A 5 Step Framework To Building

 
Five key points are involved when a church is ready to embark on a building program.

Often I find myself consulting or giving advice as to what steps a church should take when they are ready to embark on a building program. In general, there are five key points involved in a building project.  Each of those points could be an article, or book unto themselves.

My goal is to introduce to the steps and give you a basic overview of what each step entails.

Each congregation is unique however by following these steps you can head down the road of building with confidence.

Vision

This obvious step is often over looked. As American’s we love to jump to the what.  What are we going to build?

We really need to spend much more time at the Why?  The why is not just because our ministry is growing and needs space. The why is, what is our DNA, what has God purposed us, this fellowship to do at this moment in time.

Additionally, what vision has God given us as it relates to what our future ministry will look like.

Brushing over this initial step has led many churches to build something they either didn’t need or ends up not meeting the true needs of their ministry.  I currently am working with a church that is building small.  They average around 800 and are building a 450 seat auditorium.  That means that immediately as they move into the new facility they will be doing multiple services and in essence be packed out with 2 or 3 services.

This church knows its DNA, they don’t feel called to be a mega church, they believe God has called them to impact they neighborhood he has placed them in.

So they are referring to this first building as an incubator.

They Plan to grow a vibrant congregation and in 18-24 months spin off 75% of that congregation to a new location just across town.  The 25% that remain at the incubator location will then start fresh, new staff and everything and seek to grow a vibrant church that can be spun off in 18-24 months again leaving 25% at the incubator to do it again and again.

This church gets who they are called to be, a local church that makes a difference in the neighborhood where they are planted. So their plan is to have multiple fully functioning, self-supporting locations that infiltrate the town in which God has place them. This determined the size and location of the facilities they are building.

Feasibility

At the firm I work for we do a significant amount of what we call Phase 1 work.  A phase one is really a feasibility and needs study that is done to provide budgeting for the project.  This process where we come in and sit down with your leadership and ministry teams gives direction to what is going to be built and how much it will cost.

This second step should be done only after they vision part is complete.  It is vital that you know who you are before you embark on what to build.

The Phase 1 process allows the vision of the building to take shape and form.  After sitting down will all the stake holders in the project a conceptual drawing is completed as well as a floor plan.

From this a budget for the project is determined.  What is great about this process is that the church now knows how much money they need to raise and they also have tools, the 3D renderings, to share with the congregation.

The nominal cost of a Phase 1 keeps churches from embarking and spending a lot of time and energy on something they can’t afford to build.  It also protects them for wasting a lot of money on design work as they go thru the process.

Financing/Fund raising

Now that budgets have been determined and hopefully also with the renderings, the congregation is ready to move forward.  Now the question becomes how.  Do you take on debt, do an extended fund raising campaign, break the project into phases and build as money is available?

Fundraising is also an area where you have to know your DNA and what direction your congregation would like to pursue in raising funds.  I suggest at this point that churches contract with a professional fund raising frim.  Yes, just like the Phase 1 study, it will cost money.  In this case it is really costing you money to in the end raise significantly more money.

A well run capital campaign can greatly shorten the building process by securing funds quicker.  A good professional fund raising firm will use the 3D renderings done in the feasibility study to help communicate, inspire and call to action your congregation.

Kick off/Full design

Somewhere during the capital campaign, it will be time to give the project the go ahead.

At this point, an architectural firm, or a design/build firm takes a really deep dive into programming. They will get into the nitty gritty of what is the precise square footage that each ministry needs, what the fit and finishes are going to look like (this is likely to be determined by how successful the capital campaign is).

Depending on the delivery method you choose, construction may also begin at the same time you are finalizing the design.

The key in this phase is to revisit the phase 1 process with all of the stakeholders to ensure everyone is still on the same page and has agreed on the same priorities.

Construction

This can be the most exciting time of the entire project. it can also be the most painful.  Likely it will be both.  There is nothing more exciting than to see your dream and vision literally come up from the ground. There is also nothing more painful that having to put a project on hold because the funds are not available.

One of the most important aspects of a construction project is cash flow.  I have seen churches that have had to put a hold on their project because they did not plan the important element of cash flow well.  Yes, they have the money committed but the bank may temporarily cap a construction loan until a certain percentage of that pledged amount is in the bank.

Construction overruns can also bring a project to a halt.  There are many infamous stories of projects that were delayed or never were completed because the change orders during the project emptied the bank account.  This can happen because the owner keeps changing his mind, or finding out as you are building that some major element has to change because the design was faulty. Rarely if ever does it happen because of extenuating circumstance, like material increases.

To ensure that your construction project is more exciting and painful it is important to be sure of your design before you break ground, or be sure that your design and construction team are in sync to bring your project in on time and budget.

Following the framework above, in particular understanding the why, and what your DNA as a church is will lead you to a successful building project.

 

Church Construction: Should You Build Your Field of Dreams?

It is easy and desirous for some to grab on to the simple thought, “all that is needed for church growth is a new or bigger building.”

