'Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything’ James 1:4

This is the stage where you will add meat to the bones of the mission plan.  You should have already completed your research which will give you a broad idea of:

  • what is realistically possible
  • how your plans fit into the local context, both in terms of the community and the Circuit & District mission context
  • any restrictions which may limit your mission and development plans.

If you have completed a Mission Plan, a Church Property Plan and a Community Audit (see Step 1 and Step 2), you will use these documents to help inform your outline project plan.  The aim of this step is to gather enough information in order to make an informed decision about whether or not to continue with the project in Step 4.  In Step 5, further detail will be added to the outline project plan in order to make it a working project plan.  

Now it is time to consider how the ideas might be developed into actual development ideas and plans and then assessing how realistic some of those options may be – this can include items such as understanding property restrictions, planning constraints and budget costs. It is important that:

  1. You have some understanding on whether your plans are likely to get permission before commissioning too much detailed work and;
  2. You should focus on concept or feasibility level development information or drawings;
  3. You should consult your District Policy Committee or equivalent and seek their advice and feedback before you move too far forward.

Please note that costs spent on professionals should be minimal at this point until the outline project plan has been approved in order to avoid extra charges for changes in the concept.  At this point, sketch proposals for the pre-application and/or concept stage would be expected.  The more detailed plans would be developed in Step 6.  

Before moving forward, you will need to make sure that you have initial approval of the managing trustees to explore options for the project, particularly if any church monies are spent.  It would be best practice to add the project to the Consents website at this point and if the Managing Trustees (Church Council) and Circuit (if applicable) have given their approval, then it can logged.  It is also recommended to speak to your DPS about the project at this point.  

If you are unsure if formal Consent is required for your project, as required by Standing Orders, click here to find out more.  To view the relevant Standing Orders about Consent, please refer to CPD Part 9 for the details regarding requirements for property.  If your projects (including repair works) affects a listed building or building in a conservation area, then contact the Connexional Conservation Officer who can provide you with advice on the need for consents. 

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 that with this step, you begin with Step 3 of the core pathway followed by Step 3 of a supplementary pathway, as dictated by the parameters of the project.  

Click below to view the supplementary guidance for Step 3 of each pathway.  

Step 3 Conservation & Listed Pathway

Step 3 Net Zero Carbon Pathway 

Step 3 Partnerships Pathway  

Click here to move back to Step 2

Click here to move forward to Step 4

Topics to Work Through

1. Outline Project Plan

If you have completed a Mission Plan, a Church Property Plan and a Community Audit (see Step 1 and Step 2), you will use the information in these documents to inform your outline project plan.  The aim of this step is to gather enough information in order to make an informed decision about whether or not to continue with the project in Step 4.  In Step 5,  further detail will be added to the outline project plan in order to make it a working project plan. 

The best way to begin working through your options is to begin writing an Outline Project Plan.  This will help you to think further about the details of your idea and/or concept design. 

A Project Plan explains why the benefits are worth the cost. It should justify the time, money, energy and risk for undertaking the project.  It should also explain how the project links back to the mission plan and objectives as well as how the redevelopment will ensure financial sustainability for the future.  You can download a template for Project Plan.

Creating a Project Plan can sound daunting, but when you bring everything together, it will help to give you confidence that you can deliver your project!

In other words, it will give you the answer to the question ‘Is your project viable?’

It is important that you have broad financial information at this stage, and try to identify as many areas of income and expenditure as possible. Try to project what these might be in the future as well, over a set timescale for the project – normally 5 to 10 years

In all these financial aspects, as far as possible, be clear about all the assumptions and, if helpful, use existing expenditure information for the building as a starting point when you are considering the following:   

  • how much one of something costs
  • how many you will need in a year
  • how many days you will be open.

Previous accounts can also be useful when estimating any future day-to-day costs too, particularly in terms of expenditure increases or trends.  It is worth bearing in mind that any improvements, such as installing an improved heating system, may reduce running costs.

