The Missing Ring of Melbourne

There’s a strange phenomenon occurring in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne where I live. There is a missing ring of churches.

Amongst Pentecostal churches in Melbourne there are 2 large churches in the inner city –Bridge Church in Richmond (2.5 kms from the city centre), and Planetshakers City Church in East Melbourne (1.5kms away).

As you then head east there are various Pentecostal or charismatic churches, which as far as I know are not particularly large.  Then when you get to the outer suburbs there is a ring of substantial sized churches –

  • Activate Church in Ringwood (22 kms),
  • Northside Christian Centre in Bundoora (16 kms),
  • Bayside Church in Cheltenham (18 kms),
  • Stairway Church Whitehorse in Vermon t(19 kms)
  • City Life Church in Wantirna South (24 kms),
  • Faith! Church in North Dandenong (27 kms),
  • Careforce Church in Mt Evelyn (36 kms),
  • Crossway Baptist in Burwood East (16 kms).
  • And my church – Planetshakers North East Campus (17 kms).

Whilst this list might not be perfect (and if I have missed one then please leave a comment), in general there is clearly quite a number of large churches in the far eastern suburbs, but a missing ring in the middle suburbs – suburbs that are 5 to 15 kms from the city.

The story is painted vividly by looking at the history of what is now called Stairway Church Whitehorse.  When I first moved to Melbournein 1997 they were known as Christian City Church Camberwell (8 kms from the city centre), which is a suburb right in the ring that I am talking about.  Under the capable leadership of Peter McHugh the church outgrew it’s facility in Camberwell and moved to premises in Box Hill (13kms).  Having changed its name to Christian City Church Whitehorse (Whitehorse being the name of the local municipality) the church continued to flourish, and once again outgrew it’s facility and had to move.  The church again moved east into premises at Vermont (19 kms from the city).  So what was once a thriving church in the middle suburbs is now a thriving church in the outer suburbs – one amongst many.

Why?  It’s not the people in these suburbs – many of them drive into the city churches or out to one of the churches listed above.  I think that the core issue is that it is very hard to find premises that are suitable for a large church in the middle suburbs.

Amongst non-Pentecostal or charismatic churches there is one large middle eastern suburbs church that I know of – St Hilary’s Anglican in Kew (8 kms).  The Anglican Church, because of its long history, has the advantage of having substantial grounds for it’s building and a car park.  Pentecostal churches – being newer on the scene – do not have that advantage.

And yet 2 churches can do it in the inner city which is even more developed than the middle suburbs!  If those churches –Bridge Church and Planetshakers City Church– can do it then others can too.

It’s a matter of targeting the car parks and the suitable venues that do exist. May the  missing ring be filled with thriving churches (that don’t have to then up and leave!)


2 Comments to “The Missing Ring of Melbourne”

  1. You are right Darren there are many pentecostal churches in the inner ring area. Just not mega ones. And I think it is due to the property cost factor. Bridge has been in existence for many years (70+) so has had time to build equity. Planetshakers makes millions with its music & conferences so no regular church can compare with the amount of money they bring in & pay what it costs to hire Dallas Brooks.

    In 2006 my husband & I planted Faith Christian Church Chadstone which got to 300 & still meets today in Hoyts Chadstone. Through our involvement as district leaders we saw a number of other churches planted in the inner ring area which all doing a great job. They are just not churches of 1000’s like the ones you mentioned. But does this matter as long as lost people are being won to Christ?

  2. I would have thought there was churches in those areas, it comes down more to their size and their vision for growth. I have really enjoyed large churches and small churches but definitely favour smaller churches. Some churches get to a certain size and split to create a church plant, and that keeps their size small. Would be interesting to look at the demographics of each of those churches and see where the people come from and their backgrounds. Love your work John and Catherine.

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