Church Plans at the Churches Conservation Trust
The central pillar of CCT’s strategy for 2019 -24 focuses on engagement with communities. This is in direct recognition of the fact that when a community takes a church to its heart in using and caring for it, it is recognised as an integral part of the community, placing it in the most sustainable position for this and future generations to enjoy. The wording within the strategy, ‘empowering and supporting communities to care for historic places of worship’, gives a clear mandate to CCT staff to identify and work with communities and volunteers to form sustainable plans for each CCT church.
A sustainable CCT church is well used by its community(ies), generates sufficient funds for the maintenance that keeps it in a good state of repair, and enables additional fundraising for specific repair and improvement projects.
To support this, we have invested in a team of Local Community Officers (LCOs) whose role is to build key relationships with communities and volunteers. Our aim is to for Local Community Officers (LCOs) to work with volunteers and community members at each CCT church to co-create, maintain and develop a Church Plan. A Church Plan is a living document which sets out the agreed short, medium and long term goals to support the sustainable use and care of the CCT church.
How do we create a Church Plan?
Current Report: We recognise that the perceptions of and aspirations for any given CCT church will be diverse among its community(ies) and volunteers. Developing a Church Plan together provides an opportunity for all view points to be considered. That’s why the starting point for Local Community Officers in supporting the creation of a Church Plan is to bring together what CCT already knows about the history, significance, maintenance and repair needs and current use of the church, into a Current Report for the CCT Church.
Community Audit: Alongside the Current Report the Local Community Officer will also undertake a Community Audit. A Community Audit simply identifies anyone who might wish to be involved in using and caring for the CCT church. A non-exhaustive list of people and groups we might identify during this stage is:
- Existing volunteers, community members and groups, and users of the CCT church
- Local residents
- Vicars/priests of the Church of England benefice in which the CCT church is located
- Parochial Church Councils of the local Church of England benefice/parishes
- Representatives from all levels of local government
- Local fundraising organisations such as Rotary, Lions and Roundtable.
- Local businesses and agencies
- Non-local people with family connections to the CCT Church
- Professional and non-professional special interest individuals and groups
Community Consultation: Once the Community Audit has gathered a list of interested/potentially interested stakeholders, the Local Community Officer will share the Current Report with them and consult them to find out what they think about the current and future use of the church, the maintenance and repair needs and how much they might wish to be involved in its care. This exercise is called a Community Consultation and can involve digital and/or paper questionnaires, community meetings and individual meetings with key stakeholders.
Community Recommendations: Talking to people through questionnaires and meetings involves gathering together lots of points of view and data! The Local Community Officer will work through all of this and pull it together into a summarised report of Community Recommendations. These will highlight different view points, ideas, suggestions offers of skills and resources. The Community Recommendations will be shared with those who participated and, where appropriate, through local social and printed media with those who didn’t.
Action Plan: The Community Recommendations will form the basis of an ongoing conversation with the community(ies) and volunteers, which will be shaped in to agreed short, medium and long term goals with associated actions to support the sustainable use and care of the CCT church. The Action Plan will be worked through by the community(ies), volunteers and the LCO and will be reviewed and updated on a regular basis, so it remains a living document.