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Get your questions in order

05 October 2012

In a recent column, you talked about a strategy for developing the church. That's where we want to go. But we seem to have too many imponderables at the beginning: shall we sell property? shall we keep our hall? and many more.

YOU probably have several key values and concerns, which may be expressed as wishes and hopes, or even fears, but it will help to write them all down, and try, together, to rate what is most important to you.

I suggest that a group, preferably the PCC, brainstorms issues such as: sell the hall, dispose of the church, keep the church going as long as possible, make changes to reach out, and so on. Then each person rates all these issues and values in order of importance, using 1 for the most important, and numbering the others from there. Add up the scores against each point, and you will arrive at a collective rating that takes everyone's view into consideration.

There will need to be discussion. For example, if you dispose of the church and worship elsewhere, then you will not need the church hall; so selling it to develop the church is less of a loss than disposing of the church. This is, however, a summary of values, not a decision. It simply gives you a sense of direction. You should now find out what is possible.

A solid strategy has solid foundations, so that decisions are rational and informed. This is a research stage. Bring together the quinquennial report on the church, and the statement of significance; and prepare a statement of need, records of attendance and giving, and a list of assets, such as a hall or a house.

With the latter items, which might be sold to help your church development, more information is needed. Is the church able to sell them, or were they donated in such a way that they revert to the donor's family if the church stops using or needing them? For this information, you may need to look at past records of the PCC, records in the diocesan property department, and so on.

When you discover whether these assets may be sold, get them valued by a professional, such as an estate agent, so you know the potential market value.

Into this mix add an indicative budget from your quantity surveyor and architect for a possible option for developing the church building - I would recommend adding "modestly" - and you have enough information to determine an outline for how you might go ahead.

This brings you to a position where you can say: if we follow our preferred values to keep and develop the church, it makes sense to sell this property to enable us to do it, even though we would need to move the church office to the church.

In other words, you now have enough information to lay out a line in which decisions can be made sequentially and relatively coherently, and will follow one another like falling dominoes. And you can list them off and see the sense of each possible direction.

Even as you lay out this preferred strategy, you will see that there are moments when it may have to be modified further down the line. The faculty process may affect design options. Money raised may be less than the target, and you may need to phase works, but at least you will be able to see a way through a series of interconnected issues and decisions.

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