Making and maturing disciples of Jesus
“Personal touches and intentional follow up are really important at St Bart’s. We are a community and go through the valleys and peaks of life together. Instead of making assumptions that people are too busy to come to church, small groups or other ministry activities, we follow up to make sure that people are okay and if someone is sick or a loved one has passed away, we help care for them,” says the team from Resource Church St Bart’s, Toowoomba, while offering helpful ideas and resources for other churches to adapt and use
Creating communities of care
- Hero priests or communities of care?
- ‘Bums off seats’: creating a community of care
- Raising up the leaders of today and tomorrow
- The mission of the Church and communities of care
- Building networks of parishioners
- Our op shop: another door to our church
- Blessing and building the North Lakes community
- The art of deep listening
- From living on Christchurch’s streets to helping those living on Toowoomba’s
Introduction – The Rev’d Adam Lowe, Senior Minister
At St Bart’s we’re passionate about making and maturing disciples of Jesus for God’s glory. We long for people to become followers of Jesus and then continue to grow as life-long and whole-of-life disciples (across all of their frontlines). Our mission of a church is not just for ourselves, but also (over the past 18 months) as a Resource Church. We consider it a great joy to participate in the broader life of our Church in this way, and I have been delighted with the generous way in which the St Bart’s team have sacrificially given of their time, resources, and expertise. I count it as a great privilege to serve at St Bart’s alongside an extraordinary team in a wonderful Christian community.
Discipleship – Amy Norman, Lay Minister (Discipleship) and Resource Church specialist
The mission of Discipleship at St Bart’s is the mission of the whole church: ‘Making and maturing disciples of Jesus’. From when people first enquire, we are intentional about thinking where people are at in their discipleship journey and what might be a next step. We think about discipleship in three stages:
Each of these stages has a key step to help people connect, with each step shaping how we choose, plan and stage events.
For example, for those Enquiring about Jesus, we have developed a four-session course, ‘Introducing Jesus’, that can be done at any time and is ideally carried out one to one. The idea is that anyone in our church can be resourced to have this conversation, which can take place in aged care facilities or in a café. The resource, ‘Introducing Jesus’, is provided to assist those who are keen to facilitate these conversations.
We also hold Alpha courses once a term, which provide a safe, non-judgemental space for enquirers to find out more about Jesus and explore the Christian faith.
For those who are just Beginning in their faith, we provide a resource, ‘Following Jesus’, for parishioners to use in one-to-one conversations over coffee or lunch in four one-hour sessions. During these sessions, questions like ‘What is the Bible?’, ‘What is prayer?’ ‘Why should I belong to a church?’ and ‘Why should we share our faith?’ are explored. Following these sessions, the newcomer is invited to join a small group.
One of our key learnings is that groups meet weekly, ideally in the same location (either at someone’s house, at church or in a cafe). This enables really simple connection with newcomers, as inviting people to a group that meets every week is much easier. The consistency of meeting weekly enables continuity in study, and helps to develop deeper and stronger relationships. Practically, meeting weekly also makes it more evident when someone is in need of additional care, so the group can respond quickly.
A highlight of seeing people enquire, begin and grow as disciples is a friend who first came along begrudgingly to church, largely due to her then-boyfriend’s invitation (now husband). In Alpha, she asked as many difficult questions that she could think of. Hesitantly, she with another Alpha guest, joined a small group together. Now, she frequently shares about her love for Jesus, and is emboldened by all the ‘Jesus conversations’ she gets to have at her workplace. Seeing how God grows people as his disciples is an amazing privilege!
You can download the following resources to use or adapt:
- Introducing Jesus: Leaders Guide
- Introducing Jesus: Part 1
- Introducing Jesus: Part 2
- Introducing Jesus: Part 3
- Introducing Jesus: Part 4
- Following Jesus: Leaders Guide
- Following Jesus: Participant Resource
St Bart’s Kids – Bettrys Lowe, Children and Families Minister and Resource Church specialist; Amy Norman, Lay Minister (Discipleship) and Resource Church specialist; and, Caitlin Judge, Intern
The mission of St Bart’s Kids is also ‘Making and maturing disciples of Jesus’. St Bart’s Kids comprises:
- St Bart’s Kids on Sunday
- Kids Club
- mainly music
- Mums and Bubs small group
- Expecting Families Ministry.
