Managing church building projects
Many churches consider building work of some kind. It may be to carry out essential repairs to the fabric, or to install new facilities to enable the building to be used more widely.
It is widely acknowledged that keeping a building in use is more likely to result in the preservation, proper maintenance and sustainability of that building. So adapting and enhancing the usability of your church may have a positive impact on its state of repair as well as on its use. However, remember that your church is still a place of worship and it is important that people still recognise it as such.
Small changes can often achieve a lot. You don’t have to launch straight into a large project. Start small and try out some ideas to see what works within your building and with your community. If you are about to undertake any works, whether repairs, re-ordering or even maintenance, you could also take the opportunity to think about access and energy efficiency. It could be easier to make improvements as part of a staged larger project, rather than doing everything separately.
It is often said that failing to plan is planning to fail. Do not neglect planning. Time spent planning and preparing for your project is never wasted, and can prove invaluable if something goes wrong further down the line. This should include early consultation with Amenity Societies, Governing Bodies, Local Authorities etc.
Raising the funds to enable work to happen is probably forefront in the minds of everyone considering a large project.
Having a group of people involved is essential and planning and preparation is key. You may consider establishing a Friends group. But you will also need to engage with potential funders and donors and get your local community involved. Don’t panic though, it can and has been done and there are a range of tools available to use.
Having the right people on board will help. Once you have your plans detailed, and a good fundraising strategy, the next stage is to actually start work.
Whether it involves producing goods or delivering services, a ‘project’ tends to have a beginning, middle and end – even if these have been artificially created to make activities more manageable. Working to set goals will help you to keep your project on track, and within budget.
One question hardly ever asked is ‘how will we know when we have succeeded?’ It may be that simply by there being a toilet where there was none before, your project is deemed successful. There are many other ways to judge success - the number of people who can now use the building, the increase in events, more people staying behind after the service.
Finding an effective way to evaluate the success of your project can help you to finally persuade those who weren’t keen, prove to supporters that their involvement was worthwhile, and show funders that you can manage a successful project (meaning that you can go back to them in the future).
Very few projects are completed without a hitch, a delay, or something going wrong. Understanding that this might happen will help you to plan for potential problems and deal with them effectively if they do occur.
One of the easiest and most helpful things you can do is to go and look at other places of worship that are undertaking similar projects and others who have already completed projects, and talk to them about how they did it and the lessons they learnt. Speak to your local governing body for ideas, or visit our Grants Map.
When you visit public buildings or heritage sites, look at what they have done to meet the challenges you face.
The Diocese of Hereford's Crossing the Threshold Tooklkit can be downloaded chapter by chapter, and provides a breadkdown of each stage of a major church buiding project. Relevant to churches of all denominations. See here. Their online Mission and Mortar toolkit also contains many useful links to resources designed to help you better use your church building. Access it here.
The Historic Religious Building Alliance holds an annual event Managing Major Building Projects in Places of Worship. Details from past events can be found here.
We have received some positive feedback from church volunteers about the book Buildings for Mission. Find out more here.