As well, the Churches Conservation Trust has created Business Plan Toolkit.  Although this toolkit has a focus on heritage buildings, the principles of preparing a business plan (project plan) remain the same.  Here is a Project Plan template.    

Using the information gathered in Step 2, gather a list of requirements and address the following questions:

  • How does this project fit in with the mission plan?
  • Are there stakeholders, both within and outside the church, on board?
  • What are the results from research regarding the site, context and policy investigations?
  • What are the major risks during the project development and when it is completed?

Further details about what to include in a full project plan will be covered in Step 6 but at this stage you only need a basic overview to assess its potential success or failure:

  • Reasons for project and benefits that are anticipated
  • Constraints and disbenefits that can’t be avoided
  • Outline of scope and project success criteria
  • Estimated costs, target schedules and timescales
  • The anticipated impact on ‘business as usual’
  • Funding options and plan
  • Risk assumptions and dependencies
  • The long-term sustainability of your project

Please note that as this is an outline project plan, not all of these aspects need to be answered in full but it is worth noting down general thoughts and plans as this will help in future decision making and planning. 

Estimating is a useful tool at this stage.  There are 3 ways of creating broad estimates:   

  1. Analytical Estimate: this is where you list out all expenditure.
  2. Comparative Estimate: this is where you compare the costs of a similar project
  3. Parametric Estimate: this is where you use calculations to estimate, such as £ per sq metre.
2. How Much Will It Cost?

You need to compile a financial plan or budget which shows the costs of developing the project (Capital Costs) and secondly, the financial out-goings once the new activities are up and running (Revenue Costs). It is important to divide your costs like this as most funders will usually only fund one kind, but may still be interested in the ‘bigger picture’, particularly around the overall long term sustainability of the project.

Capital Costs

These will be your start-up costs, which will include professional advice, building costs, and marketing.  Capital funding refers to money paid for one-off items. The refurbishment or installation of new equipment or solar panels are examples of one-off items, i.e. not something that takes place every day of the week. Replacing fixtures and fittings, like chairs and pews and installing new heating systems, cookers, lighting, toilets, and furnishings are all examples of capital expenditure.

Full Cost Recovery: for voluntary organisations, some funders including the National Lottery Heritage Fund (formerly the Heritage Lottery Fund) will also accept part of an organisation’s overheads (sometimes called ‘core costs’) as part of the costs of the project. They will expect this to be calculated using Full Cost Recovery. The funders’ guidance notes will explain where you can get help on this.

Revenue Costs

Revenue funding relates to the day-to-day running costs incurred by new activities. This would include any regular utility bills (electricity, gas, water, and phone), rates, insurance, and the salary costs of  paid project workers or expenses for volunteers. You may also be paying rent for using a part of the building.

Depending upon your project, some funders may offer grant money towards some revenue costs.

If, for example, part of your project is to establish a crèche in the church one day a week, then employing a worker or co-ordinator to run the crèche for the first year may be included as part of your project. The worker’s salary would be classified as revenue expenditure.

A funder may be willing to offer some grant money towards this cost to help kick-start the project (sometimes referred to as ‘pump-priming’), but they won’t pay the worker’s salary forever.

Equally, don’t forget ongoing maintenance and the replacement of equipment. This will also include obligations towards paying for maintenance or repair costs for part of the building under a rent or lease arrangement.  


Budgets can be produced for a whole project, or for individual phases of a projects (or both). A budget should include an overall figure for the cost of the project and any income that has been secured to cover these costs.

When producing a budget, being realistic is essential, even if you do not have an exact figure for every detail.

  • Estimate costs that you don’t have exact figures for, but be as exact as you can.
  • Find quotes for similar products or services through the internet.
  • Consider all relevant or likely costs that may affect the overall budget.
  • Have a breakdown of costs for each service or function, including the costs of admin and rent for each of your projects.

Never underestimate your likely costs in order to make your project seem less expensive than it really is. This will only lead to a shortfall in finances later on and create problems for you when trying to deliver the project.

