Advice on how parishes can realise the potential for mission and income generation from their church buildings and halls.
The following text distils a great deal of the information you need if you are really serious about developing your church buildings for wider community use. It will give you a good grounding in the opportunities and potential problems you will face. It bears close reading!
Church buildings and halls are often significantly under-utilised, despite being physically prominent in their locality. Even if you already organise or host activities during the week, there is likely to be huge further potential to benefit the local community, support church mission and, where necessary or appropriate, earn valuable income. These brief notes are designed to help stimulate ideas which PCCs can develop to suit their own unique church building and their own unique set of community groups, local issues and mission objectives.
A good deal more detail is available in the excellent Crossing the Threshold toolkit produced by the Diocese of Hereford. There is also a wealth of information available via the open and sustainable website on developing your church building and on potential funding providers - including some very helpful case studies (use the three "community/cultural/commercial" links at the bottom of that web page for the most useful and detailed case studies which include some really useful feedback from parishes who have "been there, done that").
A particular case study of developing a church building is available in the book “The Social Entrepreneur: Making Communities Work” by Andrew Mawson, readily available online from such outlets as amazon. This book will have resonances for many parishes and deals with the practicalities of using church buildings to engage imaginatively and successfully with the local community.
- Step 1: Identify community needs
- Step 2: Identify the potential of your buildings
- Step 3: Identify skills, resources and potential in your church community and further afield
- Step 4: Identify funding
Do look closely at the wealth of information available via the above links. It’s highly likely that there is a potential match between genuine community need and the potential for your building. If you can develop your building to bridge that gap, it could bring huge benefits all round and open up new opportunities for mission, outreach and financial stability. There's every good reason to use and develop your buildings to make your church a spiritual, social, cultural and even commercial hub of your community.
Getting your project off on a sure footing - and staying on that sure footing - will save a lot of time, money and energy. The following pointers, although obvious, can get overlooked in the "white heat" of your project:
- Understand the needs of your local community: get out there and talk to people.
- Be willing to change as your needs change (e.g. in response to local developments, such as new housing).
- Have a strong management team (beating in mind that people outside the church community may be able to bring the skills your need for your project).
- Maintain good relationships with your "competitors" such as local organisations or nearby churches - work collaboratively.
- Make sure you have the full support of your vicar for engaging with the community - everyone has to pull strongly together.
- Maintain good, ongoing communication with both the church and the wider community - send out regular newsletters and updates.
- Allow for growth (e.g. build in plenty of storage for new users of the facilities).
- Be businesslike - have proper planning and review processes, and make sure you have a proper booking system for your new facilities.
- Look at the many potential sources of funding. There's a great deal of guidance available via the DAC web page on fundraising and its various links. Time spent researching these funding opportunities could be very useful to you.
- Consider setting up a Friends' Scheme for your church to raise its profile and involve the community.
- Have a strong leader or project champion.
- Don't expect the same core of ever-willing church people to run the new community facilities as well!
- Remember that ongoing success is hard work: creating the new facilities is just the start.
- Remember the call to Love Your Neighbour: making these facilities available beyond the church community is a true response to that call.