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 may often go when needing help. Your building speaks about you, your openness, your mission, and your 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 will 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.

The nature and condition of your building cannot alone be blamed for falling numbers or lack of newcomers. Change neds to be carefully considered in relation to the needs of parishioners, the wider community and the heritage contained within the church building. All need to be put to work in a mutually supportive scheme. 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 alterations to a listed building that can be hundreds of years old and a key feature of the local landscape requires a careful balance between celebrating assets and introducing 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, patience, 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.

Read:

Friends and Trusts for parish churches

How to recruit, train and retain volunteers

 

Watch:

 

Further Reading:

The Taylor Review on the future of churches

Good Neighbours Report  - How churches help communities flourish CUF & Theos (Summary)

Centre for Theology and Community: How churches are using their buildings

 

Where to Start?

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.

 

The Faculty jurisdiction process:

  • Believes the future of church buildings is ensured by enabling them to evolve to meet changing forms of worship and to be open, accessible and used by the community they serve
  • Is the legal process that enables changes to be made to church buildings that the secular planning process might otherwise deny.
  • Is designed to ensure the best plans have been put forward based on sound needs and sustainable business models.
  • 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 fully understood and shown to fit with the building in which they will be delivered.

 

Historic England - ESSENTIAL READING:

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.

Making changes to places of worship

New and additional uses for places of worship 

 

Crossing the Threshold  - ESSENTIAL READING

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:

 

The Church of England church building toolkit  - ESSENTIAL READING

A full toolkit to help you devise, develop and achieve your building project. It includes templates on how to assess your building, project management, stakeholders, fundraising, community research and much more can be downloaded here.