Reset & Relaunch
While the church at Riverstone recently celebrated its 133rd birthday, members hit “reset” on their services last year in an attempt to relaunch and grow. Part of the process saw lead pastor the Rev Daniel Walmsley and his team ponder how to meet their community in a way that was needed.
“I spent a lot of time trying to find community gathering places in Riverstone and see what impact we could have in those places, but the old gathering places may not be the [right locations] to try and gather and connect with people,” he explains.
“We have made a shift from trying to find where people are gathering to trying to think what people gather around.”
With many young families moving into new estates and surrounding suburbs, the Life Anglican team is trialling different ways of connecting with the people around children. Two attempts gaining traction are a toy library and a holiday computer club.
Walmsley and his wife Suzi were floored at the positive response to the toy library.
“After Christmas we put a post on social media asking for toy donations, and people were sharing our posts and tagging friends,” he says. “We still get questions to this day asking, ‘Do you still take toys?’. We have more toys than we can catalogue and clean and prepare. This has hit a need that the community is interested in and it’s a place where they feel the church can be a blessing to them.”
The holiday computer club, a chance for school-aged children to participate in different computer projects, proved to be just as popular. “We had to close registration,” Walmsley says.
He believes the key to effectively reaching people is to work together as the body of Christ. “It’s helpful for the church to focus on gospel confidence and remember that Jesus does change lives,” he says. “We need to find ways to participate in the community as a community, because we are one body working together.
“We want to find ways to bless the community and show God’s love in different ways... to scratch where the community itches without watering down the gospel. And we want to find ways to invite people into our community and share love with them.”
The challenge now for Walmsley, and all churches, is doing this in a post-Christian culture.
“Less and less people are coming to us and we have to go to them,” he says. “Participation in community has died off... people are not participating with us and we’re not with them. We try and connect as individuals but when we don’t do mission in community, we’re not using the body working together as effectively.”
Peter Lin agrees: “The most significant human resource is all of you, sharing with each other and helping each other, because we are a family. As a family, we are committed to this mission for the sake of the Kingdom of God. And it’s my view and experience that when we do mission together, we do mission better.”