Are there fundamental things to know when adapting our
church for added use by our local community? We have learned some
lessons over recent years, but would value your view.
START by assessing your aims. There are plenty of valid reasons
for adapting your church, but, unless you know what you really want
to achieve, you may well do a great deal of of work, and still miss
There are churches that use "community" to refer to use of the
church for weddings, funerals, baptisms, and even civic events.
From the point of view of outside funders, this is increased
Another use of "community" describes the church's being
available through a letting programme to local people and groups
for their self-organised activities and events. Large funders will
use "community use" in this way.
If your aim is to simply increase income for the maintenance of
the church, then the first of these uses - increased religious
activity - may bring more donations, and the second - increased
local bookings - will bring in more regular income.
Having worked out where you think you might be heading, the next
step is to undertake an audit of local needs and demand. Use a
questionnaire to gain the views of as many local residents as
possible about how they view the church, and its potential to meet
their needs. Do not depend on your own perceptions as regular
churchgoers, but gather in other views.
Contact local voluntary groups and organisations, and ask how
the church might support local activities, and how they might use
the church. Record all the responses, and prepare a summary report
for discussion. Is there a local need and demand for added use of
the church? If so, for what sorts of activities? How might added
use meet the church's aim?
Make a plan or schedule of potential increased activity, and the
related financial picture, and see if it comes near to meeting your
target for increased community use. If not, revisit your aims, and
find what can be realistic, and what is viable and sustainable for
the church and the community in the future: that is, redo the
planning and local questions until you determine what is achievable
A next step is to assess what funds might be available for
adapting your church. How much money do you have in the church
savings? What calls are there on those funds? Do you have to do
large repairs first? Research possible sources and amounts of
outside funding. How much could be raised from Lottery, Landfill,
and other trusts?
Look at all the websites, and find out what are their maximum,
and their average, grants, and whether you are, for example, in the
right postcode area to apply for a grant. Most local authorities
are strapped for cash at present, but it is worth checking if your
church is in a special zone targeted for investment and community
facilities. Then check with other churches in your area to find out
what sums they have managed to raise, from what sources, and how
much. This will, again, help you to determine what you might
realistically raise. Would the diocese contribute?
You will then be well-informed for starting a conversation with
your chosen architect. By the way, remember that the largest
funders will want to know that you chose your architect by
competitive tender. You will be able to be specific about what
actual activities will take place, for how many people, and how
often. You will be able to talk about realistic levels of funding
that could be raised to execute essential building works.
This conversation may take several meetings, and perhaps the
assistance of a quantity surveyor to ensure that the price is
Send your issues and questions to