Plan your project


Many churches are unprepared for the amount of work involved in a building project.

Time spent on planning and preparation is never wasted.

All projects should have a beginning, middle and end, even if these have been artificially created to make the activities clearer or more manageable.

Having a thorough project plan will help you to:

  • have a clear vision of what your project will tackle
  • be clear about your needs and help you decide how to address them
  • keep everyone involved and focused
  • make changes if necessary
  • show funders that you have good reasons for your project and solid management to see it through.

Prince 2: how to plan a project

badly worn stone wall with stained glass reflected onto it

Identify your needs

Many projects arise out of a problem or issue which arises during normal activities. For example; fixing a leak in the roof, or installing a kitchen or toilets. Even repairs have benefits to the building beyond the obvious, which will appeal to potential donors and grant funders - such as repairs will ensure the ongoing use of the building, will have benefits for the heritage of the building, and will ensure the building will be in better condition to support its wider use. You could also think about impact, particularly in terms of its effect on your wider community. For example; the impact is not to install a kitchen, it is the ability to provide refreshments during events.

Therefore, make a list of what you want to achieve, and what impact you want to have. Take note of the tips below about consultation and work alongside the needs of the community, not in isolation. 

Once you have identified your immediate aims, try and think long term, consider what you would do in an ideal world of unlimited funding. Think outside the box. Also, consider if there anything else that you could do at the same time as your project; perhaps using the same scaffolding, or whilst you have the floor up.

Understand where you are

It is very important to understand your current situation, your ‘baseline’ and not to design your project to a funder's programme.

If you are facing structural problems, this may require a professional survey or advice from your architect (our Gateway Grant programme may be able to help you with this). If you are thinking of installing new facilities, this will probably involve talking to current users and carrying out some research into what local needs are, and, whether new facilities would increase use.

The ‘baseline’ picture you develop helps you measure the success of your project, once it has been completed.

Consult and communicate with everyone involved

The more people you can involve at the planning stage the better. It will help you to build a rich and impactful project, whilst also helping you to counteract any potential negative impact of the project.

Maintaining communications throughout the project is very important. Relationships with contractors, volunteers, the local community and your congregation can have a major impact on the success of your project and keeping open communications with all stakeholders can help you to deal with potential issues as they arise.

National Churches Trust: involving people

Check what others have done

Before going too far, it’s a good idea to check how others have addressed the needs you have identified.

There are several ways you can do this:

  • an internet search
  • look at case studies from funders, such as our own here
  • visit others to check projects out in person. Find schemes we have funded here

If your project is particularly ground breaking, try checking for similar schemes. There is always something to learn from other projects, however small. Pick their brains, check their methods and results and use them to benefit your project.

Write a project plan and build a budget

Use all the information you have gathered, including professional surveys and reports, to develop a comprehensive project plan, together with a detailed budget.

National Churches Trust: writing plans and reports

National Churches Trust: creating a detailed budget

Get the right permissions

You will probably need permission for any project you wish to undertake, particularly any building work. If your church is a listed building this may be a long process, and you may have to consult with several interest groups.

National Churches Trust: getting permissions