5.7 Statements of Needs
What Is A Statement Of Needs? (And When Do I Need One?)
If you have a listed church building to which you want to make changes, then you use the Statement of Needs to set out the thinking behind the proposed alterations. However, the process of producing one can be useful for any church considering a building project.
The danger with any project is that those who are driving it forward get so involved in the detail that they can sometimes forget that others (and there are lots of other stakeholders) will not be as far advanced in their understanding of the thinking behind the proposals. A Statement of Needs serves the twin purposes of filling that information gap while at the same time inviting comment and other ideas. As with a Statement of Significance (see section 5.6), the best format is to be brief (in this case 2-3 pages of A4), and refer to other documents or appendices if necessary. If yours is a historic building, it is essential to work it up in conjunction with your Statement of Significance.
A Possible Structure:
- Your Needs: A brief description of what you are trying to achieve. This might be in terms of facilities – eg “An additional room to seat 25 with tea station; the room should have separate external access, and internal access to the WCs”; in terms of Liturgy – eg a change to the pattern of worship or the use of the building; or in terms of Building Services – eg new heating or lighting etc.
- The Benefit: What would achieving this change mean? How does it change what you can do as a church, whether in terms of worship or mission?
- The Vision: Crucially, how does this fit with your overall vision for being the church in your particular locality?
- The Footprint: How will this impact the church financially, particularly the long term running costs? An additional room may bring in some income from lettings, but would also add to running costs (heating, lighting and maintenance). What impact will it have on sustainability? Will it have an impact on staffing?
- The Timing: Why do this now? What trends if any do you see in patterns of attendance at the church? How might the proposals alter that?
- The Context: As a church, are you at the centre of your community, or on the edge? Answer that both geographically and in people’s minds. Are there broader demographic changes in the locality – eg a new housing development?
- The History: Bear in mind that you are part of an unfolding narrative of Godʼs people in your particular place. You are writing one single chapter of that larger story. How does this generation’s chapter fit with the story so far? And where might the story go next?
- The Evidence: Who has been consulted in the process of refining this need, and how has this been recorded? If you hold an open day or other event it is always a good idea to invite written comments; this can be really useful in making your case for change.
- The Options: What alternatives have been considered? In the case of a historic building, how does the proposal fit with the Statement of Significance?
If you struggle to articulate the basis of your needs, then another possibility is to start with a result you might have in mind and work back towards the beginning. Starting with your endpoint, ask the question “Why Is That Important?”; repeat this perhaps four or five times. An example might be wanting to add an extension to your church. The internal ‘conversation’ might go like this:
- We want to add another room to the church. / Why is that important?
- The church lacks a social space. / Why is that important?
- There is nowhere for the children to meet separately during a service, or for midweek meetings. / Why is that important?
- We feel called to offer God’s hospitality and to be at the centre of our community; we believe the additional room will enable us to draw more people into the church.
This exercise may feel artificial, but if done in collaboration with others may produce some really useful insights. It is important that you can give an account to all that ask as to why you want to alter your building – having comprehensive answers will help you to meet legitimate concerns and build that all-important consensus required for any church project to succeed.
The key point is to think through what you are hoping to achieve and to root this in your vision for the life of the church. The Statement of Needs will help you to spell out the thinking that has led you to your conclusion. Often this exercise is done after a specific set of proposals has been drawn up and the design process is well advanced, but this is a post-rationalisation. As outlined above it would form an excellent basis for a project brief, and it is therefore a great piece of thinking to have done before engaging an architect or design team.
The Methodist Church has a useful guide which covers similar ground from a different angle.
If you would like further advice please contact us via the Contact page.