New-build? Renovation? How to know what kind of project makes sense

By Rodney James


When it comes to church design, culture is a rarely evaluated — but critical — element.


Some would argue we shouldn’t evaluate the church’s ministries. Even if a church doesn’t invite critique, it takes place every Sunday on an informal level. We know guests make a decision about a church within the first seven minutes of arriving on the campus.

Knowing this, your church (and every church) needs a partner to design its facilities — one who understands your ministry. Having the right team to first guide in an effective evaluation, and then begin to create and design a facility that functions for your ministry, helps your church be more effective.

Many churches have built new facilities without carefully thinking through the purpose of each building and the needs of the ministries that will be housed within. Naturally, the main purpose of each building should be to advance the kingdom of God — but this won’t happen automatically. Often, new buildings are constructed when existing facilities could possibly be repurposed and renewed to meet the same needs.

Christs PlaceCase in point: While assisting a church in a recent evaluation, the scope of the project dramatically changed from building a new, 60,000-square-foot building into renovating 50,000 square feet of existing facility and building only 35,000 square feet of new construction. The end result was a $4.8-million savings and a much more functional facility.

You start your church’s evaluation by defining your ministries, and then fitting your ministries into your facilities so that each building is assured of being used to its maximum potential. There must be clear objectives and goals. Make sure each objective is in line with the others, driving the project forward.

Here are several items to include and consider:

• Where and when the church started
• Average weekly attendance
• Annual giving
• The church’s vision for its future, with projected growth
• Existing and new ministry opportunities
• Timeline and process of how to facilitate ministry and growth
• Proper space requirements to meet ministry needs.

ChurchesByDaniels1The point is this: the ministry must drive the project. When people see your church’s vision — and know the purpose behind what you’re doing — you’ll be able to garner the greatest financial support and church member buy-in. People want to invest in Kingdom work, not just buildings. When they see how their giving is advancing the Kingdom, not just facilitating a building project, they are moved to give, not motivated by a campaign.

Choose your building partner wisely

Another item to consider during your evaluation is a good building partner. Every pastor needs someone who can come alongside him or her, the staff and / or building team to educate and lead them toward wise, informed decisions. Every church needs a partner who will be honest about the realities of what the church can and can’t do and what it can and can’t afford. This same partner must be able to walk with the church in faith for what might seem like an impossible goal. That is the kind of partner every church needs.

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The partner your church chooses can make the difference in the success of your project. It’s important to partner with a team that has been in the ministry, and understands design and ministry function from the church’s point of view.

Your building partner should do its own evaluation and understand your church’s and ministry’s culture. The right partner will ask questions about who you are as a church, how you do ministry, and what your mission is in the Kingdom before asking you what you want to build or how much you want to spend.

When your vision and missions are molded into the design, plans and phases of a project, you’re building with a purpose — and will end up with a project that advances your ministry into the future.

Rodney James is Director of Business and Finance for Churches by Daniels Construction. Located in Broken Arrow, OK, this construction company specializes in designing and building churches nationwide.


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