In Victoria today, many people from the city are moving to the growth corridors because they can’t afford inner city. For this same reason many who migrate from other countries also end up settling in the growth corridors.
Not long ago, the Officer region consisted of paddocks and cows, but it is now a key suburb in the rapid expansion of the South East growth corridor, with significant infrastructure and housing estates being developed in the area. This means that there are thousands of people moving into our region and it presents great Gospel opportunity to represent Jesus through sharing the good news, blessing the local community, caring for the poor and lonely and raising disciples on mission.
Follow Baptist Church started as a dream in the hearts of some of the people at Beaconsfield Baptist in 2012. The dream was to plant a new, vibrant, faith community in the Officer Region that would reach new people with the Gospel.
We publicly launched as a Church in July 2015 and 3 acres of land was generously donated to us in central Officer. We have since grown from 31 committed people as part of our Core and Launch Teams to celebrating with almost 300 attendees at our recent 4th birthday celebration. By God’s grace, we have grown to become a vibrant, Jesus loving community in Officer!
One of the great joys of the Follow journey so far is that we feel as though we are growing up with our local community, and that they already view us as a significant part of it. We also love seeing God at work with many new Christians and people being baptised.
Recently someone from our congregation had a conversation with a Muslim man at Hallam Hotel. This encounter led to further conversations and the man has now committed his life to Christ. It was a joy to meet him recently and talk of the freedom he has found in Christ and how he loves that Follow is a place with so many cultures who gather to worship in one name. This is a foreign idea for him, but as he explained, it “feels like 100 kilos has been lifted from his shoulders” He is now wanting to be baptised!
The big dream for Follow is that we will bloom where are planted in the Officer region. We will be fruitful and then multiply to establish new Churches throughout the South East. We desire to see real transformation happen in the South East of Melbourne and we would love for you to join us in prayer for a move of God! We know and believe that God can do immeasurably more than we could ever hope, dream or imagine, according to His power at work in us for His glory!
Pastor Luke Williams
Lead Pastor, Follow Baptist Church
Our Vision and Mission
Our vision at Follow has always been very simple. Our vision is Jesus. He is the one we look to in all things, He is the one we want to imitate and follow with our lives. Our mission is almost as simple; to Follow Jesus in our community for His glory! We have probably all seen long vision documents which sound amazing, but nobody actually remembers them. We chose to make it simple enough for our people to remember.
People often ask why we are called Follow Baptist Church. We were praying about what to call a new Church and during that period, a relative had been to the Melbourne Art Gallery and had taken a photograph with hundreds of words on it. As I looked at the picture the word that jumped off the page was the word Follow. Essentially following is what discipleship is all about and that’s who we want to be; followers of Christ. It is an ancient word, but it’s also a modern one as we ‘follow’ people on social media, so we felt it was a word people connected with. As far as we know it is the only Church in the world called Follow!
The Growth corridors are vibrant places to live where new things are always happening. With affordable housing and many education and employment opportunities, the South East is an attractive place to live. This creates a wonderful opportunity for us to reach a high percentage of young families and children settling into the area.
While there are many positives of a corridor such as this, there are also challenges. Many people feel lonely or isolated in our area and there is a higher percentage of homelessness, poverty, mental illness and youth suicide than in other regions of Victoria. This is tragic; however, it does provide opportunities for us to minister and serve in those areas to bless our community. We believe Officer should be a better place because we are there!
All of our missional activities are under the banner of the Bless Collective.
The Bless Collective Food Van
After researching and seeing the needs of our local community, we consulted with our local community and council to ask them how we could best serve our community. The needs we saw and they had identified, matched up and those discussions led to the establishment of the Bless Collective Food Van. Every Tuesday & Thursday evening we meet in what was a notorious Pakenham Park adjacent to Pakenham Station. Over the years Bourke Park has been associated with addiction and drug dealing, violence and homelessness. The council felt that it was a key place to meet real needs in our region. We meet there twio nights every week and have developed a community connection HUB to help break isolation, build relationships and alleviate the pain people are feeling. We set up tents, tables and chairs and provide cooked meals for all of our guests. We don’t judge people who come to the Bless Collective but seek to develop meaningful and ongoing relationships. We have also partnered with Cardinia Shire Council, Orange Sky (Portable Laundry) and Clean as Casper (Portable Shower Truck) to make a HUB for our community, while also providing a referral service for our guests who need additional support. We have recently employed a new Food Van Manager who has valued experience in these areas and we look forward to new and creative ideas to further help people break down these cycles in life and find wholeness in Christ.
Our mainly music program has expanded to back to back sessions predominantly filled with unchurched families. This has flowed onto a parenting course and it has been a joy journeying with new families and to see several of them cross over into a faith community as a result.
Officer Secondary College (OSC)
We have the privilege of running a breakfast program every Tuesday morning at OSC as well as running a No Limits mentoring program for Year 9 boys. It has been a wonderful way of connecting with both staff and students.
Timbertop Christmas Festival
In 2018 we were approached by a local resident’s group to work with them to deliver a Christmas celebration is the new Timbertop Estate in Officer. It was a special event where we were able to take our portable coffee cart, provide a sausage sizzle and perform and sing Christmas carols at such a significant time of year. The mayor opened the event and it is the first carols event in the Officer region.