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7. Getting the Most Out of Your Buildings

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Every place of worship has a mission to its community. Each church can seek to articulate this, or develop it, in different ways. The most important task for any parish is to try to work through, honestly, objectively, and prayerfully, what it means to be the people of God in their own community, location and circumstances. So working on a mission statement for your place of worship is the first step, which must underpin any proposals to change or develop the building. All denominations will have guidance on how to develop a mission plan.

And the two areas, you might want to look at are:

  • How your building can become a valuable tool for mission and meeting pastoral needs
  • Wider use of the building by the community

There can be tensions caused by sharing the same space for church use and community use. The key is to have a coherent vision which you can communicate to other people whether they are in your own congregation, or from the wider community. You should never feel that you have to hide God away, but at the same time, don’t expect that all your users will necessarily share your faith. There may well be tensions but never lose sight of the fact that you are a living, working place of worship.

On the practical side, the on-going challenge of fundraising for repairs can seem never ending. Increasing the use of your building and where appropriate, attached land, can better secure your future by providing additional services to the community and by generating an income.

Parish churches orginally used to be the centre of the community. While the chancel was reserved for liturgy and worship, the nave was used for a range of activities including drama, elections and schools. For the Church of England, this changed after the Reformation when naves became preaching areas. The Non-Conformist denominations also focused on preaching. During the Victorian period churches were once more seen as sacred spaces. Faith groups have always helped the most vulnerable in society as well as providing a focus for their community and looking after their spiritual as well as their general well-being. In the last 50 years, faith groups have started recognising their building as a practical asset in building a relationship with their local community who may not come into the building for worship. Rural church buildings are now being used again to provide a focal point for their communities where the church maybe the only public building left after the school, the pub, the shop and post office have gone. They are being used to deliver vital public services such as libraries, outreach post offices and school halls.  For the place of worship, this can be a way of reconnecting with the local community and at the same time, once people appreciate the value of your building, then they may well be willing to share with you the responsibility of looking after it.

In the Church of England, it is accepted that a church building can have a variety of uses. Those uses need not be ecclesiastical in purpose provided the primary use of the church remains that of worship. Those uses should not prevent this primary use of the church for of worship, or involve activities unsuitable in a church, either because they conflict with its teaching or because they would be unlikely to be regarded as acceptable. It is up to the parish church itself to decide what exactly it wants to offer the wider community.

This is similar in most of the Christian denominations, where the wider use of the church building will depend on the local circumstances and the views of the local members. Each church is recognised to be a separate organisation which can make decisions about what it provides within it buildings to support their local communities.

Bear in mind that if new activities, reordering of the building, and encouraging use by a wider group of people does seem the right way forward, this will require vision, determination and of course money and time.


7.1 Getting started

Spend some time thinking about your building. When was the last time you really looked at your building and how it functions? What does your building say about you? How does it speak to you and how does it speak to others?

Start thinking about how people engage with your building: What does it mean to your congregation? Is it a millstone using up precious funds, or is it a spring board for wider engagement?

Create an opportunity for the congregation to think about and talk about what the building means to them.

What does it mean to the wider community? Try and understand the sense of ownership that others in the community may have for the building. It may be that for most of the wider community, it is the church building with which they connect and have an emotional attachment (e.g. married there, grandparents buried there).

Then start thinking of ways of getting people into your building and asking them what they think about the church and if they have any ideas on wider uses.

Organise an open day: serve refreshments; have a small exhibition; organise a fun activity e.g. practical workshops, making Christmas decorations, a tour of the church. Invite all local groups such the Women’s Institute, Local History Society and the Art Society. Organise an activity for local schools.

And then ask them what they think about the building. Do they find it welcoming? Is it comfortable?  Who already comes in? Does it explain itself? What would they like to happen here?

Ask them what they like about living in this area? Ask them who misses out in this area? What services are lacking?

Remember not everyone will want to speak out in front of others so provide paper and pens for people to write down their thoughts.


The Churchbuild website has a free Health Check which can be downloaded for a ‘quick and easy way to find out which are your biggest constraints, and the best opportunities for improvement’.


The following exercise can help people to take a fresh look at themselves and their building. It worked extremely well in the 'Through the Church Door' project in Hereford and Worcester, South Shropshire and South Warwickshire in 1994-1996. http://www.churchestourism.info/index.php/resources-for-churches-mainmenu-56/welcoming-visitors-mainmenu-57/23-preparing-for-visitors

The Arthur Rank Centre also has a Congregational Questionnaire which will allow you to discover how church members are connected into their community. It can be downloaded here.

Also useful to have a look at are:

  • The Presence Papers Collection is composed of six special papers written as part of the development of the Methodist Church workbook Presence (see below). As with the workbook itself, these papers seek to better equip churches in rural communities for contemporary mission, ministry & involvement with their communities. The areas covered by the papers include: stories and examples of the creative and innovative use of church premises in rural communities, stories of church action in community; a checklist to maintain the spiritual health of the local church; the wide use & development of rural church buildings for community use; mission in new rural housing areas; being one church with several congregations; and what being a 'presence' in rural communities means. It can be downloaded from the Arthur Rank Centre website here.
  • Presence, a workbook to help promote and sustain an effective Christian presence in villages itself can be downloaded at
  • Seeds in Holy Ground: a workbook for rural churches looks at 13 key areas of rural Anglican Church life & mission. It is ideal for small groups within churches or from groups of churches, and each session includes background information, questions for discussion, and a range of activities to follow through - including ideas & opportunities for worship. It has a section on Community Use and Meaning. Although produced by the Anglican Church, it has been used widely by other denominations - and is of value in a range of rural situations and types of church. It is a helpful tool for training lay people for increased involvement in mission & ministry. Can be downloaded from the Arthur Rank Centre at http://www.arthurrankcentre.org.uk/signposts/item/3119-seeds-in-holy-ground-a-workbook-for-rural-churches
  • Making Connections: a Resource Book for Rural Churches is a short workbook is designed for use with small groups and will help with creative thinking and new initiatives. Rural congregations often benefit from considering fresh possibilities and ideas. The many connections that already exist in rural communities between people of church or chapel and the wider community offer great opportunity to share the gospel in action and worship. This short, easy-to-use workbook includes sections on working with others, use of land and buildings, involving young people, sharing faith and working with schools, culminating in the final section on creative worship. Each section includes Bible study, stories, discussion starters and action points which will help your church make more of the connections you have. http://www.arthurrankcentre.org.uk/publications-and-resources/making-connections

The Arthur Rank Centre has links to resources useful for anyone involved in mission, ministry or training related to the rural church. It describes and evaluates a wide range of resources, materials & training that are already proving their worth to rural church practitioners; though a considerable number may not be very widely known. http://www.arthurrankcentre.org.uk/signposts

"Churches for Communities: adapting Oxfordshire's churches for wider use" by Becky Payne
Published by the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust with all proceeds go to the work of the Trust. 136 pages, 150 colour illustrations (ISBN 978 0 992 7693 07)
Available from http://www.ohct.org.uk, www.centralbooks.com or through all good booksellers.
N.B. see full details & description in Section 11

Setting up a Friends Group

N.B. link to Funding 5.7

Setting up a church website

There are a large number of websites offering guidance on how to create an effective website. A good place to start is http://www.goodchurchwebsites.org.uk/. Talk to your denomination’s communications officer. Have a look at other churches websites and get some ideas on what is effective.

If there is a village website, ensure your church is included and there is a link to your own website. Make sure you keep it up to date and include photos illustrating events or progress on building works. 


