Support for communities working with church buildings
Are you a community group thinking about taking ownership of your local church? Are you already managing your church for the benefit of the community?
With radical decisions from the Church of Scotland, including the rapid disposal of historic places of worship, many communities find themselves contemplating the purchase of their church building and looking to the challenge of securing a sustainable future.
Heritage Trust Network has supported community groups working with active and former places of worship for a number of years. In particular we have partnered with Historic Churches Scotland to deliver an event series connecting groups across the UK who find themselves in similar situations to one another. We have also collaborated with the Community Ownership Support Service to produce a new resource document to guide groups through this process.
Scroll down the page to see a range of helpful resources.
This guidance has been developed by the Community Ownership Support Service, Heritage Trust Network and Historic Churches Scotland to meet a growing need from communities for specific guidance around taking ownership of churches and accompanying land.
Taking over a building of any type is a big step for a community and brings with it substantial responsibility. It can appear a daunting prospect, but this document has been designed to guide you through the process.
Looking for funding, resources or advice – but not sure where to start?
Take a look at our new Scotland Churches Sector Map to see what support is available to you and your group.
Created by Heritage Trust Network, with support from Historic Churches Scotland, Scotland’s Churches Trust, National Churches Trust and Historic Environment Scotland.
Next event: A Future for Your Church – 18th of April 2024
Heritage Trust Network and Historic Churches Scotland have joined forces to host an ongoing event series for any group contemplating the future of their church building.
At these free online events we share case studies from those who have forged a new future for their church and host discussion forums amongst all attendees.
This Youtube playlist features recordings from our church event series, it includes a mix of community case studies and expert presentations:
Kilmarnock Old Kirk Trust
Community Businesses in Places of Worship – Plunkett Foundation
Churches and Tourism – SCOTO Scottish Community Tourism Network
Champing – Churches Conservation Trust
Church Plans – Churches Conservation Trust
This list of resources has been compiled using information shared by attendees at our events on churches and by members of the Network. All sources have been tried and tested by community groups and are recommended by them.
It includes a brief outline of a selection of funders, insurers, networks and digital toolkits, operating in Scotland and UK wide.
This is not an exhaustive list and you will find another list of helpful organisations at the end of the ‘Your Church, Your Community’ resource shared above.
Exploring the barriers and solutions to sustainable community ownership of historic rural places of worship.
Working with a small number of community groups from rural historic churches in England and Scotland, and other sectoral stakeholders, a combination of desktop research, surveys and online/in-person workshops were undertaken to better understand:
- The barriers to sustainable community ownership of rural historic churches.
- How these barriers have been overcome.
- What communities need to overcome these barriers.
Benefact Trust funding available until the end of 2023.
Many places of worship such as churches, are seeing reduced congregations and increasing costs and are actively seeking ways to increase footfall and create an income stream which contributes to the upkeep of these much loved buildings. Becoming a venue for a community business may be the answer, ensuring a sustainable future for both the historic building and the business.
The Plunkett Foundation has an entire website dedicated to sharing resources, case studies and guidance, to help you decide whether this may be the right opportunity for you.
Ecclesiastical insurers have many free articles and templates on their website offering risk management guidance, in particular there is a Church Guidance Note series.
The guidance is aimed at buildings located in England, but much of the general advice will be applicable to other parts of the UK. Be sure to seek specific legal advice as it applies to your own nation.
Available documents include:
This report summarises early- stage viability study work carried out with three A- listed Fife churches and their communities over the summer of 2023, with the aim of exploring potential future uses for the buildings. All three were categorised as surplus to requirements by the Church of Scotland in 2022, and are planned to be sold, leased or otherwise disposed of by the end of 2027.
Featuring: Culross Abbey Parish Church, Burntisland Parish Church, and St Monans Auld Kirk.
To view Appendices A to I, please get in touch: email@example.com