On Easter Sunday, we celebrated the grand opening of our new
buildings, which constitute a little more than 60,000 square
feet. Months (actually years) of planning, sacrifice, money--
lots of money, and of course the uncertainty of a last-minute
certificate of occupancy... If you've built, you know how this
goes. On Wednesday of Easter week, we had no electricity in the
worship auditorium. On Good Friday, we still had issues: for
example, two of the rooms in the new children's building were
without carpeting and the HVAC system was blowing heat and we
couldn't make it stop. But like so many building projects, it
all came together just in time. God provided.
Before I go much farther, I want to give proper credit. I'm not
a builder. My greatest contribution to the actual building
process was staying out of the way. Tony Bartlett, the vice-
chairman of our board and Pastor Chris Huff, our Business
Manager, led the way and are clearly the MVP's.
In this and the next edition of "The Pastor's Coach," I will
share what I have learned from Tony, Chris and our Senior Pastor
Kevin Myers. Plus a few of my own experiences from consulting
and thirteen years' worth of involvement in a relocation project
at Skyline Church, where I served with John Maxwell.
In this first article, I want to take an unusual approach. I
want to share with you several reasons not to build. You
understand the wisdom of making certain you are marrying the
right person before you get to the altar. There is similar
wisdom when it comes to building. Make sure you know what you
are doing and why before you sign the mortgage papers!
Do not build if:
1. You are not clear on your vision.
Although my list is not organized in order of importance, if it
were, I would still begin with the topic of vision. If you are
not crystal clear about the vision and direction God has for you,
do not build. You may be physically out of room, but without
knowing God's plan for your future, it is unwise to launch into a
building program. It is not necessary to have a twenty-year
plan, but I recommend that you are clear, very clear for a five-
to seven-year path into the future before you begin a major
2. The leadership is not fully united and supportive of the
If you've been leading in the local church arena for long, you
know how unlikely it is to gain 100% support for any large
project, especially if it's expensive and brings about change.
However, to move forward without the support of the majority of
your key leaders is a foolish, if not disastrous leadership
decision. Assuming you have the right leaders in the right
places, give them time to think and pray through the issues. You
are better off taking a long time to gain the enthusiastic
support of your leaders than to build with half-hearted support.
You may need to proceed without the buy-in of one or two key
leaders, but if they are spiritually mature and see that the vast
majority believe that God favors the decision, I believe they
will support the project. When it comes to your official church
board, I recommend getting 100% buy-in before building.
3. You have not fully utilized all the space that you currently
There are often creative ways to use the space you already have.
I am not a space utilization expert, but I know that there are
often solutions to space issues that may be nontraditional, but
are nonetheless good choices. For example, creating a video
overflow room in an underutilized room or area of the church
(I've seen nice tents used for this) can provide good room for
growth while giving you time for longer term solutions. This
isn't easy. You may have a long-standing Sunday School class of
17 people who meet in a room that could hold 65-80 people.
Moving that group out could cause a big stink. But if the church
is united in vision and the leadership is behind you, the process
will go much better.
4. You have not fully implemented multiple worship services.
Most churches have embraced the concept of multiple worship
services. But if you are still holding out for "one large happy
church family" where everyone worships together, I urge you to
consider going to multiple services. If you are already at two
services, then consider three. I know that a number of things
from non-optimal seeker worship time slots to parking issues get
more complicated, but multiple services still provide a smart
alternative to building too soon.
5. You are already carrying a very heavy debt load.
How often do people you know spend more than they should when
buying a home, stretching debt levels and mortgage payments, on
top of consumer debt? Simple common sense tells us that this is
not smart, but people do it anyway. Churches do it too. When a
church is held hostage to a mortgage payment, ministry decisions
tend to reflect the pressure of the debt rather than a heart for
the Great Commission. High quality organizations such as INJOY
STEWARDSHIP SERVICES are able to give you sound advice on healthy
debt levels and how much you can expect to raise in a capital
stewardship campaign based on your current size and church
6. If you anticipate that a new building will motivate your
people to become more outreach-oriented.
New buildings deliver a certain amount of initial excitement and
motivation. That motivation, however, is short-term and never
transforms a person's heart. If they didn't care about lost
people and invest in relationships with them before the building
was constructed, they won't start just because the building is
Churches grow because of a new building only if they were growing
before the building began. The building is only a tool that
allows the people to continue to invest in and invite the
unchurched into the various church environments.
If the church isn't growing, you won't solve that problem with a
building. (The obvious exception is a rapidly growing church
that has truly maxed out its facilities.) Remember, it is never
wise to attempt to solve non-building problems with building
7. You are a new church plant and have less than two hundred
people regularly attending.
You and your church may be excited about owning your own church
building and eliminating the hassle of renting and sharing
facilities. I know. For years, John and I led four services
across two campuses. The second campus was at a rented facility.
Every Sunday, we did "church in a box." The box was a huge truck
that contained everything--and I mean everything--required to
outfit the second campus. Set up began at 6:00 a.m. and the
truck was tucked back into its place about 2:00 p.m. As painful
as this is, I urge you to hold off building your first building
for as long as you can. Gain the financial and leadership
stability you need before starting to build.
This article is not against building new and larger church
buildings. As I've stated, we just finished a major building
project and we'll build again. These are merely some practical
thoughts in hopes of helping you think through a very complex
issue. If you still feel God's leading to build and your
leadership fully supports the plan, build away!
This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter 'The Pastor's Coach' available at www.INJOY.com.