Options for your Church
Each mission community is encouraged to have its own individual Mission Action Plan unique to the community it serves. If you are yet to develop this then the Diocese provides guidance on how to go about it. One of the questions asked is whether your church buildings are a supportive, sustainable presence and resource for you. If they are not, then Growing the Rural Church and the Mission and Ministry Development Team can work alongside you to look at how to change this.
Some of the more common outcomes of a project considering the sustainability of church buildings are detailed below. They are far from exhaustive, and the Growing the Rural Church team are always keen to help you explore new, imaginative and creative ideas.
The most exciting and positive outcome of taking an active approach to addressing sustainability issues is when consultation with the local community gives them the opportunity to tell the worshipping community what it is they need the church to provide for them. This may be a relatively small change like changing the time of a service, meeting a social need like a lunch club or Toddler group, or it may be that people would like a fresh expression of worship as well as the worship that currently meets the needs of the congregation, bringing new life and energy into the church.
Being asked by your community to provide something new and different can feel difficult, particularly if there are not many of you. You may well find that once you start the project new people will come forward from within the community with a wide range of skills and experience and a willingness to help. Diocesan officers can also offer you support to respond in a realistic and achievable way to the needs of your local community.
Following consultation, members of the local community who may not be regular worshippers at the church offer to take on or share responsibility for the care and maintenance of the church building. This is usually either done through the formation of a constituted Friends Group or by forming a special committee of the PCC which can include people who do not worship at the church. A Memorandum of Understanding is drawn up between the new body and the PCC to be clear about the responsibilities that have been delegated to the new group. This then frees up the energy of the PCC members so they can focus on mission and worship.
Some churches are struggling with not enough people to do too many things. One of the simplest solutions to this is to share the load across your wider mission community. Having a single administrative group with responsibility for all the churches in the mission community rather than many individual PCCs can make life so much easier, helping to make sure that the people with the right skills are doing the right jobs and freeing up other people’s energy to concentrate on the mission and worship life of the church. There are a number of possible structures, so if this is something you would like to think about, we recommend you contact us so we can make sure you get the best possible advice about what it right for your situation.
There are lots of ways in which you can use enterprise initiatives to provide an income and make your church building more sustainable. It could be providing space for a community shop and Post Office, offering space for health and wellbeing classes, providing office space for social enterprises, offering training for local people wanting to set up in business or even Champing™ .
If this is something you’re thinking about, it’s really important to include your community in developing your ideas from the start. You don’t want to end up providing something that no-one in the area wants or needs! There’s lots of advice about how to go about exploring this idea on the Resources and Training page.
There is a wealth of ways in which churches can develop to have a specialist use. Some of these will centre on the building while others can focus on the community within which the building sits. Some of the more common specialist uses include:
Tourism churches: Beautiful Devon is a popular tourist destination for people, and visiting churches remains popular. Could your church build on this to provide a welcome, information on its history, and events and activities? You can find a range of toolkits to help with this here.
Eco churches: Our churchyards and church buildings can provide a wildlife haven for many of our native species and there are resources to help you engage with your local community to make the best of these. You may also want to consider how your church building can reduce its carbon footprint and whether you would like to focus on becoming a specialist eco church that others can look to for advice and inspiration on being good stewards of God’s creation.
If the PCC and worshipping community believe that regular worship in the building is no longer possible, and consultation with the wider community confirms this but demonstrates that the building is valued within the village, then the building can be leased or sold to a Trust. This may be an existing Friends Group or a newly constituted Trust. The building can remain consecrated and the vicar would continue to have care of the souls in the parish. Occasional services, weddings and funerals could be held, but there would not be any regular services.
If you want to talk about how any of these solutions might work for your church, please contact us.