Strategic review part 3: Audits of buildings

There are 544 open church buildings in Lichfield Diocese, 68% of them are listed as buildings of national significance, with 61 Grade I churches, 144 Grade II*, 166 Grade II and 173 unlisted (table 1). These churches are not just heritage assets, they are the repository of their communities’ memories and often the only local public building, treasured by many outside the regular worshipping congregation.

Table 1 Analysis of churches in Lichfield Diocese







No. of churches (excluding 8 special situations)






Special situations












Heritage listing:






Grade I






Grade II*






Grade II












Other venue






Age of building:






























Other venue






A lot of church-related data is held centrally on the national Church Heritage Record and by the Church of England’s Research and Statistics Department, but helpful analysis has proven difficult, so until this is improved we have utilised in-house data and analysis to support this strategic review. Careful further data collection and analysis will be key in moving forward.

Deanery audits of buildings

The diocese will continue to support deanery buildings audits to facilitate their Shaping for Mission plans by providing data for each deanery as shown below in an anonymised example (table 2).

Table 2 Example of church data from deanery buildings audit

Church Name and Number: [anonymised]

In the Benefice of: [anonymised]



This QI is now out of date. The new QI will provide current information on the condition of the building. It would be helpful to encourage the church to do this.

Please rate:

R - Red
A - Amber
G - Green

Is (are) the building(s) fit for purpose?

  • Does it have heating, toilet and universal access? Yes.
  • Is the Church on the Heritage at Risk Register, and if so are there plans to resolve this? Not on the Register.


Most recent quinquennial report & any fabric developments since 

(Please see notes about permissions at bottom of page).

  • Date of Report: 2015. This QI is now out of date.
  • Urgent repairs identified in QI and will they be expensive?

The architect lists a number of surveys he would like carried out. The surveys would not be expensive but any problems that need rectifying may be. Other urgent work is minor and the architect suggests £2–2,500. However within 18 months the architect lists 11 pieces of work with an estimated cost of £40–50,000. To include renew mullions & glazing to the nave west extension windows, & reglaze local stonework repointing and repair.

  • Relevant maintenance or renovation since. 

List B permission recorded on myDiocese for cleaning, making good and repainting all guttering & down-spouts to the church and adjacent parish centre. Replacing tiles and re-pointing the stonework to the nave roof. Safety inspection of the bell turret.

Nothing recorded on the OFS.


The medium to long term viability of the premises for worship

  • According to the QI what needs doing to the building before the next QI, or in the longer term, and is this likely to be achievable. 

Before the next QI: 3 items including a phased schedule of re pointing. Est cost £18-20,000.

In the longer term: Cleaning stonework externally or as part of repointing and repair scheme. No costs given.

  • What other facilities does the Building have?

Kitchen, hearing loop, attached church hall.


The potential to attain high energy efficiency and ultimately carbon net zero by 2030–40

(Please note this report does not record whether a church uses LED lighting).

  • Age and Listing of Building. 

Not listed. Victorian/Pre-WWI. The chancel of 1848 was built as a Chapel-of-Ease; to this was added the nave in 1865 when the parish was formed. The south aisle in 1868 the north aisle in 1902. The ‘parish rooms’ were added in 1975; internal reordering in the 1990s.

  • Did the Church engage with the Energy Footprint Tool? No.
  • Is it registered for Eco Awards? No.
  • Renewable Energy? No.


Age of heating system


  • Is heating mentioned?

No. A boiler room is mentioned, and the building has been renovated over the years, so will have heating, but it is not mentioned specifically.

  • Type of Heating. Unknown.
  • Age and efficiency. Unknown.


Any other comments


  • Likelihood of grant funding being available. 

This church is not listed but does have community usage, which may make it more likely to attract funding.

  • Any other concerns/comments. No.