Last year we wrote a resourcing feature on ‘How to run an effective and engaging Sunday children’s ministry’. We did this at the request of anglican focus as we are a Resource Church.
It’s important to have a diversity of people serving and discipling kids, with respect to age, gender, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, experience and education/employment. Our Sunday School team members are not just teachers and mums, but a diverse group of people who are passionate about both Jesus and discipling children.
We put effort and time into training St Bart’s Kids team members, and the same three leaders take a group of kids for a whole year and are rostered on rotation to prevent burn out. We also have a St Bart’s Kids team wall which demonstrates the large number of St Bart’s members who are dedicated to the kids, as well as a reminder to the kids whom is a safe go-to for them.
The dedication of the leaders and the quality of their ministry results in kids putting up their hands of their own volition to serve and wear a blue t-shirt and be on team. When we ask kids why they want to be on team, their answers are really mature, such as “I want to help teach them about Christ and to make them disciples for Christ” and “To make disciples of all nations and teach the Gospel to others.”
The kids love coming to St Bart’s Kids on Sunday so much that many parents report their kids waking them up on a Sunday morning by jumping on the bed and saying, “We have to leave for church now!”
We also see the fruit of the St Bart’s Kids ministry when we hear about a four-year-old St Bart’s parishioner telling their Kindy teacher about Jesus. Recently, a five-year-old St Bart’s kid gave a Bible to a friend because, as we were told, “It would be a gift that would last forever.” It’s so encouraging to hear these kinds of anecdotes.
The kids also constantly surprise us with their boldness. Recently, when we were giving out a Bible Society book on the real meaning of Christmas to the kids, a child asked for 30 copies. When Bettrys asked in a somewhat uncertain way why she wanted so many, her response was: “My friends need to know the story of Jesus and instead of giving candy canes, I want to give them a copy of this book.” So, naturally, Bettrys gave her the 30 copies she asked for, while also feeling appropriately challenged about making assumptions.
St Bart’s Kids Club runs on Fridays between 3.30 pm and 5.15 pm. When kids miss three Kids Club sessions, we mail each sibling in the family a ‘We’ve really missed you’ postcard. While we charge $25 per child per term to help resource our Kids Club, we waive the fees for this after-school ministry for those families who can’t afford to pay them.
We have an arrangement with Koorong bookshop whereby kids accumulate points which they redeem for Bibles. Recently, we gave a child from a foster home a Bible. Knowing she was a number of points short, she kept objecting to the Bible until we gently convinced her that it was okay to accept it. The following term, she used some of her points to purchase a gift for another Kids Club child. Seeing the flow-on effects of generosity is another common key learning experience for us.
Our mainly music group meets each Thursday at St Bart’s for two sessions (9.15 am and 10.30 am). mainly music is a ministry where parents or carers and their child/children engage in a fun morning of music, dance, rhyme and movement before sharing in morning tea, stories and play together. The sessions are structured, focusing on the interaction between parent and child. We support our mainly music families both spiritually and practically. Our mainly music group has a prayer teapot in which families place their prayer requests, with our mainly music team praying for the ministry’s families every Thursday morning. When a mainly music family misses a session, usually because a child is sick, our registration coordinator, Caroline, checks in to see if the parents need help with a meal or transport.
Mums and Bubs is a small group that is part of St Bart’s Kids. Our Mums and Bubs group meets each Wednesday in our parents’ room from 9.30 – 11 am and is run by volunteers Courtney and Jess, two of our young mums. As well as studying the Bible and praying together each week, these Mums and Bubs members share life with each other, staying connected during the week via a Facebook Messenger group, sharing motivating or amusing memes and praying intentionally for each other.
