The annual update from our Operations and Finance Director, Wayne Schache, for 2023.

Tēnā koutou katoa.

It’s a privilege to have served in this role for almost a year. And what an exciting time to come into this role, as the Baptist movement looks to the future and determines what gospel renewal looks like at the local church level. A time we work to utilise our resources better to support the local churches.

What an incredibly busy year it has been in the Baptist National Support Centre. We’ve had long-serving, faithful staff leave to take up new opportunities and new staff step into the revamped roles. We’ve updated a whole lot of information on the Intranet. We’ve established a Property Development Advisory Group, a Policy Advisory Group and an Insurance Advisory Group. I’m so grateful for the people in our movement – both Pastors and lay people — with the necessary expertise who are stepping in to collaborate on making the movement a better place. We’ve even started a successful podcast, It’s All Admin, that helps our movement understand more about how we operate together.

Getting together again at five Regional Hui around the country was a great time to connect. Seeing more people engaging in the regional hui this year was so good. There’s more talking, collaborating, and associating – that’s what we do as Baptists. Let’s keep doing it, too – sharing with, supporting and encouraging each other.

We ran a very successful annual National Hui (Assembly) in Tauranga in November 2022 – the first in three years. It was an excellent time of reconnection after COVID-19 interruptions. Our 2023 national hui – “Baptists – Shaping our Future” is a great time for discussion and consideration of some incredibly important issues that will shape the way our movement looks in the next few decades.

Some significant challenges this year have been in the areas of complaints and compliance.

The National Support Centre, the Assembly Council, and others have spent considerable time and effort revising the complaints process, including how we respond to complaints of all types. We can be dealing with up to 20 legal or therapeutic complaints at any one time. These complaints can be historical or recent. This can be distressing for all parties involved, and usually, we cannot divulge any details. But please be assured that safe people and places are a high priority. We will do all we can to encourage our churches to prevent abuse of any type – as it is unacceptable to the movement in any way, shape or form.

Safe places for us means a greater focus on churches ensuring they fully comply with Health and Safety, BWOF (Building Warrant of Fitness) and Fire and Evacuation requirements. We are in the midst of a significant process of helping our churches understand their obligations in these areas and encouraging compliance. The next project will be ensuring we fully understand our seismic risks.

This year has been financially difficult for the movement, both at a local church level, a regional association level and a national level. The pressures of post- COVID-19 recovery, inflation – and then the Auckland floods and Cyclone Gabrielle have meant that giving is down. This impact has flowed through to the National Support Centre with a 7% drop in Committed Church Giving. So we try very hard to ensure our spending is well-targeted and prudently allocated. Compliance costs and rising insurance costs are a very real pressure currently facing our churches.

Insurance is a critical area of focus for me over the next twelve months as we work with some Baptist people with expertise in this area. The group’s main purpose is to see whether we can arrest the continuing rise in insurance premiums resulting from increasing worldwide natural disasters. There will be some difficult decisions to make, maybe some extra risk to take, and maybe the setting aside of more funds to cover that risk. This is why we use our Baptist people with the right expertise to help in this decision-making process.

We have a solid future in front of us. Much work still needs to be done to ensure our resources are stewarded well – so that gospel renewal in people and places happens in our local church communities. We have what it takes; we just need to be courageous! Are you willing to be courageous? I hope so because we need you!

Photo: Provided by Wayne Schache

This update is from the 2023 Annual Report of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, which you can view here.

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