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Putting the church back into the heart of local community

A new development model combines church planting with essential services

Most Christians are convinced the church has a positive contribution to make to a local community – but that doesn’t make it an easy task.

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Enter Healthy Vibrant Communities (HVC), a newly forged Baptist Ministries initiative aimed at helping churches do exactly that in post-Christian Australia. The HVC model is creative and can extend to developments combining church plants with shops, childcare centres, gyms or cafes.

“HVC is both a church planting movement and community development model.” – Matt Hunt

At the helm is Lead Consultant Matt Hunt, pastor of CrossLife church which has campuses at Helensvale, Southport and Upper Coomera on the Gold Coast.

Hunt brings a wealth of experience to this initiative, having led CrossLife through the creation of two church plants/community developments in Upper Coomera.

The first was Upper Coomera’s “Lakeside” campus which has a community-centric venue with shops, a community centre and a childcare centre. Lakeside was a partnership with development powerhouse Stockland who described it as “a very successful model for the delivery of a community hub” and cited CrossLife’s end-to-end design and delivery process as key to the project’s success.

Along with Stockland’s commendation, the Lakeside project was also awarded the prestigious Wendy Chadwick Encouragement Award in 2015 at the Planning Institute of Australia’s Queensland Awards Night.

Taking the wisdom they’ve gained from establishing this and CrossLife’s second initiative “The Well” — a space for a medical centre, gym, café, community offices, function centre and outside-of-school-hours care centre — Hunt and the HVP team are hoping to help local churches establish sustainable, church-owned venues which provide essential services for the community.

“Our vision is there would be one of these church venues in every second new suburb in every second new suburb in Australia by 2040: a very achievable vision should these four stakeholders be brought together,” writes Hunt in his inaugural HVC newsletter.

“In this way, HVC is both a church planting movement and community development model.”

According to HVC, such projects require the collaboration of four different groups of “key stakeholders”: local churches, developers, professionals and funders to address the needs of new communities.

At a time when many local churches struggle to find opportunities to get involved with those around them, HVC’s strategies present a welcome new perspective on church planting, as well as contributing meaningfully to local communities.

HVC also positions church leaders in the centre of what’s happening at a local level, providing them the opportunity to share wisdom, encouragement and also model Christian ethics. In an era when so many Christians lament the demise of the church’s influence in Australian society, that’s a positive step.

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