Buildings for mission - where to start
Church buildings never change??
A church building is often the first association people make with our faith. Rightly or wrongly, it is where they perceive that ‘religion is done’ and where they go when they need help. Your building speaks about you, your openness, your mission, readiness and ability to engage with people. First impressions often determine whether or not people will feel they can explore a deeper relationship with you or need to look elsewhere. See also the section on Millennials and Church Attendance.
Making changes to a building should always be the culmination of careful thought, prayer, research and planning. People won't come simply because you have central heating and good coffee but these features can help as part of a structured approach to growth.Essential features include:
- An easy to find entrance set within a cared-for churchyard
- A clear, easily navigable internal layout
- Decent lighting, heating and technology
- Hospitality and a warm welcome
- Absence of clutter
- Information about the church and area
- A social area for mixing and talking
- Space to be quiet and contemplative
Is your building fit for mission?
Use this simple health check to find out what your church building says about you. Everyone wants a church that is welcoming, comfortable and user-friendly. We also want somewhere people want to visit, to use for their wedding or meeting, to explore, to find comfort or peace, to welcome young and old.... and not least to support the work of the church. The building alone cannot be blamed for falling numbers or lack of newcomers. If replacing the pews and adding a kitchen are not part of a well-considered and researched scheme they will not make your church grow.
Is your congregation fit for mission?
Making change is never easy. Some will campaign against any alteration to the historic fabric; others will see no need to change what is familiar and reassuring; others will threaten to leave.
Considering changes to a building that is hundreds of years old or a key feature of the local landscape will give you much to consider. Not everyone will agree with the need to change. Some may leave; people who rarely visit your church may raise objections; others will see no need to change what is familiar and reassuring. Too much will be demanded of too few and it becomes all too easy for a perceived lack of funding, time, energy and resources to be used as impediments to change.
Good and consistent communication, collaboration and research will help you to explain and shape the need for change. People will be attracted by your ideas and will be excited to see something new is happening. Inviting individuals and local groups to help develop your building project can be an excellent way of injecting new ideas, skills and energy into your thinking.
Contact the DAC as soon as you start to think about change so they can offer advice and support. Their expertise is free of charge and they have considerable experience of a wide variety of works up and down the country which can help inform your thinking.
Faculty jurisdiction is the legal process that enables changes to be made to church buildings that the secular planning process might otherwise deny. The process is designed to ensure the best plans have been put forward based on sound needs and sustainable business models. It facilitates discussion between the church, local planning authorities, Church Buildings Council and amenity bodies such as Historic England so that the needs and circumstances upon which the project is based are given the best fit with the building in which they will be delivered. It acknowledges that the best way to ensure the future of your church is to ensure the building most closely identified with the Christian faith in your area is valued, shared and maintained by as many as possible as often as possible.
Where to Start?
Crossing the Threshold
First created by the Diocese of Hereford in 2009 and newly updated for 2017 Crossing the Threshold is an essential resource for guidance for projects adapting church building for the benefit of worshippers and wider community use. It breaks down projects into three key stages:
- Preparing the Ground
- Looking at Your Options
- Delivering Your Project
It includes case studies, tips and end-of-chapter checklists as well as advice from individual experts and national church organisations. The toolkit draws upon the lessons learned from recent church projects of all denominations across the UK.
You can download the toolkit in full here or by individual chapters:
- Chapter 1 - Developing Your Vision
- Chapter 2 - Undertaking a Community Audit and Consulting with the Community
- Chapter 3 – Developing a Team and Assessing Your Skills and Abilities
- Chapter 4 – Governance – Choosing the Right Organisational Structure
- Chapter 5 – Developing Your Ideas – Options Appraisals, Feasibility Study, Architect’s Brief and the Design Stages
- Chapter 6 – Balancing the Need for Change with heritage and Liturgical Considerations – Legalities and the Church Planning Process
- Chapter 7 – Planning Your Project
- Chapter 8 – Writing a Business Plan
- Chapter 9 – Ensuring Your Project is Sustainable
- Chapter 10 – Raising the Funds
- Chapter 11 – Identifying the Right External Funders
- Chapter 12 – Completing Applications – Selling Your Project to Funders
- Chapter 13 – Managing Project Cash Flow
- Chapter 14 – Managing the Building Works on Site
- Chapter 15 – The Final Stages – Claiming Money, Celebrating, Impact and Evaluation
- Chapter 16 – Further Information
Historic England has updated some of its places of worship advice webpages. Making changes to places of worship and New and additional uses for places of worship offer advice, guiding principles and sources of further information for those planning to make changes to historic places of worship or who are considering new or additional uses.