Dioceses need to integrate thinking about their church buildings with their mission and ministry planning so that their possibilities and challenges are part of a growth strategy.
We can help you with your diocesan strategic review of church buildings.
Regular diocesan strategic reviews are important for making sure that building issues are given their proper weight – neither dominating nor being overlooked or seen as a specialist subject. They take account of:
- Diocesan plans
- Deanery plans
- Mission action plans
- And parish audits
Download our template or see our main recommendations below.
What are our church buildings for?
The strategic review process involves defining the roles of our church buildings more clearly.
We recommend that dioceses work with deaneries to place all churches within one of these categories.
The roles can change as circumstances change. And the overall aim is for our church buildings to be open and sustainable.Parish churches
Parish churches provide a traditional model of ministry, mission and outreach. And they are comfortable doing so. This may include innovating complementary uses and partnerships.
The parish church is often the recognised hub of a community, especially in rural areas.
Recent legislation allows for Parochial Church Councils to cover several parish churches in a benefice. This not only pools resources, but allows for more strategic thinking about the roles which the buildings are best suited to.
They can complement rather than compete with each other.
Parishes can be united reducing the number of PCCs.
For example, parish A could unite with parish B creating the new parish of A with B. Or one church could stay a parish church and the other becomes a chapel-of-ease.
This might reduce the strain on the incumbent and the local community in terms of governance, and allow for greater flexibility in terms of the services provided.
Festival churches allow for maximum flexibility in offering services.
The services can be tailored to the needs of each community (e.g. celebrating local or patronal festivals as long as the church holds at least 6 each year).
This flexibility can avoid the requirement for a predetermined rota of services in a number of isolated rural churches in a benefice, which can lead to poorly attended services, a sense of failure and a waste of resources.
Find out more about festival churches
These are large churches, often in urban locations and often “planted”. They have the potential for growth and possible expansion.
Resourcing churches may use existing buildings, or take on new ones. They will often be supported by grants from the Reform and Renewal programme.
There are also rural resourcing churches. They may grow from fresh expression groups, or be strategically planted into market towns with the intention of further planting into the surrounding countryside.
This model might work well with existing parish churches and chapels-of-ease or festival churches.
The Church Buildings Council identifies major parish churches.
In their opinion, a major parish church has all or most of the following characteristics:
- Exceptional significance and/or issues necessitating a conservation management plan
- Physically very big (over 1000m2 footprint)
- Grade I, II* or (exceptionally) II listed
- Usually open to visitors daily, or strive for this
- Have a role or roles beyond those of a typical parish church
- Make a considerable civic, cultural and economic contribution to their communities
N.B. possessing one of the first two means automatic recognition.
Parishes and dioceses are invited to bid for churches to be included on the list.
Major parish churches may require a higher level of attention from the diocese and the CBC because of their special functions, significance and potential.
All churches in this group should consider putting together a conservation management plan. It will help them see the risks they face and maximise their potential.
Although not clearly defined legally, the new status of Minster (as opposed to an historic honorific title) can be given by the Bishop to allow a church building to adopt an extra- or super-parochial role beyond that of a normal parish church.
This can be adapted to circumstances but should always be carefully considered within an overall diocesan mission plan.
Also of interest
Sharing church buildings and finding partners
Find out about your legal options
Download the toolkit
Person or corporate body with the right to nominate to the diocesan bishop a priest to be instituted as incumbent of a parish when there is a vacancy.