“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it.” 1 Corinthians 3 v10

Everything we have comes from God, including our buildings, and so they should be seen as a God given asset in furthering God’s mission. A Methodist building that is welcoming, eye-catching and acts as a beacon for a community can speak powerfully of God’s love. Reimagining a property for a social purpose or developing a building to house a range of social uses is a crucial part of mission alongside preaching, worship or community evangelism.

This step is about creating a vision for the property and creatively imagining new ways it could be used.  If a church already has an active mission plan, then a new one does not need to be developed for minor works. However, any work on a Methodist property should fit in or be a part of a mission plan - even a straightforward kitchen refit should be linked back to a mission plan in how this will help the Methodist church fulfil its mission.

Top Tips for Mission Planning

  • To begin, please review Our Church's Future Story and The Strategic Guidance for the use of Property and Mission.  Then work through the questions below as applicable.  There are further considerations and guidance within each of these dropdown tabs.    
  • When generating a vision, don’t think of one idea – think of many.  It’s possible that some can be linked together to form one bigger project, or a large project with distinct phases.  
  • Remember, this isn’t about installing facilities for existing church users (although they will clearly benefit); it’s about getting wider use of the building and encouraging growth for Methodist mission (MORE people using the building, and the same people using it more)
  • Every church has a gift to offer its community and a part to play in God's mission. Sometimes playing its part will mean joining with another church, or group of churches, to share resources as a multi-site church.  You can find out more on the merging churches for mission guidance. 

If your church needs assistance with developing a mission plan, you could speak to the Evangelism Enabler and/or District Mission Enabler (or similar role) for further support.  If neither of these are available, you could reach out to the Evangelism and Growth team or the Learning Network for further support.

There are 3 supplementary pathways that may be relevant for the project and each pathway incorporate specific links, guidance and considerations for these types of projects.  The pathways are designed to be worked through methodically and and have been divided into bitesize steps.  Thus, it is recommended to begin with Step 1 of the core pathway followed by Step 1 of a supplementary pathway, as dictated by the parameters of the project.  

Click below to view the supplementary guidance for Step 1 of each pathway.  

Step1  Conservation & Listed Pathway

Step 1 Net Zero Carbon Pathway

Step 1 Partnerships Pathway  

Click here to move back to the start

Click here to move forward to Step 2

Questions to Consider

1. How does this Church Property fit with Your Mission Plan?

Your building is just one part of a wider picture of who you are as a church, the passions and gifts God has given you, and the shape of your community and its needs. Your mission plan will have identified your priorities as a church – the things on which you believe God is calling you to focus right now. Once you understand your priorities, it will be much easier to consider how your building helps or hinders you.

If you don’t yet have a mission plan for your church, or it was written some time ago and needs reviewing, then start by getting an up-to-date plan in place. The Mission Planning Toolkit has resources to take you through the process of discerning and writing a mission plan. Mission plans are a critical element of community outreach and service and every church in the Connexion is encouraged to develop a mission plan. These plans should make clear how the sensible use of property will support and facilitate mission and ministry.

There is a talk from Evangelism & Growth team on the God for All strategy, which has inspiring examples of what other churches have done.

Together with considering your church’s mission plan, consider your circuit and district plans. Your church is part of a bigger picture of God’s mission in your part of the country. Your circuit and district are there to support and equip you - find out what priorities they have discerned. The Strategic Guidance for the use of Property in Mission can help guide your thoughts. District Mission Enablers can also offer further support in creating mission plan.  There is a talk on the strategy given by the Property Support team which explains this further.  

If considering church growth and potential work with young people and families, I suggest speaking with Penny Fuller or one of her team about this to see how they can support you with this. Click here for contact details. They have had some very positive conversations with organisations such as Boys/Girls Brigade and Action for Children who see themselves as potential partners in children, youth and families work which might fit with some mission plans.

2. How does this Property fit with your Property Development Plan?

Property development plans (led by Circuits and Districts) are a subset of mission plans and are encouraged for all existing Methodist property (churches, manses, ancillary investment properties) and demonstrate how each property will contribute to delivering agreed mission plans.  The information that is gathered and collated will help in forming a robust mission plan that is relevant for your area.  The Mission Planning Toolkit may be of help for you.  

Do not feel as a church that you are developing this alone – see your building as part of a larger portfolio, all working together to strategically join together and achieve more through support and collaboration.  The Evangelism and Growth Team offer mission planning surgeries, in partnership with the Learning Network. Click here for more details.  

As well, you can listen to Good News Stories on Mission Planning as well as a Presentation given by 2 District Property Secretaries about how they used the Church Property Plan template in their districts. 

3. How can a Listed Building fit in with Your Mission Plan?

Please refer to Step 1 of the Conservation and Listed Building Pathway  for specific guidance and considerations for Listed Buildings or buildings in conservation areas.

4. What Partnership Opportunities exist for using the Property?

Please refer to Step 1 of the Partnerships Pathway  for specific guidance and considerations when considering entering into a partnership that is linked with a building project.  

