Recruiting the right building team

By Rodney C. James

Nearly every church selects a group of people to lead a renovation or building project.

You might call them a “vision team,” “building committee,” “expansion board,” or some other creative name, but their role will be the same: to assist the staff and leadership in the myriad of decisions the church will be facing during the project.

Teams like this are important, as Proverbs 24:6 tells us, “…in abundance of counselors there is victory.”

Drawing from the various opportunities of observing this process, I’ve developed some simple guidelines to assist church leaders in recruiting and selecting the proper team members for such a task.

The right time to recruit

The earlier the team is involved in the myriad of decisions, the better. The team should be a part of as many of the early decisions to help them have a full frame of reference. It’s difficult to put a team in mid-way through the process after many of the early and preliminary decisions have been made. They will end up second guessing, questioning, or wondering how and why they got here. This can create confusion, frustration and even division as the process moves forward.

“This is one of the greatest failures I see in church building committees or teams: The church goes through a process to select individuals to serve and places emphasis on ability rather than heart.”

Understand the team’s purpose

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The team is there to truly support the staff and leadership through the entire journey. If the selection process is handled correctly, team members’ capability and expertise should edify the entire course of the project. 

They should help select the partner you’ll be working with to design and construct your project. They will be working closely with these partners in later stages of design and construction. If they’re not there to assist in the beginning, the opportunity for conflict can arise.

This team will be the hub of all information throughout the project. They must be able to listen and evaluate information from their hired partners, their staff and leadership’s vision, the various ministries that will be impacted, and the financial data that helps guide the project budget. This team collectively will be the decision-making body for each step and the many details along the way.

The members’ heart matters

God chose a king, not because of his ability or his appearance; God chose David because of his heart.

This is one of the greatest failures I see in church building committees or teams: The church goes through a process to select individuals to serve and places emphasis on ability rather than heart. When you choose team members, do it prayerfully and consider individuals who have the following characteristics:

• A heart for your church, its mission and its future vision

• A Kingdom heart, not a personal agenda

• A heart to serve — this task will require much effort and time

• A heart that’s abiding in Christ; this is His project, His church

• A heart that’s willing to listen to others and discern the best path forward.

Electing “experts” can help (or hurt) the team

Having an architect, an engineer or a builder on your team can be a great asset for a church that’s navigating through a foreign process like designing and building ministry facilities. They can explain terminology, details, code requirements and processes to the team, helping them understand more clearly. 

However, if these individual experts aren’t cautious about how they address and approach the team, they can come across as intimidating, demanding, or even threatening. 

I’ve observed several projects go completely off the rails because the experts on the team commandeered the process, with good intentions, but devastating results. With their knowledge and expertise, they sometimes feel like they need to step in and lead to protect the church and the process. When this happens, other team members stop providing input, the pastor and staff lose their guiding influence, and the vision of the project moves from a Kingdom focus to “the better way to do it.” 

The most important matter when including experts on the team is their heart. If they’re truly willing to serve — not seize control of the process — and value the input of other team members who have other strengths and gifts that add to and are needed for the project, they’ll be a great asset to the team.

Keep the team small and focused

Three or five is a great number of members for a building team. If the team is too large, it’s difficult to coordinate schedules when decisions need to be made. The larger the “deciding body,” the more difficult it is to have consensus and unity. 

Many other people will be involved by providing input to the team. Every ministry, every staff member and every age group within the church should be given the opportunity to provide input during the process. However, this team must be able to digest all that input and be decisive to keep the project moving forward.

Most important, the team must never lose sight of the “why” behind your church project. Every decision they make should consider the ministry, the Kingdom and the lives that will be impacted by their choices!

Rodney C. James, a former pastor, is president and founder of Master’s Plan Church Design & Construction in Tulsa, Okla. 


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