St Mary of Charity, Faversham’s website clearly tells visitors and schools what they will find on a visit to the church. This includes information on the history of the building, what is happening in the churchyard and explaining to schools what they offer in the form of learning activities. http://www.builttoinspire.org/



Making Church Buildings Work by Maggie Durran

This offers ways in which churches can be a more effective local presence and serve their neighbours' needs.

N.B. See under OTHER RESOURCES for more information on how to buy the book



All Saints, Benington, a Grade I church in Lincolnshire, was forced to close in 2003 when the small congregation could no longer see a way to pay for necessary major repairs. Realising what they would lose and that “a closed church would be the final straw for this community’” which had already lost its shop, post office and school, the village of 500 people have come together, formed the Benington Community Heritage Trust (BCHT) and are working with enthusiasm and commitment to safeguard a future for the church.  “It opened the eyes of a lot of people to the church and its potential’, said one of the BCHT Trustees.” We cannot lock the door on the memories our church holds”. To read about how they organised open days and invited local people to come into the church and talk about a future for the building go to: http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/AboutCCTourwork/Regeneratingcommunities/Projectsexamplesofourregenerationwork/AthrivingheartforvillageBenington/  and  http://www.beningtonallsaintschurch.co.uk/ and read their story.


7.2 Developing Options


Tubestation_-_for_uploadMany churches now host a variety of community activities, such as toddlers, play groups, scouting and guiding, youth clubs, women's groups, elderly groups, keep fit, sports, dancing, choirs, amateur dramatics, university examinations, councillors' surgeries and ward or area meetings, health-related meetings, lunches, coffee mornings, and other churches. They are also helping to deliver vital rural services such as providing premises for school halls, libraries, cafes, internet cafes and computer clubs, children centres, health centres, training centres, arts centres, community shops, outreach post offices, satellite police stations, food banks and Citizen Advice Bureaux.

Whether you call it a Mission Plan or a Mission Action Plan, you need to develop your vision and decide what is going to be your main focus. It could be around welcoming visitors, community outreach or delivering a particular vital local service. Think about where would you like to be in five years’ time:

·         First, look and identify what you have – your place of worship and any other buildings such as a hall. What is special about your building, your location?  What do you add to your local area?  At the most basic level, most church building have space to offer even if it might need upgrading and new facilities installed.

·         Secondly, find out what your community needs – Is there a lack of provision for certain groups such as the elderly, pre-school children, young people? Are there any groups particularly vulnerable to social isolation? What services are lacking? Is there still a shop or post office? What is the level of public transport? Is there sufficient meeting space? These can all be opportunities.

·         Thirdly, remember working in partnership with others can bring huge benefits – in the form of specialist knowledge and skills, additional funding, sharing of resources. Churches are able to offer a building, volunteers and a wish to help their communities and support those in need. It will be important that both sides have something to bring and to gain from the partnership and that you both share the same objectives and values. You can find guidance on Working in Partnership in Funding Guide No 7 found on the Parish Resources website http://www.parishresources.co.uk/

The best way to take this forward is via some form of community planning which is a very good way of identifying a community’s key issues and needs.


7.3 Community Planning

Community-led plans (sometimes called Parish Plans) provide a process for local people who want to produce a holistic plan that will improve the wellbeing and sustainability of their neighbourhood. It’s a way of a community working together to decide what is important to them and what kind of changes they want for their community.

Getting involved with the development of a local plan can be a useful tool in addressing the wider strategy for community ministry. If you are involved, then the church will be included. Local needs and possible solutions will be identified as part of the process and it may be that your church can be part of that solution either by providing a venue, volunteers and/or working in partnership with another organisation to provide a service etc. All those running community buildings such as the village hall or scout hut need to be included to ensure that unnecessary duplication or over-provision of certain services results. Together, look at the facilities available to your village as a whole and see if it is possible to work together to rationalise and find the best optimum use for all community buildings in the local area.


Rural Community Councils (RCCs) provide training and guidance for communities on the development of a Community Led Plan (CLP). If you are part of an existing community planning group or want to start one, then you are advised to contact your local RCC/RCAN member to discuss the toolkit and find out what support is available locally.

You should also see if there is someone at your diocesan or district level who looks after rural affairs and who maybe already involved with the local RCC who may be able to give you specific advice on how as a church you can become involved.

Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) have just produced a new toolkit for Community Led Planning which outlines the steps that communities should take to produce plans that are well researched, inclusive and achieve the actions they propose.

The toolkit is largely directed at members of the Rural Community Action Network (RCAN) to help them in their work guiding communities through the process of producing a Community Led Plan.

This means that parts of the toolkit are only available for bona fide RCAN members. However, Information Sheets and Topic Sheets which are included in the Toolkit can be downloaded for free by anyone. However, they are best used with the support of your local RCC/ Rural Community Action Network member.

(N.B. The Rural Community Action Network is the collective name for the 37 Rural Community Action Network members - also known as the RuralCommunity Councils - throughout England, their eight regional bodies and their national umbrella body, ACRE.  Rural Community Action Network members are charitable local development agencies, generally based at county level, which support and enable initiatives in rural communities.)

The 6 Information Sheets introduce Community Led Planning (CLP). They explain what CLP can do for communities, the support available and how it links in with the government’s Localism agenda and new community ‘rights’ which includes the new Neighbourhood Planning. These can be downloaded for free from http://www.acre.org.uk/our-work/community-led-planning/Resources/Community+Guidance/Information+Sheets.htm

The 7 Topic Sheets introduce a range of issues that communities may wish to consider when producing their plan. These have been produced with other key stakeholder organisations with expertise in the topic. The three topics which will have special relevance for places of worship are:

  • Rural Community Buildings (with Church of England, the United Reformed Church and the Methodist Church). This provides information on how to involve those who manage community buildings in the production of a Community Led Plan. This involves understanding the importance and use of each of the buildings in your community and developing actions that will help to sustain and keep them viable for future generations. Includes positive case studies illustrating how different community spaces including church buildings and village halls have worked together to avoid duplication and find the best optimum use for each building. http://www.acre.org.uk/Resources/ACRE/Documents/Community%20Led%20Planning/CLP%20Topic%20Sheet%20-%20Rural%20Community%20Buildings.pdf

In March 2011 English Heritage in partnership with Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) produced Knowing Your Place: Heritage and Community-Led Planning in the Countryside to help rural communities that are producing, reviewing or updating their plan. Designed to complement and provide more detail on heritage to the ACRE community planning toolkit, it is supported by the Association of Small Historic Towns and Villages (ASHTAV), Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Civic Voice, Council for British Archaeology (CBA), Country Land and Business Association (CLA), European Council for the Village and Small Town (ECOVAST), and National Association of Local Councils (NALC). It can be downloaded here http://www.helm.org.uk/server/show/nav.21664.


Planning Aid England provides free, independent and professional planning advice to communities and individuals who cannot afford to pay professional fees. http://www.rtpi.org.uk/planningaid/.


If there is no local plan and no enthusiasm in the local community to develop one, then organise a survey/community audit and find out what your community needs. It is also a good idea to make contact with the organisations in your area who work with key groups such as children, the elderly, disabled and other disadvantaged vulnerable groups. It is important also to talk to and present your ideas to your parish council, local Primary Care Trust, and your local authority. They may be looking for a location for a specific service or might like to be a partner in your project. Talk to other community networks and buildings in your neighbourhood. They may already provide some services and have some ideas for others which the church could provide or host. Talk to as many local bodies as you can including local charities, other churches and faith groups and the local schools. Make links with businesses in your area eg: tea shops, pubs, potteries, craft shops.


London Diocese has useful guidance on how to undertake a community audit at


The Churchcare website has a lot of useful guidance on how to get started in their Church Development Plan guidance which can be found here http://www.churchcare.co.uk/churches/open-sustainable/church-development-plan.

