Skip to content

Buildings: Use & Development

Buildings for mission – creating accessible spaces for both worship and community use

Keith Halliday

Church Buildings Advisor

01904 699523

If you want to re-order or develop your church building and open it to the community for activities beyond regular worship – whether this means hosting a project, service or commercial activity, or helping to fulfil a local need – you will need to sit down first and think your proposal through. Careful planning at the beginning is essential to ensure the success of the project.

How the Church Buildings team can help you:

Your first port of call should be our Church Buildings Adviser, Keith Halliday (01904 699523).  He can offer advice on developing and getting the most out of your church building and will probably arrange a site visit, particularly if your project is complex or affects a listed building. If your project is likely to need grant funding and one of its aims is to encourage greater community use of your building then Keith may put you in contact with our Funding and Community Engagement Adviser, Viv Cooling.

Any re-ordering or development scheme which involves changes to your church building, particularly if it is listed, will need a faculty. The DAC staff (Catherine Copp, DAC Secretary and Jess Galley, DAC Administrative Assistant) can help you with the faculty petition process and Keith Halliday can help you with the preparation of the necessary Statements of Significance and Need.

Nigel Walter

Crossing the Threshold

The Church of England has compiled a step by step guide to successfully managing a major building and community project. 

It is based on the Diocese of Hereford’s ‘Crossing the Threshold’ toolkit (relaunched in 2017) which you can download from the Diocese of Hereford.

It will also be worth looking ahead to any faculty permission you may need. If your project entails making significant changes to your church building or churchyard, particularly if your church is a listed building, then you will be asked to provide a Statement of Significance and a Statement of Need. Further details can be found in the Faculty Permissions section, but if you need help with this please contact our Church Buildings Adviser, Keith Halliday. 

The CBC regularly issues updates of its Policy and Precedents document; read the latest edition (Jan 2024). This will give you some idea of what the CBC will or will not support by way of works to church buildings or churchyards.

Sharing Your Building With Other Groups

If your plans include sharing your building with other Christian groups or community groups, you will find the CBC’s guidance on all the legal options for complimentary use of buildings very helpful. On that same webpage are a number of case studies to provide some ideas and inspiration.

“A commitment to place by individual Christians and church communities speaks volumes to our neighbours today”

Nigel Walter

Friends Schemes

The National Churches Trust has developed a toolkit to help parishes wishing to set up a Friends Scheme. The NCT’s guidance includes a model constitution.

The Parish Resources website has further guidance.

Accessibility

However you intend to use and develop your church building, much of your project’s success will depend on how easily people can access the building. The CBC issued updated guidance in 2021 to help parishes adapt their church buildings to make them better able to provide Equal Access. 

The Diocese of London has produced a very helpful disabled access audit for reviewing the accessibility (or otherwise!) of your building; download the Diocese of London’s 360 Accessibility Audit which covers not just your building but every aspect of the life of your church.

Audio Visual equipment, and Livestreaming worship

The last few years have seen an increase in the number of churches reviewing how they conduct their services and how they can engage with wider audiences, whether present in the church building for a service or watching it online. Many PCCs are choosing to introduce mobile TV screens, or projectors coupled with screens which drop down from the ceiling or swing out from the wall, so that song lyrics can be shared or films screened. Others have turned to livestreaming their services so that those who are unable to attend church in person can still share the experience of attending services, in real time or via a recording. 

The Church of England has advice on AV equipment and electrical wiring requirements and Parish Buying has a list of suggested AV suppliers.

The Church of England also has some helpful resources, including regular webinars, on its website under the umbrella heading ‘Digital Labs’

Please note that although some portable equipment can be introduced without needing permission, other fixed equipment (sound reinforcement systems, hearing loops etc) will need the Archdeacon’s permission, and cameras, projectors and screens fixed to building fabric will need a faculty. Before you install any equipment make sure you have looked carefully at Lists A and B and our page headed Faculty Permission.

Connectivity – WiFi, broadband, telecommunications

Using an existing phone line to install a WiFi router is relatively simple and is covered by List A. The installation of new equipment for receiving, or for receiving and sharing, wireless broadband services is covered by List B (so you need your Archdeacon’s permission) but please note there are a number of conditions to be met regarding equipment, cabling etc. In addition, if you will be entering into a contract for the sharing of the such services, you will need to consult the Diocesan Registrar on the terms of that proposed contract.  

Church buildings are often well suited to hosting wireless broadband infrastructure. When they are, they can provide connectivity for the surrounding community. See the Parish Buying website for further information

Over the past 25 years a number of churches have hosted mobile phone technology and agreed to the installation of telecommunications equipment in their towers and spires, particularly to help boost WiFi, broadband and mobile phone services in rural areas. The Electronic Communications Code 2017 gave mobile network operators greater legal powers to position equipment where it was needed to address connectivity issues, and requiring owners of public buildings (including churches) to work with the operators in a reasonable way. However, the demands of that Code are complex, with legal ramifications, so to ensure that parishes are not left struggling to deal with this the Church of England has now entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with all four UK networks (Vodafone, O2, EE and 3). This sets out the terms, the rates, and a standard process for entering into a new telecoms agreement under the Electronic Communications Code 2017. The Church of England believes that these terms and rates represent good value for church sites, protect their interests, and comply with ecclesiastical law.

If you have been approached by a mobile phone company wanting to install telecoms equipment on your church, your starting point, where you can find general guidance on issues concerning mobile infrastructure (reasons for getting connected, available solutions, legal considerations including a template licence agreement, a step by step approach to getting faculty permission, and possible grants/funding) is the Church of England’s guidance on Connectivity.

The following institutions have also provided guidance specific to the installation of telecoms equipment on historic buildings and their role and requirements:

Sound Reinforcement

Please see the DAC’s guidance note on Sound Reinforcement in churches.

Glass Screens

Parishes often want to introduce glass screens into their church building, either in the Porch to make the interior visible and more welcoming to visitors, or inside the building to partition off an area for a specific purpose. There are benefits and drawbacks to both so take a look at the Church of England’s advice.

Suggested Reading

Reimagining Church Buildings – the incarnation, embodiment and material culture. By Nigel Walter (2020). Cambridge Paper Vol. 29 No. 2

Buildings for Mission. By Nigel Walter and Andrew Mottram (2015). Canterbury Press

The Gate of Heaven: How Church Buildings Speak of God. By Nigel Walter (2011). Grove Books

Re-pitching the Tent: The Definitive Guide to Reordering Your Church. By Richard Giles (2004). Canterbury Press