WHAT WORKS FOR ME IN… Getting Church Building Projects Completed

1)     Roger Hernandez (pastorvha@aol.com), Senior Pastor, Hillsboro Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church (OR Conf)

“Ever since I got to my present church, we have been in a “construction” mode.  The church expanded so rapidly, it has been hard to keep up with the space we need.  Although that is a good problem to have it has created some challenges.  These are the Top 10 things I learned about renovation projects and how to get them completed:

1. Make sure it is a God vision, not an ego boosting project.  It helps to fast and pray personally and with the church as a whole.

2.  Make sure things are done the right way the first time.

3.  Make sure you use skilled labor.  I know Brother Pat and Sister Sue say they can do it cheaper, but it usually never turns out that way.  It doesn’t help if Pat is 98, either!

4.  Make sure you think 50-100 years down the road.  I know Jesus is coming, but let’s not use that as an excuse to build junk.

5.  Make sure you communicate, a lot. Repeat yourself ad nauseum.

6.  Make sure you know it is probably going to cost more than you thought it would, at least 20% more is a rule of thumb.

7.  Make sure you get several opinions, from impartial people, from people that don’t have an agenda or would benefit in any way from it.

8.  Make sure EVERYTHING is in writing.  EVERYTHING.

9.  Make sure you get in promises/pledges of at least 20% more than what you are going to need taking into account the overage of 20% more it’s already going to cost.

10. Make sure upon completion, you give God all the glory.  You are building his dream, not yours.

2)     Greg Brothers (gregbrothers@earthlink.net), Pastor, Lincoln City/Nestucca Seventh-day Adventist Church District (OR Conf)

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, after all, you’re going to need his help . . . and trust me, he doesn’t like surprises any more than you do.

3. 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 Sabbath School rooms.

5. Use small groups to narrow down your options, then use big groups to make the final decision.

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. 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.

‘Nuff said.

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