Help with assessing the use and viability of new community buildings can be found in the New Forest Community Facility Toolkit, published by the New Forest District Council, The Toolkit aims to support and guide people who want to assess the usage, gaps and potential of their community facilities.

The Arthur Rank Centre has developed a simple toolkit - for small & rural churches, or those which are isolated and serving dispersed communities, and especially churches in groups - for auditing and profiling rural churches and the communities they serve. Find more at www.arthurrankcentre.org.uk/publications-and-resources/profiling-tools

7.4 The Localism Act

On 15 November 2011 the Localism Act became one of the key pieces of legislation introduced by this Government. It is a radical shift of power from central government to local communities and the Government hope it will devolve greater powers to local councils and neighbourhoods and give local communities more control over local decisions.

What does Localism mean for church buildings?

Churches and cathedrals have been community cornerstones for centuries. With a presence in almost every village, our places of worship buildings are the most public indication of the Church’s role in the community. A large amount of our community outreach work can be seen as ‘localist’, such as the partnerships we’ve created between churches and the Post Office, with the Citizen Advice Bureau or the advice we offer on developing community resources like shops and crèches.

There are three specific elements to the Act which could have direct relevance on churches undertaking community outreach:

The Right to Plan: Neighbourhood Plans are intended to become the new building blocks of the planning system where communities have the power to grant planning permission if a local majority are in favour. The process for developing Neighbourhood Plans will rely on active community involvement. Communities will be able to draw up Neighbourhood Plans for their area and use these to pass planning applications by local referendum, provided that their decision aligns with national planning requirements. As yet, the details of how this will actually work are still in development, but some hope that neighbourhood planning will provide a statutory framework through which Community Led Plans can achieve their aspirations.

Community Right to Challenge: voluntary and community groups, parish councils and local authority staff will be able to challenge to take over the running of local public services. A community group could express an interest in running a local service and submit a supported petition to show that they would be able to provide a better service or facility. If the proposal is accepted then this would set off a procurement exercise. Full details of this will work in practice are still to be worked out.

Community Right to Bid is where a building currently used for ‘community use and/or contributing to a community’s well-being’ could be added to a list of community assets which a community would have a right to ‘bid for’ if it came up for sale. As places of worship are increasingly being used more for wider community use, they could fall into this category. However, this would only become an issue at the point at which a denomination was considering closing and selling a place of worship or hall/parish rooms.


The full Localism Act can be read here  http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2011/20/contents/enacted

Plain English Guide to the Localism Act can be read here


ACREalso provides some briefing notes on the Localism Act at:


You can also find out more from the Decentralisation & the Localism Bill – An Essential Guide:


See the ARC website for more about the Localism Act and Big Society at www.arthurrankcentre.org.uk/library-of-good-practice/item/8965-localism--the-rural-church

There are several resources to emerge from the context of the Localism Act that may be of help and value for rural churches seeking to develop the community use of their buildings:

The Place Station (from Locality) introduces public and private sector owners of land and buildings across the UK to social and community entrepreneurs with ideas for transforming their local area. This has potential benefits and provides opportunities for rural churches and their buildings. It provides a space where people can: search for land and buildings; add a place they'd like to see owned and managed by the community; add an Idea for transforming local services; propose new uses for available land and buildings; establish community support to aid the prioritisation of assets of community value on formal lists held by local authorities; comment on and offer to support an idea or proposal for a place; find pro-bono supporters where they live to put their ideas and proposals into practice. Find it at www.theplacestation.org.uk.

The Building Calculator (from the Asset Transfer Unit & Effusion) which is a professional online tool to support community organisations to develop sustainable building projects. If you already own or have responsibility for maintaining local assets, the Building Calculator uses Whole Life Costing methodology to help you understand and plan ahead for your operating and maintenance costs. This may have real value for rural churches seeking to adapt their buildings and develop them for community use. Find it at www.buildingcalculator.org.uk.


7.5 Ownership

It sounds obvious, but if you are planning changes to the access to your church or thinking of selling a hall, or wanting to add an extension to your building or create increased parking, then it is always advisable to check who owns land around the church and churchyard. Find out about any rights of way especially those which provide access. Check whether there any covenants attached to your land.

For Church of England churches, it is the incumbent who owns the church building, while the Parochial Church Council (PCC) is responsible for repairs and maintenance. The incumbent also owns the churchyard, and the PCC is responsible for repairs except if it is closed when a local authority can be required to take over the care.

Church Halls are usually owned by the Diocesan Board of Finance in trust for the PCC. If the hall is on consecrated ground ie: in the churchyard or attached to the church, then it could be owned by the incumbent. It also could be owned by an entirely separate trust. Bear in mind that even if it is owned by the PCC, they may not be able to use all or any proceeds of sale completely as they might wish.

The United Reformed Church has advice here www.urc.org.uk/resources/plato-property-handbook/legal.html

The Baptist Union Corporation has information here http://www.baptist.org.uk/Groups/220869/Property_Churches.aspx

The leaflet on ownership is PC02 Boundaries, Fences, Hedges and Problems


7.6 Developing a project

Once you feel that you have done sufficient research and are sure you know what form your project will take and how it might be realised you can think about the details.

There are plenty of sources of guidance and information that can help you work through the various stages involved.

Two important elements will be the need to produce some form of business plan which will include your project’s budget and secondly the need to show that you have undertaken a risk assessment of your project. Most grant-making bodies will ask to see these.


7.6.1 Support from faith-based organisations and heritage bodies

All denominations will have some form of community development support in the form of area support officers who can give you further advice and guidance. Many also have sections on their websites devoted to resources for churches who want to increase their community outreach.

This should be your first point of contact as your diocese or district will have an understanding of social issues and will already be involved with or have knowledge of a number of local groups and organisations and will be able to offer you specific support on how to increase your level of engagement within the local community. Importantly, they are also likely to be working ecumenically. They may also be able to point you in the direction of other local churches who are already working on a similar project who you can make contact with.

The Arthur Rank Centre has links to rural advice and community projects http://www.arthurrankcentre.org.uk/mission-and-ministry/community-buildings

Churchcare has a whole section on developing your church building contained within their Church Development Planguidance, which covers exploring the different options, where to find professional help, managing the financial aspects, advice on altering your building, managing the project, and realisation, promotion and monitoring your project. You can also find specific guidance on particular wider uses such as community shops, outreach post offices tourism, and education. Start here http://www.churchcare.co.uk/churches/open-sustainable/church-development-plan and then move to here http://www.churchcare.co.uk/churches/open-sustainable/extended-and-additional-uses.

Several Church of England dioceses have produced in-depth guides on the topic of developing your church including:

  • Diocese of Hereford produced A Toolkit – a Community Development Approach to the use of Church Buildings (2010) which can be downloaded from


The Parish Resources website has guidance on writing a budget and developing a business plan as part of its Funding Guides which can be downloaded from here http://www.parishresources.org.uk/funding.htm

In partnership with the Princes Regeneration Trust, the Churches Conservation Trust has developed a toolkit on how to develop a well-structured business plan. It is very accessible and is written in sections to allow each part to be attempted one at a time.
Download it at www.visitchurches.org.uk/regenerationtaskforce/Businessplantoolkit/

The Methodist Church operates on a localised basis in their community activities. It is probably best to start by making contact with your area circuits. .

Much of the United Reformed Church’s work within rural communities is supported and coordinated through the Arthur Rank Centre.

Read more about this here http://www.urc.org.uk/mission/rural-mission.html

To access a wide range of resources, downloadable materials and helpful information please visit The Arthur Rank Centre's website.

The mission of URC churches in rural communities is supported by the National Rural Officer and by a dynamic and experienced network of Synod Rural Officers. For contact details of your Synod's Rural Officer please contact your Synod Clerk.

