The 20 Minute Neighbourhood is an excellent planning initiative by the State Government of Victoria to develop community hubs across the state – for socialising, access to services, transport, and recreation. It’s an an initiative which churches can contribute towards and benefit from. One of my work projects is exploring local or neighbourhood mission for churches. How do we encourage churches to become more connected to their local community? More importantly, how do we encourage them to invest energy into the well-being of their local community so that people might experience life in all it’s fullness? This means seeing the mission of God through the lens of community development.

The project has a convenience, community and health focus. The Heart Foundation and Victoria Walks are sponsors. A 20 minute local involves walking and exercise, not just driving from shop to shop to medical centre etc. There is also an emphasis on pleasant places, with gardens and green spaces, parks and playgrounds. A friendly neighbourhood is a safe neighbourhood – lighting, multi-language signage, and seating are all important.

While the State Government has funded some such projects and undertaken research, the concept has been promoted to city and shire councils, a number of whom are adopting it.

Many of our churches are already part of such neighbourhoods – near shopping centres or shopping strips, train stations, medical facilities, parks and gardens.

What if a church contacted its local council and said that it wanted to actively be part of this local neighbourhood plan? What if the church partnered with the council, local businesses and community groups to improve local connections and facilities? The pathway to this is partnership, looking a serving the local community.

Learn more about the State Government project here.

For example:

Form a small group to learn about 20 minute neighbourhoods.

Talk to Council about their local development plans.

Talk to nearby businesses and community groups about their interest in improving the local precinct.

Join or form a 20 minute neighbourhood group.

Do a local audit of the kinds of services and features listed in the diagram. Find one or two that you can assist with. Make this a local project. Tell the Council and local newspaper.

Go online and see what other churches have done to help improve their local neighbourhood.

Do an audit of your church’s public face – not to attract new members but as part of a friendly neighbourhood
– Do you have a front lawn with somewhere for bypassers to sit?
– What is the ‘feel’ of the street in terms of safety and friendliness? What could be done to improve it?
– Do you relate or point to local services or facilities? What if this was part of your service to the community?
– How many local languages does your signage include?

What local information is available to new residents? How about developing a Welcome Pack for new residents that tells them about local facilities, including the church?  When your member see people moving in, drop a pack at the door or knock and say hello as well.