Discovery Community Care – Our Future Together

Over the last three years, there has been a significant effort by the senior leadership of Discovery Church and church Eldership to plot a course forward that seeks to articulate vision and mission, along with strategic priorities that will seek to realise this mission in accordance with our values as an organisation. This process has been happening in conjunction with the development of a Neigbourhood strategy, one that seeks to articulate priorities that will drive the DCC ministry into the next decade.

Simultaneously, there have been things happening in our world and in our community that have been out of our control. The COVID-19 pandemic, whilst devastating, has also provided an occasion to reflect and reinvigorate a sense of perspective for our shared mission and how this is outworked. Over the last twelve months particularly, this is where the DCC Board have spent significant time praying, that we might be able to discern God’s leading as it relates to our shared mission objectives as a church and at DCC.

Much of our church mission continues through programs and partners that interface directly with our community through ministries such as DCC, among others. Throughout the COVID-19 experience there has been a great deal of discussion and prayer regarding the future viability and placement of DCC in Lilydale, which has in turn lead to a deeper discernment process and wondering with the Lord about where DCC fits into the context of the larger vision and mission of the church.

It is clear to both senior leadership and the Board of DCC, that DCC provides an essential service to our community. DCC continues to meet the immediate needs of those most vulnerable in our community, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. DCC is also a sizeable operation to run, with the associated staff hours, volunteer hours, overheads and other running costs. However, all of these costs are completely justified when considering the impact that is being made. As the future of DCC has been considered, the question has not been whether DCC should exist or not, but more a question of where. The questions being raised are not of legitimacy, but more of locale. 

The Mount Evelyn site entrusted to Discovery Church currently comprises a total of fifteen acres of land, spread across three land titles. The desire of the Eldership long term is to create a thriving community hub on the land that God has provided, that is used seven days a week as a gift and a blessing to our region – a place where communities of belonging and discipleship can be created, regardless of faith journeys. As such, the Eldership – in their capacity as the Board of DCC – have also been enquiring with God about what might be possible on this primary site, given the size of the asset the church has been called to steward. 

The needs of the community in Mount Evelyn and surrounding neighbourhoods are unique, and quite different to that of Lilydale. There are a number of services providing food and emergency relief to the disadvantaged and marginalised in Lilydale. However, in Mount Evelyn, there are none as large and as well established as DCC supporting the local community and more regional locations of the Yarra Ranges Shire, where a majority of the population reside in our local government area (LGA), the fourth highest LGA in terms of food insecurity in Victoria and almost twice as prevalent as the Victoria average[1]. The DCC Board have therefore been wondering with God about what this means, and also what could be accomplished in the surrounding community to where the church is physically located.

[1] 8.7% of people have experienced food insecurity in the Yarra Ranges LGA, exceeding the state average of 4.6% https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/about/publications/data/outer-eastern-melbourne-area-2015

The people that comprise Discovery Church as well as those accessing DCC’s services are uniquely gifted and talented people. We see people with a heart for mission, as well as people who are looking for a sense of connection and belonging to come through shared community. As a result, the Neighbourhood mission priorities have sought to focus on this integration with this DCC relocation in mind.

The long term aim of our Neighbourhood and mission expression of Discovery Church is Restored Relationships and Transformed Communities. As such, the priorities for the future of DCC are that people accessing support will be able to find long-term, sustainable solutions to the challenges they face through their participation and interactions with others facing similar circumstances. By bringing people together, we want to encourage them to express their gifts, to see their own value and worth through contribution, and to believe that they can effect change for themselves, their families and their wider communities. By inviting and facilitating these communities of belonging and discipleship, the priority is to help people understand and address the root causes of the issues they and their communities are experiencing, not merely the symptoms. As such, whilst DCC has traditionally operated more as a food relief agency in recent years, the focus for the future is to operate more as a community-focused agency that supports the deepening of inter-dependent relationships.

The DCC Board have therefore been enquiring of the Lord about what would be the most strategic decision for DCC moving forward in view of these mission principles and priorities, that seeks to support people to discover their God-given identity and purpose.

As such, and after a great deal of prayer and discernment over the past twelve months, the DCC Board have concluded, along with the senior pastors – Matt & Jody Destry – of Discovery Church, that the best long-term investment into the mission of DCC is not to be based at Beresford Road, Lilydale. It is the unanimous belief of the DCC Board that being located in Mount Evelyn will provide the land, the location and the leverage to more fully accomplish the DCC and the church’s shared, long-term mission and ministry goals.

The DCC relocation to Mount Evelyn from Lilydale will only happen once things such as planning consents and a new facility have been prepared following a research and feasibility study phase, so it may not be until 2022. The DCC building lease is currently due to expire in December 2021, however there is flexibility to extend the lease if needed without any immediate concerns.

In July 2021, the DCC Board convened to review a property research report and recommendation made by the Elder-appointed property sub-committee, which constitutes members of Discovery Church with expertise in property, maintenance and construction. Their advice and recommendation was sought to ascertain the most feasible and strategic long-term home for DCC in light of all the options currently available. After prayerful consideration, and in light of all the information available, the DCC Board – in their capacity as the Elders of Discovery Church – have agreed to pursue the feasibility of relocating DCC to the rented house accommodation on the church site at the corner of 89 Monbulk Road / 2 McKillop Road.

Now that this course of action has been determined, the process to ascertain the viability for relocating to this site is currently underway in more detail. There are still a number of factors that may prevent this course of action being the most feasible or viable, for example local council planning constraints. More information in this regard will be communicated with the church as plans become clearer.  

It is the desire and motivation of the Neighbourhood team to ensure that each person accessing DCC’s services regularly will be personally informed of this decision to relocate. This will ensure each person can talk through the implications for themselves, and how we as an organisation can seek to make the transition as smooth as possible for them. This could include (for example) support with transport costs such as fuel vouchers to enable people to continue accessing DCC’s services in Mount Evelyn.

Once the decision is made to proceed with a relocation site that is deemed viable, further communications will be made with those who work directly with people accessing DCC’s services to undertake the process of sharing this information with ample notice (at least three months before actual relocation).    

It is the desire of the Neighbourhood team and the Foodstop team that the regular, weekly evening meal reaching out to those experiencing homelessness will continue to operate in Lilydale.

The DCC facility has provided an indoor space for hosting Foodstop during cooler months of the year, as well as providing logistical support to the Foodstop team to store and prepare food for the evening meal in the kitchen facilities. Due to the mobile nature of the Foodstop ministry, the Neighbourhood team are currently exploring options to collaborate with other food relief and faith-based/ community-based organisations in Lilydale to ensure the regular meal-time ministry of Foodstop can continue to operate each week, and so an alternative venue in Lilydale can be sought to store/prepare food and host Foodstop as needed. Fortunately, there are a number of food relief agencies which operate in Lilydale, making this opportunity to collaborate and share resources a welcome one.