There are many reasons for a church to decide to enter into a building program. It may be that the community is growing, the church is growing, or church space is saturated. Whatever the reason, the following considerations will help you develop and conduct a successful church building program.
1. Write A Statement Of Mission
Writing a statement of mission is a very important first step in the process of planning your new facility. The purchase of land, the master planning, and the design of the facility are all related to, and dependent upon, the mission of your church. The church should plan what its going to do in the building as an expression of faith in obedience to Gods call and the mission He has given. The church must know why they are here as a congregation, what they are going to do, and how they do it. When this is understood, then the church can plan adequately for the space and equipment needed to do their work and express their faith. Your statement of mission should include present ministry and outreach, as well as plans for the future.
2. Timing When is the best time to build? Conventional wisdom says its time to build when the church reaches 80-85% of its worship capacity for the first time. While the "85% capacity" rule of thumb is sound and proven, the more important thing is for the church to reach it that first time!
Growth patterns, whether positive or negative, tend to feed on themselves. If you enlarge your facilities as you approach saturation, you permit growth to continue. If you dont, you then impose an upper limit on growth and upon reaching your "facility saturation point" the growth rate slows, eventually stops and often reverses itself to a less saturated plateau. If the space situation is not properly addressed, churches frequently find a decline sets in and the church begins a "roller coaster" ride of growth and decline, repeatedly bumping up against the saturation point.
3. Understanding building as part of a process A church building project is a major experience in the life of an individual and of a congregation. For a great many people this experience has opened new spiritual horizons and led to a deeper and closer walk with God. For some, it has been a source of bitter disappointment, frustration, and deteriorated spiritual life. The difference in outcome is not just happenstance; it happens because of the attitude, concept, and administration of the entire project. You should view the building effort as a "process in the continuing life of your church. A new building is a milestone in your growth, and that growth is intended to continue onward until Christ returns. So, while doing the necessary thinking and planning for the building, you must allocate time and resources not only for current responsibilities, but also for the future growth opportunities for your ministry.
4. Develop a work calendar A key step towards a successful church building project is to insure that the work of each committee or study group is clearly defined and understood. It is imperative that they see their particular work in relationship to other groups and the building program as a whole. Organize your meetings, specifying the results you hope to achieve in a certain time frame. This calendar should be specific and written down. This task is necessary so as to establish benchmarks to know where you are in each phase of your building goals and to insure that all of the requisite parts come together in a timely and seamless fashion. 5. Base your Master Plan on your philosophy of ministry Before an architect is authorized to begin work on building design or plans, it is imperative the congregation produce a written church building program. This program should include: What they believe; how the church carries out those beliefs in worship, education, fellowship, evangelism, recreation, community involvement, etc.; how they conduct worship service; what constitutes their program of Christian education, including the space needs of all age groups; how the church plans for fellowship experiences and the equipment needed; what work areas are needed for the pastor, church staff and teachers; needs for sanitary facilities, and other space to insure the comfort and safety of those who will use the building.
By thinking through all these matters, the major aspects of a building project are established well before the building itself is designed. Your major goals will be established, while allowing flexibility in creating the details of your church design.
6. A building that reflects its people The building must be an expression of the whole congregation (within reason) and not the vision of one person, or a small group. To accomplish this, it is necessary to involve as many people as possible in the study groups and in writing the church building program. The design of your building should reflect your churches personality, goals, age, income, beliefs, hopes, wishes and desires. What the members of a congregation believe, and how they practice those beliefs - in worship, fellowship, education, evangelism, recreation, community involvement, etc. - really should determine the shape, size and style of building they build. Being able to communicate this to your architect will help make the design of the building welcoming to both members and seekers as well as more effective as a ministry tool.
7. A building that says welcome Let the building say to your neighbors "This is a friendly place. We want you to come in and join our fellowship. Let us help meet your needs. We care about you." If parking is readily accessible and well lit, the entrance is easily seen, there are few steps to climb, and the building is warm and friendly; then a new person sees the welcome signs they are looking for. You must make a conscious effort to make it easy for new people to visit your church.
8. Spend your money wisely Dont overspend on your building program. It is very easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of building and leave the budget behind. Staying focused on your goals and within your budget are key ingredients to insure a successful building program. There are a variety of legitimate ways to save money in a building program, including using "off the shelf" church plans. Through the practical application of their experience, a church building consultant can help your church reduce the cost and the effort in building. It is often a good idea to get an outside consultant involved as they have both the experience and objective viewpoint to help maximize the results of a building effort.
The general rule of thumb for how much financing you can safely afford is three times your annual income minus less any debt you already have. This will vary depending on circumstances, but it is a good place to begin. One important thing to remember is not to start construction until you have secured your all of your financing. Nothing will kill enthusiasm in a building program faster than running out of money before the job is done. While it is assumed that the church will seek Gods wise counsel through His Word, do not underestimate the power of prayer and meditation. We like to say that the devil will show up in every building project, as he hates when Gods Kingdom and Gods people are growing. A solemn responsibility rests on the pastor and church leaders to use the occasion of a church building project to inspire, uplift, and solidify the congregation and to make it a more vital and useful force for God.
Information for this article was provided by Glen Trematore, a Principal at Church Development Services Inc., which provides off the shelf church building plans, consultants for church building and church capital stewardship campaigns. Mr. Trematore may be reached via email at [email protected] or via the web at http://www.churchdevelopment.com.