One Church 100 Uses CIC was set up as the national regeneration agency for the United Reformed Church. Although the shares of the company are owned by the URC, the agency has the flexibility to work across denominations and is developing an ecumenical portfolio

They are a Community Interest Company and a social enterprise dedicated to assisting congregations to connect with their community. “We help develop facilities and working practices that are innovative and respond to the demands and opportunities of the 21st Century”. They are able to advise on, or play a hands-on role in, the facilitation, networking, fundraising and project management of church developments. www.onechurch100uses.org

The Baptist Union of Great Britain has several guidance notes which can be downloaded from http://www.baptist.org.uk/Groups/220866/Legal.aspx

Useful leaflets are

· L01 Churches and Community Partnerships

· L02 Pre-Schools

· L03 Churches and Coffee Shops

· L05 Ecumenical Sharing Agreements

For the Quakers, go to: http://www.quaker.org.uk/property-matters  where you will be able to download the Handbook on the Care of Meeting Houses, as well guidance documents on new development projects and new legislation.

The Congregational Federation website in the section entitled Mission in Action has numerous ideas and information about projects happening in other Congregational churches.

http://www.congregational.org.uk/section.aspx?id=10049 . You can also contact your Area Support or Development Worker whose names and contact details can be found on the Area pages on the Churches part of the website http://www.congregational.org.uk/section.aspx?id=10

The Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches (EFCC)

EFCC is a fellowship of about 125 independent churches in the United Kingdom. Congregationalism, following the teachings of the New Testament, believes that each local church is completely autonomous, under the headship of Jesus Christ, and has within itself all that it needs for the health and well being of the church. Congregationalism thus has no denominational hierarchy above the local church. EFCC does not exist to provide any such hierarchy, but to provide like-minded churches with a means of mutual encouragement and support. The website is http://www.efcc.karoo.net/

The Salvation Army’s  churches (also known as ‘corps') are places of worship where Sunday meetings are held, but also provide a practical expression of the Christian faith during the week, when doors are opened to offer activities for the whole community. These vary by church but could include youth activities, parent and toddler groups, drop-in centres, luncheon clubs, advice clinics and lots more.  Salvation Army congregations can access help and guidance via their internal website.

Resourcing Christian Community Actionwebsite. This study was commissioned, following a Big Society debate at the November 2010 General Synod, to research and bring together current best practice in Christian care in local communities with the resources and knowledge base needed to multiply those good works across the country. Although many of the projects included are in deprived areas, Christian community action is called for in any context to demonstrate care for neighbours and new ways of being and to work for personal, social and structural transformation”.
Go to the website  www.how2help.net to read the study in full and also access information on how to get a project started and how to run a project, where to get advice from, and where to find local partners and funding. There are also case studies of existing projects from across the country.

Faithworks is an independent charitable trust seeks to enable Christians and churches to develop their role at the hub of their local community. They have developed a range of resources which can be seen here www.faithworks.info/research-and-resources-/resources

English Heritage’s Historic Places of Worship Support Officers
Over the last few years, English Heritage has been funding the provision of ‘Support Officers’ who can work alongside congregations and give them access to a wide range of skills and advice. Find out if your denomination or diocese has such a person in post.

The Churches Conservation Trust Regeneration Task Force has developed a business approach to structure and guide project development. They have identified 5 key stages which aim to simplify the process and help take projects forward in a logical way. Read about them here http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/AboutCCTourwork/Regeneratingcommunities/Aprocessforstructuringsuccessfulprojects/

From April 2012, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is setting aside a £5m budget for capacity building and mentoring in the areas of writing business plans, fundraising skills which can be applied for by those places of worship which have already received HLF funding.

The Heritage Lottery Fund also has a worked example of a risk table which can be downloaded at


7.6.2 Support from the Community and Voluntary Sector

Other organisations can provide information, guidance, resources or funding or advice on where you might find potential partners, with whom you could share expertise and costs. These will include your local authority and local community networks.

Your local voluntary and community sector infrastructure organisation can also provide vital support for voluntary organisations and community groups. Unfortunately, they can go by different names in different areas.

However, NAVCA (National Association for Voluntary and Community Action) is the national voice of local support and development organisations. They champion and strengthen voluntary and community action by supporting our members in their work with over 160,000 local charities and community groups. For more information go to www.navca.org.uk

To find the local bodies which can provide support at local level to the voluntary and community sector go to http://www.navca.org.uk/directory . They can provide advice on setting up new projects as well as information on grants available and offer support in the application process.

Rural Community Councils can provide useful contacts for rural churches as well as being a source of information on local grants, resources and networks. ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England), which aims to promote a vibrant and sustainable rural community sector, has details of the 38 Rural Community Councils. http://www.acre.org.uk/about-rcan

The Plunkett Foundation support rural communities through community-ownership to take control of the issues affecting them. They 

  • Support rural communities looking to set up and run community-owned shops
  • Help rural communities to set up a wide range of community-owned enterprises, social enterprises and co-operatives to provide vital rural services

Village SOS began in 2010 when six enterprising UK rural villages won Big Lottery Fund investment of around £400,000 to revive their communities through new business ventures.
Today, Village SOS aims to build on the experience of these six projects and to inspire others to start a new business that will regenerate their own community. Go to the website where you will find Tools, support and expert guidance to help communities take a step towards starting their own businesses and guide them through the journey from their initial idea to transforming the area. There is also an advice phone line you can ring.http://www.villagesos.org.uk/

Pro-bono support

There are now plenty of companies/organisations who will offer their services pro-bono for community projects. These include lawyers, architects and mentors for social enterprise. Websites listing companies that can offer these services can be found on the internet,  

Community Matters has launched Can You Plan It? - an innovative new tool specifically designed for community, voluntary and social enterprise organisations to help make business planning participatory and fun. The tool works like a game and offers a new approach for organisations to use with trustees, volunteers, staff and users, including young people, and offers a new perspective on business planning and collaboration. Can You Plan It? is flexible - users can either adopt an imagined organisation based in the fictional town of Blaybeck to learn more about the process of business planning, or they can adapt the tools to model situations for their own organization: www.communitymatters.org.uk/content.aspx?CategoryID=553.

7.6.3 Specific Uses

Multi-purpose community building

A number of churches are increasingly being used as a multipurpose community building for public meetings, for exhibitions, for concerts and for general hire, in particular where other community buildings such as a village hall is already fully used or is not available. The ability of faith buildings to be used as multipurpose community buildings depends on the flexibility of its internal space i.e. removing some or all pews and installing more flexible seating options.

N.B. Link to providing community space within your building Section 7.7



With the aid of a Big Lottery grant, a major church conversion took place in St Andrews Church, Bridge Sollars, Herefordshire providing a multi - use community centre which opened its doors in July 2011. The nave of this 12th century grade I church has been converted into a flexible fully accessible community space with kitchen, toilets and a separate meeting space. Using local materials and suppliers, the conversion used traditional materials and modern environmentally friendly technology to complement the ancient building. Idea came out of parish plan consultation for the group of 5 parishes which showed the real need for a community centre, and St Andrew’s church was chosen as the most suitable central site. A licence under faculty was granted to enable community occupation of the nave and north aisle. You can see pictures here http://www.bishopstonegroupparish.co.uk/page13.html and



At St Philip and St James , Norton St Philip, Somerset, a Grade II* church, the north aisle has been cleared to provide space for gathering and the ‘Hub’, a free-standing two storey glass and oak construction at the west end which provides a meeting room upstairs and a lavatory, servery and office downstairs.  In common with many rural villages in recent years, Norton St Philip has seen the loss of its shops and post office. Moreover, the village hall was not an appropriate or economic venue for small gatherings and events. Therefore, it was decided to develop the church as a new focus for the village and to “place the church at the heart of village life”. As well as providing a venue for an estimated 300 village-related meetings a year, ’the Hub’ allows the church to be used regularly by a wide variety of groups, from mothers and babies to a 50-strong youth club. In addition, the catering facilities and flexible space have encouraged concerts and exhibitions to take place, and there is a monthly coffee morning and produce stall, a lifeline for the older people in the village. http://www.hardingtonvale.org.uk/?Our_History:Norton_St_Philip:The_Hub



Many churches have opened cafés within their buildings. This can be an informal café which is organised to run alongside other activities such as the visit of an outreach post office or a regular weekly event, to provide a social opportunity for elderly people or mums and toddlers.

