Image of workmen on scaffolding around a church David Osborne Broad

The six point plan to save church buildings (and why each ask is important)

A national plan is urgently needed to help secure the future of our church buildings. Our six point plan is a blueprint for how the UK Government, heritage organisations and Christian denominations can work together to tackle the UK’s single biggest heritage challenge.    

Here is a summary of our six points. If you would like to read more, please click here to download Every Church Counts, our manifesto.  


Point one: support for heroic volunteers 

Almost every local church is looked after by volunteers who are responsible for the future of the UK’s greatest collection of historic buildings and their contents. Without these willing volunteers, the building and its funding would be neglected and fall into disrepair. 

Often these volunteers are older and can lack professional training in building maintenance or fundraising. And members of clergy can find themselves responsible for multiple historic church buildings. The level of support they get from their national denomination or at the regional or diocesan level varies tremendously.  

What needs to be done: 

A network of professional support officers covering the whole of the UK needs be created to help the volunteers, including clergy, who look after church buildings. This support could also cover buildings belonging to other faiths. More centrally provided services that churches can opt into could also help. 


Point two: our national help service  

Throughout the UK churches, chapels and meeting houses are often the first to respond to local need. Thanks to the amazing work of many thousands of volunteers, day in day out, they are the UK’s 'national help service’. They also play a vital role at moments of local and national emergencies, such as storms and flooding, or support to refugees. 

By opening faith buildings for other purposes and encouraging many more people to use them, there is more chance of being able to preserve them and keep them open for good. 

What needs to be done: 

The UK Government should ask all local authorities and public bodies, such as the NHS, to engage with faith groups and make more use of churches and church halls to host public and community services, helping to upgrade facilities where needed 


Point three: funding to save priceless heritage  

The backlog for repairs to church buildings belonging to the Church of England alone is at least £1 billion, with the average annual cost for maintenance and repairs to parish churches estimated at £150 million. The problems of funding are often greatest in the most deprived areas.  

Without regular financial support from the UK Government, and more funding from heritage organisations, denominations and philanthropic trusts, more and more churches will close if they cannot pay for repairs. This will mean an uncertain future for precious buildings, symbols of hope and continuity, and the loss of the community support they provide. 

What needs to be done: 

To help keep the UK’s churches open and serving local people and to save their heritage for the future, additional ringfenced annual public funding of at least £50 million is required for major repairs, with proportionate funding provided for the devolved administrations. A national matched funding scheme would help incentivise charitable donations and private philanthropy. 

A photograph of people walking up to a Welsh chapel
Ioan Said

Point four: on the visitor map 

The UK’s local churches form some of our most important heritage. They contain the UK’s largest collection of art, sculpture and stained glass. There are thousands of amazing churches in wonderful locations. The sheer variety, beauty and history of the UK’s churches allows UK and overseas visitors to learn more about our history and culture 

Making more of their history and heritage can transform the future of the UK’s local churches and boost local jobs. Tourism is one of the most important sectors in the UK economy. In 2021, the value of day visits to heritage sites in England was £5.5 billion. 

What needs to be done: 

The UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport, working with the main national tourism organisations, should commission a national study into how to make more of the unrivalled heritage of the UK’s churches. 


Point five: churches open for all 

While many churches have an open-door policy, there are still many others that are only open for very limited hours or just for holding religious services. The latest figures from the ‘key holder’ app for church visiting shows that out of the 15,580 churches it has on its system, one third remain locked. 

Regardless of its heritage status, a locked church sends a signal that it is not interested in the wider world, making dialogue difficult with local people and visitors who may want to support or engage with it in many ways. 

What needs to be done: 

Church buildings need to be regularly open outside worship times to fulfil their potential in the life of communities, within the limit of what is right for the local area. 


Point six: making change happen

Promoting the many success stories about the heritage, use and continuing importance of church buildings means they can be seen as assets and not burdens. Making data and information about church buildings more widely available for policy makers is also needed so that we can more accurately talk about church buildings and ensure that they can play a key part in the future of villages, towns and cities.  

If the UK Government is involved it will open a national debate, which might spotlight the grave state of the great historic fabric of our churches. 

What needs to happen: 

Urgent action is needed by the UK Government, heritage organisations and denominations. This needs co-ordination and leadership. Long-term change will also require more advocacy and evidence: everyone who uses, loves or supports church buildings has a role to play. 

What you can do to help

The Houses of Parliament, as seen from across the River Thames

Tell your MP to ask for a Westminster Hall debate

Your MP is there to represent you in parliament, so it is important that they know that churches and their future matter to you. Please ask your MP to ask for a Westminster Hall debate on the issue of saving the UK’s church buildings. This debate will help ensure that this important topic stays on the UK Government’s radar and will bring further publicity and attention to it.

There are different ways you can tell your MP that you care about the future of churches. You can:

• Send them an email or write to them
• Invite them to your church
• Visit them during their constituency opening times

Find out who your local MP is and how to contact them
A graphic featuring a stained glass window and the text Every Church Counts

Share Every Church Counts on social media and with your contacts

The best way to start a national conversation is to get everyone involved. Can you help? We would love you to show your support for Every Church Counts on social media and with your family, friends, colleagues and churches.

Please do share this webpage and why you support church buildings using the #EveryChurchCounts

You can also download graphics to share here