Talking with hundreds of the mystical teachings of jesus in building programs allows a church building consultant to develop a unique view; to realize the wisdom in Ecclesiastes when the author says, “there is nothing new under the sun.” While each church’s challenges may seem unique to them, the reality is most churches face variations of the same challenges; and many make the same general mistakes simply because they don’t know any better.
Church building projects cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Mistakes can have serious financial consequences. Mistakes in a building program can be very costly, not only in terms of money, but also with respect to functionality of the finished facility, loss of confidence in leadership, and unity in the body of Christ.
A large portion of mistakes made by churches can be summarized into a single category – failure to properly plan. The church often creates a vision committee or long-range planning committee and tasks it to present a plan to the congregation. Regretfully, even the best intentioned of committees generally do not have the experience to plan and execute a building program in a manner that best meets the needs and budget of the church. Nothing against our volunteers on the committees, it’s unfair to expect these people to have the unique skill and know how that can only come by experience.
Before the church decides what it wants or needs, it must first determine what it can afford. A building program has two very real physical limitations imposed upon the program: the amount of land and the amount of money a church has available. By far, the most common mistake in building programs is a church going into the design of a building without objectively understanding its needs and without having a firm budget.
Before you start planning, you need to know what you can afford and how you will pay for it. The number of churches that end up with a set of million dollar plans with no concept of what the monthly payment would be or how they could pay for it would surprise you. In my experience, at least 4 out of 5 churches begin with plans from an architect that substantially exceed their financial ability. This is not only a waste of time, effort and money, but can erode the confidence and enthusiasm of the congregation in the building program. This is a serious and pervasive problem with churches in building programs today.
If the church does not have substantial experience at building, where should it turn? Whether to a denominational resource or independent consultant, the church often needs to look outside the walls of the church for wise counsel.