Multicultural ministry reinvigorates St Timothy's Bulleen
Stories of urban ministryWith only around 20 attendees at Sunday service, with an average age of over 70, St Timothy's set out on an ambitious project to attract a more diverse, younger group of congregants
By Ben Wong
August 17 2017St Timothy’s Bulleen was planted by St. John Heidelberg in 1960 because of the fast-residential growth in the area. Three years later, 250 families worshiped in St Timothy’s.
I was inducted as Priest in charge on 11th June 2014. When I started at St Timothy’s there were about 20 people attending Sunday service with an average age of over 70 and financially the church was only able to support a half-time clergy. The church had a very mono-tradition Anglo culture but the congregation was very open to change and supportive of me starting a multicultural ministry.
We started a new Chinese service on 15th June 2014 with a team of seven core members and we had approximately 12 people with only three children in Sunday school in the first service. The growth of the Chinese service was slow in the beginning, and we realized that we needed to change our strategy. We shifted our focus to children and young family ministry because more young families were moving into the area.
We started the Wednesday mandarin play group in 2016. The first term we only had one girl, but now, after only a year, the play group is full and we need to put people on the waiting list.
On Friday night we have our youth group for the 8-16 age group. During the evening we run music training (praise and worship) before dinner, followed by games and bible study.
We have continued to recruit and train Sunday school teachers to expand our children’s ministry and we now have approximately 30 children in Sunday school.
The English and Chinese services are combined during the summer holidays from mid-December until the end of January, and also during other special occasions, such Easter, AGM, bishops’ visits, etc., so that both congregations can have many opportunities to mingle together and recognize each other as one church, one body.
In the last three years, 43 people were baptized including children. The Sunday attendance is now between 80-90 people with the average age of 38, compared to 70+ three years ago.
The youth group is now leading Praise and Worship once a month during the Chinese service, and they lead a full youth service every school term holiday. We plan to plant the third service in 2019 which is for the 2nd generation English speaking migrants, so over the next 18 months we are preparing our youth to run their own service.
This third service we are planting in 2019 will be the foundation of the English service in the future.
The multicultural ministry of St. Timothy has started three years ago and it will continue!
Ben Wong is Priest in Charge at St Timothy's Bulleen.
This story has been shared as part of Melbourne Bishop Genieve Blackwell's call to parishes in the Marmingatha Episcopate to share their stories of urban ministry. To find out how your parish can get involved, click here.