Some extra info you may find useful

Caring for and Developing Your Buildings

CBRT gratefully acknowledges the kindness of the Arthur Rank Centre for permitting this text to be adapted to reflect the differences in Scottish practice from their original version, compiled for use by English congregations.

Overall purpose

To support individual congregations:

  • in maintaining their building’s interior and exterior.
  • in the process of adapting their buildings for today’s needs.
  • in achieving the balance between conservation and mission, and helping to make our rural churches more accessible to more people.
  • in the process of providing a sustainable future for their churches as places of worship.

Do you consider your place of worship to be one of your greatest assets, an important tool for mission, and as a resource for engagement with the wider community? Or do you think of it as a millstone draining your money and time? Your building is there 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it can act as a beacon for your faith for anyone passing by or coming in. It will hold memories for your community and the story of faith in that place. It needs to be telling those stories today as well as meeting all your needs as a living place of worship.

Introduction: Caring for and Developing Your Buildings

Why Our Church Buildings Matter (Nigel Walter, February 2012)

Churches often struggle with their buildings. In one sense our buildings are incidental to the life of the church – church after all is all about people and relationships, not property. On the other hand our buildings shape the life of our congregations, in terms of how we use our churches and what we feel about them; so the relationship we have with our buildings is also important.

Sadly, those who most frequently use our church buildings – clergy and congregation – often live in grudging opposition to them. Once we become familiar with a place, we stop looking at it, engaging with it. And it is very difficult to love a building that may be cold and damp when all you can see are its drawbacks and the repair bills.

And yet visitors love our churches for their sense of history, the personal stories they bear witness to, and because they can give people a sense of the spiritual. Heritage is now big business, and many people are drawn to it, perhaps looking for a sense of rootedness in a dislocated world. One can certainly read a building for its history, focusing on the evidence for different stages of development, attempting to piece together its biography. But for me the most important reading of the church is as a material narrative, as the physical story of the gathered community in that particular place.

There are three elements to that phrase that are worth exploring further – in reverse order,

(particular) place, (gathered) community, and (material) narrative. Understanding how these go together helps us understand why our church buildings matter, and what opportunities they present.


Many people endure a sense of rootlessness in an age when we increasingly see people as (barely) human resources. But we are not detached and disembodied beings – part of being human is to be somewhere, in a context, and at a specific location; this is the difference between qualitative place and abstract quantitative space. This is somewhat counter-cultural; modern technology promises to ‘liberate’ us from our physical constraints – take for example the internet, which enables you to read this article without our having met. By contrast, all the way from Eden to the new Jerusalem, Scripture displays a consistently relational view of place.


Community is one of those warm words that marketeers and politicians love to use because they make us feel better. Community is what the church is, or should be, all about – the people of God gathered for worship and mission. But there is also a wider sense of community, which includes everyone, of whatever background. And this wider sense is reflected in the traditional role of the church building – a medieval church would have been at the heart of community life, irrespective of the state of your faith, and all sorts of ʻsecularʼ things would have happened in it. By contrast our culture usually views church as a private religious club, and not for the rest of us.


Everyone likes a good story. I would argue this is fundamental to the way we are made, perhaps even what it means to be made in the image of God. Certainly narrative, in the form of parables, was Jesus’ favoured mode of teaching. He also used metaphor, which carries with it a surplus of meaning. It is this extra bit that fires the imagination and creates a meeting place, whether between friends in conversation, or between us in community, or between ourselves and God in worship. The best stories, like the best buildings, are generous and inclusive.

So what might church as material narrative look like in practice?

  • activities in our buildings that are less text-based
  • buildings that feel more welcoming, preferably in terms of views in, warmth, containment without the threat of entrapment
  • fluid spaces that allow for a variety of uses, and activities that draw a full cross-section of our communities across the threshold
  • using the old stone or the stained glass window or the new memorial to speak to people, to appeal to emotion as well as to mind
  • buildings that allow degrees of engagement, where it is possible and acceptable to hide behind a pillar while you dip your toe into God’s community
  • places that enable people to put down roots

Most of all, these will be buildings which express our theology in practical material form.

Serious Times

Our generation will either have to manage a long decline and close large numbers of our churches – last one out please turn off the lights – or we need to radically reconsider our relationship to these physical manifestations of our Christian faith and, I would argue, wake up to the opportunities they present. And part of that is perhaps the perception of ownership – we must recognise that these buildings are ours only in the sense that we have the care of them.

We must consider the voice we already have – the preaching job our buildings are currently doing for us. Do they speak of love and care and warmth, or of cold and decay? We need to consider what voice we want to have in our culture and our local community; and to do this we need to approach our buildings afresh as if for the first time, to explore them as material narrative.

Nigel Walter is the director of Archangel, a RIBA registered chartered practice based in Cambridge (UK), with a satellite office in Bournemouth. They work across a range of sectors including Commercial, Education, Church, Residential and Domestic. They have worked with several churches in and around Cambridge. Nigel is also the author of “The Gate of Heaven: how church buildings speak of God” (Grove, 2011). See Section 11: Other Resources.

General advice about this resource

These pages will offer general guidance and signpost you to where you will be able to find more detailed information. This is not an exhaustive list (how could it be?), so don’t hesitate to look further. Searching the internet can lead to a whole host of ideas and help. And if you come across any other good source of advice or an example of best practice, please let us know. You can do this by email at

The case studies will hopefully give you some ideas about what you can do and inspire you. It’s important to remember that every place of worship and its congregation is different, so always start from your particular place and people.


Nationwide conservation register.

1. Listed Places of Worship and Statements of Need and Significance

Church buildings are places for the community to gather for the worship of God. The rich and awe-inspiring heritage of the Church’s buildings adds a further dimension to this: many church buildings are protected by law because of their architectural or historic significance, and cannot be altered without specific consent.

The Churchcare website has a very useful section on balancing mission and conservation:

Your local planning authority can also provide you with information on the listing grade of your church, the listing description, details of conservation areas and information on any existing tree preservation orders.

And if it is listed, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make changes or enhance your building. After all, church buildings have always been adapted to meet changing liturgical requirements and to reflect social change. It just means that you will have to present good reasons and work sensitively within the particular historical and architectural aspects of the building. The best tools for this are:-

Statements of Significance and Need

Completing Statements of Significance and Need will help you to understand your place of worship, its history and previous changes that have taken place. This is a requirement for any building project that involves a listed place of worship. Taking the time to do this will reveal potential and limits. If your building is listed you may not be able to make all the changes you want or you may have to seek advice on how you can achieve what you want. Most changes will require that you obtain permission. Like for Like repairs and maintenance should not need permission, but it is always best to check.

A Statement of Significance should describe when the various parts of the building were constructed and when notable additions were made to the interior, for instance the pews, the pulpit, organ or stained glass. It should provide a summary of why they are important and the contributions they make to the character of the building.

A Statement of Need should set out the reasons why it is considered that the needs of the parish cannot be met without making changes to the church building and reason why the changes are regarded as necessary to assist the church in its worship and mission. Liturgical requirements will have to be balanced alongside any proposals for the enhancement of the building for easier access and wider use by the community. The Statement should particularly highlight the significance of those parts which are to be altered.

You can find guidance here:

Historic Scotland

Church of Scotland

2. Ecclesiastical Exemption

The Ecclesiastical Exemption reduces burdens on the planning system while maintaining an appropriate level of protection and reflecting the particular need of listed buildings in use as places of worship to be able to adapt to changing needs over time to ensure their survival in their intended use. It is widely acknowledged that keeping a building in use is more likely to result in the preservation, proper maintenance and sustainability of that building. To read guidance on Ecclesiastical Exemption and related planning matters for places of worship in Scotland: Historic Environment Scotland Ecclesiastical Exemption Guidance

3. Non-Exempted Denominations

Other denominations proposing building works would have to apply to their local authority in the same way as any other building.

