Statements of Significance and Needs

Why write Statements of Significance and Needs?

Statement of Significance is your opportunity to demonstrate the importance and heritage of your church building and how over time it has evolved to meet the changing needs of the parish it serves. A good statement will show what is important and needs to be retained and what can be changed or removed. Taking time to explore your built heritage and the history of your parish and its people can offer valuable new insights which can be incorporated into your thinking and plans for the future.

Every church and parish is unique and a good statement will ensure your voice and heritage is heard in a way that conveys your sense of place and mission. Feel free to develop your own template and add photographs, plans, web-links or other details to reflect the character of your church and parish. Keep it short and to the point - this is not the place to rewrite your entire parish history or your full heritage listing. Remember this is a public document and people unfamiliar with your church and its circumstances will look to your statements to see if your proposals are feasible, achievable, sustainable, and worth supporting.

A good Statement of Significance goes beyond the building and shows you have an understanding of your parish, and how it too has changed over time. How would you describe your parish, how has it changed over time, how does it compare with other parishes? How big is the population – are they mainly retired, young, single, married, or single parent?  What facilities are there within the parish and what evidence is there to show others are needed that you might be able to fulfil?  


  • History and or archaeology of your church building and churchyard 
  • Highlight any important or unusual monuments, artefacts or architecture
  • What events have taken place in your area?
  • What events have shaped your church building?
  • Are there any famous people or events your church/parish is associated with?
  • What sort of community does it serve?
  • How has the parish changed over time?
  • What condition is the building in? (use your QI Report)? If the QI report highlights an urgent need to undertake repairs, are you including them in your proposals? If not, how will you justify the need for taking out some pews for flexible meeting space if the roof still leaks?
  • What IMPACT will your proposals have on the building you have just described?

Approach individuals, local history groups and schools to help you explore the history and heritage of your church and surrounding parish. Be aware that histories written during the eighteenth and ninetneenth centuries such as Hunter's Hallamshire or Miller's Doncaster viewed life very differently from how we do today. These histories concentrated on national events and leaders discarding areas such as the study of everyday life as of no importance. Try to use modern sources to check your history and remember to include references and book titles when you compile your statement.

There are many ways to produce your Statement of Significance and much will depend upon the age and nature of your building and the parish in which it resides.

A list of useful resources to help you write you statement of signficance can be found here

 The University of York has developed a free-to-use online tool to help with your statement of significance for your church building but make sure you add details of the parish as well.


Take care not to write too much - a good Statement will say all it has to in a few hundred words with no more than four illustrations.


Statements of Need - Key Points:

This is where you explain what you want to do, why now, the impact it will have on your building, the benefits the work will bring (outcome) and the consequences of doing nothing.

Funders often talk about outcomes and outputs. An output is essentially something you do or create; an outcome is the difference it will make. An output could be a new interpretation board for your church and the outcome would be that people could learn about your unique heritage. Clear and achievable outcomes are the essence of a good project and the DAC and others will want to see the difference your proposals will make. Note that a project does not have to deliver in all areas and may only have a few outcomes.

The Diocese of Lincoln has produced useful guidance on how to complete a Heritage Lottery Fund: Grants for Places of Worship.


Example outcomes for heritage:

  • Heritage is better managed
  • Fabric is in better condition
  • The building can be used more often by more people

Outcomes for people:

  • Developing skills
  • Learning about heritage
  • Better access and understanding of their shared heritage

Outcomes for communities:

  • More people engage with heritage
  • The creation of accessible and usable spaces

Outcomes for mission:

  • More groups can use the building
  • Greater variety of formal and informal services which could not succeed with existing facilities.

Be positive

Avoid negative statements such as:

  • We are a small, elderly congregation who find pews increasingly uncomfortable
  • We don’t have anyone to play the organ so we may as well get rid of it
  • The roof leaks

Consider instead:

  • At our combined Sunday morning service regular attendance has grown from 40 to 125. As hospitality underpins our growth, we need to remove the back four rows of plain and unstable Victorian pine pews that were given to the church  to create more space for sociability close to the kitchen.
  • Our music group is growing and we need a variety of music styles.Refurbishing the organ and relocating it into the west gallery will provide much needed floor space for drama and will allow us to hold a variety of concerts open to the public.
  • Urgent re-roofing of the chancel will ensure the church is weather-proof.Repairs to drainage will efficiently channel water away from the roof and foundations preventing damage from frost and damp. The new heating in the church will be more cost-effective.

Statement of Needs then brings the reader to the present day. It identifies the needs within your church, parish or wider society that are now pressing you to make specified changes, the difference they will make, who will benefit and the impact they will have on the fabric of your building and its surroundings.  You need to demonstrate that the desire to change is driven by clearly identified needs that you believe your church can address. Canvass opinion within the parish – invite people to a church meeting, ask their opinions about what they need in the village and if they would use the church.


  • What can and cannot take place in your building as it is?
  • Why you believe the position can no longer stay the same
  • What you are proposing to do?
  •  What the outcome of those changes would be
  •  What would happen if your proposed changes did not take place?


For example: the closure of the last shop or post office might mean a rural church wants space to create a community shop to allow those without transport access to a range of goods and company. An urban church might want to install kitchen facilities to offer breakfast and tea to schoolchildren who do not eat regularly at home.

Together with your Mission Action Plan, these documents can act as a business plan setting the trajectory for your church for the next ten or more years. They are important to your church, your parish, prospective funders,  the DAC, amenity bodies, local planners and architects as they show your understanding and appreciation of the social, material and cultural heritage for which you have responsibility and the impact your proposals will have upon them.

If you need to attract funding, your statements become your opportunity to explore, explain and share with others an understanding of your unique church and parish so that they can help you achieve clearly-defined needs. Most of the organisations you will be dealing with will not know your church or parish but will have a lot of experience in reading applications and what underpins successful changes to church buildings. Future generations may well value items and practices you do not, so any proposals to remove items such as pews, organs or ancient fabric must be carefully thought through and discussed with relevant bodies.

The Diocese of Lincoln has produced useful guidance on how to complete a Heritage Lottery Fund: Grants for Places of Worship.



Good statements help parishioners and funders see a clear and positive set of goals that will enhance your building and show how it will be used more often by more people.


You are now able to demonstrate the importance of your building and its heritage. You can show potential funders and others who will benefit from your proposals and that they are feasible, achievable and sustainable.


C20 Society launches database of C20th churches in the UK

An online database of 20th century churches in the UK has been launched by the Twentieth Century Society [Alliance member]. 

Compiled with the aid of a grant from Historic England, it is hoped that the database will raise the profile of the rich heritage of C20th churches, while being a valuable resource for anyone interested in church architecture.

The 20th Century Society has warned that the database is still a work in progress, and is already being supplemented with new information. They ask that if you spot any gaps or corrections to contact them on They also hope to include photographs of the churches in due course, so if you have images of any of these churches that you would be happy for us to use, please send them to the Society (as low-resolution jpegs) at the same address.