I was so locked into my own idea of growth when we started this gig that I couldn't imagine the opportunities God would reveal through our need. I had always equated big ministry with big buildings. If God had given us that right off the bat through our first planned building project, I don't think we ever would have discovered what He really wanted us to do. Going big doesn't have to mean building a new building. Therefore, there are several strategically important questions to ask before you plan to break ground:
- Do we really need a new building? Don't assume that you do. God can provide what you need through other sources (like through a donated building). He might be leading you to multiply yourselves through multi-sites rather than just growing in one location. There's nothing wrong with building, but it's not necessarily the best! Think it through and make sure that you're not giving in to Christian peer pressure or pride to build bigger and better.
If you sincerely pray about this and the answer comes back yes, then you'll have a few other questions to answer.
- Do we need a capital fundraising team? I highly recommend a fundraising team to help you. If you do not have the resources for this kind of help, be certain to network with pastors and church leaders who have gone through the fundraising process. Remember: people don't give to need, they give to vision. Cast vision for excellence and your church will respond financially. Share the vision you have, give them a taste of it, and watch them respond.
- Does our plan maximize "usable" space? Don't build stuff you don't need! So many churches have the majority of their square footage committed to rooms instead of space. Our philosophy in building was to create space that could chameleon into whatever we needed. So many churches spend too much time on areas that the unchurched or first-time visitor will never grace, such as Sunday school space, fellowship halls, and administration areas. Prioritize your worship area, children's area, and lobby area. Prioritize "sight and light" in your design. God said, "Let there be light," and created not just the sun but stars, rainbows, the moon, and more. Be very intentional about how your facility sounds as well. People are drawn to great sounds: waterfalls, wind, rain, birds chirping, kids giggling, waves, and more. Have great sound in your auditorium and also in your education areas. And don't forget about intentional aromas. Good smells are a draw: coffee brewing, bread baking, honeysuckle, and the air after a rain. If you're going to build, build with excellence, catering to the eyes and ears and nose of all who will enter.
- Who is on the building team (committee)? Do not, again I say, do not have a large team. Do not vote on everything. Do not allow someone other than the senior pastor to direct this team . And don't memorialize anything! Do not let the church vote this team into being, but hand select each member.
- Who am I building this for? Build your facility with environments in mind to reach the unchurched, not just keep the big givers. Make it highly functional for your existing body, but consider making it available for community use, too. Our primary and sole purpose is to build so that God's glory might be revealed.
Excerpt from Transforming Church in Rural America by Pastor Shannon O'Dell, published by New Leaf Press. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from New Leaf Press.
To learn about how to finance and communicate during a church building project, see the downloadable resourcesCommunicating During a Church Building ProjectandFinancing a Church Building Project. Also, the November 2012 edition ofChurch Finance Todayfocuses on how to talk to Millennials about giving to a capital campaign.
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