Bendigo Uniting Church Strategy
1. Objectives of the Strategy
The purpose of undertaking the Bendigo Uniting Church strategy is to:
Discern a shared vision for the Uniting Church in Bendigo that
arises directly from our calling to serve Christ, the head of the
Provide direction to congregations and agencies within the Bendigo area
and to the Presbytery to achieve the shared vision.
Identify ways to build up God’s people in faith, and to bring new people
into God’s kingdom.
Identify ways to assist the church to strengthen its relationships with
2. The Call
We are a people of hope. We believe that Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church,
calls us to live as disciples, listen for his word, support and encourage each
other in faith, and to share his work of love, peace and freedom.
We believe that we are called to bring God’s gospel message to the people of
Bendigo, and that this call brings with it the challenge to constantly listen to
God’s Spirit, and in doing so, to discover new ways by which God is seeking to
connect with people.
We believe that the energy, creativity and material resources that the Uniting
Church shares need to be channelled into discipling and mission rather than in
maintenance of ageing structures and declining membership.
3. A Vision for the Uniting Church in Bendigo
The vision is of a dynamic and growing church of committed
Christians, engaged with their community, developing their faith and
reaching out to enact the love of Christ.
Following extensive consultation, the people of the Bendigo Uniting Churches
believe that our vision includes the following aspects:
To embrace creatively the major changes needed to enable us to focus
on mission and evangelism
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A vibrant and viable faith community
Unity across the church
Growth in numbers of worshippers
More families and youth involved
Three to five worship centres
Flexible spaces that can be used by the community
Focus on mission, not buildings
Reaching out to the community
As we move towards this vision, and as a result of the conversations which
have been part of the planning process, a new ‘model’ for the Uniting Church
in Bendigo has emerged.
This model involves:
1. One body of people; one church in the community.
2. A small number of worship and ministry centres.
3. Emphasis on “Care Groups” in which the relational and nurturing needs
of members would be met.
4. One combined church council, with local councils.
5. Resourced by a team of ordained ministers and lay leaders committed to
3.1. One church
For such a vision to come about, the Uniting Church in Bendigo needs to
be one body of people; one church in the community, meeting,
ministering and worshipping in a number of different ways and
3.2. Worship and Ministry Centres
The model would include a centre in the CBD and perhaps three other
strategically positioned sites. Each site would include places for
worship, specific and multipurpose facilities and open spaces for church
and community use.
The focus of the central site would allow the development of a
community facility accommodating a worship centre and a range of
community services, including Bendigo UnitingCare Outreach. It could
also provide office spaces, a bookshop, coffee shop, residential units or
student accommodation, and open areas. It could, therefore, provide
resources for people’s spiritual and physical needs, and be a place where
people worship, meet together socially, and engage in a broad range of
activities and services.
The St Andrews site (church, manse, three halls, cottage and car park
between Myers and Mollison Streets) would lend itself to such a vision
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because of its size, accessibility, geographic location, and proximity to
It is envisaged that the other worship and ministry centres would be
strategically positioned and developed to ensure that Uniting Church
members are able to meet and worship together in ways appropriate to
them, and that community needs are addressed. Generally, there would
be a site in the north-west, south and east.
A priority will be to ensure that transport is available to enable people to
get to the worship centre of their choice.
The current Neale Street church community is keen to develop
partnerships that would result in a new worship and ministry centre on
the Strath-Haven community site. This initiative has been developed as
a consequence of the congregation discerning their mission. It would
provide a Uniting Church presence in the heart of a shopping centre and
close to the university and schools as well as to Strath-Haven. Neale
Street’s approach is a good example of the vision contained within this
document for the Uniting Church in Bendigo.
Similar development and partnership building in the north-west and in
the south would also create spaces appropriate for future growth by
breaking down the barriers of entering traditional church buildings, and
demonstrating an openness to change that would be attractive to
younger worshippers and the community generally. The facilities would
also be more comfortable for worshippers of all ages.
In the south, a site such as the Kangaroo Flat Uniting Church property
could be developed to bring the focus closer to the highway frontage. A
purpose-built facility could be the focus of community outreach, with
multipurpose rooms available for hire, retail spaces to generate income
and to help draw the community to the site. Bendigo UnitingCare
Outreach could also have a presence with programs and services
In the north-west, possibly at Eaglehawk, the Uniting Church could offer
this growth corridor a gathering place for worship, outreach to children,
young families, and the local community.
