No matter what size of building project, what the scope of work, or what the budgetary constraints, every renovation, expansion, or new construction project has challenges and potential pitfalls. The responsibility of your building partner is to help you navigate all the hurdles, obstacles, and challenges with as little interruption to your main focus – ministry – as possible. A building partner who understands this responsibility and takes it seriously, will deliver a project that meets or exceeds these 5 criteria.
Finish Your Building Project At or Under Budget
The first and foremost desire for every project is to stay within the budget. According to a recent study, only 31% of projects were completed within 10% of their original budget and less than 1% were completed on budget. That statistic is staggering and can be devastating to a ministry. Other studies show that many leaders leave within 2 years of completing a building project due to cost overruns.
The first important component is taking the right steps in the right order. Too many times churches skip the first two or three critical steps and dive into designing their dream building. This is a sure path to a project that will never make it to construction or, if begun, will end up well over the budgetary expectations.
Another critical element is to ensure you are getting accurate construction costs during the design process. Generalized square foot estimates of building costs will lead to underestimating the real cost of the entire project. Price per square foot often does not account for the uniqueness of your project. The site work from one project to another can vary by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Your choice of interior and exterior finishes like tile over sealed concrete or stonework verses metal panel have significant impact to the cost of your building. If an average square foot price is used, you may discover too late in the process that you are significantly over the dollars you have to spend.
To ensure your project finishes on budget, engage a partner who clearly understands the right steps and helps you complete them prior to beginning design. In addition, you need accurate pricing on every element of the project that is updated consistently as design decisions are made throughout the complete design process.
A Building Project Design That Facilitates Your Ministry
No two ministries are the same, therefore when you engage a partner to help you design and build a facility, their first questions should be about your ministry, not about the building! Nothing is more disappointing or costs leadership equity more than spending months or years planning, raising funds, and building a new facility that does not truly facilitate your ministry. Designing facilities for ministry is unique. It requires a team that understands much more than architectural design or construction, they must understand ministry. The right questions during the design process are not simply, “how many seats?” or “How many children attend?” but ministry focused questions like “Pastor how are you comfortable teaching?” or “What curriculum do you use in your children’s ministry?” or “What are the 3-4 most important things you want to communicate during your weekend experiences?” A design that flows from a clear understanding of “who” you are and the “how” you do ministry is the only way to ensure the results of your project will facilitate your ministry once it is complete. You do not want to be in a position of needing a remodel after your first two weeks of service in your new building!
Minimal Impact to Ongoing Ministries
Nothing is more exciting, yet over time, more burdensome than a campus or facility that is under construction. A ministry focused building partner understands that church happens every weekend. As a former pastor, I get it that Sunday comes around once a week! Your facility must be ready for guests, families, and a host of volunteers every weekend. A building partner who understands the importance of your weekly ministry events – and even the unexpected events like funerals, should plan with your team how you will work together to provide a safe and workable facility during construction so ministry can continue. This includes specific provisions in contracts, sub-contracts, etc. that address this need from the beginning and carries it out throughout construction.
Does Not Overburden Church Staff
A very common issue that can negatively impact or even destroy ministries is when the pastoral staff become distracted, embedded, or even consumed by a construction project. By placing their focus and energy on the project, pastors can become wearied from the extra burden and often time end up neglecting their pastoral calling through this season. God called pastors to shepherd, pastor, and lead the flock. Thom Rainer notes that burnout and forsaken ministry are two major factors that lead to pastors leaving their ministry after a building project. When you have the right partner walking with you, you should be able to trust the gifting and calling of your partner to let them lead and manage the project. They should communicate with you to help you track the progress and ensure the project is remaining on vision, but not become a distraction to your ministry. When the relationship with your builder and your pastoral staff is built on trust and transparency, this will allow your pastoral staff to fulfill their calling with peace of mind. A pastor we are partnered with recently introduced me as his “building pastor”. He spoke of how he felt shepherded through the entire design and building process and never lost a night of sleep throughout.
Consider every story in the Bible when God ordered His people to build. The tabernacle, the Temple, the rebuilding of Jerusalem walls each of these events invited and involved people! Of course, we all expect the completed building to enable the church to reach more people, disciple more effectively, or create space for new ministry opportunities which all result in changed lives.
However, if the entire process is managed correctly, the journey from vision to occupancy of any ministry facility project should result in changed lives along the way. The church should raise better stewards through a spiritually focused generosity campaign process. The gifts and talents of church members can be utilized and stretched to create new leaders while serving on teams during the visioning, design, and construction process.
But let’s not miss the ultimate opportunity to share the love of Christ to the mission field of workers God will bring to your campus during the months of construction. You can pray for them in advance, show kindness to them day to day, and even go the extra mile by providing lunches, snacks, or cold drinks. For many of the workers, this may be the first time they have ever been to a church facility. Pastors should train and prepare their congregation to make the most of these moments. If these men and women are treated differently on your project than any other they have ever been a part of, it will give Holy Spirit an opportunity to open the door to their heart.
Having the right partner to walk the entire journey with you that understands how to help you facilitate these results, and has a verifiable proven record of consistently delivering them, will lead to a successful project that Glorifies God and empowers your ministry.