British Baptists to become a more mission-focused movement
The Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) is to change some of its structures and ways of working as it seeks to become a more mission-focused movement. At their meeting in June, Baptist Union Council agreed the key framework for developing a new future. In many respects this marks a beginning and not an end – “we want to organise ourselves differently as a Baptist community; as we do so, we believe this will generate significant change but this will happen with time, and will be rooted in the life and vision of local Baptists, not determined and imposed from any central body.”
What happens now:
The National Resource, or Baptist House in Didcot provides support for churches in the Baptist Union of Great Britain with advice or help on legal, financial issues, mission, ministry and communications matters; and a variety of publications for Baptist churches and colleges.
What BU Council has approved:
The closure and re-organisation of five existing departments that operate the National Resource: Mission, Communications, Faith & Unity, Ministry, Finance & Administration. These will be replaced by three specialist teams:
Church and Society: Developing a sense of Baptist identity, engaging on behalf of the Baptist community in ecumenical and public life at a national level; pursuing issues of justice and shared concern; being a base for any national expressions of mission that are developed.
Ministry: Maintaining and developing a system of accredited ministry formation and accreditation.
Shared Services: Developing and maintaining the provision of key support and advice for the benefit of local churches; developing shared services to support the participation of Colleges and Associations in the work of the Union; providing the necessary administration for the organisational infrastructure and governance of the Union to operate. There will also be a new post for a Human Resources specialist.
Why the change?
It is an opportunity to review the on-going necessity of certain tasks and functions. It was felt that a shift of emphasis from discrete departments, undertaking prescribed tasks on behalf of others, to broader specialist teams with a far greater emphasis on encouraging and enabling wider participation, would develop a stronger sense of Baptist identity – including and empowering those who have previously felt excluded.
There will be an exploration of how priorities agreed through Council can be maintained through greater use of volunteers and voluntary networks, working in a more integrated way with Associations and colleges.
Therefore the shift to specialist teams is more than simply a re-organisation of the activities of Baptist House, it represents a commitment to become a single and more integrated organisation. There will be a planned reduction in the scale of the current service. Staff have been informed there are likely to be some redundancies.
The Revd Phil Jump, regional minister team leader North Western Baptist Association, ‘I want to pay tribute to all of the staff teams at Baptist House; there is a huge amount of creativity, skill and commitment within the people who work there.
‘I count many of them as personal friends and find it hard to imagine that some will face the uncertainty and disappointment of their roles coming to an end. It is vital that we recognise that this is not because of any failing on their part, but that there is a need for change in the way some things are organised. While finance cannot be ignored, this is by no means the sole or even principal reason for many of these changes.
‘In some cases we have recognised that roles are structured in a way that is less than ideal; in others, a changing mission context requires that we adopt new approaches and ways of working. Sadly this does affect people’s jobs, and my prayer would be that what feels at present like a difficult and uncertain experience, might yet become a doorway to new opportunities of service to God. ‘Like so many institutions in our world, we have to face up to the reality that we cannot maintain our activities by simply growing our employee base or buying in the services we need. ‘If we all approach the future with the right attitude, we might well release resources on a scale that we never imagined possible, by harnessing the skills, vision and creativity that exist across our Baptist community.
‘These changes are a brave step forward, and we could yet find ourselves leading the way in a society that will have to adapt itself to a new economic environment. The last thing our nation needs right now are churches that are phased by the circumstances of the age, but are able to confront, embrace and work through them, with and attitude and message of hope.’
What happens next:
The purpose of Specialist Teams is not simply to take over the existing tasks of BUGB departments. The next phase of this process is to determine what roles and tasks are needed in future, and how and by whom they should be undertaken.