We also have an Expecting Families ministry and host baby showers and do cook-ups. We recently gave two heavily pregnant mothers each two massive esky bags full of healthy meals (that specifically catered for the dietary requirements of the families) – enough for three weeks’ worth of dinners. As well as many of the Mums and Bubs members doing this latest batch of cooking, Adam helped out and contributed meals as well.
Personal touches and intentional follow up are really important at St Bart’s. We are a community and go through the valleys and peaks of life together. Instead of making assumptions that people are too busy to come to church or small groups or other ministry activities, we follow up to make sure that people are okay and if someone is sick or a loved one has passed away, we help care for them.
You can download the following resources to adapt:
Toowoomba Anglican School partnership – Bettrys Lowe, Children and Families Minister and Resource Church specialist; Peter Dutton, Youth and Young Adults Minister; and, The Rev’d Michael Calder, Assistant Minister
We have been partnering with the Toowoomba Anglican School (TAS) since the start of the year in the interim, as the school begins the process of advertising for a new chaplain.
We serve at the school for an equivalent of two days per week, leading chapel services; facilitating lunchtime student small groups; playing sport with and spending time getting to know the students during breaks; providing pastoral care; and, running staff and wider school community prayer groups.
In school Chapel services, we are currently going through the Gospel of Mark and asking the question ‘Who do you say Jesus is?’ The chapel services are only half an hour long, so they are simple, creative, and get right to the point. We are mindful that most students are not churched or have a mix of denominational family backgrounds.
The services cover four age groups – Prep to Year 2, Years 3-6, Years 7, 9 and 11, and Years 8, 10 and 12 – due to space constraints. Classes take turns being rostered on for readings, bell ringing and prayers/intercessions. Bettrys takes the rostered-on Prep to Year 2 students into the Chapel the week before their service so they are comfortable with the set-up, including the microphone, steps and songs.
As part of our school ministry, we have also been resourcing families with ‘Faith at Home’ Primary and Secondary content that corresponds to what we have been doing in chapel that week.
The content typically includes an A5-sized summary sheet about the topic, links to videos and other resources, and questions and application discussion. Currently, we have been printing these and uploading them to our website for families to access electronically.
Our community prayer times run for 30 minutes and are for students, parents/caregivers and staff, with an additional 15-minute prayer time offered for staff before this. Both prayer times are informal so people can drop in at any time; however, the staff prayers are run in the Chapel while the community prayers are held in a new space called ‘The Glasshouse’. This is a very visible space near the school café, which helps draw people to prayer and grows a hub where parents can get their caffeine fix and pray. The community prayers were initiated last term by a group of parents who now help drive the sessions – the parents are very passionate about their school community and wanted prayer to have more of a presence in the life of the school.
At TAS, we wear St Bart’s badges to identify us as ‘safe’ people, while also differentiating us from school staff. While Bettrys’ and Peter’s teacher training helps us pedagogically, we see our main role at the school as being present. In order to get to know the community better, we help assist with school pick-ups, play sport with the students and help in classrooms.
We also seek to connect the school and the church by being invitational; for example, by inviting staff and parents to Alpha courses, with a couple of staff already signing up. We also advertised St Bart’s Easter Services within the school, and a number of students encouraged their parents to come along to church for the first time. We have recently begun the Youth Alpha series with Secondary students during Thursday lunchtimes, and have had a very encouraging start. This engagement further shows us how many questions the young people of today have about faith.
Highlights of this new partnering ministry include ministering to new school families and when students let us know that their fellow students need some TLC and pastoral care.
Another highlight was the Easter Chapel service. At the beginning of the Holy Week COVID-19 lockdown, we made the decision to livestream the Easter Chapel service into the classrooms and homes of parents and staff. This was extremely effective in communicating the hope that we have in Jesus through songs, a kids’ talk, pre-filmed prayers and readings, an Easter message, and the ‘Toowoomba Anglican School Easter Drama’ that we filmed for the school community.
While we are still finding our way, the biggest lesson we have learned in our TAS partnership is that we need to be flexible, largely because in a school environment so much comes up. While being adaptable, we maintain our mission of communicating the hope of Jesus by being present, largely through conversations (whether impromptu or planned) and through Chapel and prayer.