It is advisable to include a Contingency Sum within the budget to allow for unforeseen, additional costs.  Industry standards would normally set this at 10% of the total estimated construction cost.  

Similarly, try not to overestimate costs, especially if you are looking for funding to cover these as this may reduce how much support you are offered if it is believed that others can do it more efficiently.

Building Calculator

This innovative tool from Locality uses whole life costing methodology (a technique employed by the private sector) and applies it to the community sector.  It will help you assess the future costs of the building you own or are considering taking on – including its repair, maintenance and other operating requirements.

As well, the book called Total Facilities Management by Brian Atkin and Adrian Brooks (WileyBlackwell 2015, ISBN 978-1-405-18659-9) offers a comprehensive treatment of what facility management means to owners, operators, tenants, facility managers and professional advisors.  It contains advice on how facilities can be better managed from a number of perspectives.

Professional Advice

It’s important to have the right professional at the right time.    Unless this is an extremely small project, it is highly recommended that you seek professional advice to develop your ideas further. 

This would normally involve an architect or similar who can develop different options based on your ideas to see which are feasible within the constraints of the building along with a cost consultant (normally a quantity surveyor) who can put together construction budget costs for each of the options.  Alongside an architect and a quantity surveyor, the advice of a planning consultant will also be especially useful for any projects that would require local authority planning.    This helps the property committee/church council to decide what options are most sustainable.

The Royal Institute of British Architects publishes a Plan of Work, and Stage 1 Preparation and Briefing would be part of this stage and can include: project objectives and outcomes, sustainability aspirations, draft project budget and initial project brief. Click here to read more about RIBA Plan of Work

The architect is normally the first professional appointed to a project design team. Apart from the obvious work of designing the building, the architect has an important role in helping you define your brief and advising you on the appointment of the rest of the professional team if needed.

3. Choosing an Architect for Sketch Proposals

In general, good procurement is part of good stewardship, making best use of the resources at our disposal is an essential part of being good stewards.  This is never more true than when choosing an architect.  

Please note that costs spent on professionals should be minimal at this point until the outline project plan has been approved in order to avoid extra charges for changes in the concept.  At this point, sketch proposals for the pre-application and/or concept stage would be expected.  The more detailed plans would be developed in Step 6.  

The first key step is about defining what you need, and choosing an architect is no exception to the rule. The core creative and technical skills and competency of an architect should be easy to establish through research.  You can find guidance and templates for the selection process on the Quinquennial Inspection guidance.  

Beyond this, what you should be considering is which architect you would like to work with and who would be the best ‘fit’ for the church and the project. Value for money is important, but perhaps what has more importance is trust, understanding, communication and personality fit.

Remember that you are creating a working partnership between the architect and your group: this is someone with whom you will all be working closely. It is important that you are working with an architect who not only understands your building, but also your overall vision.

Do ask for advice
There are several places to start your search and your District Property Secretary, neighbouring circuits, or other local churches in your area will all have experience of architects working on similar projects. If someone recommends a practice, ask for the name of the key person, as often it can be the individual who makes the difference or has the necessary skills and experience within the practice for your type of project.

Look at their work elsewhere to establish their relevant experience
It is sometimes helpful to ask for examples of previous work, but make sure that these examples are relevant to the type and scale of project the church is considering.  It can also be helpful to speak to the church group for the projects to see how they felt the project went and what the architects were like to work with. 

Altering and re-ordering historic buildings requires a specific professional skill set. We therefore recommend that for our traditional and historic buildings you employ a conservation accredited architect.

Architects who are interested in tendering will need:

  1. to be sent a comprehensive brief setting out your vision, what you plan to do with the church building and why you are doing it before they meet with you. This should include the results of the research into your community’s profile and the findings from your community audit.

  2. to know of any important points raised by the District Property Secretary or the Connexional Conservation Officer in any preliminary discussions.

  3. to be made aware that they will be expected to attend community consultations and meet and talk to local people and that you will be looking for a proven track record in this.

  4. the contact details of someone who can help arrange for them to visit your church.