All listed place of worship have to consult Historic Scotland, the local planning authority and the relevant national amenity societies (see below) about works that would otherwise require listed building consent.

The proposals also have to be advertised locally by way of a site notice and, where external works are proposed, an advertisement in a local paper. Your denomination can advise you on all of this.

Quakers/Society of Friends

The Advisory Committee on Property (ACP), a sub-committee of the Quaker Finance & Property Central Committee, acts as the central advisory body to Area Meetings and other owning bodies relating to meeting houses and other property used for the purposes of the Society (including burial grounds and trust property). It is charged with gathering together the knowledge and experience of Friends in relation to their ownership and use of property and to ease the task of keeping such property in good order so it may be used as an asset to further the life and work of the Society in Britain.

The ACP will advise on property matters relating to redundancy, demolition, sale, lease, purchase, alteration, extension, historic buildings, repair maintenance of existing buildings and new building. Advice can be given on matters relating to any proposed development which could affect the setting of a meeting house or other building. Additionally assistance can be given to obtain the full value of property leased or sold, for the benefit of future generations. The ultimate decision on any of these matters will rest with the owning body. You can find out more here

To download the Handbook on the Care of Meeting Houses, as well guidance documents on development of new development projects, a Quinnquennial Inspection checklist and new legislation go to

Congregational Federation

The Congregational Federation brings together 294 churches across the UK. The Congregational Federation Ltd was formed for the purpose of acting as Trustee for Federation churches and for the assets of the Congregational Federation. They are able to give legal and building advice to those Congregational churches which are members of the Federation.


The Buildings Advisory Panel will offer clear guidance and practical support on developing financing and maintaining congregational buildings and land. It reports to the Denominational Support Commission.

The Salvation Army

All information and guidance about how to look after your buildings, fund-raising and community outreach can be found on your internal website.

The Scottish Amenity Societies have a wide experience in advising local planning authorities on proposals affecting historic buildings of all types, which has included regular consultation by them concerning applications for planning permission to extend listed churches.

The societies have extensive experience of advising on alterations to historic churches. They have a nationwide network of contacts and although their resources are limited, the societies are willing to provide informal advice to parishes and congregations about proposals affecting historic churches. They may also be able to suggest suitable craftsmen, architects, surveyors or structural engineers for specialist work

Secular Statutory Controls

There are also other secular controls that are applicable. You can get further information on the secular controls applicable to churches and their immediate surroundings including below ground, their furnishings, fittings and churchyard from your local planning authority.

4. Looking After Your Buildings

4.1 Maintenance

One of the keys to ensuring the long-term future of historic places of worship is regular maintenance. Good maintenance also saves money by reducing the need for major repairs.

Most grant bodies will want to see that you have a maintenance plan in place.

You should also make sure your building is in a good state of repair before you start any major new works.

National Churches Trust – Managing yout Building

4.2 Repairs to the Building's Fabric

Despite good regular maintenance, repairs will not always be avoidable. The building may develop structural problems, materials may wear out, older repairs may contribute to decay, there may be fungal or insect infestations, or the building may need redecoration.

Although “like for like” repairs will not normally need Listed Buildings Consent/or the equivalent in the case of an exempted denomination, you are advised to seek the advice of the relevant experts in your denomination who will be able to advise you about the necessity for seeking approval You must ensure that the correct materials are being used. Buildings can suffer from the use of incorrect materials, which can easily worsen problems such as damp penetration.

Churchcare has good general advice on managing repairs which can be found here: and

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings’s (SPAB) website has excellent technical advice and further sources of information for looking after and repairing historic buildings.

4.3 Appointing an architect or surveyor

You will also need to employ an appropriate professional. Historic objects and buildings are very different from their modern equivalents and require specialist knowledge and treatment.

The Roman Catholic Church has guidance here

For the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Baptist Union Corporation has written leaflets to help local churches with practical issues, legal matters, property opportunities and problems, and charity law.

The specific leaflet on this is LB03 Professional Advisors and Applications to the Listed Buildings Advisory Committee

4.3.1 Procurement Guidelines for the recruitment of professionals

The application of new rules regarding procurement and tendering affects churches and church architects where public funding makes up more than 50% of the cost of a project. However, new guidance on the tendering process emphasises that quality and experience – not just price – should be taken into account when choosing an architect for the work. This means that if the current church architect is demonstrably the best person to do the work, according to reasonable and clear criteria, they can be awarded the contract – even if their costs are marginally higher than those of a less suitable candidate.

Detailed guidance is now available on ChurchCare at

4.3.2 Registers of accredited professionals

Architects accredited in building conservation can be found at

Surveyors can be found via Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) (follow the links to Services/Find a surveyor/Accreditation)

The Building Conservation Directory is an annual publication and an online database of suppliers and professional advisers – at

The National Churches Trust’s website also includes a directory of professional advisers, building contractors and craftsmen at The Trust will also provide support and advice to help you care for your church building. Call their National Support Officer on 020 7776 1042.

The Churchbuild website contains a range of practical information around developing and managing a building project. including:

4.3.3 Insurance and Regulations realating to Building Works

If you intend to start major alterations, renovations or repairs, it’s important that you inform your insurance company so they can consider the effect the work will have on your policy and ensure that the correct cover is in place for the building works themselves.

Usually, the work under construction and the materials involved are the responsibility of the contractor and you don’t need to do anything. But, if you’ve signed a formal contract, which makes you liable to insure these, then you must definitely inform your insurer.

There is guidance on the Ecclesiastical website here

and on the Methodist Insurance website here

The Methodist Church also has a useful guidance note on ‘reducing the risk of building contract disputes’ at and also on the Health & Safety Regulations in Construction Work contained within the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 which can be read here

The United Reformed Church also has guidance on the 2007 CDM Regulations here–design-and-management-regulations-2007-s221.html

The Baptist Union of Great Britain has guidance here

4.4 Internal fixtures and fittings

Places of Worship are major repositories of a wide range of significant historic and artistic objects. Unlike domestic items of comparable age, many of these are still in continuous use. While conservation and maintenance issues should be taken into account when using, handling, storing and displaying objects, it should also be remembered that these precious items were meant to be used in the context of worship. Conservation, together with appropriate and informed care, will ensure that the contents of your church will survive to fulfil that function.


For the Church of England Churchcare section entitled Caring for the Contents of your Churchprovides guidance on how to care for the range of objects from bells and bell frames to textiles and including wall paintings, stained glass

There is also guidance on working with a conservator

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) has useful information on the general cleaning of church interiors. It covers the kinds of cleaning tools that should be used and the most appropriate cleaning fluids to use in particular circumstances. You can download the information sheet of handy Cleaning Tips from

The Roman Catholic Church has guidance here

For the Baptist Union of Great Britain, theBaptist Union Corporation has written leaflets to help local churches with practical issues, legal matters, property opportunities and problems, and charity law.

The leaflet specific to internal fixtures and fittings is LB08, Furnishings in Listed Churches.

The UK Institute of Conservation is the main point of contact for locating Accredited Conservators for specialised work or advice. It also has guidance information on how to choose the right specialist for you.

Conservator and Restorers can be found through the Conservation Register

4.5 Archaeology

Churches and churchyards are rich in resources for understanding the past and have huge research potential, not only for the archaeologist, but for everybody interested in local and national history. If a church is listed or in a Conservation Area, then the ground beneath the building will also be protected. Understanding the history of a church will help a parish to recognise when proposed works of maintenance or development may have archaeological implications, and thus reduce delay, cost and damage to this inheritance.

When repairs or alterations are under consideration the archaeological implications should always be looked at. Applications for permissions/faculty/consents should always include adequate information, including details of any necessary archaeological provision. Many grants in support of works upon historic churches are conditional upon an adequate level of archaeological recording and analysis being incorporated into the programme of work.