Other churches have created a specific permanent space in the form of a gallery or mezzanine floor and opened a daily community café. 

Running a café is hard work and you also need to be aware of food hygiene legislation. The regulations apply to any establishment where food or drink is prepared, stored, sold or supplied, whether or not for profit, including village halls, churches and community buildings. If the food business is a commercial enterprise, the legislation requires the operator to register the business with the local authority. However, all food handlers must be supervised and instructed and/or trained in food hygiene matters to a level appropriate to their job.

If your church is simply providing a venue for events where an outside caterer or food business supplies the food, it is the responsibility of the operator, not the PCC, to comply with the regulations, to train their staff and to register their food business.

If you are operating a regular food business, you will also need to check whether the public liability clause of your insurance provides sufficient cover.

The main source of advice regarding details of training courses and information on whether you need to register your food business is your local authority's environmental health department.

ACRE has published a village hall information sheet on Health and Hygiene in Village Halls, which is equally applicable to churches and church halls. This provides very useful guidelines that must be followed as well as explaining the legislation. You can order the guidance note from their website



In 2000, supported by a grant from the Millennium funded Rural Churches in Community Service Programme, St Mary’s, Wirksworth, Derbyshire installed toilet and kitchen facilities, to create “social space” in the North aisle. Thursday lunches called “Soup and Surprise” are now served, raising more than £20K for St Mary’s and the charities it supports. They are well attended by a mixture of older citizens and children from local schools and are run entirely by volunteers.


St Michael’s and All Angels Church in Spencers Wood, Diocese of Oxford has set up Caf’Active a popular community café open Monday to Saturday. They also have constructed a gallery area set up as an internet café and hosts children’s computer activities as well being available for hire for business meetings. http://www.spencerswoodchurch.org/facilities.htm


St Paul’s, Frizington,Cumbria set up the Lingla community café with a Millennium grant from the Rural Churches Community Service Programme. At the time of this project, the village was an area of high unemployment and the aim was to provide of nutritious, affordable meals twice a week at lunchtimes. Now the café opens Tuesday to Friday and Sunday lunchtimes.


Community shops

There are now over 260 community owned shops trading in England, Scotland and Wales some of them based in churches.

The Plunkett Foundation is the only national organisation supporting community-owned village shops across the UK. They have a dedicated Community Retail Team and service to support rural communities wanting to set up and run a community-owned shop, and to also support and advise existing community owned village shops.


The Plunkett Foundation, the Arthur Rank Centre and the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division of the Church of England have worked together to produce guidelines for churches wishing to open a community shop. These together with some good case studies of shops in churches can be found on Churchcare at http://www.churchcare.co.uk/churches/open-sustainable/extended-and-additional-uses/community-shops.

And on the Arthur Rank Centre website at http://www.arthurrankcentre.org.uk/mission-and-ministry/community-buildings/item/6412-community-shops.

The Sustain Alliance works for better food and farming and advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals to improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity. The website has plenty of information and guidance for those working in local food production and selling plus information on local networks. http://www.sustainweb.org/

Post Offices

In response to the Network Change Programme implemented between 2007 and 2009, which resulted in the closure of around 2,500 post office services, the Arthur Rank Centre and the Church of England worked with Post Office Ltd to draw up guidelines for churches interested in hosting outreach post office services. Over 40 churches across the denominations have followed this simple process and thus kept a post office service and presence in these communities (many isolated and rural). Download the guidance notes and case studies.

The Plunkett Foundation is also able to help with setting up post offices co-located with community shops. http://www.plunkett.co.uk/

Farmers’ Markets

The Plunkett Foundation are working in partnership with The National Farmers' Retail and Markets Association (FARMA) on The Collaborative Farmers' Market project (part of the Making Local Food Work programme). This aims to provide direct and practical support to help farmers' markets bring fresh local food to more customers and so help support the livelihoods of producers and revitalise communities.

There are guidelines and case studies on Churchcare http://www.churchcare.co.uk/churches/open-sustainable/farmers-markets

Citizens Advice Bureaux

The Arthur Rank Centre has worked with the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux to produce guidance to churches on how to best to provide a CAB on church premises.

By working together, a number of churches and Citizens Advice Bureaux have already established successful partnerships which enable them to reach out and provide face-to-face advice services to some of the most vulnerable and disengaged people in their communities. Guidance and case studies can be downloaded here http://www.arthurrankcentre.org.uk/mission-and-ministry/community-buildings/item/6411-cab, and from Churchcare at http://www.churchcare.co.uk/churches/open-sustainable/extended-and-additional-uses/citizens-advice-bureaux.

Affordable Housing and other land based initiatives.

Faith groups are large landowners in rural communities. There can be opportunities not only to get greater use of the building, but there is also a great opportunity to use land owned by faith groups to operate social enterprises in rural communities. This can be in the form of community food growing, enterprising use of woodlands and even the provision of community based affordable housing.

Faith in Affordable Housing is a free web-based resource, giving practical and technical information to assist churches in using church land and property to provide affordable housing. The guide presents nine case studies from different denominations and from rural and urban areas; find this at http://www.housingjustice.org.uk/pages/fiah.html

Imaginative uses

Erskine United Reformed Church, Belford, is the home of Belford Cinema.


St Thomas, Camelford, Truro hosts a community laundrette with social add-ons set up as a direct response to local need

A 1930s Methodist chapel at Polzeath on a Cornish beach is becoming the place to be for both visiting surfers and locals. Known as Tubestation, it is a church, an internet café, a meeting place for surfers, and a community centre http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/stories/tubestation. See also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlCAExJXIpo

St Catherine’s, Ludham, Norfolk has a flourishing computer club, a car scheme and film club.

St Mary’s Hadleigh, Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswichhas been running a youth group on Friday nights since 2010 which has had an immediate effect on the amount of petty crime. Funding and support has come from Suffolk Constabulary, Hadleigh Town Council, and Babergh District Council. Suffolk County Council youth workers provide a counselling service. www.porchproject.co.uk.




N.B. Link back to Developing Options 7.5 Community Planning 7.3, Re-ordering your building 7.7 and 7.10 Hiring and leasing out your building



There are examples of competed building projects on the Methodist Church website at www.methodist.org.uk/ministers-and-office-holders/property/completed-building-projects.


Susan Rowe, Open all Hours: a way forward for church buildings in the 21st century (ACORA, 2000).

This is a brief survey of processes and opportunities for rural churches to adapt and better employ their buildings. Some copies are still available from This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

English Heritage has case studies including short videos which can be looked at here http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/caring/places-of-worship/caring-for-places-of-worship/

Effective Christian Presence and Enterprise: What makes Christian engagement in community transformation effective? How can effective community work be developed? This report following two years of research has looked at 19 very diverse "presences" from across Yorkshire and the Humber encompassing social enterprises, local churches, Christian charities, community projects, arts-initiatives, and much more. Looks at how projects have developed, the leadership that is needed, the importance of volunteers and the need for churches to improve their practices; the centrality of partnership; the need for more flexible resources; the question of sustainability; the importance of the highest quality; and the need for better team approaches. The report has some detailed case studies including a couple from rural areas. http://www.crc-online.org.uk/reports.asp?slid=89&mid=90

7.7 Making Changes to your Building

Your project may require you to make physical alterations to your building. If you decide you want to make changes, there are three factors which you should bear in mind:

  • alterations as far as possible should be reversible
  • flexibility is important as your needs may change sooner than you think
  • good design and high quality of materials. Any new work should complement the original design. 

