“Managing change” and “learning to pivot” are phrases we’ve become familiar with over the last year. Probably more than we would actually have liked! While change is not always easy, it can at times be necessary. I discovered this reality coming into the role of Leadership Co-ordination Director at the end of 2020. Top of my new ‘to-do list’ was to undertake a review of our pastor/chaplain/leader registration system, last reviewed ten years ago. A decade is a long time, and change was probably well needed, but I did wonder if being the one to suggest these changes would make me about as popular as a positive COVID-19 case at a music festival!

Why we have a registration system

Our goal as Baptist faith communities is to bring gospel renewal to the people and places within which God has placed us. The purpose of registration, therefore, is to ensure that those who minister in, or on behalf of the Baptist Union of New Zealand do so with integrity and accountability, an understanding of organisational safety, and with a posture of ongoing growth and learning. We also believe it is important that our pastors, chaplains and leaders maintain ongoing connection with their Baptist colleagues.

The current framework

The current registration system, Baptist Leaders’ Registration, is 26 years old, having been initiated in the 1990s following a significant, three-year review of the role and responsibilites of our pastors and chaplains. When this latest review was commissioned Mike Crudge, the then Director of the Centre for Lifelong Learning, had been overseeing registration for three years. Mike had always been a supporter of the registration process and ongoing learning and development, having himself been registered through the last 15 years, but over that time had developed some concerns about the overall value of the system. He felt that some things seemed more like tick-boxes for the system, rather than an ongoing leadership development resource that ensured our pastoral leaders and chaplains were robust leaders, supported and affirmed by their movement of faith communities, and recognised and cared for within their local ministry contexts. He’d also received a lot of feedback from pastors, chaplains and churches—not all of it positive. He went on to collate this information as a resource he presented to the Baptist national office in 2020 which became the catalyst for the review initiated by Assembly Council—the governing group for our collective of faith communities.

Boomers retiring, Millennials emerging

In commissioning this review, Assembly Council were acknowledging a lot has changed in a decade; for a start Millennials are now in positions of leadership and they see the world very differently to the Boomers who introduced registration in the 1990’s. The world too sees things differently, with one example being the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-based Institutions—the society in which we serve has high expectations of faith leaders.

“Could do better!”

I was tasked with establishing and leading a review panel with the goal of bringing recommendations to Assembly Council by September 2021, and from there to the national Baptist Hui. The establishment of the panel proved relatively easy as everyone I approached was keen to be involved—a sure sign there was an appetite for change. These 13 leaders, each representative of the diversity of leadership we have within our movement, undertook the task over the course of last year ably assisted by a representative of Manatū Iriiri Māori. Through listening to Mike, seeking feedback from colleagues and each other, and reading both current and historical documentation, we quickly realised that the current system wasn’t broken but gave the overall impression that, in report card language, it “could do better!”; it needed to be taken from ʻgood to great’. The goal then became to develop a strengthened registration system that was open to a wider diversity of leaders, encouraged collaboration between registrants and churches, and had the development of robust leadership at its heart. COVID-19 and lockdowns not with-standing, we were able to present the recommendations to Assembly Council in October. They, along with the Baptist Association regional leaders and several focus groups, have all engaged with the recommendations and we now seek feedback from pastors, chaplains, leaders, elders, and other people in our churches.

Proposal presented 22 February 2022

On a personal level I’m thrilled with the work the review panel has done and wholeheartedly believe the registration system they are proposing will strengthen our focus on robust leadership and leadership development. I’m also honoured to be part of a live webinar on Tuesday 22 February 2022 where the recommendations will be presented. This free webinar will be hosted by Charles Hewlett, our Baptist National Leader, and myself and will include several other members of the review panel. It will be followed by the launch of the recommendations and follow-up resources on the Centre for Lifelong Learning website.

Your feedback sought

The Lifelong Learning website will include an online survey where feedback can be given. We’re hopeful that pastor/chaplain cluster groups, eldership groups, church members, and Baptist organisations up and down the country will engage with the recommendations and give their feedback.

Implementation

This feedback will then be collated and reviewed by the panel with the aim of getting the final recommendations to Assembly Council in July. We hope to be able to implement this strengthened system for the next round of registration in November (registration is an annually renewed process done at the end of the year).

I believe this reshaping of registration will be a significant and a positive step forward for our collective and for the future of Baptist leadership and gospel renewal in Aotearoa New Zealand.

To register for the free webinar click here.

Contributor: Karen Warner, Leadership Co-ordination Director, Baptist National Office