  5. an indicative budget for the project which should be an amount that you feel you can realistically raise for your project. This is helpful in sending a message that what you are seeking is a project that can be funded. This prevents design costs being wasted on projects that just can’t be funded because they are too large. It will help to keep it realistic.

  6. You’ll need to see evidence of their Technical and Design skills. Ask for references from other church clients. Ask about similar projects you could go and visit.

Things to consider as part of a tender process or at a subsequent interview stage:

  1. You may sometimes ask architects to present initial brief analysis or concept designs at the interview at tender stage.
  2. It can be a way to ensure that they are compatible with and understand your vision, aims and aspirations.
  3. However, it is important to remember that the design and development process is a collaborative exercise between client group and architect and therefore will need to be developed through a number of meetings with you to really establish your brief once they are appointed.
  4. Further conversations may also be required to fully develop ideas which really meet the requirements of the brief.

You’ll want to look at the size of the practice
Architects practices can vary in size from single practitioners to large multi-office, multi-disciplinary companies.  Many practices offer certain specialisms or have teams or individuals who have experience working with say churches or other community type projects and buildings.  It is important to ensure that your tender list contains the most suitable practices for your project – be it scale, complexity or other unique factors.  In this context consider the following:

  1. Talk to the practices first about how interested they might be in tendering;
  2. Understand how busy they are and if their workload would fit with your timescales;
  3. Understand how the practice is structured and that if successful who would be the team members working with the church. This is particularly important if inviting larger practices;
  4. You need to assure yourselves that there would be the right expertise and backup on the project for its duration.

You’ll want to see evidence of knowledge of churches and the planning processes
Having practices who understand Methodist process and procedures can be an advantage, but it does not have to be a prerequisite over the right architect for the project.  It is perhaps more important to assess their experience of working with church or community groups to develop a building from a mission driven vision.  You need an architect who understands and engages with this and/or has experience for how churches work both culturally and in worship, as they are more likely to be able to grasp your vision more easily.  Practical matters can always be assisted through a relationship with your District Property Secretary and/or Connexional Conservation Officer.

You will need to understand the architect’s fees and costs
Although cost is an important consideration, it shouldn’t be the  sole criterion for selection. You should look at overall value and ensure that all tenders are based, and quoted, on the same criteria so they can be assessed against each other easily.  You could consider the following:

  1. Seek fixed fee quotes for the early stage of work while the project is still being developed. Fees will then be established through an estimate of the time involved in achieving completion for each stage.  This is normal practice until a better idea of a project budget is established;
  2. Within a fixed fee arrangement, a practice will outline what they will be undertaking for this fee and then provide hour rates for different staff members to cover unexpected or additional work;
  3. Latter stages of work will normally be based on a fixed percentage of the overall project cost once it is established, or variations on this approach depending upon the complexity of the project.
  4. Ask how they charge for different elements of the service from an early stage.  Ideally, seek to arrange for payments to be made based on satisfactory completion of specific tasks to avoid risk associated with payments made on prescribed calendar dates.
  5. Establish in detail what is included in the fee and what may be viewed as additional work at extra cost, to avoid misunderstandings and potential disputes further down the line.
  6. Complicated projects often take longer than is anticipated at the start, so establish the programme that the fee is based on.

Use of Volunteers or Retired Professionals within the Church

There’s often the tricky question of the retired architect on the church council. Many congregations will have someone who previously worked in the construction industry or is a retired architect. They may well offer to carry out free work for the church. This comes with something of a health warning unless their professional experience is very relevant to your building type. There are many risks involved in using a member of the congregation: you have not selected them for best fit, you have no control over their delivering on time or in the desired way, personal relationships can become confused with comment on their work, and you have no guarantee that they will be available for the whole project.

Also, remember that retired architects working pro bono will be unlikely to have Professional Indemnity insurance to cover them if anything goes wrong. It’s best to use their skills, on a purely voluntary basis, perhaps in helping to choose your architect and the rest of the design team, or developing your brief, rather than getting too bogged down in the design process itself. The architect you select will need to go away and create a feasibility study, if appropriate, and report for your project.

