Initial Steps for Churches

  1. Define the need
  2. Determine how best to meet the defined need
  3. Work smartly with your consultant
  4. Follow the Lord in everything
New Covenant Church

When the need becomes apparent that the church facilities are not meeting the needs of the people, it is time to take steps to determine how best solve the situation. These very general suggestions are not meant to take the place of personal professional counsel, but are intended to start the thinking process for the initial stages of church planning:

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I.  Define the need

When the church is growing multi-laterally, with the increased attendance at Sunday worship meetings also reflected in the prayer and Bible sessions, educational functions, and work-meetings of the church, physical adjustments are usually necessary.

Often Sunday morning worship is the only major barometer used. Needs in other areas of the church building can exceed the worship space need by a substantial margin, and it is necessary to evaluate whether there is space to carry out all the missions of the church that the congregation is committed to. If you keep records of the number of attendees at various functions, as well as information on the number of households in the membership, that information can be combined with your projections to determine what an appropriate approach, program, and budget might be.

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II. Determine how best to meet the defined need

There are many ways to meet the need for more space. For instance, if the need is for non-worship space, one way is to rent or purchase space for an "annex". The cost and restrictions of rental arrangements often relegate them to a temporary measure, but do not overlook adjacent or nearby properties that may offer substantial space at a low rate, or that are available lease/purchase. Sometimes an adjacent building can be acquired and combined with your current one, or two adjacent buildings can be purchased to meet needs neither could by itself. There are many creative ways to solve space issues, both for worship and educational needs. The one most appropriate for your situation can come as we diligently review the options open to you.

If you plan to add space or relocate, be sure to get professional advice early in that process. If a feasibility study is done prior to purchase, our findings put you in a better negotiating position and we may be able to save you more than our fee in a reduced acquisition cost. Knowledge is power in this part of the process. Zoning laws sometimes preclude or limit additions due to parking, land coverage, and other issues. Variances are available in certain cases, and it is best to go in to authorities early in the process to determine any concerns they might have.

In any case, adding on should be done with full consideration of the age, condition, energy needs, security characteristics, and ambience of your existing building. With major additions, it is usually appropriate to determine whether adding on or relocating/rebuilding is the best solution. In choosing another building, adaptation and function are primary considerations, and buildings currently used for other purposes can provide excellent creative quarters. Unless the price is extremely low, it is usually best to consider only buildings with major systems in good condition, since current prices generally far exceed the acquisition price differential between a good building and a poor one. Esthetic and layout issues can generally be solved less expensively to obtain the image and functionality you need. For new sites, the issues are too numerous for this brief summary.

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III. Work smartly with your consultant

Architects and planners go through many years of training and experience to gain their expertise in design, but only you have been with your church and intimately know its mission and people. As you share your insights and knowledge with your consultant, you enable him or her to assist you in making the best decisions for your church. It is important to make your decisions based upon professional knowledge. Even seasoned real estate developers who have evaluated many buildings ask for opinions from those trained to make objective evaluations.

Set reasonable schedules. Building takes time, and must be planned well in advance for the best results. Undue haste compromises the product, and often increases the cost. A sound schedule with some breathing room will reduce stress and frustration, and allow everyone to do a better job.

Be careful to spend your funds wisely throughout your project. Your architect can advise you of the maximum potential for your site or building, and incorporate your dreams into a master plan to facilitate the achievement of these dreams. The detailed development should be of what you can realistically expect to fund within the next year or so. Sound proposals that are a "stretch", but achievable, can foster new excitement, drive, and determination to get the job done, as well as bring great satisfaction to the congregation when accomplished. Have well-done publicity and fund-raising literature prepared at a cost consistent with the size of the project, and be sure to keep your congregation regularly informed of your progress in creative ways to maintain and increase interest in what you are undertaking.

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IV. Follow the Lord in everything

Being sure that our personal aspirations match God's plan for us is, of course, essential. We all need to hear from the Lord about where we should be going, both in general and specific direction. Once God establishes the general direction, the details should follow when working with your leaders, congregation, and architect. It has been said that "God is in the details" and I believe that is generally true. Knowledge and thoroughness integrated with an ear to the Lord's leading is at least as important in the "fleshing-out" of the project as in the original concept.

Hold strenuously to Christian principles when dealing with the world. God wants your church to prosper even more than you do! He has the people, the funds, and the schedule to do all the work in the best way. He has already planned for the growth of your Church. All that we have to do is let him tell us what his plan is!

We are God's fellow workers! (I Corinthians 3:9) As we approach your situation prayerfully, we expect God to speak to us. As we work together using sound Biblical and planning principals in our building endeavors, we can expect success. After over twenty eight years in this profession with frequent ministry to churches and Christian clients, I can simply say, "I delight to do your will, O Lord!"

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