by Gary Nicholson, Studio Director, Visioneering Studios
In over thirty years of involvement with church building projects, I have heard a few statements that always make me cringe when I hear them. I have seen many projects stopped dead in their tracks because of some of these very statements. Watch what you say and try to avoid these in your conversation and in public pronouncements:
- “We will never borrow money to build” – Even the richest churches may need to borrow small amounts temporarily in order to keep cash flow going and to meet effective construction schedules. Retainers are often required to hire architects and others early in the project before cash flow even starts.
- “We will just borrow money from our local bank” – Shopping around for the best terms for a loan can save the church thousands of dollars. Although your good relationship with a bank may be an incentive for them to give you good terms, it may also be a reason to think they don’t have to, especially considering local banks are often owned by outside interests.
- “We won’t do a capital campaign” – Although not a terribly popular thing to do at first, a well-planned and implemented capital campaign might make a 50% difference in what the church can afford to build. To count this option out too early can be devastating.
- “We will not build unless we have a (some high percentage) vote in favor of the project” – Rash statements like this indicate a lack of conviction that the project is even necessary. If it is the right thing to do, do it. Unless it is required in the church bylaws, why let any minority undermine what the majority, and even more importantly the leadership, thinks the church needs to do?
- “We will save money by using our in-house architect/contractor” – Saving money is a good thing, but not the only thing. If the parable of the talents teaches anything, we should see that preserving resources is not The Master’s primary goal. Quality control is very difficult when you have hired someone you can’t fire.
- “I have a vision for the new building” – Some people honestly believe they were given a vision for what to build, but it makes no sense. One said he had a vision from God that the building should be round, but that could not fit the budget or satisfy the program needs. Such strong statements can drive the entire project, and may have more to do with what he or she had for supper that night than an actual vision from God.
- “We know what we need” – This has often been spoken to me as a way of saying they want to short-cut the planning process and not pay full architectural fees. It seems that these are often the very same churches that most need a thorough planning process. The value of a well-conceived programming process can save the church thousands in building costs and avoid missed opportunities that can limit growth for years to come.
- “We don’t need an architect” – Almost anywhere you build in the U.S., an architect is required by law to design any building that holds more than 100 people. You need to rely on a licensed professional to assure that your building is designed to be functional, safe, sturdy, and attractive.
- “We will/will not do design-build” – Keep an open mind about the delivery method until you have gone through the early planning process. Once the project scope is defined, you should be much better able to identify if there is a qualified design-build company that can deliver the right project on time and on budget, or if a design-bid-build process is better for your project.
- “We don’t need a master plan” – You need to plan your current project in the context of future growth. It is a matter of stewardship to plan for the wise use of the property God has entrusted to your congregation. Get an experienced master planner to help you envision and anticipate the future building needs of the church and how the property can best be utilized to meet them.
Each building process is a new learning experience. Wait until you have heard the input you need from wise counsel. Avoid putting limitations on the project too early, and you may find that you have the information you need and the freedom to make the right choices when the time comes.