This is of most relevance for Church of England churches and full advice is given here

The Roman Catholic Church has guidance here and

Other denominations should check with their relevant advisor.

4.6 Churchyards

A churchyard, whether open or closed, is primarily a consecrated place set aside for burials and grieving, remembering and commemorating the dead. It can also be a space of quiet reflection, an ancient landscape, a habitat for rare plant and animal species, a space full of archaeological and historical information as well as an appropriate setting for the church building. All of these aspects have been increasingly recognised for their importance. Increasingly churchyards have been recognised for their potential as an education resource where children can learn about nature and through study of the gravestones learn about the previous inhabitants.


Churchcare has a section entitled Caring for your Churchyard with practical advice on managing the various aspects of a churchyard

Help and information on how to look after and get the most of United Reformed Church burial grounds can be found at

The Baptist Union of Great Britain has information on how to care for its burial grounds in leaflet C01 Burial Grounds which can be downloaded at .

Historic Scotland has produced guidance on caring for historic monuments intended for anyone interested in or responsible for the conservation of monuments, memorials and sculptural elements within a churchyard, burial ground, or cemetery. It provides guidance on best practice for the assessment, planning and implementation of conservation work to monuments as well as legal frameworks and statutory duties. It can be downloaded here Guidance Notes

Caring for God’s Acre aims to inspire and support local communities to care for churchyards and burial grounds in a way which benefits both people and wildlife.

English Heritage’s Divine Inspiration project (now ended) produced a toolkit full of useful guidance and resources on how to make the most of your green spaces. Toolkit 9: Sharing and undertaking your churchyard can be downloaded here.

The Heritage Lottery Fund’s Your Heritage programme offers grants of between £3,000 and £100,000 inclusive for projects that relate to the local, regional or national heritage of the UK. You can apply for conservation projects in churchyards for present and future generations to experience and enjoy. Your application must show how you are using your project to help people to learn about their own and their community’s heritage and help a wider range of people to take an active part in and make decisions about heritage.

N.B. Funding – link to the Memorials Grant Scheme under 5.1

5. Funding

PDF copy of all sections: 5.0 Funding (Sections 5.1 to 5.10)

5.1 VAT

Value Added Tax (VAT) can be an important consideration for your project. The repair and maintenance of places of worship represents one of the largest areas of expenditure for churches. The standard rate of 20% currently applies to maintenance,repairs, alterations and new build on all buildings, . NB: the installation of certain aids for disabled people, such as ramps or bathrooms can still be zero-rated.

Since 2001, the Listed Places of Worship Scheme has offered grants towards the VAT incurred in making repairs to listed buildings mainly used for public worship. When it started, it made payments of 100% of eligible claims. However, since April 2011, there is a fixed annual budget and to ensure all claimants are treated fairly in the event of any pressures on this budget, the scheme now operates with quarterly fixed budgets with payments made once per quarter. The payable rate will depend on the value of eligible claims received in that quarter, with each claim attracting a fair pro-rata payment. Currently, the budget is sufficient to enable 100% payments. To find about the Scheme go to:

*As part of the 21st March 2012 Budget, the Government announced the withdrawal of zero rate VAT on approved alterations to listed buildings from 1 October 2012 which would have included listed places of worship. Following lobbying by the Church of England and the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance, the Government agreed to widen the scope of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme to allow for applications for grants to cover alterations as well as repairs to listed places of worship. The Scheme’s budget was increased to take account of the increase in applications.

An announcement in June 2013 confirmed that the available funding for the scheme would be maintained at £42m per annum in 2015-2016.

The Government recently announced changes to the scope and operation of the Listed Places of Worship grant scheme, these changes came into effect on 1 October 2013. From this date, works to pipe organs, turret clocks, bells and bell ropes are eligible for claims under the scheme. Professional services directly related to eligible building work such as architect fees are also eligible

5.2 Guidance on how to approach fund-raising

Always be clear about what you are asking money for. You can set up separate funds so that people can donate for a specific cause eg: the roof or the organ. Or you may want to ensure you have flexibility on what funds can be spent on eg: set up a Fabric Fund or Community Project.

The Ecclesiastical Insurance website has some useful guidance including planning and its importance, using the internet, applying for grants, talking to the press and fundraising ideas.

5.3 Applying for Grants

Increasingly public money in the form of grants is becoming more difficult to obtain. In order to qualify for funding for a repairs project, or improving or installing new facilities from scratch, you will need to be able to show how you are going to benefit the wider community. And you need to show that you are going to be fulfilling a real need: ie that you have done your research:

  • You have undertaken some form of community audit
  • Can show that the need came out of the development of a local plan
  • Can supply letters of support especially from partners

Your application will have to make clear:

  • that you have a clear mission statement. Granters will want to understand what your project hopes to achieve and who will benefit. What change are you going to bring about?
  • how you are going to achieve your project
  • that you have a fully worked out business plan
  • how you will measure achievement/success
  • what will be in place to ensure future sustainability

The Methodist Church has a section on Projects and Funding including guidance on Making a Good Application – Hints & Tips and also How to put Together a Good Business Plan. This can be found here

The Heritage Lottery Fund’s grant programme for places of worship will continue to prioritise urgent repairs, but will also include some funding for new capital works as well as placing increased emphasis on outreach and education. There are case studies up on their website which will illustrate what they are looking for and show how successful applicants created and developed their projects. This specific programme is on their website

5.4 Funding Directories

Historic Scotland Funding Directory Directory of Grants for Places of Worship

5.5 Guidance on Funding Sources

The National Churches Trust (NCT) offers an independent source of advice and grants on both building repairs and for community engagement.

You can also call the NCT’s National Support Officer for help and support on 020 7776 1042.

Most denominations have some funds of their own to offer their churches for building or mission initiatives. They also have information on other funding sources.

The Methodist Church has guidance on external funding sources here and information on Connexional property grants here

The Roman Catholic Church has some information here

United Reformed Church guidance on other sources of funding can be found at

For the Baptist Union of Great Britain guidance on funding can be found at

For Quakers go to


English Heritage’s Divine Inspiration project (now ended) produced the Sources of funding for Church Repair Projects tool which can be downloaded here.

Or you could try Crowd Funding. Parish Resources has produced a useful guide on Crowing Funding that you can access here:

5.6 Funding for the Care of Fixtures and Fittings

The Heritage Lottery Fund’s Your Heritage programme offers grants between £3,000 and £100,000 inclusive for projects that relate to the local, regional or national heritage of the UK. You can apply to conserve an object or piece of heritage – this can include bells, clocks, organs, paintings on canvas & wood, wall paintings, monuments, timberwork, ornamental plasterwork, metalwork, books & manuscripts, textiles as well as historic structures and other conservation projects in churchyards. Your application must also show how you are using your project to help people to learn about their own and their community’s heritage, and helping a wider range of people to take an active part in and make decisions about heritage.

5.7 Setting up a Friend's Group

This is a good way of widening your support base. A lot of people who don’t come to your church to worship may well care about the building and want to help and a Friends Group can be a good way to get these people involved. Such groups usually start with the aim of raising money for repairs, but they can also become involved in other aspects such as community outreach work.

Aim to ensure your committee includes both people from the church and people from all parts of the community. Make sure you don’t cut across the Church’s existing fund-raising activities by reaching agreement on what the money raised should be spent on. The Group can make a grant of funds to the church body in order that the elected representatives of the congregation have responsibility for spending this without restriction or you can decide to fund-raise for specific things.

You can either set yourselves up as a separate charity through the OSCR or you can come under the umbrella of your local church body and ask them to ring-fence an account for the Friends and benefit from their charitable status.

