We are fund-raising for building works: we need repairs
to be done, and want to install a lavatory, to make the building
more usable. But how do we get people to come and use our
THE reasons why people enter churches are very varied. And there
are ways to capitalise on the various interests, so that people
will come in more, and local groups use it more.
Be aware that people coming in to use the church want to do what
they want to do: in other words, you cannot tell them how to
organise their activity. But you can tell them how, in the context
of their activity, they can respect the building, and its function
as a church.
I have been to churches where all community activity in the
church is organised and run by church members, as a protective
step, and this limits both who will come along, and how they use
Respect for the building and its function as a church is best
summarised in guidelines that are given to each group or
organisation that uses it. Clearly, a Grade I listed church with
ancient fittings is unsuitable for indoor sports, but an unlisted
hall-shaped building may be. Put the appropriate list of possible
uses in the guidelines.
There are a wide variety of low-impact uses that can take place
in ornate churches: corporate events, thinking days, training days,
knitting circles, lectures, exhibitions, fêtes and markets, drop-in
advice sessions, AA groups, banquets, craft sessions, and many,
many more. For church buildings that are more robust, the list of
possibilities is much longer, and can stretch as far as a youth
club, badminton, and indoor sports.
Engage in promotion. Use photos of various activities that
happen in the church, and produce a brief text that lists possible
uses. Plan a publicity campaign. You could print a leaflet, but the
main method of publicity will be word of mouth. Arrange for members
to drop in on local groups, ostensibly to give them a leaflet
telling them what is possible, but really for the visitors to tell
the leaders of the group how they might use the church. And enclose
a summary of the letting fees, which should be realistically
budgeted alongside the costs of running the building.
Remember to start conversations with outside people from the
point at which they stand, not where the church stands. So, not:
"We are trying to get people to use our church," but: "Do you need
more space? We may be able to help you."
One church counted up the volunteering hours of members of the
congregation; there were hundreds of hours per year spent in as
many as 25 local groups. Each of these is a first point of contact.
So review possibilities with congregation members, and encourage
them to talk to the groups with whom they already have a
relationship. There may also be members who work in local
businesses, and that again gives a first contact. And use contacts
with the local council: both staff and councillors.
Linking with local people in relation to their needs and
interests is equally an excellent strategy for evangelism and
church growth. It is surprising how many people who come into the
church for a secular activity eventually become interested in the