We are so fortunate to have church leaders who want to keep their fingers on the pulse, and ensure our faith communities are safe. Last week our Assembly Council (the governing group for our churches) announced the outcome of an 18-month review of how we Baptists consider the registration of our leaders (pastors, chaplains, missional leaders). We have had registration for our leaders since 1996, and it had been a decade since any major changes. The review process involved wide consultation throughout our 250 faith communities, and has resulted in a number of significant changes intended to improve our movement of churches through the next decade.

Glenn Melville, who oversees the administration of Baptist Registration through our Centre for Lifelong Learning asks:

Why do we New Zealand Baptists have a registration process? The answer is that while there are some benefits to individuals, the main benefit is for us as a Union of Churches. Essentially, registration is a commitment to ensuring that we are developing robust leaders, who can lead thriving faith communities with integrity and competency. Thus, when a Baptist faith community, or entity, or approved body appoints someone who is registered, they can have confidence that the individual meets a recognised standard that involves a commitment to ongoing learning and growth, wider Baptist whānau engagement, external supervision support, and annual review.

Our National Leader, Charles Hewlett wrote in 2017 about the need then to encourage our leaders to be engaging in fresh ideas, supportive friendships, open-mindedness, and accountability – read his article: I’m glad you’re not my doctor!

Hewlett says today after this recent review:

Professional development cannot be an optional extra for leaders involved in Christian ministry and mission. And this is why the Baptist Union Registration process is so important to me and such an incredible gift! It will keep our leaders current in their thinking and practices, and introduce them to different and innovative ways of doing things. It will bring a healthy level of accountability to their thinking and practice, and provide friendship and support through such things as cohorts, supervision, conferences, and on-line groups.

Chris Chamberlain, Chair of Assembly Council, last week presented the following summary of the key changes to the registration system. A detailed list of the changes can be accessed here.

  • > A new name: Baptist Registration.
  • > A revised purpose: Registration is to ensure that those who minister in, or on behalf of the Baptist Union of New Zealand, Baptist entities, and churches, do so in response to the call of the Holy Spirit and actively maintain; a posture of holistic well-being, personal, relational, and professional integrity and accountability, ongoing growth and learning, organisational safety, and ongoing connection with the wider Baptist movement.
  • > Clarification of the benefits of registration for the Baptist Union of New Zealand churches and registrants e.g., ensuring that we are developing robust leaders who can lead thriving faith communities, confidence in the integrity and competency of our leaders.
  • > Revised Scope: Registration is an endorsement that the registrant commits to the ongoing development of the character, knowledge and abilities deemed necessary to minister in the name of the Baptist Union of New Zealand and is willing to uphold our core distinctives and values as New Zealand Baptists (as included in the Baptist Union of New Zealand Constitution and Baptist Administration Manual). The Baptist Union of New Zealand can only endorse leaders who are registered.
  • > Categories of Baptist Registration: Expanded from the current three categories to five:

  1. Pastoral
  2. Chaplain
  3. Ministry/Mission
  4. Kaiārahi Māori
  5. Baptist Entity
  • > Entry Criteria: A more robust list of entry criteria e.g., now includes police vetting and agreement to uphold the Baptist Union of New Zealand code of ethics.
  • > Annual registration requirements: The new Registration Development Agreement (RDA) consists of four components:

  1. Personal growth and learning – Hours of learning required have been adjusted in proportion to hours worked. Includes a commitment to 2 hours of ‘Priority Learning’ formed each year through the Baptist Union of New Zealand Leadership Coordination office.
  2. Baptist Whānau Engagement – Requirements are now tailored to fit the context of each of the five categories of registrant.
  3. External Supervision Support – At the end of a 3-year phase in period all registrants will be required to have regular ongoing supervision with a Baptist Union of New Zealand approved supervisor who is qualified/trained in ministry supervision. A supervision training program will be established to ensure we have sufficient supervisors to provide supervision for all registrants.
  4. Annual Review – From Sept/Oct 2023 a review of the RDA is to be undertaken within the faith community or organisation of the registrant with a view to both considering progress against the current RDA and identifying priorities and goals (e.g., learning options choices, whānau engagement, etc) for the upcoming registration period.

These changes will take effect from the 1st of November 2022, except for external supervision support (phased in over 3 years), and the annual review (from Sept/Oct 2023). Training and information on how to register will be provided online soon. The Carey Centre for Lifelong Learning will continue to administer Baptist Registration on behalf of the Baptist Union of New Zealand.

Our Constitution will need to be amended to reflect these changes. As there may be other constitutional changes to be considered, the Assembly Council will work towards presenting the 2023 National Hui with the proposed amendments. 

In addition to the changes to the registration system, Assembly Council has made a commitment to re-evaluate whether New Zealand Baptists should have an accreditation or ordination process for people entering into pastoral leadership.

Assembly Council would like to thank all those involved in the review process, including the review panel and the stakeholders who took the time to provide feedback on the proposed changes. We believe the new registration system is a significant step forward in enabling the development of robust leaders who can bring gospel renewal to people and places.

More information about Baptist Registration can be found on our Leadership Hub that contains resources and information for pastors, Elders and boards, and volunteer leaders: leadership.baptist.nz

For more information about our Assembly Council, including their latest update, go to this webpage: baptist.nz/our-team/assembly-council


Photo: National Hui 2017, Newly registered leaders having completed two years of Provisional Registration.

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