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Building Project Basics for Pastors & Church Leaders

Building Project Basics for Pastors & Church Leaders

For many pastors, overseeing a worship facility construction project can feel overwhelming. Knowing the basics about team assembly and delivery method will help.

Planning a successful building project is often unchartered waters for pastors. Who should the church hire to design and build the facility? How should it engage with outside experts? Who should be on the internal building committee or team? These are just some of the questions church leaders must answer.

Much of the church's building project success will depend on the internal team and the correct building delivery method. Get these two essentials right, and your church is off on the right foot.

ASSEMBLING YOUR INTERNAL TEAM
Whether your church calls it a committee, board, or ministry, the internal team's name is not important. Who serves on that team, however, is of utmost importance. Often times, internal building teams are made up of lay leaders who have personal or professional experience in the industry contractors, sub-contractors, attorneys, bankers, etc. While these skillsets can offer great insight into the process, they should not be a requirement for serving as a member of the internal building project team.

The healthiest internal teams are often those made up not only of lay leaders with related industry experience, but also lay leaders with an exceptionally deep commitment and passion for ministry. When these types of people join your building ministry team, an incredible harmony is birthed. Unity, vision, and purpose begin to permeate in each decision and great ministry strides are achieved.

HIRING YOUR EXTERNAL TEAM
Establishing the right internal team is important, but the success of your project will be directly in the hands of your external team. Therefore, hiring the right external firms is vital to your success. Again, your external team must have a deep knowledge, understanding, and passion for ministry. You should be able to evaluate this in the very initial meetings.

When interviewing architects, contractors, design/builders, consultants, construction managers, AVL firms, etc., listen to the questions they ask. Do they ask questions that are focused on ministry or just focused on building buildings? Do they ask, "What is your weekly attendance?" or just "How many square feet do you envision for your space?" Do they ask you to describe your children's ministry? Or, do they merely ask for a punchlist of features?

SELECTING A DELIVERY METHOD
In today's industry, there are three mainstream building delivery methods for churches to commonly choose. When your church is evaluating the right method, the jargon can quickly become overwhelming. Here's a simplistic explanation of the most common building delivery methods:

  • Design-Bid-Build
  • This is what most people refer to as the traditional "low-bid" method, and it can be used in any sector of construction. A church will first hire an architect to completely design the facility and develop a full set of construction documents. Upon the completion of the drawings (a six-plus-month process), the church will then solicit bids from a selected group of contractors. It is the intent that the contractor is awarded the project solely on the basis of "low-bid." Churches traditionally choose this method because it promotes a low-bid approach to construction costs based on a given set of drawings. This method does, however, carry significant risks. Only after the drawings are completed are actual construction costs identified. Unfortunately, projects more often than not come in over budget and redesigns are needed. 
  • Design+Build
  • Design+Build is one of the most popular delivery methods in worship facility projects. Under this method, the church hires a single construction firm to both design and build the facility. The contractor is the single source of responsibility for the owner. Some Design+Build firms have their own architects on staff, but many firms choose to contract with an outside design firm. Either way the architect works directly for the contractor. As a result, the contractor is able to work hand-in-glove with his entire team to guide the progress of the design elements around the church's budget. This eliminates the need for redesigns and the risk of cost overages or non-owner directed change orders. Costs are also determined earlier in the process. 
  • Construction Manager-at-Risk/Design Assist
  • This delivery method can in some ways be seen as a hybrid of the first two. The owner or church will hire an independent architect and an independent construction manager/contractor. Thus, similar to Design-Bid-Build, the church will be responsible for managing two separate parties and contracts. The intent is that the construction manager/contractor agrees to work in cooperation with the architect to further the interests of the owner. Typically, the construction manager will work with the architect in the best interest of the client. The key this delivery method's success is in hiring two collaborative firms.  Above all else, when the time comes for a church assemble its internal building project team, hire its external contributors, and select a building delivery method, it's important to remember prayer. Truly focus on where you believe God is leading your church. Don't get caught up in what the church across town is doing. Trust The Lord's faithfulness to lead you in this journey. He won't lead you astray if you seek His direction. When you discover team members who value a similar approach, rest assured, you've assembled the right team.

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