5. Is the Site of Strategic Importance within the Locality?

Even if the building is not currently meeting your needs, it may be that it is in a prime location to reach a particular group of people with God’s love. You could consider the following questions:

  • Is your church building on a main road, for example, with lots of footfall, or in a densely populated area?
  • Is your building in an area of outstanding natural beauty, popular with walkers?
  • Is there any new housing near your building?
  • Does your building represent the only Christian presence in your area?
  • Is your building the only community space available in your area?
  • Does this church building have heritage significance? (see tab below)

If your building is not in a strategically significant location, consider whether there are other locations that would better serve God's mission.

  • Are there other buildings you could use that are more central, or perhaps near an area of new housing or an estate with no other Christian presence?
  • Could you hire a space, perhaps, or even consider selling your building and buying another in a better location?

It is also worth considering the local authority development plans as set out in strategic planning policy and the neighbourhood development plans. The National Planning Policy Framework may help you.

Further Resources

  • Ask for advice from your local CVS (Council for Voluntary Services) on which consultation methods may suit your community. To find groups in your area visit: navca.org.uk/find-a-member-1
  • Contact your Local Authority Research Team. They can provide local statistics about your community. They may also be aware of other documents, strategies, and plans that exist. Perhaps you can link in with a Cultural Strategy, a Town or Local Plan, or a Regeneration Area
  • Your Local Authority Planning Department may also be able to help on Community-Led Planning
  • The ACRE Network provides training and guidance for communities on the development of a Community Led Plan (CLP). If you are part of an existing community planning group or want to start one, then you are advised to contact your local organisation to discuss the toolkit and find out what support is available locally. acre.org.uk/rural-issues/community-planning
  • Planning Aid England provides free, independent and professional planning advice to communities who cannot afford to pay professional fees. rtpi.org.uk/planning-aid
  • Locality support community organisations and offer guidance on Neighbourhood Planning and provides resources around developing a community project. locality.org.uk/services-tool
6. Could You Start or Host a New Place for New People?

At the heart of our vision is to plant new Christian communities that reflect the world in all its beauty and wonder. It may be that you would like to fulfil the vision of discovering a New Place for New People that God is leading you to begin. It may be that there are people in your congregation who have the energy and vision to start something new using your building.

Maybe there are others in the circuit or wider Methodist Connexion who have the energy and the vision, and who are looking for a building to use as a base. A NPNP project may be particularly appropriate if your building is in a strategic location near a group of people who are not currently being reached by existing churches. Find out about the next NPNP Hub gathering to explore possibilities with other churches who are asking the same questions. 

If you would like to consider a NPNP, it might feel daunting, but don’t worry, you are not on your own. There is plenty of help to get started, drawing on the experiences of pioneers, planters, circuits, and leaders who have been where you are right now.

Beginning a New Place for New People will be different for every context, but there are some common practices that will give your project the best opportunity to become fruitful. Read through the How to start a New Place for New People Guide for more information. 

Property development plans should also include locations where a new Methodist property would be advantageous, or where partnerships with another Christian community should be explored. Work should be undertaken to ensure that decisions about property are taken in the context of whole Circuits and Districts, reflecting where Circuits wish to prioritise a Methodist presence and resources to achieve their mission plans.

This work should be integrated with the God for All strategy, which identifies matched-funded financial resources to help districts and circuits start New Places for New People (NPNP) and Churches at the Margins projects. The Methodist Council may appoint a new town or new area commission where an expansion scheme to house a population of 20,000 or more is planned by a local authority. The Methodist mindset should be to provide facilities for communities rather than a worship building for ourselves.

7. Could You Become a Community Hub?

If your building offers the only community space that's available locally, or if it is in a prime location, consider how it might become a community hub. As well as cafés, church buildings have housed post offices, preschools, a GP surgery, arts centres, charity shops, even soft play centres - there are many, many possibilities for offering services and spaces that local people need. Consider the rich relationships you might develop with your community by serving it in this way. 

Empowering Design Practices is a five-year collaborative research project exploring how community-led design can help empower those who look after historic places of worship to create more open, vibrant and sustainable places that respect and enhance their heritage.

You can also use these Resource Booklets to learn more about the following topics:

  1. Transforming Historic Places of Worship Through Community Engagement
  2. Tips for Your Community Engagement Strategy
  3. Making Community Engagement Count
  4. Testing Ideas for Your Community Building

8. Is Your Church in a Rural Area?

Rural churches often have a highly distinctive character, so it can be helpful for them to engage where possible in strategic partnerships with neighbouring churches, circuits, local housing associations, ecumenical contacts and local authorities to develop missional opportunities.  If you are considering a partnership, please refer to Step 1 of the Partnerships Pathway for further information.  

This may involve extra support from Districts and the Connexion. It may also help to contact the National Rural Officer of the Methodist Church and the Arthur Rank Centre, who are well equipped in supporting rural Churches to explore their mission and purpose.

Further Resources

Germinate: Arthur Rank Centre has resources on ‘Helping communities flourish by equipping rural churches to identify and meet local physical, social and spiritual needs’ https://arthurrankcentre.org.uk/mission/

9. Has your Church considered Ethical and Environmental Matters?

As part of your mission plan, you may wish to look at ways to reduce the church's carbon footprint and working towards becoming net zero carbon.  At the 2021 Methodist Conference set a target of becoming a net zero emissions Church by 2030 was agreed and although this is a big ambition, it can broken down into bitesize steps.  

Please refer to Step 1 of the Net Zero Carbon Pathway  for specific guidance and considerations when entering into a building project includes elements of working towards net zero carbon.