10th April 2024

“Hub And Spoke” Approach to Rural Campus Planting


An exciting of Cheshunt Baptist Church (CBC), a new campus for Wangaratta Baptist Church (WBC), took place at the end of March thanks to a partnership between Cheshunt locals and WBC. Around 10-15 locals plus 10 WBC members attended the first service and enjoyed lunch together afterwards.

Several Cheshunt residents had been meeting regularly for bible studies but, after prayer and discussions with WBC members, WBC adopted the Cheshunt congregation as a campus. The main campus in Wangaratta will provide music, preaching assistance and leadership support so that the Cheshunt campus can hold church services in its neighbourhood hall.

WBC Pastor Aaron Wardle said discussions about a partnership had started last year. “It seemed like a very good fit for us with our vision to bring hope – not just to Wangaratta, but to the north-east of Victoria. Cheshunt is a small town of around 200 people, so to have 10-15 locals attend the first service was fantastic. Those who came along said it was really encouraging.”

Going forward, there will be two services a month at Cheshunt Hall with a recorded sermon from WBC on the second Sunday of the month and a live preacher on the fourth Sunday. “We’ll send a few people up to encourage and support them, some people to provide live music and speakers as needed – which is great training for some of our young preachers as well.”  For the other two weeks of the month, locals can attend a nearby Anglican church service held on the first Sunday and, on the third Sunday, they are encouraged to attend WBC which is a 45-minute drive away.

Aaron said this type of church planting model would work well in rural settings, with a “healthy strong central hub” that can send people out to areas that don’t have a church meeting place close by. “It’s a lot more effective to have one central campus because you’re not duplicating everything and you’re still fairly centralised. That’s where things are going for us. It’s probably something we’ll see more of as a movement as well. I must admit, discussions started with Cheshunt a lot earlier than when I thought we’d start doing church-planting, but it was a very good fit. I do believe the future for us will be more campuses in Victoria’s north-east – I think that’s where God wants us to go, but everything is in God’s timing.”

WBC is also set to embark on a building program for a 250-seat auditorium that will create room for the expanding congregation, which has almost tripled in the past five years from an average of around 40 people at Sunday services to around 110. Many of these travel from surrounding areas to attend.

“Our current building gets squishy. One of our values is that everyone can belong, so therefore we need a space where everyone can fit! We’ve got to expand so that we can continue to grow, so that we can send. If you’re full you stop growing!”

WBC opened a Thread Together outlet at the end of last year, collecting excess clothing destined for landfill and gifting them to people in need. Organisers have been busy onboarding the agencies who will refer their clients to the outlet.

“Thread Together is another way we try to bring hope in a practical way to the north-east. The community response has been really positive. People come in to find clothes that will suit them. Our volunteers meet them, and they can get two full outfits including shoes, underwear, pants, tops, jackets – the works. We can do that in winter and in summer so they get appropriate clothes for hot or cold weather, because we have very distinct seasons in Wangaratta with very hot summers and very cold winters, and we recognise that it may take a while for some people to get back on their feet.”

The outlet is set out like a retail store where clients can select items to suit their style – even from major fashion labels like Calvin Klein, DC shoes and RM Williams boots. “It’s a really dignified way for people to receive help because they are empowered, having the ability to browse and shop like everyone else, but without having to pay at the end.”






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