Before You Build – Six Things You Should Know

Staff Writer, Arks Incorporated 

In church building programs you can solve issues one of two ways…invest a little sweat equity or throw money at it and make it someone else`s problem. Good stewardship would lead us to try to get the most of every one of God`s dollars. A dollar saved in the building program is a dollar that can be used in evangelizing the lost and building up God`s people. There are many areas in a building program where the church can save thousands of dollars by being a good steward. Three of the largest potential areas of savings are in site selection, architecture and construction. Contact us to learn how we have helped other churches save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in their building programs.

It’s harder than it looks

From concept to completion, your church will not undertake a more demanding and complicated task in terms of money, risk, & effort than it will in a building program. The proof in this can be found in the number of Pastors that leave churches, or even the ministry, after a building program. Building a church is commercial development. People whom would not dream of undertaking to build a shopping center barely give a 2nd thought to undertaking a church project. After all, you are only building a church, right? Wrong! In the eyes of the bank, city, county and state, you are a commercial development project with all of the zoning, regulatory and financing challenges thereof. “Ignorance is bliss” the saying goes, however, bliss often turns to panic when the realization comes crashing down that someone is in over his or her heads.

Failure to plan = planning to fail

Before you start, know how you will finish. In Luke 14, Jesus gives uses, as an example, counting the cost of building so that we do not fail and be thought a fool. Part of counting the cost in a building program involves organizing and planning for success. You cannot “wing it” with a project with a cost of six or seven digits. Sketching a floor plan on a napkin and shopping for land seems so easy…and it is. But that is a very long way from running a building program. There is an order of precedence of what should be done and in what order, that the building program be executed in an orderly and objective fashion, built on a firm foundation. The keys to success are:

  • Organizing
  • Delegating
  • Documenting
  • Communicating

Before you call an Architect or Builder

Architects, Builders and the Bank are not the first people you want to call when you are considering a building program. Why? There are a couple of reasons. First, each of these fine professionals has an area of specialty in a particular phase of the building program. However, none of them can help you plan and execute throughout all the phases of your building program. Secondly, none of them are motivated to help you minimize your expenses beyond getting you within bounds of what you can afford. The larger and more expensive your project, the more these professionals charge. Early in your consideration of a building program, you should engage someone that can help you understand and plan for the entire building process, and who will be an ongoing advocate of the church.

How to Organize for Success

The secret to organizing a building program can be found in the wise counsel of Jethro to Moses in Exodus 18:14-22. The thought is summarized in verse 20, which reads “But select capable men from all the people–men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain–and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.” No single person should carry the burden and responsibility of a building program, and this is especially true for the Pastor. A proper organization of a building committee and subcommittees will accomplish two important goals. 1) Many hands make light work. The work is distributed through a simple organizational structure that provides responsibility and accountability, and 2) it gets more people involved. There is perhaps nothing more dangerous to a building program than the perception that all of the decisions are being made in a back room by a handful of people.

You Can Build for Less

Cost control is not job of the Architect or Builder… it`s your job. As we mentioned before, there are many areas in a building program where you can save considerable amounts of money. A reasonable amount of properly organized effort on the part of God`s people can translate remarkable savings in:

  • Architecture
  • Construction
  • Land Purchase
  • Bank Loans
  • Time Spent
  • Donated Material & Labor
  • Avoided Mistakes