During the early stages of a church building project, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by the expense. Even when your plans are finalized and construction is about to begin, you may find yourself looking for more ways to cut costs—as many churches do. You have probably “value engineered” your building to save as much money as possible, yet you may still need to think creatively about other ways to lower your construction costs.
What is the value of your church building to your ministry? It seems like a very basic question, and if you currently have a building, you’d likely say it plays an important part in your ability to carry out ministry. If you are part of a mobile congregation that leases space, you may recognize the value of a building more than anyone…
Most of us get stuck in “ruts.” For me and my wife, it’s restaurants. We’ll often go out to eat with the intention of trying a new place, but once we get in the car, we usually talk ourselves into returning to our favorite. No matter how convinced we are that another restaurant deserves a visit, there’s something comfortable about our familiar...
Trust comes easily as you serve with others in ministry. They are family — your brothers and sisters in Christ. But by placing too much trust, by neglecting common-sense accountability structures, you may create an atmosphere of temptation for them. One pastor whom I greatly admire learned this lesson the hard way. He is not the first pastor to do...
For many years, ADF has partnered with Christian Investors Financial (a part of the Evangelical Free Church of America) to provide capital fundraising consulting for Alliance churches. I've asked the vice president in charge of capital campaigns, Steve Johnson, to write a guest blog emphasizing the benefits of a consultant-based capital campaign. ADF is a firm believer that capital campaigns are a critical element of any capital project, so I encourage you to read what Steve has to say:
Have you ever noticed how, with buildings, everything seems to fall apart at the same time? My wife and I had our current home built 19 years ago. It’s a wonderful house, and we feel blessed to own it; however, all of a sudden there is much that needs to be done. We have recently replaced all of the carpet and the furnace. The fence is shot. Our contractor-grade windows have lost their seals and are full of condensation. The linoleum in our master bathroom is coming up. The roof is close to the end of its useful life. We need to repaint the exterior, and all of the decorative stone beds are beyond a simple weeding and actually need to be pulled out and replaced. I could go on and on. Looking back, none of these maintenance issues are a surprise. With very little effort, we could have somewhat accurately predicted the life expectancy of each of these things, and we should have. Had we been disciplined, we would have counted the cost of what it would take to maintain our home throughout our lifetime, and we would have begun setting aside money each month to handle each expense as it was incurred. Instead, we will have to borrow against the equity in our home to pay for some of these things, and others will have to wait. It didn’t have to be this way, but we took advantage of having little maintenance to do in the early years of owning this new home and spent our money on other things. Now, we are paying the price.
Delivery is important, whether it’s for someone giving a speech, a baseball pitcher trying to strike out a batter, or a comedian trying to get a laugh. We’ve heard it said, “It’s all in the delivery.” Another area in which delivery is important is church construction. Construction “delivery” refers to the contractual relationships between the customer (church), the architect, the contractor and, possibly, a construction manager. These relationships significantly impact the design, quality, cost, speed, stress, and ultimate success of a construction project. A church that enters into a construction project with a full understanding of the available construction delivery options will reap tremendous benefits that it might otherwise miss.
Boiling down ADF’s ministry operational plan to the most basic elements is simple: we “borrow” money from Alliance people and churches (our investors) in order to provide loans to Alliance churches for property and buildings. As awkward and unspiritual sounding as it may seem, debt is a key component of our ministry model. One would think, especially given what the Bible has to say about debt, that it would be hard for us to sleep at night. But we sleep just fine for a number of reasons. Let me first approach this with some practical statements and then we will get to a biblical response.
One of the most disheartening aspects of our work here in the Church Services Group of ADF is the all too common need to inform a church that it cannot possibly afford the building project it had hoped to soon undertake. The disappointment in the pastor’s voice at this news is palpable. And it’s understandable, especially in a case where they have invested a year or two in designing a new worship facility. Not only do they have to tell their congregation that all they’ve been working toward is not going to happen, they also have the added burden of having spent many thousands of dollars for building plans they now cannot use. What makes this the most frustrating for us is that such a scenario can usually be avoided.
Think for a moment about the importance of sound in your church auditorium. What are the main components of your worship service? The answer will likely include teaching the Word and worship. These are not primarily visual aspects, but auditory. Therefore, it could be argued that sound design is the most critical element of your building. If you design a beautiful auditorium with comfortable seating and good views of the platform but can't clearly understand the words that your pastor is saying, you have failed in your design. Likewise, if you can't hear your worship team, or worse, if you can hear them quite well but can't understand the words they are singing, you have failed. Why then is sound design often treated as an afterthought?
When churches fill out loan applications with ADF, one of the questions we ask is what they project their attendance will be five years from now. It’s fascinating to see the optimism that is usually expressed in their answers. Likewise, when we meet directly with church leaders, their hopes and dreams for the future are rarely small. They often are planning three or four building phases into the future, with the capstone project routinely being a large Christian retirement center. We don’t suffer from a lack of dreaming big in the church world, but we do suffer from a lack of preparing big for those dreams. In short, our convictions about our dreams are rarely deep enough to cause us to plan as if those dreams will happen, and that’s a shame, because some of those dreams are really worth pursuing.
I recently saw an innovative solution to parking lots that you may want to consider for your church. It sounds a bit strange, and it won’t work in all climates, but in the right scenario, this can be a wonderful solution. The product is very strong plastic netting that gets rolled out on the ground and is secured in place with spikes. It is designed to have grass grow up throughout it and the plastic serves to protect the ground and provide a hard surface to allow tires to get traction.
One of the elements of a building project that usually gets “axed” first is the furniture. This is a shame, because the attractiveness of a new building can be greatly diminished when old furniture or no furniture is used. Even if the old furniture is still in decent shape, its design and color can often limit a design committee and negatively impact the overall appearance of a building. The reason why the furniture is the first to go is logical – furniture can be purchased at a later date, whereas the main elements of a building must be completed during construction. The sad reality, though, is that the new furniture rarely is purchased because there is always a greater need.
I have had the privilege of visiting hundreds, if not thousands, of churches throughout my life, and these visits often bring to the surface one of my pet peeves – churches that don’t seem to care at all about the appearance of their buildings. I understand that some churches are simply stuck in situations where their buildings are beyond help, but this is rare. In most cases, there are simple solutions that could be implemented that would make a world of difference.