Manage expansion uncertainty

By Paul Clark

Last month we held our Grand Opening and Dedication Service for our new expanded and renovated facility. In early 2008, we made the decision to move forward with an $8 million construction project even as the signs of recession were popping up everywhere. Reports of other churches delaying or canceling plans for expansion were easy to find.

We concluded that we should move ahead carefully, yet confidently. Why? What questions did we wrestle through that led us to conclude that moving forward was the right decision? Below are 10 questions to help you clarify the issues that are important in balancing the uncertainties of the economy with the need for building expansion:

  1. Is the vision for the project clearly understood and can it be clearly articulated in the context of church mission? If the vision is not crystal clear in the minds of the staff and leadership and cannot be articulated easily and clearly, then more work needs to be done.
  2. Is the church leadership in favor of moving forward? There must be consensus among the Board —those who will be ambassadors throughout the church community.
  3. Is current giving strong? If giving toward the general budget is not strong, it is difficult to make the case that additional giving will be available to support a capital project.
  4. Has God already shown his favor in some way to indicate a reason to move forward? God often gives us indications of his favor through extraordinary circumstances that can form a basis for trusting him for moving ahead: land or funds that suddenly become available, zoning obstacles that unexpectedly fall in our favor, etc.
  5. Is there some bubbling of support among the church family to move forward? It’s often more important to count the “yes” votes than the “no” votes. When significant opinion leaders and other committed laity express their support for moving forward, that can be a good indicator that action will be viewed positively by the congregation at large.
  6. Are costs of construction going to increase at a rate where our ability to afford what we need will be in question? If for example, construction costs are expected to increase 20 percent over the next year, a $10 million project suddenly becomes a $12 million project, with no additional scope. That can be a compelling consideration.
  7. Will church momentum be lost if we do not act now? This is an abstract consideration, but an important one.  Delay can often take the wind out of the momentum of exciting opportunities to expand our outreach and impact.
  8. Do we expect the economics of the decision to change dramatically in the near future? For instance, if there will be the potential for greater contributions in the future that are not possible today, then delay may be attractive. But if the economics are not likely to change, then what would be the compelling reason to delay?
  9. Are there incremental steps that can be taken which will move the process forward while still allowing points of course correction? There are often significant steps that can be taken which will require incremental commitment, but allow the opportunity for points of reevaluation.
  10. What would life and ministry be like if we do nothing? If ministry will be choked, people discouraged, opportunities lost, then those costs must be carefully weighed. On the other hand, if there are not serious costs to the ministry and mission of the church through delay, then it could be wise to wait until the economic situation becomes clearer.

Paul Clark  is executive pastor of operations at Fairhaven Church, Centerville, OH.


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