It is always useful to discuss the proposed trust deed with Scottish Charity Regulator, as well as your local adviser. Note that major grant givers will usually only make grants available to the body with legal responsibility for the building.


The Diocese of London now have made available online “Building Friends: a toolkit for new friends’ groups” at: (This is a very large single web-page; you will need to scroll through it to access all the information & suggestions.)

“Friends’ Scheme” for a Parish Church by Susan Rennison

N.B. For more information on how to buy this book see under Other Resources

The National Churches Trust has also brought together some useful information on this at:

Also see the Parish Resources website for brief information on Friends Schemes.

5.8 Funding for Community Projects


The Funding Central website provides updated information on sources of funding for charities and projects.

Local Funding Advice Bodies. Most areas have some form of organisation that supports voluntary and community organisations to get the resources they need. They can provide advice, information on local funding sources and training to help local organisations develop their fundraising knowledge, skills and confidence. Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations – SCVO

5.9 Gift Aid

On 24 February 2012, HMRC Charities published updated guidance on Gift Aid declarations and provided new model declarations. The new model declaration includes the words “I confirm I have paid or will pay an amount of Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax for the current tax year (6 April to 5 April) that is at least equal to the amount of tax that all the charities and Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs) that I donate to will reclaim on my gifts for the current tax year”.

This is a significant change from the existing wording.

The 21st March 2012 Budget reaffirmed the introduction of the small donations scheme from April 2013 to enable charities to claim a top-up payment on up to £5,000 of small donations without having to collect Gift Aid declarations. Charities will be able to claim on donations of £20 or less instead of the figure of £10 announced in the 2011 Budget – presumably to get round the problem of £20 notes in the collection-plate. This requires separate legislation.

The Parish Resources website has a very good section on Gift Aid which can be accessed here

5.10 Loans

You may want to consider taking out a loan to enable work to proceed in one continuous operation, whilst fundraising is going on. You must weigh the implications carefully. It will be dependent on the ability of your church to cope with the burden of repayment. The important principle is to ensure that the parish has the financial ability to meet its commitments.

There are several banks that specialise in providing financial support including loans to charities especially for community projects such as the Charity Bank, the Co-Operative Bank and the Triodos Bank.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain offers loans to help its local churches. Information can be found at:

For the United Reformed Church information about Loans from the Church Building Fund can be found at

6. Other Building Issues

6.1 Security

The Security section on Churchcare provides practical advice on securing fences, doors and windows, as well as covering the very important issue of personal safety and here

Ecclesiastical have very useful information on their website at

National Churchwatch offers free seminars on church security and personal safety and provides downloadable guidance on security.

The Roman Catholic Church offers advice here

6.2 Metal Theft

For an up to date overview of this issue go to Churchcare

English Heritage’s guidance note Theft of Metal from Church Buildings (2011) gives advice on dealing with the theft of metals from historic buildings and sites. It mainly concentrates on lead roofs on churches, but the guidance will be relevant to other metals and buildings. Preventing potential theft is obviously paramount, but advice is also given on dealing with its unfortunate aftermath.

There is a lot of practical information on the Methodist Insurance website which can be found here

The Ecclesiastical Insurance website provides detailed advice including on the use of roof alarms and SmartWater

6.3 Bats

Seventeen different species of bats can be found in the UK, most of which are endangered. All bats are protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994, making it necessary to get a licence from Scottish Natural Heritage to move or disturb a colony. In large numbers they can cause serious damage to churches and their historic interiors, and in the worst cases sometimes making the use of the building almost impossible.

Practical guidance be found on Churchcare at

6.4 Insurance

Insurance is essential for your place of worship and halls, but also for the events that take place inside them. You must also inform insurers in advance if you are intending to undertake any building works and/or changing or extending the use of your building. Information can be found at Church of Scotland Insurance Services

Ecclesiastical is the main insurer for Anglican churches and has advice on a range of practical issues relating to the upkeep of places of worship.

Methodist Insurance is theinsurer for Methodist churches and some other denominations

The United Reformed Church has advice here

Baptist Insurance is the leading insurer of Baptist Churches

Congregational and General Insurance insures places of worship for most denominations

6.5 Other Regulations that affect buildings

ACRE and the Rural Community Action Network of village hall advisers provides an information and advice service for those who manage village halls and other rural community buildings.

Specific issues to do with buildings include:

(a) Asbestos

Churchcarehas information here

The Methodist Church website has information here

The Baptist Union Corporation has information here

The leaflet on asbestos is L11 Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations

The United Reformed Churchhas guidance here

The Quakers website has information here

(b) Electrical Inspections and Testing

The Methodist Church website has information here

The United Reformed Church has guidance here

The Quakers website has guidance entitled Electricity in a fire hazard, which can be downloaded here

(c) Fire safety

Churchcare has information here

The Methodist Church has information here

The Baptist Union Corporation has information here

The leaflet L10 is on Health and Safety and Fire Precautions

The United Reformed Church has guidance here

(d) Health and Safety

Health and safety is important for those who come into your building as worshippers, visitors or as employees. It is important during the normal running of the church and especially important if you are planning building works or functions.

Most local authorities will have a section on health and safety for community groups as well as guidance on how to undertake risk assessments for events and new projects.

The Health and Safety Executive has launched a new website Health and safety made simple: the basics for your business. Among other things it covers appointing a health & safety officer, writing an H&S policy, managing the risks, consulting your employees, training and information, workplace facilities, first aid, accidents and ill health. This will be particularly helpful for small charities, many of which are churches and many of which lack specialist advice on H&S. Remember, H&S is the law and, in any case, it’s largely about common prudence.

Churchcarehas a whole section on all aspects of health and safety

The Ecclesiastical website also has very helpful information on Health and Safety for churches

The Roman Catholic Church has information here

Methodist Insurance also provided Health and Safety information in the Resource Centre part of its website

The United Reformed Church has guidance here

The Baptist Union Corporation has information to help local churches with Health and Safety at .

The leaflet on Health and Safety is C07 Health and Safety and Fire Precautions

(e) Health and Safety Risk Assessments

Risk assessment in the workplace is a legal requirement: and businesses employing five or more people are obliged to make an assessment and record the significant findings.

The Health and Safety Commission has just produced a useful on-line risk assessment tool for offices which is designed to help those working in low-risk office-based environments to do their risk assessment quickly and easily and without buying in external advice. The assessment should take around 20 minutes.

You can also find information on Risk Assessments on the Methodist Church website here and here

and on the Ecclesiastical website here

(f) Working at Height


Information from Churchcare can be found here

And on the Methodist Church website here

7.0 Getting the Most Out of Your Buildings

PDF copy of sections: Getting the Most Out of Your Buildings (Sections 7.1 to 7.10)

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.

Most Scottish denominations accept 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 Project Guide (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.

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
  • 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.

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.

“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, 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 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.



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: and and read their story.

7.2 Developing Options

Many 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

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 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.


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

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

7.4 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.

The Baptist Union Corporation has information here

7.5 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.

7.5.1 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

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 and then move to here

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

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

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.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain has several guidance notes which can be downloaded from

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: 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. . 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

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

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.

The Churches Conservation Trust Regeneration Task Force has developed a business approach to structure and guide project development. They have identified key stages which aim to simplify the process and help take projects forward in a logical way. Download the toolkit here

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

7.5.2 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.

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.

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:

7.5.3 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 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.


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.


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

And on the Arthur Rank Centre website at

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.

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). The guidance and case studies can be found on Churchcare at and from the Arthur Rank Centre at

The Plunkett Foundation is also able to help with setting up post offices co-located with community shops.

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

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, and from Churchcare at

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

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 See also

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.


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

7.6 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

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.

Another useful source of advice can be found here from English Heritage

The Churchbuild website contains a range of practical information around developing and managing a building project.

