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Bendigo Uniting Church Strategy

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					       Bendigo Uniting Church Strategy
                               November 2008


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
        church.
      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
        the community.


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
      this vision.

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
       locations.


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
other agencies.

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
available.

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
       environment.

       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.


3.4.      Governance

       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:

  1.     Governance
         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.

  3.     Mission
         To ensure the Uniting Church in Bendigo continues to meet the needs of
         people, make disciples, and engage in Christ’s mission.

  4.     Communication
         To ensure people are informed and consulted to assist them to “stay on
         the journey” and navigate the changes.



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  5.    Education

        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.

  6.    Funding
        To develop a funding strategy for the implementation.

  7.    Property
        To provide effective stewardship of Uniting Church assets and resources,
        to plan for new facilities and appropriate sale of property.

  8.    Heritage
        To acknowledge and celebrate the heritage of the Bendigo Uniting
        Church which would help people remain connected to the stories of the
        past.

  9.    Transport
        To ensure that everyone has access to worship, care groups and
        activities.

  10.   Partnerships
        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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