Saturday, May 13, 2006

To Build or Not To Build, That is the Question. Part: 2

When you realize that your building is no longer helping you to meet the church’s ministry goals and there must be a change, you need to find the best solution to your situation. I have worked in the field of church fundraising for building projects and debt reductions, so I want to share some things to do and some things not to do. Before I start with my suggestions, I want to remind you that your building is only a tool for the ministry of the church. The building isn’t God’s house. Christ lives in the hearts of His people not in a building made by human hands. I say this because every member needs to understand that the reason for change is a ministry need. Their investment in terms of dollars isn’t an investment in a building, but in ministry. People need to understand that anything you do concerning the building is based on ministry goals.

The first issue to consider when you realize that the building no longer provides an atmosphere of growth is, “Is there another why to accomplish our ministry goal without building?” Many will assume that if your building isn’t providing what you need in the current way it is being used then you should simply build. It is my experience that building is the most expense and lest creative way of reaching a ministry goal. Doing a building project may be necessary, but only as a last result. For example, if you are out of room in your worship center, it would be easier to go to two services than to build a new building. If you are out of educational space it would be easier to do two Sunday Schools or Home small groups than build a new building. If you are out of parking then you can do an early Sunday School/Worship Service and a late Sunday School/Worship Service. The key is getting everyone that came for the early services to leave so that there will be parking for those coming to the late services. This takes lots of communication and work, but it is better than building.

If your building is old and outdated then clearly you are going to have to spend some money making things current. Some buildings are so outdated that if to do an updating it is going to run in the millions. Before a church builds they should consider the possibility of renting a building. Many churches will rent theatres or warehouses instead of building. People at first may say why should we go from meeting in our own building to renting a movie theatre? First, rent is always cheaper than paying off debt for anything you build. Second, when you have outgrown the space you have rented, people will be more willing to do something about it. Finally, it shows the people that the church is about finding the best way to reach its ministry goals. Sometimes we forget that the early church didn’t have church buildings, but still experience amazing growth.

Once your church has decided that the only option is to build what are the best steps to take? The first step is communicate the need and vision with the church members. Every person must understand why building is necessary if you’re going to meet your ministry goal. The second step is to listen to your members. They will be making a large investment into the building campaign. If you don’t have their support, you will fail. Have town hall meetings and vision meetings. Hand out questionnaires and visit with your people in their homes. Find out if they are ready to support this vision. Here is a huge warning, only move forward with a building project if you have at least seventy percent of the members on board.

Once you have your membership on board, you need to decide how much money you’re probably going to need to build. Two ways to go about it, if you are going to just borrow the money without doing a campaign then you need to do no longer than a ten year loan. The loan payments shouldn’t be more than twenty-five percent of your annual budget. For example, if my churches budget is one million a year, then we could take out a loan for two and a half million dollars.

If you realize that you need more money than that to build what you need, then you will need to do a stewardship campaign. At this point it would be wise to consult a church stewardship company. You will get what you pay for when it comes to stewardship companies. It you want a cheap company, then you will get a cheap campaign. I would contact RSI, Cargill Associates, and Injoy. These are the top three stewardship firms and they will come and give your church a free presentation. I believe Cargill is the best of the three because they normally help you raise more money than the other groups. If you decide to do a campaign then you can normally plan on raising 2-3 times your annual budget. Once again if your budget is one million then over a three year campaign you should raise 2.5 - 3 million dollars. If you do a campaign and take out a loan for ten years, you are looking at being able to build a five million dollar building on a one million dollar budget. If you realize that you need more money to build, then I would rethink your plan. Anything more than doing a campaign with a ten year loan would get your church into financial trouble.

Once you have decided on the amount of your loan or which stewardship company you’re going to use, you need to interview contractors. Normally your stewardship firm can help with choosing a good contractor in the area, but if not your church needs to interview them. You need to have a price set for the contractor so that when they make their building plans for you they know the budget they have to deal with. If you don’t set a price, contractors are more concerned with the look of the building than what the church has to pay for it.

Once you have your vision, your stewardship company, and your contractor the church is ready to start the building project. It will be a lot of work and energy, but remember its all about reaching your ministry goals not building a building.

In conclusion I hope that this article helps you to think about your ministry goals and what role the building plays in reaching them. If your building is a hindrance, examine if there aren’t better answers than just building a new building. If you have to build, I hope these steps will help your church. I pray that God may give you wisdom as you do ministry.

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