It is easy and desirous for some to grab on to the simple thought, “all that is needed for church growth is a new or bigger building.”  This thinking is in stark contrast to the reality that a building does not equal building the church.

It’s also easy to get caught in the trap that a new building or building project will solve problems, help unify the congregation, increase giving, or attract new people.

Let’s debunk some of that wrong thinking surrounding church facility construction


There are some really good questions to ask yourself and your congregation before you embark on a building campaign.


1. Do you have a large debt on your current facility?

If you are already deep in debt it would not be wise to saddle additional debt and thus strain on your ministry.  This may seem like common sense, but it is amazing how uncommon common sense is. The added debt payments will only take away from investing into areas that can help the ministry grow.

2. Do you expect a new building to make a “statement” in your community?

This really smacks of egotism. If you think that having the coolest or newest building in town is going to help your church grow, you are unfortunately in line for a serious let down.  I have seen wonderful growing churches meeting in the humblest of places.  I have also seen soaring beautiful churches with 90% of the seats empty on a Sunday.

3. Do you need to increase membership to pay for the increased debt of a new facility?
This is really putting your faith into the “if you build it they will come philosophy.”  What happens if they don’t come? Do you default on the loan?  To me putting your faith in increased membership to pay for a building project is putting your faith in the wrong place.

4. Do you expect a new building to cause your congregation to be more evangelical and outreach driven?

Yes, a new building is a great talking point and it can be a start in getting people to ask others to visit your church. However, without a culture of evangelism this will be very short lived.  Once the building has been open for a little while your congregation will fall back in the old habits and will not continue to invite people.

5. Do you need a building to allow your whole church to meet at one time?

This is a great question that is not asked enough.  A church I am familiar with was about to embark on a multi-million-dollar expansion to the children’s area because of crowded conditions.  At the same time, they happened to send out a survey to the congregation. One of the questions on the survey was “what service time do you prefer?”

The church found out on the survey that parents with children were about evenly split on wanting an earlier service versus a later one.  At that point the decision became why don’t we offer two service times and thus split the children’s attendance and negate the need to build.  As a side note.  Two years later they ended up building because both services had grown so much that they now needed the space to accommodate the number of children in both services.

6. Do you expect a new building will entice your congregation to give more generously?

You might get a spike in additional giving towards a building project.  However, if you had another area like missions that was highlighted, you could also get the same spike in giving.

The real danger here is again putting faith into “if you will build it they will come, or in this case give”

Some final thoughts, owning a building does not make you a church, or even a better one.  What makes a church are the people in whatever setting God has placed them.  Also, don’t fall into the trap thinking that if you would build that problems will go away.  If anything the added financial and organizational stress is only going to exacerbate problems that already exist.

So before embarking on building your field of dreams, make sure that you are grounded in truth and are truly following God’s will for your congregation and not just man’s dreams.

 

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.

 

Design/Bid/Build, Design Assist or Design/Build?

Bringing clarity to the three most popular methods of constructing a worship facility.

Starting a building or renovation project can be overwhelming.

How much is it going to cost?

How can I find people I trust to work with on the project?

How can I get the congregation on board?

How will we raise the funds? Do we borrow?

There are no shortage of questions…

The company I work for helps a lot of churches by finding ways to assist in the building process.

One of the ways is to come in for a small fee and do a Phase I, a needs assessment. This will establish a base budget, and a few renderings of the project are created that can be shared with the congregation.

Going thru this process answers almost all of the questions about building, and a path can be laid out for the project.

There are many different methods of how to construct.

Let’s talk about the three most popular:

Design/Bid/Build The “low-bid” method.
A church will first hire an architect to completely design the facility and develop a full set of construction documents. Upon the completion of the drawings (a six-plus-month process), the church will then solicit bids from a selected group of contractors. The contractor is awarded the project solely on the basis of “low-bid.”

Churches traditionally choose this method because it promotes a low-bid. This method does, however, can carry significant risks and might elongates the process. Only after the drawings are completed are actual construction costs identified. Unfortunately, projects more often than not come in over budget. Additionally, change orders based on things changing or faulty design add a significant amount of cost to the project.

Construction Manager at Risk/Design Assist:
The owner or church will hire an independent architect and an independent construction manager/contractor.

The church holds both contracts and the architect and contractor work together to design and construct the project.  The risk is the blame game that can occur between the Architect and the Contractor.  This can put the church in the awkward position of trying to play referee and also managing the financial implications.

Design/Build:

This is one of the most popular delivery methods in church construction projects.

Under this method, the church hires a single construction firm to both design and build the facility. The contractor is the single source of responsibility for the owner. Some Design Build firms have their own architects on staff, but most contractors have to contract with an outside design firm. The contractor holds the responsibility and is able to work hand-in-glove with his entire team to guide the progress of the design elements around the church’s budget. Costs are determined earlier in the process.  Also, this eliminates the need for redesigns and the risk of cost overages or non-owner directed change orders.

The key in any of these methods is finding the right team. A team that you can trust. A team that you can work with. A team that you feel has the churches best interest in mind.  In a forthcoming article I will expand on the process of choosing a contractor/design team.