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

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

The Methodist Church has guidance on the removal of seating from historic chapels which can be read here


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


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

New Technology

Churchcare has very useful guidance on how best to introduce new technology such as screens and loudspeakers sensitively into your building

You can also find information on lighting schemes and the introduction of glass screens here on Churchcare


There is advice from Churchcare at

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 . Of relevance are:

· PC04 Redeveloping or Altering your church building.

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

For the Methodist Church, if you are considering making changes, you must consult with the Property Consent Team:

You can read about completed projects undertaken within Methodist Churches at

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.



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. &


The Churchbuild website features several re-ordering case studies and explains the thinking behind their development.

The Churches Trust for Cumbria has a lot of case studies illustrating rural places of worship engaging with their communities at


Pews, benches & chairs: church seating in English parish churches from the fourteenth century to the present by the Ecclesiological Society published August 2011

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.

7.7 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:

  1. i) Go to the Charity Commission and set yourselves up as a separate charity
  2. 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:

  • 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

  • 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

The Co-operatives UK website offers a comprehensive (free) set of resources for community enterprises covering legal, financial and governance issues.

  • 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


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.

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.


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.


The Plunkett Foundation has recently published their report “Review of Rural Social Enterprise in England”. (December 2011) which can be downloaded here 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.

7.8 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

7.9 Sharing the use of your Building

7.9.1 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.


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

Methodist Insurance also has a lot of information on organizing functions and working with outside users in the Resource Centre part of its website

Of particular relevance is their leaflet on Outside Users which can be read here

For the United Reformed Church go to

For the Baptist Union of Great Britain, you can find guidance here and

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.

7.9.2 Scottish Licensing Act 2005

You can find guidance on this Act and how it affects church buildings at Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005

7.10 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

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

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


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.

8.0 Opening up your Place of Worship

PDF copy of all sections: Opening up your Place of Worship (Sections 8.0 to 8.2)


This is about making your building more welcoming to everyone who visits your church whether they are worshippers, pilgrims or tourists. Sometimes it will be about helping them to feel able to cross the threshold. People who don’t go to worship, will often find it difficult to open a closed church door and walk inside. You need to find a way of breaking down those barriers.

There are a variety of things you can do starting with a welcoming notice clearly displayed near the gate or door to make people feel they are welcome. At the other extreme, you could also consider installing a glass door within the porch and narthex so that the outer door can be left open so that people can see inside without losing heat. The welcome should continue once visitors are inside and there needs to be information about the church easily available such as a guide book. Displays explaining the history of the building and describing the current life of the living church are also important in helping visitors to fully appreciate what they are looking at. You may also want to find ways of explaining the Christian Faith to visitors and the function of some of the artefacts such as the pulpit and the altar that they will find.

And for local people, places of worship are some of the key keepers of community heritage. Churchyards, in particular, are a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the area. In addition, they are also keepers of traditions and rites that may have been practiced for generations.

For more on the welcoming of visitors see Tourism, below. For more on the provision of interpretation material for a range of visitors see Education, below.

Physical access is also important and the first aim should be to make it easy for everyone to come into our buildings and to be able move around inside them. Places of worship as public buildings are legally required to make themselves accessible within reason to all those with physical disabilities. (Disabled access is now covered within the Equality Act 2010.) With historic buildings this has to be balanced against aesthetic and conservation principles. If your building is listed, you will have to observe certain standards that have been set for correct provision. These are set out in British Standard 8300:2009 and Part M of the Building Regulations. You may well decide to undertake an access audit and if your building is listed part of this will be assessing reasonableness in terms of the physical changes that can be made and the cost. If you require advice on the best ways of making your buildings more accessible, it is quite likely that your denomination will have a specialist officer who has knowledge of these things. You can also contact your Local Council for Voluntary Service or Community Council in your area or your Local Authority Access Officer

With careful thought and sometimes expert help, a solution can be found in most cases.

This is of equal importance to visitors as well as to your congregation. It is about people with wheelchairs, but it is also about people who need to use a stick, those with crutches, and what about mothers with pushchairs or young children?

It’s about the church building itself and also the churchyard and you need to think about the whole surrounds of your building. This starts with the parking arrangements for people who need to use a car and the distance between the car park and the church entrance. Bearing in mind that ideally everyone should enter through the same entrance, circumventing steps leading up to the building and also once inside can be a major issue. People are increasingly coming up with ingenious solutions and all the options should be explored to find the one most suited to your circumstances. Do you need to make major physical changes, e.g. consider a stair lift? Or will creating broader shallower, steps or even turning steps into a ramp be a less intrusive alteration or can installing study hand rails be the solution to a short flight of steps? You can do a lot to help those with sight difficulties by taking care over highlighting edge of steps and changes in levels using difficult colours of surface coverings.

NB: Remember you will need to seek approval for any physical alterations

N.B. link to Ecclesiastical Exemption (Section 2)

Churchcare has information on security and opening up your building here


Legislation and practical help about making your building accessible

Churchcarehas overall guidance on welcoming visitors at, with detailed guidance on accessibility in Making Disabled Visitors Welcome at and

The Baptist Union Corporation has guidance at

The relevant leaflet is L12 Churches and Disabiliy Issues

For the Methodist Church, you can read guidance on the Disability Discrimination Act at

The United Reformed Church has guidance here

Centre for Accessible Environments has plenty of resources including information on how to carry out an access audit.

The National Churchwatch website has a very helpful guidance note on points to bear in mind if you are considering increasing the opening hours of your church

Ecclesiastical have very practical guidance on keeping your church open, but secure at There is also their Guidance on Health and Safety for Churches including opening your church tower for visitors

Welcoming Visitors (see also under Tourism)

English Heritage’s Divine Inspiration project (now ended) had several tools to guide you through opening up your church building which include:

An Auditing of your Church’s Welcome which is an “exercise to help you audit your building to see just how welcoming it is to visitors and strangers to your church”.

  • Toolkit 1 Ten Top Tips for Welcoming Visitors to your Church;
  • Toolkit 3: Opening with Confidence with “Sound advice and useful suggestions about security issues associated with opening up your church buildings and keeping your volunteers safe”.
  • Toolkit 4: Getting Noticed which “ensures you make a good first impression on visitors to your building and provide information people can access using technology”.

The full toolkit can be downloaded at the foot of this page or here.

8.1 Tourism

As a valuable part of our nation’s heritage, churches are often a major attraction for visitors, whether local or from further afield. Opening your church building and providing basic facilities is not difficult and can be rewarding. It can also be a way of attracting visitors to your area which will in turn help the local economy of the area.

A good place to start is to have a look and see what is of particular interest about your building. Is it a listed church of heritage value? Is there a connection with famous person or historical incident?

It could be that you are on a route to somewhere? Or close by a trail, or popular walk? You could be close to another popular attraction and there are there already visitors coming into your area. What sort of visitors are already coming to your building? How can you persuade others to visit you? What stories can you tell? What hooks have you got? Could you work with other nearby places of worship to create a trail or an annual festival?

What will they find when they get there? It could just be a cup of tea, but it could also be something for all ranges of visitors – young, old, other languages, those interested in church architecture. Or if you have identified your existing visitors and/or those you want to target, provide something that will be of specific interest to them.

And don’t forget to engage with and invite your local community to come and to see and find out about the church’s role in the history of their local community. (See also under Education, below). You may find you will uncover useful volunteers who can help you do some research and produce interpretation material and displays.

Promoting your church

There are plenty of things you can do including:

  • If you haven’t got one already, create a website for your church or ensure that you have a section on the local/village website and keep it up to date. Link to Section on creating you own website above 7.1 Look up local attractions and see if you can cross advertise each other’s attractions and activities via leaflets, flyers or websites. It can only be of mutual benefit.
  • If you are close by local trails or walks see if your church can be included in information and maps and your building signposted as a place of interest or where walkers can find a cup of tea.
  • Look at the other websites which promote your area/county, and see if your church can be added as a visitor attraction. If you are of national value then you can try some of the national websites such as Britain Express

Go and talk to your nearest Tourism Office and/or Tourism Officer at your Local Authority. They should be able to give you good advice and an overview of the tourism opportunities for your area.