When you’ve done all your research and drawn up an initial long list
It’s a good idea to shortlist anything from three to five architects to interview. If you’ve established a working group or a project-monitoring group to specifically deal with buildings issues, try to have as many of them at the interview with the potential architects as possible, as you need to be sure you have the right candidate for the job. You will be working with them for a while! It’s good to find someone who has done their homework on the local area and your church. A good architect will listen and want to understand you, your mission and your organisation. Ask about how your project fits into their practice. Why is it important to them? You want a practice that will give your work the attention it deserves.

Before instructing professionals, there are a few tips to remember:

  1. Make sure that your mission and vision for the development is communicated clearly to the architects. The project plan should help home in on the scope and success criteria of the project.
  2. Altering and re-ordering historic buildings requires a specific professional skill set. We therefore recommend that for our traditional and historic buildings you employ a conservation accredited architect.
  3. It is best practice to obtain 3 quotes before instructing a professional.  You can find guidance and templates for the selection process on the Quinquennial Inspection guidance.  
  4. Ask TMCP to review the contract.  

Finding Professionals

You can find the following professionals on:

4. Good Client - Architect Communication

A good relationship between a church and their professional advisors generally, and their architect more specifically is one which allows free and open expression of ideas and thoughts between the parties, alongside plenty of listening!  It is important that neither party approaches early discussions with fixed ideas or an image of what a project should look like – indeed it should be the opposite if you wish to make the most out of this process.

There are a number of practical matters a church can address to help this process:

  1. At the initial stages of a project, it’s best to have a concise brief;
  2. Think about providing no more than two sides of A4;
  3. Cover your overall vision for the project, what you’re looking to achieve, any known problems or concerns and a little bit of background on how you have got to where you are now;
  4. The brief should also include some information on the church (a summary of the Statement of Significance is ideal), a site plan and some photos.
  5. You can also signpost your architect towards any sources of additional information they might find useful.

How does the discussion between the church and the architect begin?

This will normally occur at an initial briefing meeting which is the first opportunity to meet all the parties to the project and understand a little more about the project.

It should be a time to look at the vision, mission and project plan to decide if its general principles are achievable when set against agreed objectives and practicalities.  This meeting is very important because it sets the scene and high level targets for how the project will progress, key objectives and timescales – with milestones against those timescales.

It is important to have a balance on who attends this meeting from the view of the church and its stakeholders.  This has to be project specific, but bear in mind it has to be practical so that all voices can be heard and discussions can be positive and forward-looking.

It might be that this initial briefing meeting is followed up soon after with a more workshop style gathering.  This could be where wider stakeholder and community groups are invited and large numbers are expected.  It is perhaps set over a longer time period like a whole morning and arranged in group discussions and feedback sessions.  These can also be good events to ‘open up the church’ to a wider community to enable church and the community to start to share and develop plans together.

How does communication work in general between the church and the architect?

The importance of good communication throughout the project cannot be underestimated.  At the start of a project, communication can be generally strategic and administrative – arranging meeting dates and so on. As the project develops, so the volume of communication increases, and may include more specific details and decision-making. By the time the project starts on site, you can expect at least daily communication.

Most successful church projects have a single point of contact from the church side either throughout the life of project or for each stage. However, it is vital that the point of contact is working hand-in-hand with the church project group to ensure the decisions made are collective ones.

How is it best to deal with any issues that arise – concerns over the cost of the project, for example?

Every church project must have a clear budget.  How that is developed and updated as the project moves forward has been outlined earlier and may be different for certain projects or churches.

How the church and their professional team monitor and control the project costs against the budget is a crucial part of achieving a successful project.  It must be carried out as a project team and not left to one party or another.  The vision for your project and your vision for your budget must align or there is no point proceeding.

Alternatively, you need to have a fixed budget and a flexible project or a fixed project and a flexible budget – this may still lead to compromise, therefore open minds and open discussion is crucial.

