When I was at Seminary, one of my teachers spent a class period explaining how you set up a building project -- the committees, the forms, the selection process -- in fact, everything right up to the Business Meeting where your church actually votes to build.
"Once you've reached this point," he told us, "then your next step is to take the next call out of that district -- because you don't want to be there when they're actually building that church!"
I've thought a lot about that statement over the past ten years. That's how long it's taken our church to complete Phase One of our building project. And in the process, here is what I've learned:
1. Don’t build if you can avoid it – and never start a building project with the idea that “this will be a good way to bring the church together.” (It won’t.)
As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t build unless (at the very least) you’re doubling the size of your sanctuary and social hall. Anything less, and you’d be better off reading the book, When NOT to Build: an architect’s unconventional wisdom for the growing church, by Ray Bowman and Eddy Hall.
2. Keep the Conference informed.
Even if you’re just talking about building, send an e-mail to your Conference Treasurer – and keep him posted on developments as they happen. Sooner or later you’re going to need his help . . . and trust me, he doesn’t like surprises any more than you do.
3. Remember that "talk, talk, talk" is cheaper than "build, build, build."
You will reach the point in planning where you are tired of talking and just want to get this thing done. Patience. Talk is cheaper than paper, and paper is cheaper than wood, brick, or concrete. The more time you spend planning, in other words, the fewer changes you’ll make in the actual building process. (And since contractors don’t have to bid on change orders, any changes you make later on will be doubly expensive!)
4. Get the people involved who will be actually using the rooms.
Since this is a building project, the temptation will be to load up your building committee with contractors, i.e. men. But chances are good that three-fourths of the people who use your new building will be women; what’s more, they’ll have a better grasp of what’s needed viz. the kitchen, restrooms, and children’s
When it came time to choose paint and carpet, for instance, we asked our architect to come up with three color schemes. We then called an “open meeting” where anyone could show up and discuss those options with the architect; the results of that meeting were displayed in the church lobby for a couple of weeks before we made our final decision at a Business Meeting. And yes, it took time – but when we were done, we had a decision that everybody liked.
6. Pick one person to deal with the builder – and make sure it’s not you.
No, this person doesn’t have to make all the decisions, but they should be the only one who passes along those decisions to your builder. That’s because church members have a way of coming up with great new ideas for the building project – and to save time, they will often go directly to the contractor and tell him to make it happen. The results can be . . . interesting.
7. Expect delays.
If my experience is any guide, it will take you twice as long to complete this project as you'd planned -- and even if you figure that it will take you twice as long as you'd planned, it will still take you twice as long as you figured when you figured that it would take twice as long!
And remember: your job as the pastor is not to get this building project done. Your job is to take care of the people who are getting this building project done.