It is not intended that the suggestions concerning the various sites be
prescriptive, but that they prompt and encourage church members to
work together to see how the aspects and dreams of this vision could be
applied to the specific areas.
The Uniting Church has a long history in Bendigo. We are “asset-rich”
with many properties throughout the city. Obviously, the focus and
development of a small number of worship and ministry centres
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identified in this vision channels our resources to these sites. It relieves
the pressure and responsibility of maintaining all our existing properties.
Further deliberations and actions with regard to the sale and/or
alternative use of our properties and the timing of these decisions will
need to occur. While buildings become places which hold many
memories of the ways in which our faith has been developed and
nourished, they are not the essence of our faith. Jesus Christ is the one
who calls us into a continuing journey of discipleship. “The Church is a
pilgrim people, always on the way towards a promised goal; here the
Church does not have a continuing city but seeks one to come.” (Basis
of Union Para 3)
3.3. Care Groups
As the Uniting Church in Bendigo embraces this new vision, care groups
will be a central part of the process and fundamental to how we live out
our calling to be the Body of Christ in action. Change is never easy, but
the Uniting Church in Bendigo is reaching out to embrace a new future,
and there is courage and commitment to see the vision come to pass.
In any change process, there is a risk of people feeling anxious and
uncertain. To minimise the impact and insecurity of change, care groups
provide a solid foundation from which to build. These small groups may
already exist in congregations or they may be created with and by
members from different congregations.
Care Groups should be focused around the needs and interests of the
members and should be places of faith building and spiritual growth.
Research demonstrates that small groups are the pillars that underpin
significant personal and organisational church growth.
A strong foundation of Care Groups established across existing
congregations would offer prayer, support and connection for members,
and provide real and practical opportunities to invite unchurched people
to connect with our church in a non-threatening, welcoming
As the focus moves from buildings to people, Care Groups offer the
connection and support that was the model of the early church. People
meet together to pray for each other, study the Word, and enjoy
fellowship and activities of mutual interest.
This vision identifies significant change for the Uniting Church in
Bendigo. It is imperative that the leadership and the people of the
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church have appropriate structures and processes in place to enable
these changes to occur. A combined council would have responsibility
for strategic matters and matters that have an impact across all the
Bendigo worship and ministry centres. We would also move toward
having a council for each of the new centres. This would involve the
dissolution of existing church councils.
3.5. Ministry and Leadership Team
Wise, creative and venturing leadership is essential if we are to fulfil our
calling. A renewed Bendigo church will release many existing leaders
both lay and ordained, from a multiplicity of mundane tasks to lead us
forward in mission.
A team of stipended Ministers with gifts and skills appropriate to the
requirements of the Uniting Churches in Bendigo will be formed. These
could include Ministers of the Word, Deacons and Lay persons. As well
as sharing tasks as a team, each minister could be allocated specific
pastoral responsibilities within the Bendigo church.
4. Action Plan
An initial Action Plan has been developed to guide the way forward and
address the organisational needs of meeting these new challenges. It includes
ten areas of activity:
To provide a representative, viable and sustainable structure that
enables the strategy to be implemented; to be accountable for the
delivery of the outcomes of the Strategy within the framework of the
Uniting Church of Australia.
2. Care Groups
To connect, care for and nurture members across the wider Bendigo
Uniting Church; to foster relationships with members of other
congregations; to provide opportunities for faith and spiritual
development; to manage grief during the change transition phase; to
ensure no one is left behind.
To ensure the Uniting Church in Bendigo continues to meet the needs of
people, make disciples, and engage in Christ’s mission.
To ensure people are informed and consulted to assist them to “stay on
the journey” and navigate the changes.
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To build a continuing program of education that will be needed as we
move towards the development and implementation of this new model.
This would include training and mentoring, and reflecting biblically and
theologically upon the processes of change.
To develop a funding strategy for the implementation.
To provide effective stewardship of Uniting Church assets and resources,
to plan for new facilities and appropriate sale of property.
To acknowledge and celebrate the heritage of the Bendigo Uniting
Church which would help people remain connected to the stories of the
To ensure that everyone has access to worship, care groups and
To partner with like minded care agencies; working together to ensure
shared vision and effective delivery of outcomes for the good of the
people of Bendigo.
This vision is offered with the prayer that we might embrace it, and travel
together with faith. We recognise that our passion for this journey will, at
times, need to be tempered with patience.
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