What is a statement of needs?
A statement of needs is a requirement for all listed church buildings and unlisted church buildings in a conservation area, where changes to the building are proposed. (Although it is a useful document for any church contemplating a capital project, as it helps in thinking about how the proposals contribute to the vision and mission of the church).
The document sets out to justify the proposals, how they will meet the needs identified for the church itself and / or wider community and to ensure that the benefit of the proposals outweigh any harm to the significance of the building.
The need could arise out of changes in liturgy, to make the building more accessible and relevant for community use, to install new facilities or to contribute to the environmental sustainability of the building. It should accompany a statement of significance and be in place before a church begins the process of undertaking any major changes or re-ordering of their church building.
The Church Buildings Council provide an excellent template to help churches complete their Statement of Need. Broadly the document should cover:
- What is the size / profile of the congregation?
- How is the church building used, how often and by who (worship / prayer / community activities)?
- What is the financial situation of the church?
- Are there funds already available or reserves that can be used?
- How does the church know what the need is?
- Who has been consulted and how has this been carried out and documented?
- How do the proposals fit with the vision and mission of the church?
- Has there been demographic changes in the community or growth within the congregation driving the need for the project?
- How will the proposals respond to these changes and what difference will they make?
- What is the church wanting to do and why at this time?
- What will be the outcomes and benefits from the proposals?
- What alternatives have been considered and why have they been dismissed?
- How will the proposals impact on the significance of the building and how will this be mitigated?
- Are there economic benefits that will be derived from the proposals e.g. additional revenue from room hire / reduced heating costs with improved insulation and heating?
Building relationships with community groups, organisations and individuals to explore the needs of the local community brings people together and completing a statement of needs can become part of the missional activity of the church and with it a positive way of engaging people in the life of the church, bringing new voices, ideas and commitment.