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 for our church 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 Neighbourhood strategy, one that seeks to articulate priorities that will drive the DCC ministry into the next decade.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst devastating, has provided an opportunity to deeply reflect on our shared mission and how this is outworked. Over the 2020-2021 period particularly, this is where the DCC Board 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.

Throughout this process it has been clear that DCC provides an essential service to the community and the question has therefore been focused on the best location for this, not whether it should exist. With the desire to see our land and properties in Mt Evelyn utilised as a community hub, moving the operations of DCC helps realise this vision, and helps us contribute to the community closest to our church facility – especially as there are no other sizeable emergency relief services operating in Mt Evelyn, despite community needs that exist. Providing an essential service and community building activities in a location with limited other services, and aligning these efforts physically with our other church activities, provides an exciting opportunity for us to invest in our neighbourhood in a more holistic and cohesive way.

During this process, consideration was also given to the running costs associated with operating in Lilydale. While the original business plan for this premises sought to offset these costs through the leasing of various rooms within the building, these business endeavours did not generate the expected income, meaning the cost to operate a leased facility in Lilydale has been significant. Various efforts were made to address this, and coupled with the challenges of the pandemic, it became increasingly clear that utilising our existing buildings in Mt Evelyn was a financially pragmatic decision. 

The Mount Evelyn site entrusted to Discovery Church currently comprises two parcels of land of over ten acres each, only one of which is currently utilised by the church facility. 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 the site, given the size of the asset the church has been called to steward. 

Furthermore, 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 (2015) with 10% of adults experiencing food insecurity based on recent data (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] 10% of people have experienced food insecurity in the Yarra Ranges LGA, the highest in the Eastern Metropolitan Region, and exceeding the state average (2015) of 4.6% https://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/files/assets/public/webdocuments/council/policies-strategies/health_and_wellbeing_strategy_2017-2021.pdf

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. As highlighted in the DCC Vision section of this webpage, 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 therefore began 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. After a great deal of prayer and discernment over the 2020-2021 period, the DCC Board concluded, along with the Discovery Church senior pastors – Matt & Jody Destry – that the best long-term investment into the mission of DCC was not to be based at Beresford Road, Lilydale. It was the unanimous belief 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.

As per the DCC Timeline of Transition page, the DCC relocation to Mount Evelyn from Beresford Road Lilydale will now be taking place by 30th June 2022.

In December 2021, a partnership was formed with Elishacare, another Christian, Kingdom-based non-profit organisation operating in Lilydale, which was seeking a new premises to operate from. After a number of discussions with the DCC team, it became clear this was an opportunity from God to handover the DCC assets at Beresford Road for furthering the Kingdom without the expensive challenge of adhering to the rental lease make good/ repair covenants at the point where DCC planned to relocate to Mount Evelyn. As such, Elishcare agreed to an assignment of the lease with the landlord, and DCC became the sub-tenants, with the space being shared with Elishcare ever since. An incredible demonstration of the Lord’s provision! This has therefore created flexibility for DCC to relocate more simply over a period of months whilst work is ongoing at the house, and in order for the new sheds to be constructed adjacent to the house to accommodate the large fridge and freezer.

Materials for the new sheds are due to be delivered to the church site in June 2022, with the hope that they will be fully constructed soon afterwards, and enabling the large fridge and freezer used for DCC food storage to be relocated. The building permit for the remaining internal works at the house is also hoped for in June. As such, a move out day for DCC has been agreed for 30th June with Elishacare.    

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 – agreed to pursue the feasibility of relocating DCC to house accommodation on the church site at the corner of 89 Monbulk Road / 2 McKillop Road.

After this decision was made, a more detailed process to ascertain the viability for relocating to the house was undertaken. Further enquiries were made of Yarra Ranges council, and the house is considered ancillary to the primary use of the church for planning purposes. In other words, operating DCC at the house was deemed permissible without the need to submit a planning application. However, this would only be based on the condition that a building permit could be secured for the reconfiguration works necessary and to ensure compliance requirements (such as accessibility for commercial use) could be adequately demonstrated. Whilst this has led to

After securing initial estimates for reconfiguration costs and for the construction of the sheds adjacent to the house in July 2021, the Board approved a budget of $106,400 in essential capital works items associated with the fit out of the house for operating DCC. A further $24,250 in additional/ unforeseen essential works (e.g. asbestos removal) was approved by the Board in March 2022. The building contract, plus additional costs for the sheds are likely to cost in the region of $50k, with an approved budget of $55,000 by the Board in July 2021.

The approximate costs of operating DCC at Beresford Road annually (excluding salaries) has unfortunately been expensive at just over $100,000, with a majority of this (approximately $43,000) being for rental costs. So whilst the initial capital costs of relocating DCC to the house are high, much of these costs will be recuperated within a few years in the absence of the associated leasing costs.           

In terms of those accessing DCC from more westerly regions, a process has been entered into to find more viable support solutions for them in their region if they feel unable to travel to Mount Evelyn. Considering transport options to Mount Evelyn, this could include referring them to more local services where agreed upon in line with their desires. The primary objective is to ensure anyone accessing DCC’s services regularly will not feel left behind in this process.

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, and the process has commenced. This means 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, as approximately 85% of people accessing DCC do so by vehicle.

It has always been 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 Beresford Road 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 therefore reached out to a number of other food relief and faith-based organisations in Lilydale to see if a collaboration could be feasible, and to ensure that the regular meal-time ministry of Foodstop could continue to operate each week. After a great deal of research and discussions with different organisations, a partnership has been formed with the Lilydale Baptist church in order to host and operate Foodstop from the Mustard Tree Op Shop & Café facility on Thursday evenings. Another great example of God’s blessing through this whole process! So in April 2022, Foodstop began to operate from the Mustard Tree pending the transition of DCC to the house in June 2022.