At one time, a church building project consisted of constructing a sanctuary, fellowship hall, and a few Sunday school classrooms over the course of several years using the labor of the congregation and nearby community. That era of simplicity is long past and has been replaced with almost the exact oppositeoptions galore in terms of materials, building methods and financing, and staggering amounts of programming space and square footage.
However, because of this choice overload, or maybe in spite of it, churches still fumble into building projects based on oversimplified, one-size-fits-all, or, at worst, completely unfounded ideas of what their ministries need to succeed and thrive.
"Churches begin projects for a number of reasons, and sometimes priorities aren't assessed from the get-go. The outcome is often not what [the church] needs and doesn't match up with vision," says Jim Wagner, general manager of Worship Facilities Conference & Expo (WFX) and publisher of Worship Facilities magazine. "At the end of this conference, we want attendees to know to first focus on understanding who their church is, then work to develop a concise plan for needed facilities, and have the know-how to do it cost effectively."
That said, no one would expect a single church pastor, staff member, or even an entire building committee to possess the breadth of knowledge needed to successfully execute most building projects, large or small. But, a little education can go a long way.
"The Building Design and Projects module is about the big picture view, but with a heavy emphasis on planning," says Wagner of the conference track dedicated to building projects education for churches at WFX. "Our desire is to teach from a broad, but detailed perspective."
The Building Design and Projects sessions will be led and presented by various professionals from the church building industry, including architects, contractors, project managers and consultants, in junction with church leaders. "In essence, each session is a co-presentation that reflects the experience of the technical expert and the experience of the church," says Wagner.
The educational content will touch on all of the major stages of a building project, including budgeting, master planning, site selection, vetting and hiring professionals, selecting a project delivery method, financing, and audio-visual integration, but will also dive into the more nuanced considerations that the module's faculty has dealt withthe importance of pre-planning and initial goal setting, and identifying and avoiding common pitfalls, for instance.
Selecting internal project leadership will be under the microscope, too. "Who from your church should be involved on the project? Who makes up the committee? The people involved really determine how you meet goals," says Wagner.
Offerings will also explore how societal and economic movements have shaped trends in church facility design, such as building for the greater needs of the community instead of only the functions of an existing church body, and considering adaptive reuserenovating an existing space like a movie theater or grocery store as opposed to building from the ground up.
"Universally, the education speaks to employing good stewardship," adds Wagner. "All of the sessions consider cost and cost-effectiveness. We want to help churches avoid costly oversights and mistakes, but we will do so by educating, not prescribing."