You may also find that your Regional/County Tourism agency already recognise the potential of religious sites such as in Yorkshire

There are also plenty of annual heritage-based festivals now happening across the country as well as increasing number of faith trails or specialist church festivals. So check out what is happening in your area and ask to be included.

What are your visitors going to find?

There are many reasons why someone is visiting your church. Places of worship are spaces where visitors can learn about architecture, arts and crafts, and past historical events as well as social history. They are keepers of community heritage, traditions and rites that may have been practiced for generations. They are also places of the present where people come to worship, and take part in various community activities and events. You should ensure that visitors can find out about all these aspects


If you are a Church of England church, have a look at your Diocesan website, as many of them have guidance on opening up your church and some run Open Churches Weeks and/or annual festivals.

The Churches Tourism Association is the leading body for individuals, churches, and broader bodies to resource and encourages churches in welcoming visitors. A large proportion of their resources, toolkits and materials are freely available from their website. There is also information on current church festivals and trails happening around the country.

Churchcare has some advice on visitors and tourists in churches at and lists of links to visitor advice sites at

The Churches Trust for Cumbria also has a lot of advice and downloaded resources at

Hidden Britain is a charity-led initiative to encourage tourism which uncovers lesser known areas of the countryside and provides a different and more meaningful experience for the visitor. The project will help communities set themselves up as destinations and can offer free consultancy.

Hidden Britain has also worked with the Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) on the Rural Tourism topic sheet which is part of the new Community Led Planning Toolkit. This provides information about how you can take action to promote and manage rural tourism in your area by producing a Community Led Plan. This involves understanding the importance of heritage to your community and developing actions that will build on the history of your local area to enhance its character and sense of place.

Telling your visitors about your building and what happens inside it.

The Christianity and Culture project has a great resource: The English Parish Church through the Centuries: daily life & spirituality, art & architecture, literature & music – an interactive DVD-ROM that traces the development of the country’s most iconic ecclesiastical buildings across the centuries. This major new digital resource combines easily accessible introductions to the latest academic research on parish churches and the influence of Christianity on literature, music, art and society with images from national and international collections. It can be used to inform and support interpretation material for your own church.

The Methodist Heritage website has brought together information on Methodist Heritage and sites across the UK. They are also developing trails and have just launched A Railways and Religion Trail in Cumbria (see below). It is now developing a lead mining industry trail in the north-east and also a Newcastle city trail. Working on providing guidance for Methodist chapels on how they can research and tell their own stories

The National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS) has designed Children’s Trails for 8-12 year olds which could actually be used for people of all ages. The trail guides the participant round a church looking at the architecture, history and furnishings. You can adapt it to suit your own church building. More information at:

How to Encourage Visitors on a Spiritual Journey

When a visitor comes into a church, it can provide an opportunity to understand their Christian heritage and renew or deepen their spiritual experience. A piece of research carried out in 2006 provides practical suggestions.

English Heritage’s Divine Inspiration project (now ended) had some very useful tools including

  • Toolkit 2: Interpreting your building for visitors will help you produce well written and researched material so you can tell your story more effectively to those who make visits to your building
  • Toolkit 4: Getting Noticed ensures you make a good first impression on visitors to your building and provide information people can access using technology”.
  • Toolkit 6: Unlocking the story of your church online which lists on-line resources to help you with your detective work as you research your church’s story

All these can be downloaded at the foot of this page or here.

The Diocese of Hereford has produced a series of practical advice sheets covering arrange of topics ranging from how to produce interpretation panels, signage and leaflets to the preparation and serving of food on church premises. They can be downloaded at

They have also produced apractical step-by-step guide to help set high standards for churches to enhance the quality of their welcome for visitors. Reassuringly, it starts by saying “It is important to realise at the outset that most improvements need not cost vast sums of money and a further drain of already tight resources”. To download Setting Standards of Excellence & Enhancing: The Welcome For Visitorsgo to

The Diocese of St David’s in Wales receives thousands of visitors each year. They have produced a toolkit with advice and ideas on how to ensure that your visitors have an enriching and enjoyable experience at each and every church, whatever the reasons for their visit.

The Church Guides website helps to link volunteer writers with churches, and other historic places of worship, in need of a new and innovative guide to their history, architecture and community. It also includes guidance on how to write your own guidebook.

The Building on History project developed in partnership by English Heritage’s Divine Inspiration project with the Open University, Kings College London and the Diocese of London provides guidance on how to research parish records, write your own church and parish history and create your own guidebook.. This exercise has been proved to be a valuable part of Mission Action Planning for some parishes across the country. The report clearly shows that a congregation and leadership with clear understanding of its past should be better equipped to face the future. The full report is at

The Heritage Lottery Fund’s Your Heritage programme offers grants between £3,000 and £100,000 inclusive for projects that relate to the local, regional or national heritage of the UK. You can apply to conserve an object or piece of heritage for present and future generations to experience and enjoy, Your application must also show how you are using your project to help people to learn about their own and their community’s heritage and help more people, and a wider range of people, to take an active part in and make decisions about heritage.

The Heritage Lottery Fund’s All Our Stories small grant programme is there to help communities explore their local heritage. Grants are availablle ranging from £3,000 to £10,000 for projects such as researching local historic landmarks, delving into archives etc. Applications need to be submitted online by 31 July and applicants will receive a decision by October. To find out more go to:

Festivals, Events and Trails (a few examples – there are plenty more)

Heritage Open Days – a national programme which celebrates England’s fantastic architecture and culture by offering free access to properties that are usually closed to the public or normally charge for admission. Every year on four days in September, buildings of every age, style and function throw open their doors, ranging from castles to factories, town halls to tithe barns, parish churches to Buddhist temples

The Cotswolds Churches Festival.In May 2011, more than 110 churches of every denomination and from five different Dioceses became involved in a celebration of church life across the Cotswold region. For 2012, the festival will concentrate on welcoming visitors to churches to take part in various events around the Diamond Jubilee at the end of May/early June

Southwell and Nottingham Open Churches Project has published various ‘trail’ leaflets linking together churches with a common theme: the Robin Hood Churches Trail, Medieval Stained Glass, and a trail which will follow churches along the route of the Old Great North Road.

The West Lindsey Churches Festival 2012 will be its 16th year and will be taking place over two weekends in May, namely 5/6 May 2012 and 12/13 May 2012. Itcelebrates some of the country’s finest religious heritage and architecture. “You can experience wonderful flower displays, local exhibitions and the warmth and hospitality of local people when many of our rural communities open their churches to visitors”.

The Diocese of Norwich has an Open Churches Week as well as an annual Art Alive festival when historic churches showcase the skills of modern artists and crafts people keeping ancient traditions alive.

The Diocese of Hereford has a Shropshire and a Herefordshire Churches Tourism Group both of which have a website and brochures which can be found at member churches and Tourism Information Centres. and

A Railways and Religion Trail in Cumbria. The Methodist Church and the Churches Trust for Cumbria have created a Railways and Religion Trail. Part of the Western Dales Faith Trail, it takes in 12 small, serene chapels and churches and explains their history to the development of the railway. It is a good example of what story telling can do for local communities and tourism. To read more go to

The Quakers have produced The 1652 Country Planning your Pilgrimage, which is a planning booklet for those intending to visit places of Quaker interest in the North West of England. You can read about it here and download it from here

Heritage Inspired has good examples of trail leaflets around Yorkshire


The South Copeland Tourism Group

A group of churches in and around Millom on the edge of the Lake District National Park obtained Your Heritage funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and created a touring exhibition, a 24-page booklet and guide, a trail leaflet and postcards about the magnificent stained glass windows to be found in their churches. The research and the resources were produced by local volunteers and the project was fully integrated within the local tourism networks. Their overall objective was to bring an increase in visitor numbers to their area.