It is important that you are working with an architect who not only understands your building, but also your vision.

N.B. Link back to section on procuring a professional architect or surveyor

Understanding the architecture and constraints

You need to ensure you understand your building and how it has evolved over time. Then you will be able to propose changes that will work with and are sensitive to the particular character of your building. 

You need also to be aware of all the possible constraints. If your building is listed you may not be able to make all the changes you want and you may have to seek advice on how you can achieve what you want. A useful exercise and which is a requirement if you do need to apply for a Permission/Faculty under the Ecclesiastical Exemption, is to complete Statement of Significance and a Statement of Need.

N.B. Link back to Section 1.

Some churches are of such complexity and significance, or the impact of the project so large and/or controversial, that a Statement of Significance and Need may not be adequate. Where this is the case, the PCC or other body responsible for a church should consider producing a Conservation Management Plan (CMP). The Heritage Lottery Fund and other bodies may require such a document. Churchcarehas a guidance note on how to produce one at http://www.churchcare.co.uk/churches/open-sustainable/conservation-management-plans.

You should consult your inspecting architect and your appropriate adviser within your denomination before making any more detailed plans. If your proposals involve any work to, or alterations or extensions of, the church building, its contents or the churchyard, you will need to apply for consent or permission.

N.B. Link back to Ecclesiastical Exemption

You will also have to be aware of any archaeological impact that your proposals may have especially if it involves building over graves.

N.B. Link back to Archaeology.


The Churchcarewebsite has a useful section which guides you through the process of making alterations to your church building, including applying for your denomination permission and secular permissions http://www.churchcare.co.uk/churches/guidance-advice/making-changes-to-your-building.

Another useful source of advice can be found here from English Heritage http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/your-property/planning-advice/what-can-i-do-with-my-place-of-worship/.

The Churchbuild website contains a range of practical information around developing and managing a building project. http://www.churchbuild.co.uk/

Re-Ordering your Building


For Liturgical Reasons

Throughout history congregations have reordered their place of worship to reflect the changes in the way they want to worship. Over time, it has involved bringing the priest and congregation closer together. And more recently, there has been a move to introduce a nave altar, leaving the chancel as the place for smaller and more intimate gatherings and services. Alongside this, more space can be created at the front of the nave by the removal of some benches and pews.

If you are thinking of re-designing your space to reflect changes in the way you want to worship then ensure you consult your whole congregation and your governing body. Look at all the options and see if you can try out different ideas before you make permanent changes.

Seek advice to ensure that your proposed changes will reflect the liturgical changes you are trying to make.

For the Roman Catholic Church, documentation on the building, alteration, conservation and maintenance which takes into account the liturgical aspects  can be found here http://www.liturgyoffice.org.uk/Resources/CFW/index.html

To provide community space within your building

If you want to makes changes in order to facilitate new uses of the building then you need to have a clear idea of what these uses will be, who will be the users and most importantly when and how they will be using your building.

Things to think about include:

  • Do you need to physically divide up the space? Do you need to create separate spaces e.g. a room for regular meetings, but sound-proofed which would enable other groups to be in the church at the same time.  Are you going to be renting out a permanent space within your building? Or different groups may share the same space, but at different times.
  • Divisions can be created between the nave and chancel and aisles. You can even create a mezzanine floor. Obviously, sound-proofing is important. You need to also think about the materials used for physical divisions, for instance a glass screen can retain views from the west end to the east end or enable windows to remain visible. Importantly: can you get back the full space for particular occasions e.g. Christmas, a wedding?
  • Do you need to install a kitchen and toilets or upgrade those you have? Good facilities will make your building more welcoming to potential users.
  • Decisions on heating will depend on how often the building is to be used. Background heating which can be augmented when the building is in use may be considered as best practice. However, you should consider all the options such as under floor heating, or traditional central heating system or by using a system of air conversion. Other aspects to be considered are energy efficiency and that the system will need to be aesthetically unobtrusive.

N.B. Link to Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Section 9

  • Improved lighting can also be achieved by working with existing light fittings as long as they are sympathetic to the building interior or by installing a new lighting system which should not detract from the visual appearance of the historic fabric.
  • What about suitable floor coverings? What about carpets?


This can be a very sensitive issue. A thorough case for removal of all or part of existing seating such as pews will have to be made and you will have to look at the building interior as a whole. You will also have to show that any replacement seating combines good design, high quality materials with comfort, whilst maintaining sympathy with historic interiors. There is a very helpful section on Seating to be found on the Churchcare at http://www.churchcare.co.uk/images/Seating.pdf.


The Methodist Church has guidance on the removal of seating from historic chapels which can be read here www.methodist.org.uk/ministers-and-office-holders/property/technical-and-conservation/conservation-information-leaflets



Any alterations to a church's interior or exterior will have a noticeable impact on the building's character and atmosphere, and will be costly. It is therefore advisable to consider carefully whether the need for change is properly justified. Proper consideration of the real requirements might show that new facilities can easily be accommodated within the church building and that an extension is not necessary.

If you do decide to build an extension then the choice of materials is very important.  Sometimes it is possible to construct an extension which is entirely different to the existing material, but great care needs to be taken if it is to complement the original. Churchcare has advice here http://www.churchcare.co.uk/images/Alterations%20and%20Extensions.pdf.




This is a very important subject for church buildings especially if you are opening up your building and welcoming visitors. There is no one solution to heating your church building and a delicate balance must be struck between encouraging the use of the church, using energy efficiently and conserving the historic building for future generations. Churchcare has a very useful section here http://www.churchcare.co.uk/churches/guidance-advice/looking-after-your-church/technical-matters/heating.


New Technology

Churchcare has very useful guidance on how best to introduce new technology such as screens and loudspeakers sensitively into your building http://www.churchcare.co.uk/images/PDF/Technology.pdf.

You can also find information on lighting schemes and the introduction of glass screens here on Churchcare http://www.churchcare.co.uk/churches/guidance-advice/looking-after-your-church/technical-matters.




There is advice from Churchcare at http://www.churchcare.co.uk/churches/guidance-advice/making-changes-to-your-building/changing-your-church.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain
Churches considering making alterations to their listed building are encouraged to consult at any early stage the staff at Baptist House who administer the Ecclesiastical Exemption scheme, or their Property Trustees. For many churches this will be the Baptist Union Corporation but for others it will be their Local Baptist Association Trust Company. Specific guidance leaflets can be downloaded here http://www.baptist.org.uk/Groups/220869/Property_Churches.aspx . Of relevance are:

· PC04 Redeveloping or Altering your church building.

· PC06 Redeveloping or Building Church Premises - Contract Procurement - The Alternatives

English Heritage’s publication New Work in Historic Places of Worship (March 2012) provides advice on how to approach making changes to historic places of worship. It also contains detailed advice on some common issues and an outline of the processes for authorising such work. It will be available as a pdf only, pending the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework. Once that has been released, a revised edition of New Work has been published as a pdf and in a paper copy which will then be available from the English Heritage Customer Services team. The guidance is now available on their website at http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/new-work-in-historic-places-of-worship and is also on the HELM website along with a brief summary of the guidance, at http://www.helm.org.uk/server/show/category.19581

For the Methodist Church, if you are considering making changes, you must consult with the Property Consent Team: www.methodist.org.uk/ministers-and-office-holders/property/contact-support-services-in-manchester.
You can read about completed projects undertaken within Methodist Churches at www.methodist.org.uk/ministers-and-office-holders/property/completed-building-projects.

