Community Engagement & Placemaking Resources

Part of being mission-focussed is being engaged with the community surrounding the church. The overarching motivation that encourages churches to engage in their community comes from the teaching of Jesus and from a personal decision to love God and your neighbour. However there are many broad reasons for becoming involved in your local community; including:

  • To show interest in and respect for other people.
  • To respect ourselves by using our abilities to mutual benefit.
  • To build up a community’s ability to respond to its own needs by drawing on the strengths it already has.

At the BUV, we have a number of ways to resource your church for engagement in the community. Below are some ideas and practical resources that encourage our churches to look for and participate in the work of God’s Kingdom where justice and love are central.

Community engagement for churches: This small guide outlines the promises and the challenges of ministry when tethered to placemaking. It frames our expectations in biblical terms and according to the mission of Jesus as he went from place to place. This guide claims that the health and vitality of a church is ultimately and intimately connected to the art of placemaking – an unlearned or forgotten skill for many of us. We long to attract not-yet and new believers while also deepening discipleship in our existing church community. We cannot offer salvation that we cannot show. We cannot show salvation that isn’t right here in our neighbourhoods – where we work, rest, play, serve, and worship. In other words, if the good news is real it will be good news here (in my neighbourhood) and now (not just in the sweet by and by). Salvation always has a place.

Blessed are the Placemakers

There are so many ways to be missional and to work for the well-being of your local community:

101 Great Community Ideas
Movie Nights

Gracetree in Coburg run Open Air Movie nights in the yard behind their property and make them available to the local community as a way of making relationships and helping people to understand what Gracetree is all about.

Backyard Blitz

Every fifth Sunday New Community Ringwood has a Serve Sunday. They have made many new friends by helping out in the local community – doing backyard blitzes, painting and decorating, and helping with shopping.

Crossover Australia –

This is a high quality website with lots of great ideas and resources for mission. Crossover is Australian Baptists working together nationally to facilitate mission by resourcing churches and equipping pastors and leaders to better communicate the gospel. Members of the BUV Mission Catalyst Team represent Victorian Baptists on Crossover’s national task-force.

Appreciative Inquiry
– A very useful approach to seeking to understand and transform congregational life is ‘appreciative inquiry’.

Beyond McDonaldisation
– Imaginative thinking into how to reach different sorts of people that our churches are currently not engaging with.

Towards Belief is a contemporary resource that is perfectly suited for a variety of uses within a church context.

Ten Low-Cost Projects to Engage Your Community

1. ESL Classes. English as Second Language classes are a great way to engage particularly with overseas students. Lesson Plans can be downloaded free from sites such as
Read about NewHope Baptist
Camberwell Baptist runs ‘Let’s Talk English’ with a bible study also.
Balwyn Baptist started a meal and English conversation classes for overseas students; they then offered a Bible study afterwards for any who wanted to stay on. Several students stayed and have found faith.

2. Craft Sessions. All you need for this one is a few people willing to share some resources and a healthy imagination. Ideas are available at websites such as
Check out some of the stories from the Brunswick Baptist sewing group

3. Street Parties. Everyone loves a party so why not arrange to host a party for your neighbours. Norlane host “Hope Fest” where they have market stalls & face painting.

4. Clean Up Australia. You can register your church to participate in ‘Clean up Australia Day’

5. Backyard Blitz. Every fifth Sunday New Community Ringwood has a Serve Sunday. They have made many new friends by helping out in the local community – doing backyard blitzes, painting and decorating, and helping with shopping.

6. Community Garden. Many churches are using excess property to create community gardens. Read about Northcote’s, however you don’t need as much land as Northcote, it can be done with very little cost out the front of your church.

7. Art Display. All you need is a blank wall and some willing artists. You may even want to make a theme. Have a look at what Box Hill is doing

8. Free Carwash. Perfect youth group activity. You’ll be surprised at people’s response when you tell them you want to wash their car for free! You can talk to your local shopping centre and set up in their car park if your church doesn’t have street frontage.

9. Election Forums. This is a good way to work with other churches in your electorate and ask local MPs to form a panel where the community can come together to ask questions of them related to policy issues. Geoff Pound from the Ashburton church helped facilitate a forum last federal election.

10. Movie nights/Grand Final Parties. GraceTree in Coburg run Open Air Movie nights in the yard behind their property and make them available to the local community as a way of making relationships and helping people to understand what GraceTree is all about. Kew Baptist Church put the AFL grand final on the big screen and had a BBQ.

Whilst the ideas listed here cost nothing or very little money, there will always be a human resource costs. Volunteers to run programs are precious – make sure they are acknowledged well.

What is community development?

Community development is a set of approaches undertaken by individuals, informal groups and organisations. We believe it should be practised by all sectors, whether public, private or voluntary.It can be paid or unpaid, qualified or simply experienced.
This modern image of community development is what drives CDF’s work. The role of community development is to support people and community groups to identify and articulate their needs, and to take practical, collective action to address them.
It works with communities of place, interest and identity, helping diverse and competing community voices to be heard. By addressing issues of power, inequality and social justice, it aims to bring about change that is empowering, fair and inclusive. Community development is both a practice and an occupation. Individuals, informal groups and organisations can all practise community development, whether in paid or unpaid roles.
Those who practise community development come from a range of backgrounds and gain their skills and knowledge both from formal qualifications and through practice. Communitydevelopment can – and should – be practised in all sectors, whether public, private or voluntary.

