Wider Use of Church Buildings
In the Middle Ages, churches were used for a variety of functions such as courtroom, school and library, and hosted meetings, elections, debates, plays and festivities. In fact, until relatively recently, churches were multifunctional community centres. After the nineteenth-century restriction of secular uses of churches, attitudes are now changing again.
Extended and additional uses of church buildings can take several forms: the building may be used for cultural activities, such as exhibitions, drama performances, rehearsals and concerts; it may host a café, post office, farmers market, shops or a cybercafé; or other community services like mother and toddler groups, playgroups, drop-ins for youth groups or elderly people. Churches can also be important resources for school visits and local tourism.
The Church Buildings Division of the Church of England promotes churches to be ‘Open and Sustainable’; their Churchcare website is a comprehensive resource for information on the development of buildings for wider uses: for a link to this section of their website, click here.
For some more local cases studies, please see our Case Studies page.
There are now several hosted Post Offices across the country, with two in this Diocese. For more information on how to go about putting one in your church, please see Hosted Post Office Guidance.
Some churches are hosting Citizens Advice Bureau centres – see Guidance on Citizens’ Advice Service in churches for information on how churches can get involved in this initiative.
Loans have been made available from the Diocesan Building Fund to support Mission Communities and parishes in support of the Moving on in Growth agenda by providing funds to enable:
- the review and rationalisation of a Mission Community’s building stock
- the re-ordering of church buildings (both consecrated and non-consecrated) to better provide for church and/or community use
- the repair and improvement of church buildings including heating systems.
For further information about this fund, please go to our Grants and Funding page.
Church Buildings Audit
“…..buildings are generally a valuable spiritual and community resource, but this needs to be locally determined, as does finding ways forward with other partners for their upkeep and development.” (Moving On in Mission and Ministry, 2003)
As part of the review of Mission Action Plans after two years of working together, Mission Communities should carry out an audit of their buildings, to discover how best they may enable the work of mission and ministry in their area, and to asses the budgetary implications. A Church Buildings Audit Toolkit has been produced to assist Mission Communities in undertaking this audit.
Crossing the Threshold
The ‘Crossing the Threshold’ conference was aimed at helping dioceses and parishes get the best from their buildings for wider community use. The day was dedicated to sharing best practice in the use of church buildings, and looked at examples of how successful projects are working in and for their communities already. A specially commissioned DVD and Toolkit were produced by the Diocese of Hereford, which was then updated and re-issued in 2017; the Toolkit can be downloaded from the Diocese of Hereford’s website by clicking here.
The toolkit was produced as a response to demand from parishes at the start of their journey down this road towards returning their buildings to their communities. This is an easy to follow step by step resource containing exactly the sort of information any parish will need to know.
With support and practical guidance, it is hoped that it will be possible for more churches to remain open as places of worship but also as places where the wider community can enjoy a whole range of activities and support that will improve the quality of their lives.