response to environmental issues; to develop strategies for a united Uniting Church in Australia; to promote local 'grassroots' interaction between specified international partner churches and the Uniting Church in SA.

In 2008, the team offered funding to assist in developing and establishing new justice partnerships, keen to work in partnership with local congregations, faith communities, schools and agencies.

In 2010, the KD6 team approved funding for 'The J Project,' a new youth and social justice initiative which was developed in partnership with Pilgrim Uniting Church and based at the University of Adelaide.

In 2011, the team provided scholarships for people interested in undertaking justice training or work experience.

The following are snapshots of other projects which received financial support from the KD6 team in the past five years.

Operation kitchen face-lift: A grant provided the Congress kitchen with a "face-lift," making it a modern, functional facility.

Food for thought: At UnitingCare Kapunda, volunteers regularly came across people in need of food. A grant was used to run workshops that taught low income earners the basics of healthy cooking, utilising home-grown vegetables from a local community garden.

Reconciliation morning tea: A grant enabled the Lower Murray Uniting Churches, who had long desired to be in covenant with the local Aboriginal people, to train volunteers and provide morning teas. This was done in conjunction with the local TAFE who were struggling financially to provide the Ngarrindjeri language class with refreshments.

Other projects which received funding included: Gawler UCare, Salisbury Centacare, Welcome to Australia and the Cottage Kitchen at Port Adelaide.