Churches must accept that it is impossible to give an accurate figure for the cost of a church project at the beginning, only an estimated sum based on knowledge and experience. The cost becomes better defined as the project develops and it is important to have regular cost assessments and discussions throughout the process to ensure the design and the costs are still in alignment.

Generally speaking, by the time the project has come back from tender and a building contractor has been appointed, there will be much more certainty. Adjustments, or value engineering will still be required but these can usually be held within an agreed contingency figure

A Quantity Surveyor (QS) is extremely important in helping you with the financial management of the project. They will normally be separately appointed by the church or as a sub-consultant of the architects.  Alternatively, if you are working with a multi-disciplinary company they may have their own in-house surveyors and architects.

As a minimum, have an initial budget prepared on the basis of outline designs, and then refine this as more information becomes available. It is much better to invest in this information at an early stage than to have a nasty shock with costs further down the line.

5. Feasibility Funding

During this stage, you can apply for Feasibility Funding that is available and up to £10,000 on a 60/40 split can be awarded from the PDC (Property Development Committee). Click here to find out more

However, not every project will require a feasibility study. Some churches may decide that they have explored the feasibility options in the consultation process and have a very clear idea of what they want to see in any new works within their building. So if the managing trustees are comfortable about what needs to be done with their smaller, less complicated project, then the feasibility study could be bypassed.

If you choose this option, it will be required that you review the information and make a decision based on all the evidence that shows the viability of the project.  This is a useful exercise and it would be a good document to show potential supporters and grant giving bodies. 

6. A Note about Risk

Although it is important to be forward looking, it is also important to be realistic about the risks.  It is important to include the risks in the project plan.  This will add weight to your plan as it will demonstrate that your plan is well-considered and thus, helping to justify the costs of the project.

During a project, having a structured process that both allows the risk to be understood and managed proactively will help optimise success by minimising threats and maximising opportunities.  The risk register should be re-visited at every stage as the project develops.

Bear in mind that you don’t necessarily have to do it all in one phase. It may be more cost-effective and practical to break a large project down into stages, but it is important to understand and maintain the bigger strategic picture to avoid having to redo work later on.

7. Funding

At this stage, it would be worth researching some of the funding options available and begin to put together a draft fundraising plan.  Most funders would require a project plan as part of the application process.  A solid project plan will reassure funders that their investment will be in safe hands. 

Due to limited resources, we can only signpost managing trustees to other resources.  In terms of funding opportunities, please refer to the Property Grants page on the website.  

Disposing of land or property could be used as a source of funding if it fits in with the Circuit and District mission plan(s).  Please review the Strategic Guidance Notes for the Use of Property in Mission and review TMCP’s Guidance & Templates for QSR’s and the Flowchart for Streamlining Transactions for more information.     

8. Further Resources

Further Resources

Historic England has overall advice  and you can find specific guidance on how to approach the writing of statements of significance

Germinate: Arthur Rank Centre has links to rural advice and community projects as part of their resources for rural places of worship 

Chapter 5 Developing Your Ideas from Crossing the Threshold toolkit. 

The Churchbuild website created by Archangel Architects contains a range of practical information around developing and managing a building project.  It provides a useful diagram based on the RIBA Plan of Work which shows the various stages that most building projects will go through. It is really helpful if both the leadership and the rest of your church understand how these different stages fit together. With this basic structure in mind everyone can get to grips with the typical timescales involved. 

In collaboration with the National Heritage Training Group and the National Lottery Heritage Fund (formerly the Heritage Lottery Fund), the Churches Conservation Trust has developed a traditional Craft Skills Toolkit which provides a step-by-step guide to putting traditional building skills and conservation training at the heart of your built heritage project. This could include encouraging your chosen contractor to take on an apprentice or provide a skills workshop for interested local people. The toolkit will help you to consider all aspects of delivering training on a ‘live site’ and provides templates for training in addition to example contract clauses that can be incorporated into your tender documents.