A younger, more engaging Uniting Church is the main aim of a new strategy introduced to the 2021 Synod meeting today.
The NSW and ACT Synod Standing Committee has introduced a proposal that sets out a direction for the Uniting Church over the next 18 months.
The proposal is called Future Directions for the People of God. It sets a number of priorities for the Synod, including a focus on growing the church’s younger membership and developing healthy congregations. It also sets a framework for congregations and Presbyteries to guide these priorities.
Future Directions was preceded by a video featuring members of the Synod discussing where they saw growth, the need for growing young, and whether they saw growth taking place.
The proposal calls for the church to, “Affirm a commitment to being a contemporary, courageous, and growing church proclaiming Jesus Christ in worship, witness, and service.”
It commits the Synod to targets in a number of areas. For example, the proposal sets a growth in church attendance from 21,000 regular church attendees to 30,000.
The proposal also aims to decrease the average age of church attendees, with the intent of taking the current 13 percent of regular attendees who are under the age of 50 and increasing this number to 21 percent of overall attendees.
Future Directions also calls for an increase in the number of congregations active in youth-focused activities, supported by their Presbyteries.
Underscoring all of this is a desire to see the Uniting Church play a more active role in wider society, including being recognised by politicians as speaking with an influential Christian perspective, and having likeminded organisations wish to partner with the church on matters of common importance.
The proposal document’s text acknowledges that prior Synod meetings have made similar attempts to set a future trajectory for the Uniting Church. Among others, these include Project U Turn and the growth proposal agreed to at the 2019 Synod Meeting.
Discernment groups will now discuss the proposal. It will be further considered by the Synod meeting during session 1B on Saturday, where it has the opportunity to reach consensus.
During the session, Synod members asked clarifying questions regarding how the church’s multiculturalism might factor into the proposal, what was meant by growth, and how the proposal dealt with young people.
Moderator Simon Hansford said that discernment groups should continue to query the proposal.
“Please give it a thrashing, ask tough questions, work it through,” Rev. Hansford said.
This year, the Synod general meeting is taking place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting can be streamed via Facebook live on the Synod Facebook page. Insights will provide full coverage of all proposals.