How-to Guides – Community Resource Kit . A New Zealand / Aotearoa Resources for setting up and running community organisations and projects.

Community Enterprise Workbook . A how to guide to social and community enterprise produced by the Brotherhood of St Laurence.

Case Studies. Provided by Social Traders.

‘A Theology of Development’ . Provided by Baptist World Aid.

Church Related Community Work . An example of a denomination (United Reformed Church UK) involved in what it calls Church Related Community Work.

Developing Communities for the Future – Community Development in Australia. Susan Kenny; Nelson 1994

Building Community: The Shared Action Experience. Linda Beilharz, Solutions Press, 2002

Building Community Strengths –a resource book for capacity building. Steve Skinner; Community Development Foundation 1997

The Strengths Approach. Wayne McCashen; Innovative Resources 2005.

“Growing Well”, “Change By Design”, “Views from the Verandah”, “Signposts”, “Name the Frame” and “ Strength Cards” all by Innovative Resources, Bendigo.

Community Ministry. Carl S Dudley., The Alban Institute.

A practical guide to Community Ministry. A. David Bos.

Asset-based Strategies for Faith Communities. Susan Rans and Hilary Altman, ABCD Institute 2002

Journeying Out – a new approach to Christian mission. Ann Morisy, Morehouse, 2004.

Faithworks 1 – Intimacy and Involvement. Steve Chalke and Simon Johnson; Kingsway 2003

Compassionate Community Work. Dave Andrews, Piquant Editions, 2006.

Faithworks 2 – Stories of Hope. Steve Chalke and Tom Jackson; Kingsway 2001.

Faithworks 3 – Unpacked – a practical manual to equip churches for community involvement. Steve Chalke; Kingsway, 2003.

Intelligent Church – Book and DVD of six small group studies. Steve Chalke and Anthony Watkis, Zondervan, 2006.

100 ways to transform your community. Steve Chalke and Anthony Watkis; Kingsway, 2003

Tools for Regeneration – Practical Advice for Faith Communities. Faith-based Regeneration Network, UK, 2006.

Australian Bureau of Statistics
Gives you access to the full range of ABS statistical and reference information.

Federal Government
Information about the range of community support initiatives by the Department of Family, Community Services, and Indigenous Affairs.

Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development
Works with local people throughout Victoria with the mutual goal of strengthening communities by linking government investments to local knowledge and community decision-making.

Australian community organisations

Baptcare. The Social welfare provider of the BUV
Information and resources for government and non-government community organisations.

Anglicare Victoria
Anglicare Victoria has a number of partnerships with local congregations to provide support to their communities.

Innovative Resources
Set up by St Luke’s Anglicare in Bendigo to publish resources for the broader community and beyond. They publish and sell “seriously optimistic card packs, books, stickers, posters and other resources” that can change people’s lives.

Mission Australia
Non-denominational Christian organisation with a vision to spread the love of God and meet human need. With more than 320 services across metropolitan, rural and regional Australia, in every state and territory, Mission Australia aims to empower disadvantaged and isolated individuals, families and communities by giving them the support they need to get back on track, and lead more fulfilling lives.

Urban Seed a small, community based organisation that engages faith, community and culture in order to respond to poverty in Victoria.

Community development is both a method of community work and a set of values to establish and maintain ministries in local communities. Community development work identifies some aspects of a community’s ‘preferred future’. The BUV can work with your church to identify and build the capacity of individuals and groups of people to realise this vision. Communities have many untapped abilities and resources that can be coordinated to their own benefit. The values of community development include commitments to:

  • social justice
  • participation
  • equality
  • co-operation
  • mutual learning

When these values are upheld, a method of working with people unfolds that encourages their right to decide and contribute to their community’s wellbeing and development. Although normally not an intentional outcome, some of the community development work carried out by various churches has resulted in individuals finding a new spiritual dimension to their lives.

The Five Major Steps in Community Development
  • Preparation: Thinking though the biblical and faith-based reasons for community development and building a team of people to explore options for community engagement.
  • Research: Gathering statistical and narrative information about the community, its strengths, interests, and concerns.
  • Vision and Strategy: Painting a clear picture of the preferred future, and describing the activities, skills, and resources needed to get to that point.
  • Implementation: Enacting the strategy, using the most appropriate guidelines and management approach needed for this program.
  • Evaluation: Keeping a track of whom and what contributes to the program, the activities within the program, and the consequences of the program.

Disadvantage threatens social cohesion and economic prosperity and can perpetuate social exclusion and marginalise diverse voices and experiences. Disadvantage is a problem for everyone, not just those directly affected.The Australian Social Inclusion Board states that: to be socially included, people must be given the opportunity to:

  • secure a job;
  • access services;
  • connect with family, friends, work, personal interests and local community;
  • deal with personal crisis; and
  • have their voice heard. (Social Inclusion Board, 2008)

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