Church Building Categories – Definitions and Characteristics

Church Building Categories – Definitions and Characteristics

CROSS CUTTING THEMES FOR ALL CATEGORIES:  There are some basic principles that ALL categories should strive to achieve.  

ï There is clear and accessible information about the Christian Faith in every church building, including prayer spaces, resources, and contacts for people who wish to speak to someone about their faith journey. 

ï The church is open every day and a warm welcome is offered. 

ï The church is kept clean and tidy.

ï There is a maintenance programme.

ï Where there are repairs to be carried out, these are acknowledged and solutions to the repairs are sought and implemented. 

ï The congregation has consulted the Parish Giving Advisors to address any issues with giving and meeting parish offer. 

Movement between Categories

Categorisation may not be a once-only exercise. Parishes may feel they currently best suit one category, but aspire towards another. As a parish continues its spiritual journey, it may be sensible to review the current category and assess whether this still meets their needs. Opting for one particular category now, or in the future, does not ‘lock’ a parish in to become that particular category of church.  It may well be that parishes also feel that their church buildings fit into more than one category, and this is also acceptable, although to generate the most helpful resources, parishes would be encouraged to identify and prioritise a more ‘dominant’ category. 

Festival Church – This type of church is rural, often isolated and may have a small, mature congregation, and probably a small electoral roll. It may or may not have a major repair that needs carrying out, but the congregation may have had anxiety about caring for the building. This church may also have had difficulty in retaining officers, such as churchwardens, or the wardens have been in post for a long time and feel there is no one else to hand over to. This type of church may well have been offering a regular service to the community – but the numbers attending are very low – perhaps fewer than ten. The effort required by the Clergy to provide worship at this church may seem disproportionate for the numbers attending and that this resource may well be better used in churches with a higher attendance.  Due to the small numbers, this parish may have difficulty meeting its parish offer and struggles with fund raising. This church may have had conversations about closing, and its PCC meetings may have spent time focussing on the financial situation because addressing the lack of a congregation is too difficult to deal with. 

By categorising as a Festival Church, a parish would be supported to stay open, by doing less but doing it better – quality over quantity.  Services would be reduced to at least 6 per year, celebrating in particular church festivals that people identify with as part of rural and community life. The parish would be encouraged to continue to offer ‘Life Event’ services (baptisms, funerals and weddings). The PCC would be encouraged to undergo and take part in a process that would help them ‘develop’ as a festival church in an intentional way. This would include support with planning, publicising and holding services and events, led by the laity and encouraging wider community support. Parishes would be encouraged to consider having Festival Weekends, not simply holding a service, but having supplementary events, such as community lunches, coffee and cake, Messy Church, walks, talks, and to look for ways of generating income on the back of the service and the extra activities. Training would be offered to the laity to ensure the services are as good as they can be as an offering of worship to God.  

Congregation members would be encouraged to attend worship at other benefice churches to ensure their ongoing spiritual needs are met. It may well be that the church becomes a chapel of ease to a larger nearby church and could be used by other groups of people for wider community use. The parish would be encouraged to improve its interpretation not only about the heritage of the building, but about its Christian heritage and story.    

Gem/Tourism Church – This church, which may be located in a rural area or small hamlet, may be of particular interest to visitors and tourists for a variety of reasons. It may be of high architectural merit, with outstanding features of regional or national importance, or be connected to an important historical event, either locally or nationally. Alternatively, the church may be located in an area that experiences high tourism footfall, such as a walking/cycling/touring trail, or close to another tourism attraction (castle, historic home, country park, etc).  Similarly, the community may have a story to tell, about a famous person/family or event that is connected to the church and the welcome to visitors could really be expanded and built upon to promote the church as a tourism and visitor destination.  

This church would be listed, in a good state of repair, and open every day. It will be encouraged and resourced to engage with the wider tourism market and it will be a member of the respective Church Tourism Group for their Archdeaconry. Depending upon location, this church may follow a Festival church approach to services, or it may have more regular services. Therefore, the worshipping community may be encouraged to attend another nearby church for more regular worship and services. 

Community Mission Church – This church has a stable and healthy worshiping community, with capacity within the congregation to develop either their worship offer or additional activities, but would need to improve their facilities to do so. It is probably placed within a village community and may already be playing an integral role in community life. This type of church would be encouraged to explore the ‘light-touch’ development, which could make the most difference to how the building is used. This could be through improved access, a minor reordering, a simple servery, and/or a toilet that may include a trench arch system that would keep costs down in terms of drainage and sewage. 

This church may also have opportunities to develop strong links with a new school but may have found that lack of facilities create a barrier to the school using the building. Churches considering this category would offer a good visitor welcome, range of interpretation, not just about their history and heritage but about their Christian Faith too. There will be good community relations and communication between the different groups in the village, encouraging a wider use of the building by the surrounding community.  

Hub Mission church – This is a church that has a sizeable community around it, either because it is located in a large village or market town, but it could also be serving a widely-scattered rural community. It may be a community that has been earmarked for growth, and there may well be capacity for the church to be considered as the main ‘community’ building in response to that growth.  In some circumstances the parish may be able to attract Section 106 funding (funding from a developer awarded to the community, negotiated as part of the planning permission) to help fund capital improvements to the church.

The church is vibrant, with lots of activity and capacity within the congregation and it has had no difficulty attracting PCC members or recruiting and retaining officers. The Hub category also refers to patterns of worship, and could be promoted as the central building for worship in a benefice, particularly if there are several churches in the surrounding area adopting the Festival Church category.

The building is open on a daily basis and the congregation is comfortable for the church to be used by other groups of people within the community for a variety of purposes, and it may even be used in that way now. There will be good community relations and communication between the different groups in the village, and there may be opportunities to further develop the building and make it more comfortable for use by the wider community, including adding a kitchen, toilets, improved heating and creating a meeting space, if this hasn’t already been done. 

This church would be encouraged to explore opportunities for creating a community business, such as a café, or shop, that would increase footfall for the church, increase the building’s sustainability, as well as create mission opportunities based on more people coming through the door. 

This parish could also look at other innovative income generating ideas, such as Holiday Pod accommodation, champing, markets, food exchange, arts, crafts, etc. Churches considering this category would stay open every day, with a good visitor welcome and a good range of interpretation, not just about their history and heritage but about their Christian Faith.  A regular maintenance plan will ensure the church is kept clean, tidy and in a good state of repair.  

No Further Faith Use – This is a church where the congregation can’t find any further use for the building as a place of worship. This may be due to a lack of congregation, an inability to attract wardens and officers, a lack of finance and an inability to see any way of raising it. This church may also need to carry out significant repairs requiring a large capital investment, in order for the building to remain open, but the congregation lacks the capacity and/or energy to develop such a project to raise such funding and carry out the repairs. This type of church would be referred to the Pastoral Secretary, to undergo due legal process, once it became clear that all options to keep it open had been explored.