Plunkett is part of a coalition of organisations campaigning to promote the benefit of community businesses locating in places of worship.

Places of worship can make great venues for community businesses; enterprises that trade for the benefit of the local community and are typically owned and run by local residents.

On our website you can find some inspiring stories of where this has already happened – from shops and cafes, to performance spaces, farmers markets and renewable energy schemes.

We want to unlock the potential of places of worship to make a difference to the places in which they are based by encouraging even more community businesses like this.

Community businesses are known as a solution to keeping valued local services open, providing spaces which reduce loneliness, creating jobs and training and being outlets for local products and services.

When they are located in places of worship they can also help to keep these often historic buildings open by:

  • Generating income through rent

  • Attracting more people through the door

  • Increasing opportunities to apply for funding

Get Started

Developing any community business involves lots of work and there are some specific considerations when it comes to places of worship, but we can help you get started.

Click on the ‘toggles’ below to learn more about some of the key stages involved with setting up a community business in a place of worship and the support available.

If you are thinking about setting up a community business, please contact Plunkett in the first instance. Our advice and support is provided free of charge and we can link you with other organisations supporting this campaign as appropriate.

There are many types of community businesses, and we’ve seen some really inspiring and different examples being set up in places of worship. Whilst there are some sensitivities and limitations associated with this particular context, there’s still plenty of scope for you – and the rest of your community – to decide what would be the most beneficial to people locally. Take a look at the stories we’ve captured to get some ideas.

Consulting your community is a big part of developing a community business, whether it’s in a place of worship or not. Think of it as market research. Why would you launch a new product without knowing if there’s any demand for it? We can help you come up with some ideas for speaking to people locally to gather interest in your community business project and test ideas. This should include conversations with those who manage the place of worship and existing users of the building.

Every community business needs a strong team to drive things forward. You’ll want different people involved who are able to add a range of skills and knowledge to the mix. This should ideally include representatives from the place of worship.

One of the questions we are frequently asked is what legal structure groups should adopt. We have a wealth of expertise to advise you in this respect, as well as model rules you can use.

There are lots of things that need careful planning when developing a community business in a place of worship. On the one hand, you should be thinking about what your business will do and how services will be provided, the income and expenditure you expect, as well as having a firm idea of how this activity will benefit people in our community.

Careful consideration also needs to be given to how the place of worship itself can accommodate such activity. This may involve repairs or even adaptation of the building which is likely to need various permissions and certainly funding. Such work needs to be done sensitively, balancing the need for change with heritage and liturgical considerations. We have teamed up with a range of faith and heritage organisations that are able to provide you with specialist help and advice in this respect, as well as linking you with other groups working on similar projects.

If you’ve put together a business plan, you’ll have a good idea of how much it will take to start up the business, as well as the viability of trading activity thereafter. It’s likely, therefore, that you will need to raise funds to begin this work and there are a number of ways that you can do this. This can involve grant applications and traditional fundraising, however many of the groups we work with opt for a community share offer making it possible for people in the local area to invest in and get involved with the running of the business. We can help you put together a share offer and link you with funding available from our partners.

Whilst places of worship offer some great spaces for community businesses, they tend to be historic buildings which may need repairs or alterations. It’s important this work is undertaken by contractors with expertise in such buildings. Schemes like the Professional Trades Directory and Maintenance Booker, run by the National Churches Trust can help you find accredited suppliers.  There are also opportunities through our partners such as Heritage Trusts Network to link with other groups working on similar building work

Many of the community businesses that have opened their doors and begun trading are members of Plunkett. Becoming a member gives you greater access to information and advice (whether that’s from specialist support providers like us, or from other community businesses), it enables you to collaborate in the market place for better deals, and it helps you to reduce running costs. We also actively encourage our members to help us develop our services to make sure we’re continuing to meet the needs of the sector.

Advice & resources

If you’re interested in setting up a community business within an active place of worship – but don’t know where to start we’ve pulled together information from many different support groups to help get you started.

Inspiring stories

There are a small but growing number of community businesses in places of worship to be found across the UK which are trading for the benefit of local residents and helping to keep much valued buildings open.

Yarpole Community Shop & Cafe

We spoke to Rev. Matthew Burns about the benefits of bringing churches and community businesses together. 

Who we are

We are a coalition of organisations who see benefit in community businesses locating in places of worship. Between us we are working to make sure groups have the support they need to set up enterprises of this kind.

Plunkett UK supports people in rural areas to set up and run a wide range of businesses in community ownership

Action with Communities in Rural England is the national voice for 38 member organisations who make up the country’s largest rural network

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK

The Church of England has 16,000 churches, 10,000 of which are located in rural areas. These often mark important places in the life of the communities they inhabit – sites where major life events have taken place for families across generations and where communities can gather at significant times.

The Churches Conservation Trust is the national charity protecting churches at risk

We help rural communities flourish by working alongside local churches across the UK

Heritage Trust Network is a membership organisation run by people who have delivered amazing heritage projects against all the odds. Our mission is to help others do the same.

Historic Churches Scotland is a charity that saves historic churches at risk and works with communities to secure the future of their church through expert conservation and creative regeneration

We bring together those working for a secure future for historic religious buildings

We bring together those working for a secure future for historic religious buildings

We are an independent charitable trust that supports and develops community businesses in England

The Scottish Civic Trust was set up in 1967, to help people connect to their built heritage and take a
leading role in guiding its development

Historic Chapels Trust is the only national charity in England to save and protect significant non-Church of England places of worship no longer used by their congregations

The calling of the Methodist Church is to respond to the gospel of God’s love in Christ and to live out its discipleship in worship and mission

The Welsh Historic Places of Worship Forum

The Welsh Historic Places of Worship Forum exists to help congregations meet the challenges of maintaining their buildings. This is a self-mentoring network, at which the members share information about grants and funding, best-practice case studies and policy initiatives, with the aim of ensuring that places of worship remain in community use. Meetings are held online, and membership is open to everyone, of all faiths and all denominations.

Benefact Trust is one of the UK’s largest grant-making charities. Its funds come from its ownership of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group.