6 Ways to Build Better Churches

Constructing or renovating a worship facility can and should be a joyful time. So, what are the right things to do which will help bring joy – or at least keep the peace – during a building project?

There are countless horror stories and lists of what not to do. These are important as no one wants to make avoidable mistakes. Yet, part of the puzzle is missing.

You can avoid the major mistakes and still end up with a building project that is frustrating, time consuming and just plain no fun!

So, what are the right things to do?

A building project can and should be a joyful time. The fact that you are embarking on a building project is a testament to ministry happening at your church.

What factors can help bring joy—- or at least keep the peace—- during a building project?

1.) GET THE RIGHT PEOPLE FROM YOUR CONGREGATION INVOLVED

It cannot be overstated how important it is to have the right team in place, as you head into a building project.

The team I am referring to are the people responsible for decisions on getting the building built, not the ones in fundraising or communication efforts. Those are completely separate tasks that should be handled outside of the building committee.

So what makes up a good team member and who should be on team?

Of course the typical things like leadership, wisdom, the ability to gather consensus are all important and should not be under rated.  But assuming those character qualities are present, what other things should you look for?

I suggest that you get diversity of experience on your team. For me an ideal team would consist of people with the following expertise

  • Finance
  • Construction
  • Programing
  • (running events, understanding what is needed functionally for events)

  • Facilities maintenance
  • Prayer warrior

This group along with the team leader (pastor or elder) should be empowered to make all decisions related to the project.  I am a fan of hand picking rather than holding an election. I want to stack the committee with the most talented people I can find.

This group will influence and decide on all things related to the building process.  This should include selecting the architect and general contractor as well as deciding the construction process (design/bid/build, design/build or some variant of these).

This group does not have to all “be of one mind.” In fact, differing ideas should be encouraged. However, the group does need to be able to make decisions and move forward trusting each other to come to the best decisions.

2.) START WITH THE RIGHT PROGRAM/MASTER PLAN

I find it fascinating that almost everyone knows the statement “if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time”, and yet churches still do not heed the advice as they push forward on a building project without doing any master planning.

I was on staff at a large growing church and I remember sitting in on planning sessions for a new building, wondering why the architect was asking questions pertaining to 10 years down the road.  Today when I go back to visit that church I drive on the ring road that surrounds the now sprawling campus and think back to those meetings.  I distinctly remember the architect being insistent that the above mentioned ring road be built before the building expansion. Honestly I was thinking at the time, what a waste, that road is not necessary we don’t have traffic issues.

What the architect saw was that with future building the church would need to have entrances from multiple locations and even multiple streets that surrounded the campus.  The architect’s insistence on a master plan determined building location as well as traffic flow that is still working 20 years later and with 5 times more traffic.

Don’t gloss over, or just pass by the idea of master planning. Yes, the plan most likely will change over time. But because there is a plan adaptation for growth, or change in ministry, it will be much easier to accommodate.

3.)PUT TOGETHER THE RIGHT CONSTRUCTION TEAM

Perhaps the construction committee’s projects biggest responsibility is assembling the right construction team.  That team of Architect and contractors needs to understand the vision of the church and be a true partner with the church on the project.

Putting this team together involves a lot of home work, wisdom and prayer.  I suggest that the Construction committee visit no less than 5 other projects that the architect has done as well as the construction company.  Hopefully they architect and Construction Company have already done projects together as this will cut down on the number of sites to visit.

When visiting the sites make sure you talk with people that were involved with the construction project.  Ask the typical s “what did you do right? “And “what did you do wrong?” Also ask how easy the architect and contractor are to work with? Was it fun?  Another great question is “knowing what you now know would you hire them again if you were starting your project today?

I will stress again the importance of doing your homework and not just talking with, but also visiting other projects. One last note, ask to meet and interview all the key people that will be working on the project including the project superintendent (this is the person you will see and interact with every day).

4.) THE RIGHT SCHEDULE

Timing is everything.

Make sure that you understand the length of each phase of the project. Look at how the length of time will impact pricing as well as your current ministry.

Assuming you are already meeting on the property, make sure that the construction team has a good plan in place of how they will accommodate the current ministry you have taking place.

Another factor in scheduling, particularly in northern areas, is weather.  It can be much more expensive if you are doing footings and foundation in the middle of winter.
Your ministry schedule should also be factored into the schedule.  Is it important that you move into the building before fall kick off? Before Christmas? Before Easter?  Make sure you work the plan backwards from that date to see if it is feasible.  Also, make sure it is realistic! If this is a new location away from where you currently meet, then you only have to worry about weather and ministry schedule

5.) THE RIGHT ENGAGEMENT

Keeping the team happy and communicating with the congregation.

Watching a building being built is an exciting thing.  Make sure you keep the congregation informed about the schedule and progress.  Once the building is enclosed schedule a walkthrough where your congregation
can go thru and see the progress.  You may want to schedule a walkthrough at a few key milestones along the way.  Also use video, photos and social media to show the progress.

Make sure you also keep engaged with the construction team. Do not become a road block because decisions are not being made in a timely fashion.  Also encourage the team.  Do a cook out at the construction site for all the workers, set up a prayer team to pray for the construction process and the safety of the workers.

6.) RIGHT FOCUS

During the process it can be easy to forget about the purpose and the spiritual side involved in the project.

Some simple things help to keep the right focus.

Remember the purpose and great responsibilities placed on your shoulders.  Pray consistently for the project and project team. Get to know the people working on the project, show them that you care about them.

Don’t forget to pray for the people that will be impacted for Christ over the lifetime of the building.

 

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