How to Prepare for a Church Building Project: Part 3 of 5

November 21, 2019 |David Graf

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Part 3: Preparing to Plan—The Committees

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“Preparing to plan” sounds a bit redundant, but there are important steps your church should take before you begin the planning phase of a building project. First, you must have a clearly articulated vision and mission for the project, with everyone on board. Too many churches build as a “kneejerk” reaction to a need for space rather than a vision-driven desire to minister more effectively. Simply designing a larger building with more rooms will not have the same ministry impact as a thoughtfully designed facility created with the church’s vision for the next five to ten years in mind.

Your vision should define what the building’s purpose is. Any property is ultimately just a tool, but for what purpose will you be using it? Evangelism, community service, church programs, Sunday worship? Once your vision and mission for the project are carefully articulated, you should form three committees: finance, building, and design.

The Finance Committee

This group should carefully determine the financial boundaries for the project, with elder approval. The members could be few, but they should include one elder to serve as the liaison between the committee and elder board. Ultimately, the elder board should set cost parameters for the project, but based only on a well-thought-out proposal from the committee. In its planning process, the committee should consider the cost of the building far beyond construction itself—including ongoing loan payments, utilities, and maintenance costs.

Of course, the finance committee will also develop a funding plan for construction. How much of that will come from internal fund-raising, and how much will be borrowed? Will the church conduct a capital fundraising campaign, and, if so, will you hire an outside consultant for this?

Finally, the finance committee should conduct a financial review of potential contractors. Just as any contractor has the right to be concerned with a church’s ability to pay them for their work, your church has the right to ensure that a contractor is financially sound. It is not out of line to request two to three years of financial statements from a contractor to verify that the company is financially viable—a “going concern” in accounting terms.

The Building Committee

This team will select the architect and builder and work with them both—in consultation with the elders—to design the building structure and site layout. Do not let this committee get too large; five to eight members is a good size. Avoid having the pastor and more than one elder on this team; they have much more important work to do. Still, your pastor and elders should establish parameters for the committee and reserve final approval authority. Contractors or architects in your church should not automatically be included. They may be good committee members, but they also might wield too much influence, effectively becoming a committee of one. Consider their participation carefully and prayerfully. These people might serve better as non-committee member consultants—perhaps the best of both worlds.

The Design Committee

While the building committee will design the basic structure and site layout, the design committee will select all the finishes, furniture, and landscaping. This group should be about the same size as the building committee, and it should be directed by one member of that committee. Select people with a great sense of style for this group. Those who dress sharply and have nicely decorated homes are could be good candidates.

Also, be sure to consider your community’s demographics. A church seeking to reach Millennials should not have Baby Boomers dominating the design committee. Unlike the others, this committee should be retained long after the building is completed to address future furniture purchases and design changes. Requiring all such decisions to be handled by the same committee that designed the church will prevent the building from eventually becoming a hodgepodge of colors and styles.

Choosing the Right People

In all three cases, the ideal committee members will have ministry hearts and be knowledgeable about your church’s various ministries. They must be on board with the church’s vision and mission and should be able to articulate them. Committee members must be able to work well with others and to voice their opinions without being stubborn. They should be mature in their faith, wise, and humble. Be sure to include both men and women from various age groups, and don’t automatically exclude people who are not currently ministry volunteers. They will all bring perspectives that are worthy of consideration.

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