Church buildings may often be the only community space in a village or a deprived urban area and can provide the perfect location for a community-owned shop. The building can provide not only the space but also the volunteer support and enthusiasm needed for serving the community in this way.
There are currently over 245 community shops in England, Scotland and Wales and each year 20 or more open for business. Some of these are finding premises within churches and chapels.
The Cathedral and Church Buildings Division and the National Rural Officers for the Church of England, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have been worked closely with the Plunkett Foundation to produce Community Shops Guidance specifically for churches and chapels who are interested in hosting such services in order to provide a service particularly in isolated rural communities. clcik the link to find out more.
Further information and support on how to set up a Community Shop and all the practical issues around management is available from the Plunkett Foundation. The Plunkett Foundation is a leading national charity supporting rural communities who want to tackle a problem through community enterprise and ownership. They also have a funding stream called the Village CORE Programme. Supported by the Plunkett Foundation and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the programme currently supports 20 new start-up community owned shops a year; each shop receives up to £40K of grant and loan funding plus specialist advisory support. For more information visit The Plunkett Foundation's website.
Your Rural Community Action Network (RCAN) may also be able to give you support and guidance specifically on funding sources. You can visit the website for Action with Rural Communities (ACRE) which lists all 37 RCANs contacts. Or you can go direct to: http://www.acre.org.uk/about-rcan
Stir to Action held a conference on Tuesday 9th October 2018, with the support of the Plunkett Foundation, aimed at bringing together key people in the church, heritage sector, and those working in community economic development, to focus together on the economic needs of our communities and the nation’s churches. At the conference there was a focus on several key aspects and included whether church assets could be a significant part of local wealth building approaches; whether a strategic funding mix of crowdfunding, community shares, and grants could enable communities and funders to invest; what role co-operative and community businesses could provide in this sector and how they could facilitate more conservation and care for church buildings; as well as issues beyond charity work and whether churches could become enablers to local communities.
For churches considering hosting or starting such a community initiative, Stir to Action provide a useful community toolkit which could be used to support such an initiative. More on this toolkit, and about the organisation as a whole is available in the following link https://www.stirtoaction.com/toolbox