Beyond the Wood and Stone is a new DVD designed to encourage fresh expressions of church.  An initiative of Creative Arts in Methodism and the Methodist Property Office (MPO), this inspiring film shows ways in which local congregations have created attractive spaces to welcome the communities they serve.  www.methodist.org.uk/ministers-and-office-holders/property/forms-schedules-and-publications/church-review-publications.


The Roman Catholic Church has advice on new buildings and extensions in and around existing churches http://www.cbcew.org.uk/document.doc?id=113




At St Mary’s Woolavington, Bath and Wells, a grade I, chairs have replaced benches and the entire church is carpeted. In north transept there is an oak servery and meeting room. A north porch annexe alongside the north transept includes a lavatory and storage space.



Holy Trinity, Street, Diocese of Bath and Wells, a grade 1 listed, largely 15th century church needed to adapt to meet the modern needs of the local community.  With a congregation often counted in single figures, there was a distinct possibility of the church being closed, The entire nave has been reconstructed leaving the chancel as a Lady Chapel for small services and private prayer. A new level wooden floor with underground heating and new furniture, new lighting and sound system has created a flexible open space. The south porch was refurbished with a new, ‘more welcoming’ door – fully glazed and etched with a design by a nationally recognized artist. This all helped to make the building a more approachable place. The church is now vibrant with life, developing services for toddlers & parents, welcoming school use for children & teachers and hosting a variety of concerts, flower festivals, exhibitions, etc. for the community as a whole. http://www.streetandwalton.co.uk/index.html &



The Churchbuild website features several re-ordering case studies and explains the thinking behind their development.  http://www.churchbuild.co.uk/


The Churches Trust for Cumbria has a lot of case studies illustrating rural places of worship engaging with their communities at http://www.ctfc.org.uk/churches-in-the-community.html


Pews, benches & chairs: church seating in English parish churches from the fourteenth century to the present by the Ecclesiological Society published August 2011 http://www.ecclsoc.org/pewsbook.html

Giles, Richard. Re-Pitching the Tent: Re-ordering the Church Building for Worship and Mission in the New Millennium, Norwich, 1996.

The Gate of Heaven: How Church Buildings Speak of God by Nigel Walter. A personal view which looks at what a church, through its physical presence, can contribute to contemporary culture. Looks at the practical challenges for local churches and offers creative and practical ideas for enabling church buildings to communicate the Christian faith more effectively.  This is a useful booklet for any place of worship considering a major reordering or development project.  http://www.churchbuild.co.uk/our-publications/


7.8 Governance

If you are starting any form of major project then you must ensure that you bring together a committee/project board/management group with the right balance of skills. You need people with project management skills, business and financial skills, as well as a good chair and secretary to run the group and undertake all the necessary administration.

You will also need people with specialist skills depending on the project e.g. if about education, then see if there are any retired teachers in your congregation/community; if it is a repairs project are there any retired architects/planners in your congregation/community who can help?

You will also need to have a clear mission statement which sets out your values, your vision and main objectives i.e. what services you are going to provide and who will be the beneficiaries.  It is very important that anyone you appoint to your committee, or any staff you may employ in the future are church literate and empathize with your core purposes.

You will also have to see if it would be beneficial to set up a separate company, for instance if your project involves some form of trading. You must ensure that you chose the right vehicle i.e. the right organisational and legal structure that allows you to do what you want to do

Things to think about will include: How are you going to make decisions? Who are your members and who are you accountable to? Who develops and decides upon policy and strategy? Do your users get a say?

There are various forms of organisation that you can consider:

i) Go to the Charity Commission and set yourselves up as a separate charity

ii) Social enterprises

The latter are becoming more common and currently comprise 10% of the UK economy. In the context of cuts in the public sector and a reducing private sector, decreasing grants for the community and voluntary sector, social enterprises are becoming a new way of managing a community project.

A social enterprise is a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners. They can be about a traditional community-based activity or can operate in a commercial arena.  Many of the community and ethical banks have community-targeted funding to help new projects start up e.g. Big Society Bank, Charity Bank, and the Triodos Bank … among others.

There are probably four different forms of Social Enterprise, as it depends on what you are trying to achieve and in what context. The commonest are:

  • Community Interest Companies (CICs)

CICs are limited companies, with special additional features, created for the use of people who want to conduct a business or other activity for community benefit, and not purely for private advantage. This is achieved by a “community interest test” and “asset lock”, which ensures that the CIC is established for community purposes and that the assets and profits are dedicated to these purposes. Registration of a company as a CIC has to be approved by the Regulator who also has a continuing monitoring and enforcement role. The Business Link website has information on what you need to do to set up a CIC at: http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/detail?itemId=1077476109&type=RESOURCES

  • Co-operative Societies

Co-operatives are not-for-profit organisations that are jointly owned and operated by a group of people for their mutual benefit. They are democratic enterprises, operating with a one member, one vote policy. You can find more information at http://www.fsa.gov.uk/doing/small_firms/msr/societies        

  • Community Shares

A community share scheme enables people to invest in their own community and take ownership of a project.  Instead of turning to the private sector and wealthy individuals for support, community investment is about engaging communities to invest in themselves. By harnessing the collective investment powers of whole communities, large amounts of capital can be raised in small sums from members of the community. The Community Shares website profiles current examples as well as providing guidance and toolkits which can all be downloaded from http://www.communityshares.org.uk/.
The Co-operatives UK website offers a comprehensive (free) set of resources for community enterprises covering legal, financial and governance issues. http://www.uk.coop/simply-suite-legal-and-governance-resources


  • Companies limited by guarantee

These are private limited companies where the liability of the members is limited. A guarantee company does not have a share capital, but has members who are guarantors instead of shareholders. Limitation of liability takes the form of a guarantee from its members to pay a nominal sum in the event of the company being wound up while they are a member, or within one year of their ceasing to be a member. The amount of money that is guaranteed can be as little as £1 and will be stated within the constitution of the company. Information can be found here http://www.sfsgo.com/guaranteecompany.asp


You should ensure you get legal and financial advice.


The Plunkett Foundation promotes and develops support for rural communities to develop a wide range of other forms of rural social and community enterprises to help rural communities through community-ownership to take control of the issues affecting them. Examples include co-operative pubs, Community Transport Schemes, and community food enterprises such as shops and farmers’ markets.  They are increasingly working with churches as more places of worship investigate this type of project. http://www.plunkett.co.uk/

NAVCA (National Association for Voluntary and Community Action) is the national voice of local support and development organisations They champion and strengthen voluntary and community action by supporting our members in their work with over 160,000 local charities and community groups. For more information go to www.navca.org.uk

To find the local bodies which can provide support at local level to the voluntary and community sector go to http://www.navca.org.uk/directory. They can provide advice on setting up a new project as well as information on grants available and can offer support in the application process.

Locality provides support for community enterprises at each stage of the journey. Go to



Village SOS began in 2010 when six enterprising UK rural villages won Big Lottery Fund investment of around £400,000 to revive their communities through new business ventures.
Today, Village SOS aims to build on the experience of these six projects and inspire others  to start a new business that will regenerate their own community. Go to the website where you will find Tools, support and expert guidance to help communities take a step towards starting their own businesses and guide them through the journey from their initial idea to transforming the area. There is an advice phone line you can ring. http://www.villagesos.org.uk/



Fernham village hall

Fernham, in the Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire, now has a village hall facility within St. John's Church, which is available for hire. The church interior has been converted to offer a comfortable, attractive, high quality space featuring a state-of-the-art audio-visual and sound experience. “Imagine a Victorian chapel with lovely stained glass windows, an oak floor with hand-carved detail, a mezzanine level with a glass-fronted rail above cleverly concealed facilities fronted also in oak - and you begin to imagine the simple, but splendid appeal of this multi-purpose building”.