You can download the following resources to adapt:
- ‘Faith at Home’ Primary content sample
- ‘Faith at Home’ Secondary content sample
- All ‘Faith at Home’ content
St Bart’s Care – Suzie Ross, Pastoral Care Coordinator; The Rev’d Michael Calder, Assistant Minister; and, The Rev’d Adam Lowe, Senior Minister
As a church, we’re intentional about trying to ensure that people are loved and cared for. Along with specialist care ministries (e.g. aged care services and visiting, hospital visiting, care for the sick, pastoral meals, expecting mums ministry, friendship morning teas), at St Bart’s we have three overlapping ‘circles of care’: small groups, teams and intentional visiting. By being able to identify which of these ‘circles of care’ that our people have contact through, we’re able to proactively care for people who might otherwise fall through the cracks.
Suzie, who has been a parishioner at St Bart’s for 15 years and the Pastoral Care Co-ordinator for over three years, oversees a care team of approximately 35 volunteers on the St Bart’s Care Team. This group visits the more vulnerable of our congregation in aged care and the wider community. Some of these volunteers are Liturgical Assistants who give home Communion where and when required.
We have 18 volunteers on our Pastoral and Emergency Meals Team, with a team leader co-ordinating this group. We offer meals to those who are just out of hospital or are unwell and need love and encouragement. There are also beautiful hand-painted cards sent out to those who are grieving a loss or are unwell and also to celebrate significant birthdays.
We have 10 volunteers on a separate team who visit Symes Thorpe Aged Care community, which is adjacent to St Bart’s, and whom we share a very special connection. This group also has a team leader who co-ordinates the visits. Theirs is a small group who are trained in transferring people in wheelchairs, who ‘walk over’ some residents to church services that are unable to come by themselves. We also have the bus which picks people, who are unable to drive, up from their homes.
We have five aged care facilities in Toowoomba, where we offer Communion services and prayer and praise services, giving eight services per month. We have distinct teams, two of which Adam and Michael lead communion services through. Lay teams also hold prayer and praise services in three facilities, including providing music.
Our recruiting process for new volunteers begins with an informal chat where we gather information in regard to their history, experience and their love for the Lord and focus on their special gifts. We have an onboarding process to ensure we have the right people in the right place. Each person must be a member of St Bart’s and have a current Blue Card.
The St Bart’s Care Team members meet monthly for one hour to debrief, share and support one another. We have speakers, such as chaplains, from different facilities who come and speak to the group and give a different perspective on the care people need.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, whilst unable to visit or hold services onsite at St Bart’s, we livestreamed our services and delivered many care packages, as well as increased the volume of phone calls, care cards and emails. For those who are unable to stream our weekly services in their homes our tech volunteers burn DVDs of the Sunday service, which are delivered by one of our team early in the following week.
Our walking team is a small group. Ten to 12 people meet for the weekly one-hour walk, which is followed by coffee and fellowship time. The walks are led by Suzie (with a back-up filling in when needed) on the same day and at the same time each week. This format provides a great source of intentional connection.
To ensure that nobody falls through the cracks, we try to be as flexible as possible to meet people’s needs. We record and track all our care given via a simple document, with the data later being entered online into the profile of each person receiving any care. This is affectionately called ‘the yellow sheet’.
A highlight for Suzie happened recently when a woman she pastorally cares for told her that after 45 years of praying for her mother, she led her mother to the Lord over the phone. Suzie was overjoyed.
You can download the following resources to adapt:
At St Bart’s, all of our ministries are grounded in our shared mission: ‘Making and maturing disciples of Jesus’. This helps us to be intentional, effective and focused in all that we do, including in the caring for parishioners and the wider community.
Editor’s note: Thank you so much to the St Bart’s, Toowoomba team for warmly welcoming me to their church on 28 April to help put together the content for this wonderful resourcing feature, especially to Jo for the delightful fair trade chocolate and the gluten-free treats.Jump to next article