How the church grew: Sandy Beach

Sandy Beach Baptist Church lies 20 minutes north of Coffs Harbour in New South Wales. It began as a non denominational church in 1990 and joined the Baptist Union of NSW in 1993. It was planted in one of the lowest income areas of the country, according to census figures, with more than double the national average unemployment. That and the lethargic coastal lifestyle have made ministry quite a challenge over the past decade and a half. Nevertheless, the church has witnessed an increase in attendance from 20 to 70 over the past five years. Pastor Terry Allen shares something of the journey as they have sought to revitalise their church. Every decision about how a church does things is made bearing two groups of people in mind; those who attend and those who don’t. If I could put my finger on anything that has helped revitalise Sandy Beach Baptist Church, it would be finding the right mix of those two factors. We all want our churches to be places where our non-Christian friends can successfully be invited. However the more entrenched we become in the way we like our church to function, the less likely it is that any of them will want to come along.

At Sandy Beach we have tackled this problem in four main areas. This is not a comprehensive list because there are certainly other things I think a church should be doing, but you can only use what gifts or people God has given you and leave the results up to him.

1. Sunday service.
There is little doubt that what a church does on Sunday is critical. We found a large number of our people had fallen out of regular church attendance primarily because they were unhappy with what we presented to them on a Sunday.

Our overhaul started with the preaching. We discovered our people needed to feel confident about who was in the pulpit before they thought it worth getting out of bed for or inviting a friend. I was given the job of doing the bulk of the preaching. If you want to capture the attention of today’s generation you have to talk their language and it is the language of the internet.

We have always tried to be as technology savvy as we can be on limited finances and have used PowerPoint now for around 10 years, but most PowerPoint presentations were just expensive versions of the old overhead projector. We have completely revised how we present our PowerPoint, basically using it as though it were a website and as a result have found great acceptance.

2. Something for everyone.
A good sermon is not enough to get the whole family to attend church. The church needs to meet all their needs so we identified the things that mattered most to them. We commenced by greatly improving our Sunday School program, music ministry and after church morning tea. We began a youth group after not having had one for two years. We started running a teenage Bible study and a pre-schoolers’ lesson during the weekly sermon. We began showing photos on the big screen of anything happening in the life of the church. Finally we involved as many people as possible in the running of our church service.

3. Men’s ministry.
A healthy church must have its fair share of men and to do this you have to put a lot of effort into men’s ministry. Our major focus has been on a monthly men’s breakfast and a monthly Sunday night fellowship for men.

We found we had to make the breakfast free otherwise too many wouldn’t come because of the cost. If you can bolster the men in your church, you will gradually build stronger families and lay the foundation for the next generation of leaders.

4. Relationships.
In everything we do, we hope to strengthen the bond between Christians at Sandy Beach. The last thing we want is for people to come to church with the view that only the person in the pulpit is doing ministry. It is great to see people in our church establishing relationships away from the Sunday service because it is here that God is truly binding people together.

As a result of God’s continual blessing and a lot of hard work, we have seen numerical and spiritual growth at Sandy Beach. I look forward to seeing where the journey now takes us and pray you will be blessed as you serve Him.

Case Study (prac7): Sandy Beach Church Growth by Terry Allen, Pastor Sandy Beach Baptist Church.