Community Engagement
and 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

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.
Community development lessons from NCLS 2016

Churches that Develop Communities: A Survey of Victorian Baptist Churches (powerpoint presentation)

Other Resources:

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

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.

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.

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.

The Reimagine Mission podcast is a conversation with pastors, practitioners, and missional thinkers about reimagining mission in our unique contexts. Each fortnight, a new conversation hosted by Andrew Hill will be uploaded to inspire, equip, and encourage you to reimagine mission in your church and neighbourhood. Reimagine Mission is a production of the Baptist Union of Victoria. 

Reimagine Mission Podcast


Church Planting Resources

This is the situation in contemporary Victoria. Our population continues to grow, but we are not keeping pace with it in terms of sharing faith. Our cities and regional centres are expanding but many of our growth corridors are devoid of churches. We need to be catching a vision of God’s heart for the unreached and then equipping and releasing our people to go into the under-churched areas of the state and to begin the transforming work of the Spirit.

We have partnered with City to City Australia to identify, train, and release church planters across our state. We are also continuing to curate the most helpful pathways of formation that will raise up innovative, engaged, and effective Kingdom workers for the task of mission in Victoria.

Please contact our Mission Catalyst Team with any questions and for specific consultation about how you and your church can be Together On Mission.

Evangelism Resources


Ask Anything, an evangelistic resource produced by Dale Stephenson, Crossway Baptist Church

Hear how one person responded to hearing Dennis Pethers challenge us about not simply serving the community but also sharing our faith
 Organic Evangelism – Dennis Pethers

Alpha, an evangelistic resource that continues to effectively build bridges

Alpha has a Facebook page ( specifically for Alpha leaders to share ideas and support each other. You are encouraged to join them and post your own suggestions or questions so we can build a community exchange where we can learn and help each other. You would be a great asset with your experience.

The Exponential series of free ebooks is a treasure trove of resources for evangelists and church planters, this series specifically in the areas of discipleship and evangelism.

Understanding your community: These two highly accessible websites are excellent sources of demographic information:


 Characteristics of Church Planters (18.92 kB)

 Shaping Church for Others (20.55 kB)

 From Vanilla Church to Smorgasbord (132.59 kB)


To help you and your church adopt and practice BLESS, click on the links below for further resources, ideas and stories:

God is at work all around you. This is the basic assumption of BLESS. We expect to find God at work in every place we go and every person we meet. We look for what God is doing in our street, in our community groups, in our workplace, in our networks, in our neighbourhood. God is already active and has a dream for the world and for people, and the privilege of mission is that God invites us to cooperate and to join in with what God is doing. It is not that we as churches have a mission to pursue, but God’s mission has a church. The liberating thing about this is that because God is already at work, we don’t necessarily have to add new activities or programs to bless our world.

Where does God want us to bless? Sometimes God might call us to new places and people that need us. But often God wants to use us where we already are. Consider:

  • What places do you already spend time, or where is somewhere new that needs you?
  • What people do you already share life with, or who else is God inviting you to bless?

This is where BLESS begins – in identifying who and where God is inviting us to bless. You might start with where you already are, or somewhere new. Often you will find God takes you to places where you bless both people where you are already AND in new places and relationships that have needs but where God has already been working.

God’s strategy, since the beginning of history, was to have God’s people bless the world. God said to Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3) This is one of the most important early Bible passages. Abraham was blessed not to receive a blessing for his own sake, but to pass on and be a blessing. God’s call and invitation for us, and our churches, is to bless the world around us.

God has always wanted to bless people. The word that speaks of God’s heart for people can also be adopted as an acronym to remind us about the how and what to do when we are willing and available to be used by God to bless others. BLESS is based around five basic missional practices:

  • Begin with prayer
  • Listen
  • Eat
  • Serve
  • Share your story

These approaches are not all that hard. In fact they are beautifully simple, but also biblical and effective, and natural.
These five practices or approaches are foundational if we want to cooperate with God in transforming our relationships and neighbourhoods. The order is important too:

B – Begin with prayer.

BLESS starts with prayer – praying for our friends, families, colleagues and other neighbours we relate to, and listening in prayer for God’s dreams for our neighbourhoods and how we can cooperate. We want to pray God’s blessing for people around us, but also ask, “God how do you want me to work with you to bless the people and community around me?” Beginning with prayer reminds us that any mission is not firstly up to us, but about discerning what God is doing in people’s lives. We are like junior detectives looking for clues as to what the Spirit is brewing.
Where in your church life and neighbourhood activities might you create space to begin with prayer?

L – Listen.

After talking with God, BLESS intentionally talks with and especially listens to people. There is nothing better for fostering meaningful relationships. Listen to people’s stories and struggles, challenges and opportunities, what they are proud of and what they are working through. If we want to understand people, it takes more than observing them from a distance. As we listen to people, let’s listen also to for what God is doing, and where God might want us to cooperate.
In what ways could you better listen to others as you seek to BLESS?

E – Eat.

When we want to take BLESSing to the next level, a next step is to eat with people. Learn to love to enjoy coffees and meals, in homes and cafés, when spontaneous opportunities arise and whenever there is an occasion. Join in and attend any party or celebration that happens, or help host them. Remember Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding – and he helped keep the party going! Eating together is not necessarily quick and easy, but it’s not difficult either. Look for whatever opportunities you can to share time eating and drinking together.
Where could you most easily take time and space to eat with others to make space to BLESS?

S –Serve.

As we pray, listen and share life as we eat, to take things to another level listen carefully for how you might be able to serve them. If you want to know how to serve in ways that they feel the need of (rather than what you think you would like to do), then make sure you put the Listening before the Serving. When we have ears to hear, people will communicate with us how to love them.
In what ways might God invite you to Serve as part of BLESSing your neighbourhood?

S – Share your Story.

After Beginning with prayer, Listening, Eating and fostering the relationship, and Serving, then we can also look for opportunities to share our story and the story of how Jesus has changed our life. Note this is not the first item on the list, but neither is it missing. Sharing your story is an essential element in BLESS. Listen to people’s stories, ask curious questions, then share parts of your story and sensitively include how Jesus has changed your life. You won’t have to tell your story all at once – think about “bite-size” stories that are relevant to the people you are talking with. You will have earned the right to share parts of your story, and fostered the relationship to do it appropriately, and people may even ask you and invite you to share your story.
Consider what difference Jesus has really made in your life that you can share? Be open (as you pray and BLESS people) to sharing your story as you get to know the story of others.
Be encouraged to practice one of these principles each day. And be encouraged to share what you experience and learn as you gather with other Christians at church or in your small group. Ask one another “Who did you BLESS this week?”

Useful Websites

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.