The category data include:

  • Whether the buildings are fit for purpose (heating, toilet, universal access)
  • Most recent QI and list of urgent repairs and viability for ongoing worship
  • Potential for net zero carbon
  • Potential of other church buildings


That the diocese takes the initiative and utilising the RAG (Red, Amber, Green) summaries in diocesan deanery data:

  • Develop more detailed deanery data RAG ratings and analysis to provide a clearer picture of each church’s sustainability
  • Drill down and individually review RAG and other findings to analyse trends/issues to identify churches in need of tailored support i.e. early intervention. Other surveys to date have majored on building-specific reasons for closure whilst lots of other factors are at play and need to be identified and assessed e.g. attendance and membership, wider mission, parish share and finance, clergy provision and support
  • Create a flowchart of which churches are in danger of closure/beyond intervention and those with targeted assistance that could stabilise and grow
  • Support deaneries in collating the data shown in table 2 and in maintaining and using it and other diocesan-generated data
  • Support deaneries in producing their plans, showing how they have included the buildings data in their mission planning
  • Consider the benefits of obtaining some data direct from the parishes
  • Produce an annual overview of progress with the data collection and how it feeds into strategy and mission plans at diocesan and deanery level

Parish audits of buildings

The Crossing the Threshold national toolkit for developing church buildings for community use, produced by the Diocese of Hereford and partners including the Church Buildings Council, was recently relaunched. This contains comprehensive advice on how to do a parish buildings audit as a necessary precursor to developing a project of any size, as it explains:

The basic aim of most projects is likely to be that more people use the building and benefit from so doing. So you need to find out exactly what your local community wants from its church. This is your opportunity to create a plan of action led by the local community. Bear in mind, the result of a consultation may mean that you have to change your original ideas.

Often the church is the last community building in the parish, and by engaging the non-church-going community may bring new life in unexpected ways, as well as help share church maintenance responsibility.

Just the lack of basic amenities can seriously impede numerical growth. Given the current ageing profile of many congregants alone points to the necessity of ensuring a lavatory ideally within the church. Coupled with a small servery this would greatly enhance the offering to congregants and visitors at funerals and weddings.

Such matters and more will quickly become apparent in a thorough asset audit, which should include other buildings belonging to the parish such as church halls, but also take into account other facilities provided by other groups including secular organisations (like village halls, community centres) and other denominations and faith groups.


While it is likely that such comprehensive audits will usually only be undertaken when a development project is being considered, the diocese strongly recommends to all parishes the general approach of utilising such a toolkit as part of their mission planning.

Reimagining church buildings

In undertaking a holistic review of our church buildings, having an appreciation of the importance of place, will help us better understand the value of what we already have both to the gathered church and the community at large. Buildings properly understood are profoundly theological and play an important role in our mission and ministry wherever we meet, whether in a rented community centre or in a 1000-year-old listed structure. Below is a pithy overview sourced from a wider debate on Reimagining church buildings from the Jubilee Centre, suggesting that buildings:

  • Are for everyone – regardless of churchmanship and they shape theology
  • Are vulnerable – to the continuing effects of the Covid pandemic. Zoom has helped fill a gap but at what cost?
  • Reflect our theological ambition – be it sacramental, evangelical or arena style
  • Stand for community – offer opportunity for hospitality and inclusion
  • Are a form of narrative – especially historic ones. We inherit an incomplete story and need to understand the past and be creative for the now to keep the narrative alive
  • Are theological – in a practical not theoretical sense as by inhabiting and using them in forms of theology and how we relate to who we are in the world
  • Are an expression of how we dwell – important in our incarnational call to dwell
  • Are important not just for congregation – but to wider community bringing a safe place of comfort, hope and memories – stability for our own identity
  • Provide a sensory role – showing us of God and encourage us to meet with him and help us to allow God to dwell in us
  • Reflect the importance of place – illustrated in the bible

Taking the latter point of place, the buildings should be a blessing rather than a burden, and cautioning that people can love the buildings for themselves rather than the God who inhabits.


To understand the calling and context of church, its purpose now, and utilising the assets to support the priorities, asking what is our unique calling in our context with the aim of sustainability?

Next section: Toolkit module 1: Early intervention

Page last updated: Saturday 16th October 2021 10:10 AM
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