This success of this project so motivated this group that in collaboration with tourism-sector businesses, they have set up the South Copeland Tourism Community Interest Company and raised £150K in funding from the Rural Development Programme for England and the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency among others., It now employs a full-time Tourism Development Officer on a three-year contract. Part of this role is to develop further what has already been achieved, including the creation of new events and websites, raising the quality of the visitor offer in the area, and, within this, to ensure that the churches continue to be fully integrated into the tourism strategy for the area.

All Saints, Daresbury, Cheshire is well known for its connections with Lewis Carroll. It receives 1,000s of visitors a year especially to see the ‘Alice’ window, the Lewis Carroll Memorial Window. Dedicated in 1935, it depicts a Nativity scene, at which both Carroll ad Alice are present. Below the scene are 5 panels illustrated with characters from Alice in Wonderland including the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and the Dodo. The Church supported by the National Lottery has built the Lewis Carroll centre which is an extension to the church and tells the story of the church and Lewis Carroll. and


St Peter’s Radway, Diocese of Coventry is developing a project to tell the story of the battle of Edge Hill, the first major clash of the English Civil War that took place there in 1642. The PCC are thinking about how the church can become a focal point for the sharing of this incredible story. Edge Hill itself is a popular destination for walkers who encounter this church as they explore the parts of the original battlefield that are accessible to the public. At present there is no focal point for interpretation and information of the site.

The use of technology in engaging visitors:-

Increasingly, churches are exploring the use of new technology to help guide visitors around your church building.

The church of Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon, famous as the burial place of William Shakespeare, can now be explored with the help of an app for mobile phones and iPads.

In 2010, in Holy Trinity, Micklegate, York a new installation called ‘Micklegate Priory Revealed’ was introduced. This took the form of an interactive touchscreen that allows the visitor to experience the 15th-century Micklegate Priory, digitally reconstructed in a detailed 3D visualisation.

Twelve areas of the priory can be investigated, including the cloister, the workshops, the gardens and the fishponds. Each area provides several information points, which provide interesting details on how the priory functioned and how its inhabitants lived.

Aurasma is another new technology which can provide information to visitors via their mobile devices. To find out more go to the bottom of page at:

8.2 Education

Places of worship offer a multi-faceted education resource. They can illustrate local and national history, art, architectural, crafts, geography and can contribute to the subjects of music, science, maths, geology and biology. Children develop creative skills and engage in practical activities inspired by the building around them. However, most importantly, unlike other historic buildings, a visit to a place of worship can also pose questions about spirituality, life and death, good and evil and contribute to personal and moral development.

Visiting a place of worship is relevant to most Key Stages of the National Curriculum. Key Stages 1 and 2 makes specific reference to the value of taking children on a visit to a place of worship.

In March 2012, the Government announced a new initiative to help schoolchildren to get to know their local heritage and how it relates to the ‘story of England’. English Heritage is to receive £2.7m over three years from the Department for Education for delivering the Heritage Schools initiative, under which ‘heritage brokers’, experts in heritage education, will be recruited to work with schools. Their role will be to ensure that teachers understand the opportunities and potential of their local historic environment for delivering an engaging curriculum as a core part of the school timetable.

English Heritage has said that ‘heritage brokers’ would seek partnerships with local heritage organisations in delivering the Heritage Schools initiative; those organisations could include a local church, archive, after-school history club, local history or archaeology society, civic society or museum. The aim would be to build lasting relationships between these organisations and local schools. To keep up to date with progress on this go to:

So if your local School hasn’t yet made contact with you, why not approach them? They may be very happy to work with you and develop activities for a school visit. It may also be worth talking to other places of worship in your area as a visit to more than one place of worship will provide an interesting insight for a school visit. There is plenty of guidance available and you may also be able approach a retired teacher in your community to see if they would like to get involved.

It is also worth providing activities for other children who may visit your church on a one-off visit in family groups. Remember that to be effective, the instructions for an activity must be relatively simple and easily understood by both parents and children.


When visiting museums or other churches have a look and see what they are providing for schools/family groups. Your cathedral will probably have educational activities and resources for young visitors and school. If they have one, go and talk to their Education Officer.

There is a short section on the Churchcarewebsite at

English Heritage’s Divine Inspiration project (now ended) had a very useful tool for school visits. Toolkit 7 Church and School Working Together will give you tips and information for welcoming groups of young people into your church buildings.

This can be be downloaded here.

The Diocese of Hereford has produced a series of practical Tourism and Visitor advice sheets for churches including:

  • Advice Sheet 2: Encouraging School and Group Visits
  • Advice Sheet 5: Interpreting For Young People

They can be downloaded at

The Southwell and Nottingham Church History Project although concentrating on church buildings in Southwell and Nottingham also aims to help parishes appreciate their church buildings and provide booklets and information for visitors and tourists and promote church buildings as resources for schools and colleges.

The Nottingham and Southall Open Churches project have launched their new extensive pack

for teachers focusing on how the church building can be a valuable tool for learning.

The National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS) has designed Children’s Trails for 8-12 year olds that could actually be used for people of all ages. The trail guides the participant round a church looking at the architecture, history and furnishings. You can adapt it to suit your own church building. More information at

RE Online is aimed at teachers and encourages them to use both local and national places of worship for out-of-classroom teaching in order to give pupils first hand experiences of religious buildings and the communities they serve. It points to local and national religious resources that are available to help give schoolchildren first hand experiences of the religious buildings and the communities they serve.

There are other websites which offer guidance to museums, but they do have some useful information on creating trails and other ideas and

Groups for Education in Museums (GEM) have a lot of grassroots resources. Also useful tips and inks on using questioning techniques when developing activities


The Friends of St Dunstan’s Church, Cranbrook, Kent with the help of a HLF Your Heritage grant developed a website providing information on the church’s history for visitors. There are also free downloadable education resources relating to National Curriculum Key Stages 1 and 2 to support work in the classroom in advance of a visit and also for use at the church. The development of these materials benefitted from the local expert knowledge of former teachers who lived in Cranbrook. The grant also helped to pay towards the training of 15 volunteers from Cranbrook School to become qualified guides.

St Peter’s Wootton Wawen, near Stratford-upon-Avon in its Saxon Sanctuary offers a variety of programmes for schools, colleges and universities. The most popular is a cross-curricular ‘monks’ day’ for Key Stage 2 children which gives them a taste of the Benedictine life, including a robed procession, bee-keeping and a frugal lunch. Brass-rubbing and bell-ringing are available options.

Sixth forms and Universities often devise their own programme in collaboration with The Saxon Sanctuary, perhaps majoring on architecture, wall-painting or memorials.


Hexham Abbey also runs an education programme for schools. See more on their website at


The Heritage Lottery Fund’s Your Heritage programme offers grants between £3,000 and £100,000 inclusive for projects that relate to the local, regional or national heritage of the UK. You can apply to conserve an object or piece of heritage for present and future generations to experience and enjoy, Your application must also show how you are using your project to help people to learn about their own and other people’s heritage and help more people, and a wider range of people, to take an active part in and make decisions about heritage.

9.0 Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

PDF copy of infromation: 9.0 Energy Efficiency and Sustainability


When about to undertake any works whether repairs or re-ordering, routine maintenance or thinking about installing new lighting or heating, make sure you have looked at the most energy efficiency option as well as thought about sustainability.