While still being used for church services (which are now far more comfortable!), the building can also be hired to host a wide range of activities and events. A charitable trust, Project Inspirewas set up to manage the project and now runs the converted building. Masses of photos can be viewed on the website.  http://www.fernham.info/village-hall.html



The Plunkett Foundation has recently published their report “Review of Rural Social Enterprise in England”. (December 2011) which can be  downloaded here http://www.plunkett.co.uk/newsandmedia/news-item.cfm/newsid/595   The final two-page appendix entitled “Faith Buildings & Social Enterprise” describes how faith groups are increasingly setting up social enterprises to deliver a range of projects ranging from community shops, Post Offices and library services to creating a multipurpose community building within the church or chapel. You can download this appendix here.

7.9 Tax and Trading.

Individual churches of most denominations enjoy charitable status and therefore may only conduct activities falling within the charitable purposes of the Church. When you are considering new activities which fall outside these purposes and which will amount to 'trading', then you will need to check the legislation to see what the implications are. Any doubts about the affect of this aspect of the law on a local church should be discussed, in the first instance, with the appropriate person in your denomination. You should also check with the relevant department in your local authority about whether you would now be liable for Business Rates.

Churchcare has some guidance on the implications for charitable status and also for business rates included in their guidance on hosting post offices in churches which can be found here http://www.churchcare.co.uk/churches/open-sustainable/extended-and-additional-uses/post-offices.

The United Reformed Churchhas guidance here www.urc.org.uk/resources/plato-property-handbook/taxation.html and specifically here www.urc.org.uk/images/S471.pdf


7.10 Sharing the Use of your Building

7.10.1 Hiring and Leasing your Building

If you are intending to share space with other users, then the agreements you have with those users will vary depending on the scale of use. This can range from another organisation using part of the building for long periods of time or installing a permanent structure, to regular or one-off lettings or hiring. If the former, then a lease or licence may be required, both of which will need the relevant permission from your denomination. You should check with your relevant building advisers at Diocesan, District, Synod or national level at an early stage and certainly before you enter into any commitments.


Following the 1983 Pastoral Measure, the Church of England has specific means of changing the ownership of consecrated land:

  • They can give a licence to another organisation to use part of a church. This needs to be done under a Faculty.
  • The 2006 Pastoral (Amendment) Measure allows the lease of part of a consecrated church building, provided the church continues primarily to be used as a place of worship. This enables occupancy by outside groups and helps the lessee meet funding criteria which require proof of security of accommodation. You can download a summary of the history and provisions of the Pastoral (Amendment) Measure 2006 as well as a guidance document on the practical operation of the Pastoral (Amendment) Measure 2006 entitled ‘Wider Use of part or parts of a Church’ at: http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/churchlawlegis/legislation/measures.aspx

The Churches’ Legislation Advisory Service has prepared a checklist for churches and others who are organising occasional events such as fetes and harvest suppers. You can download this from http://www.churcheslegislation.org.uk/publications/ or from here as a .pdf file.

It is recommended that you inform your Insurance Company if you are changing the nature of the use of your building, especially if hiring out space to external users. Your insurance company will also be able to advise on insurance when hiring out space in your buildings to outside users as well as guidance on running functions. You also need to check with your Insurance Company if you are undertaking activities which bring in an income, i.e. you are starting to trade.

N.B. Link back to Section on Tax and Trading

Ecclesiastical has guidance on planning events and on letting church premises at https://www.ecclesiastical.com/ChurchMatters/churchguidance/index.aspx

Methodist Insurance also has a lot of information on organizing functions and working with outside users in the Resource Centre part of its website www.methodistinsurance.co.uk/resources/index.aspx.
Of particular relevance is their leaflet on Outside Users which can be read here www.methodistinsurance.co.uk/Images/Outside%20Users%20Leaflet.pdf.

For the United Reformed Church go to http://www.urc.org.uk/images/S651.pdf

For the Baptist Union of Great Britain, you can find guidance here http://www.baptist.org.uk/Groups/220869/Property_Churches.aspx and http://www.baptist.org.uk/Groups/220866/Legal.aspx

The relevant ones are:

· PC10 Hiring of Church Premises

· PC11 Churches and Leases

Find out if your local authority or any other local community organisation has a register of available community buildings. For instance the Lincolnshire Community Buildings database is an online database giving information about the facilities available to hire and activities taking place in these buildings. While community building committees are able to use the Internet to promote their facilities, the database provides a ‘one-stop-shop’ with in-depth information about the facilities available to hire around the county www.communitylincs.com/community-lincs-to-launch-online-database-of-lincolnshire-community-buildings/

7.10.2 The Licensing Act 2003

And on the United Reformed Church website here http://www.vtsdemo.co.uk/oldurc/what_we_do/plato/docs/licensing_act_f8.pdf

And on the Baptist Union of Great Britain website here http://www.baptist.org.uk/Groups/220866/Legal.aspx

L14 Licensing for Entertainment and Copyright

7.11 Sustaining your project for the future

Before, during and after the development and realisation of your project you need to keep both your business plan and budget up-to-date. It may be useful to schedule a review of these documents at regular intervals to keep your project on track. Maintaining a business-like approach is vital.

Once you project is ready to start, you will need to promote it. This might take the form of mailings, articles in the local press, interviews on radio, leaflets, posters or a regular newsletter. 

Plan the celebration and the launch of your project. You have worked hard to realise your activity or project and deserve to celebrate your achievements.

After the launch you will still need to regularly review whether and how you are achieving your aims. Projects and activities may need to change over time as they adapt to changing circumstances, such as competing facilities or changes in the population, which may no longer correspond to your initial community research. You will need to regularly check that you are still financially viable.

You will also need to ensure that knowledge is passed on and that arrangements are in place if a key person moves on.  Encourage people to take on new responsibilities so that experience and the necessary skills are not concentrated in only one or two people.

Equally important is keeping your volunteers on board and inspired over the long-term. Volunteers need good leadership and management.

It is important that they don’t become overstretched and so you will need to ensure you are continually encouraging fresh volunteers to join the project. 

Churchcare has a useful section on working with volunteers http://www.churchcare.co.uk/churches/open-sustainable/welcoming-people/volunteers.

Information on managing your volunteers and investing in them can also be found on the Volunteering England website at www.volunteering.org.uk


You can also download the “Volunteer Code of Good Practice”,which has been developed by a Working Group of representatives from civil society organisations and the insurance industry and which makes clear that volunteering is not a generally risky activity and setting out simple guidelines that will reduce any risk there might be.  Go to http://www.volunteering.org.uk/aboutus/news-releases/2287-working-group-publishes-code-of-practice-for-volunteers.


You can read here about how the Government has produced a raft of measures designed to encourage more people to volunteer and to make it easier for people to run charities which was published in May 2012. See http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/news/boost-volunteering-government-cuts-red-tape.




In Ten Years on: a Review of Rural Churches in Community Service Programme (2009), Susan Rowe revisited 59 Anglican churches which had received grants under The Rural Churches in Community Service (RCCS) programme funded by the Millennium Commission which ran from 1998 to 2001. She looked at their achievements against their original aims. She also considered the impact of community use on the wider community and on the church; and importantly has tried to establish what makes projects sustainable. Her report can be downloaded here.

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