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UK study suggests parishes are “stewards” not “owners” of their buildings

UK study suggests parishes are “stewards” not “owners” of their buildings

The Centre for Theology & Community conducted a study in the UK that determined that church buildings of all denominations were underused to the tune of millions of dollars annually. The research broke down to £64,000 (almost $80,000) per church building per year that the local congregations were forfeiting with the underuse of the buildings. The study pointed out to churches that they were sitting on hugely underused assets that could be turned around to extend both the income and the mission of the congregation.

St George's parish hall
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The study used the UK city of Islington to do the research. A city with 85 churches where 62 of the congregations own their buildings. Church buildings often consist of a worship space, a large hall and rooms to accommodate smaller meetings. Most of the buildings did gain some annual rent income from letting out the use of their building, but the study determined that the congregations could bring in 5 times the amount with better stewardship of their asset. The weekly attendance of the 85 churches amounted to only 8% of the Islington population. Better stewardship of their assets would increase the mission of the congregations and bring many more local folks into contact with these churches.

After the release of the study, the Church of England’s Lead Bishop for cathedrals and church buildings, Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Revd Dr John Inge said, “Church buildings should never be silent mausoleums but always vibrant centers of service at the heart of their local community.”

In the Afterward to the report on the study, the Rt Revd Ric Thorpe, Bishop of Islington wrote, “Most churches don’t have building managers. They cannot afford them. That is why this report is not just helpful in highlighting the huge opportunity for using buildings more effectively for mission, but also hopeful because it points towards a very practical solution.”

Food for thought about the use of buildings by US churches?

The main photo is Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral – St Louis, from the Café photo library. The second photo is the parish hall of St George’s Episcopal Church, Mapelwood NJ from the parish website. Facts for this story were gleaned from an article in the Church Times.

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