Congregation: Village churches

How many times have you heard (or said yourself), “If only we had a kitchen and a toilet, we could...”?

Whilst it’s fair to say that modern facilities can make a difference to the overall comfort of the church, having a toilet and/or kitchen will not in themselves bring people in.

People come through the church doors primarily because of relationships, not facilities. Those relationships will have many different faces – a member of the congregation; a family member or friend; a need to seek or rediscover the One who has seemed out of reach; even the building itself exerts a pull on people – that is one reason why churches have value for tourism.

We would all love a reordering project, but they require huge amounts of energy and money. For the congregations of many village churches, the idea of project managing, fundraising and coping with the disruption (and sometimes opposition) of reordering,
it can simply feel ‘too much’ to deal with. If that’s you, join the club! This is not a sign of failure or apathy, but a reflection of the enormity of reordering. The good news is that regardless of whether reordering is possible now, or soon, or in a few years, or never, there are things you can do now with the building, just as it is, that will enable you to extend a wider, warmer welcome and connect with new people.

Without major building work, your village church can (and might already!) be used creatively for many things such as:

  • traditional and contemporary worship
  • reflective and interactive prayer
  • foodbank drop off/collections
  • befriending services
  • community book-swaps
  • concerts
  • talks and exhibitions...

The key thing is for your congregation to decide how you want to ‘be’ the church in your village and focus your energies on the activities that are going to support that.

So, what does that look like in practice?

Your village church was built first and foremost as a space to worship God. With the constant issues of maintenance and fundraising, it can be hard to keep sight of this. The question here is:

How can we offer worship that’s open and accessible for as many people as possible in our village?

The answer doesn’t lie in trying to offer everything for everyone in 60 minutes on a Sunday morning. It may be that you need to review your worship and make some adjustments, and/or perhaps even offer an additional service that meets different needs. These are some things to think about:

  • How would your worship feel to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, partially sighted or blind?
  • How would your worship come across to someone who is generally unfamiliar with church? Would they know where to sit, what they need in order to follow the service? Would they know any of the hymns/songs or know how to find a Bible passage?
  • What do you think children of different ages would think of your worship? Have you asked any of them?
  • How comfortable is the worship service for those who are in wheelchairs, or for people who are in some kind of pain when sitting, standing or moving?

When thinking about different needs, it is often very useful to talk to people who have those needs and ask them what would make a difference, (see Chapter 5 on Being the Heartbeat of a Village Community for ideas on consulting your community).

Think about which services work in your church building and which don’t. You may have several churches in your joint team and therefore have a choice of buildings, each of which is suited to different types of service.

Those that bring lots of people in might well be ones that mark the seasons of the year and life events, and for which your largest church building provides a wonderful atmosphere.

On a freezing grey day in February, it might actually be more welcoming to decamp together to the warmest church, or even to the more modern surroundings of your village hall, if you have one. So much the better if hot drinks can be on standby too!


This is an exttract from "How Village Churches Thrive A Practical Guide" by Robert Atwell, Gill Ambrose, Helen Bent published by Church House Publishing and available here.