Churches and community enterprise

As I write, I am sitting in a beautiful old church building in Luton, where one side of the church has been converted into a co-working space for freelancers and remote workers. It’s a new venture, a partnership between the church and local business, and we’re just getting up and running.

The basic idea is simple: people need space to work, and the church has an enormous amount of underused space. With us here working, the building can be opened up all week for all kinds of other uses. We can support the church in the upkeep of the building. It’s an opportunity to build community, breathe life into a building at the heart of the area, and unlock a variety of co-benefits for the church and nearby residents.

For me, this is a good example of how the church can help to prefigure the new economy. It’s a way to play an active role in working with local businesses, charities, and entrepreneurs, while conserving the building and growing community. It’s good business, and it’s good mission.

Britain has 75,000 places of worship. Some of them are well used throughout the week. Others aren’t, and in some cases they are even a burden on the church fellowship. Sometimes they can become a real conundrum – historic and much loved, but unsustainably expensive and impractical. Can we give them a new lease of life?

STIR to Action, the pioneering new economics magazine, has been running a pilot scheme over the last year. They have been helping three churches in the South of England to work with local enterprise, and they will be sharing their learning at an upcoming conference.

Unlocking the next economy: churches and social enterprise will take place in London on the 9th of October. It’s for practitioners and those interested, and applications are open now. Could your church send someone?

As STIR to action say, “with the right strategic support for local people to set up community-owned enterprises, church buildings could play a defining role in transforming local economies.”

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