All funders will increasingly be looking at this element when assessing applications


Find out if your diocese/denomination has an environmental officer who can advise you. There may also be a bulk procurement of 100% green energy opportunity that you can opt into.

Information on increasing the energy efficiency of your church, renewable technology and other environmental issues can be found on the Church of England’s national environmental website Shrinking the Footprint. You will also find information on Government support and other possible funding for energy projects. There are also toolkits and best practice case studies covering issues from heating, to boilers, from lighting to waste and recycling, and transport to renewable technology.

In 2012, Churchcare is going to produce detailed guidance on heating covering efficiency, greenness, meeting conservation requirements and will also be looking at how to determine the most effective heating systems depending on different uses within a church building e.g. regular use, mixed uses, heating of different spaces within a building or infrequent, irregular use.

The Methodist Church has provided very useful information on renewal energy at and specifically on solar panels here

Guidance on how to undertake an environmental audit can be found in Leaflet T15 here

The United Reformed Church has a section on its website setting out its commitment to sustainability and information for its churches

At the Great Britain Quaker Yearly Meeting in 2011, a “strong corporate commitment” was made to “become a low-carbon, sustainable community”. You can read about this commitment here

To download guidance, and the Sustainability Toolkit on how your Meeting can respond to this commitment and read about what others are doing go to

You can also download two new interactive online calculators so you can work out the carbon footprint of your meeting and also your personal footprint.

You will also find information on QPSW Sustainability Grants which are intended to provide support to Quaker, or Quaker-supported, projects focused on sustainability go to

The Quakers also own the Northfields Eco-Centre in Birmingham which is housed in a converted meeting house and next door to an existing meeting house. The Centre aims to teach people how to live more sustainably through groups, advice services, events, courses and lots of downloaded guidance.

Eco-Congregation Scotland is an ecumenical programme helping churches make the link between environmental issues and Christian faith, and respond in practical action in the church, in the lives of individuals, and in the local and global community.

The Churches Trust for Cumbria has collected together a lot of information. Some of it is local to Cumbria, but it will give you an idea of organisations you could contact in your own area

There are also some examples of churches which have adopted low carbon technologies which you can read about here

National Trust has been producing a series of case studies to review various building projects, following each one through from conception to completion. The focus of their Building Design Guide is to share information and best practice. The case studies feature many conservation projects, from adapting redundant buildings for new uses to the sensitive introduction of lighting into a Grade I listed building. In addition, a series of case studies has been produced to document the installation of energy saving systems and sustainable technologies within the historic environment.

There are also an increasing number of organisations who can advise and support community groups who are seeking to create their own renewal energy. Have a look and find one that is local to you. One such is Sharenergy which is a not-for-profit organisation that helps communities find, build and own renewable energy generation: “we are currently working on various projects with hydro power, wind, biomass, biogas and solar from our base in the Marches … and throughout the UK”

Further Reading

Download full list here


Further Reading

Country Way magazine

Country Way is a magazine that includes numerous examples of good practice from churches & communities across rural Britain, and often highlights useful resources and ideas. Produced by the Arthur Rank Centre, it comes out three times per year; subscriptions (currently £9 per annum) can be obtained online at – where you can also get free access to back numbers online.

Here is all the additional information about the books mentioned in the pages previously. (The information is current as of February 2014.)


Churches for Communities: adapting Oxfordshire’s churches for wider use by Becky Payne

“We are currently seeing the greatest alterations to our churches since the late nineteenth century.” The Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, Bishop of Dorchester

This book documents the changes taking place in churches and chapels across England by focusing on twenty-five places of worship in the towns and villages of Oxfordshire and telling the stories of those groups, largely of volunteers, who have given their time and energy to raise millions of pounds and work through the challenges involved in adapting an historic place of worship. All the projects arose out of a genuine wish to meet modern worship needs along with a wish to open up the building for wider community use. Between them they represent a range of solutions – from major reorderings to the installation of a toilet and small servery, from extensions to fitting the new facilities within the base of the west end tower.. Even though each project developed out of particular sets of needs and circumstances, many experienced similar challenges.

Making changes to a worship space is a sensitive task as it can challenge many peoples’ expectations of what a church should look like. A balance has to be struck between working with the historic fabric of the building, retaining sacred space while at the same time creating a space that is welcoming to those who may not share the faith of those who worship there.

Any place of worship embarking on a similar project will derive inspiration and benefit from the achievements and experiences described here. It will also be of interest to those who oversee these changes such as DACs (and their equivalents in other denominations), Conservation Officers, Amenity Societies as it will provide insight into the very real challenges faced by those looking after and making our places of worship fit for the 21st century.

Published by the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust and all proceeds go to the work of the Trust. 136 pages, 150 colour illustrations

ISBN-13: 9780992769307

Publisher: Oxford Historic Churches Trust (from whom it is also available) &

Published: January 2014

Format: Paperback

RRP: £15

Fund Raising for Churches by Jane Grieve

Aimed at all churches from those in the smallest villages to the large secular organisations, this text takes the methods of modern fundraisers and adapts them specifically for Christian churches

ISBN-13: 9780281050581; ISBN-10: 0281050589

Publisher: SPCK Publishing

Published: 25/03/1999

Format: Paperback

RRP: £12.99

UK Church Fundraising Handbook: A Practical Manual and Directory of Sources by Maggie Durran. This is a practical, comprehensive and information-packed manual for all churches facing the challenges of maintaining buildings, rising costs and dwindling congregations while wanting to be generous to others in need. It offers a complete step-by-step guide to: giving your church a ‘financial makeover’, growing its resources, maximising the regular giving of the congregation through Gift Aid, putting the ‘fun’ into fundraising, special appeals and legacy campaigns, applying for heritage, Lottery, government or EU funding, building fruitful relationships with local businesses, trusts and foundations, and fundraising for repairs and for new mission projects. The final chapter is all about celebrating hard-earned success! It also includes real-life examples and case studies, plus templates for budget planning, preparing a business plan, producing brochures and all other practical necessities.

ISBN-13: 9781848250024; ISBN-10: 1848250029

Publisher: Canterbury Press Norwich

Published: 30/04/2010

Format: Paperback

RRP: £19.99

Grow Your Church’s Income: A guide to securing long-term financial health by Maggie Durran

This is a simple, practical guide to making your church’s resources go as far as they possibly can in the short, medium and long term. In non-technical language this provides a basic guide to: managing money and budgets, controlling your expenditure, ways of increasing income, from stewardship to social events, how to address falling numbers and falling income, identifying ways to raise income from outside sources, getting the best prices for utilities and other services, group purchasing schemes etc. Illustrated with real examples from churches of all sizes and in all states of financial health, here is an indispensable guide.

ISBN-13: 9781848250390; ISBN-10: 1848250398

Publisher: Canterbury Press Norwich

Published: 31/08/2011

Format: Paperback

RRP: £12.99

Friends’ Scheme” for a Parish Church by Susan Rennison

ISBN-13: 9780902765092; ISBN-10: 0902765094

Published: 01/03/1994

Format: Paperback

RRP: £6.00

Available from Church House Bookshop

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.

ISBN-13: 9781853115974

ISBN-10: 1853115975

Publisher: Canterbury Press Norwich

Published: 01/10/2004

Format: Paperback

RRP: £14.99

The Gate of Heaven: how church buildings speak of God by Nigel Walter

An important, brief reflection on the contribution of the church building to the mission of the church within a community, and the role of the church building within that community. Including a plethora of case studies. (With many more, and much further detail on the accompanying website.) This is the single most relevant & readable apology for the contemporary importance of church buildings available – focusing on their usefulness & potential. Essential reading for all rural church councils & leaders..

ISSN: 0262-799X

Publisher: Grove Books

Published: 2011

Format: Booklet

RRP: £3.95

Also available from the Arthur Rank Centre


Download a full list of additional infromation and resources here