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5 “C’s” of a Church Construction Project

I was recently thinking about the different elements of a church construction project…especially the +/- 300projects that I have directly been a part of in my career. I was thinking about what motivates different owners and what was the most critical aspect of the process and project. I have seen those whose only concern is getting the cheapest price possible…others want a W-O-W design…others want some other attribute.

As I have given this more thought, I see 5 basic areas that are primary motivators for churches.  Being a preachers kid, I had to work pretty hard to make sure they all start with a “C” . Here they are:

COST: If anyone tells you that cost/price does not matter, then they are lying. I am yet to find a church or owner that did not have a finite budget (even if they did not admit it at first).  When I finally find a church with an endless budget, I am going to help them build their facility and then retire (LOL).   I am not going to suggest that cost (or initial price as “cost” is actually more encompassing than just the price) is not a factor.  It is. Period.  But…to make it the primary motivator is pretty shortsighted.

CREATIVITY: This is an attribute that has several aspects including design, features, technology and many others.  The creativity of design may be the most important aspect of the project…which can impact budget. Creativity may also refer to how to meet a budget and WOW factor. I have seen many design professionals get “creative” with how they spec out some features to accomplish the aesthetic value and yet within a budget. Too often people believe they have to sacrifice design/creativity in order to stay in budget…and occasionally that is actually true, but I have seen that if the entire team…including the church…can be creative…they can meet the goals

CONTEXTUALIZATION: Does the project fit who we are ?  What we are trying to communicate to our congregation and community? Is it the “right” project for your church…or just space? Will the project meet the ministry objectives and programming?

CONFIDENCE: (i.e. Trust) Over the past 25 years, I have seen what I would consider successful and not so successful projects.  One factor that I can link back to nearly every successful project is trust and confidence in the team compiled to perform the project. The church has confidence that the constructor and design professional have the church’s best interest in mind.  The church has confidence that their people embrace the vision and are passionate about the project. The congregation has confidence that the leadership has emerged themselves in prayer and believe that this is where God is leading them.  The construction team has confidence that they will be treated fairly and respectfully by the church.  When this level of trust/confidence is absent, the likelihood of success erodes.

CARE: (i.e. Creation Care, Life Cycle, etc) The most prudent congregations are those that think about the future BEFORE they build a facility.  They understand that a new or expanded facility is going to increase their operational expenses…and not just a potential mortgage payment.  They understand that they will see an increase of these costs at a rate of $4.50-7.00 per SF of space annually.  They evaluate how this will impact their annual budget.  They start a capital reserve account at the end of construction…and protect it religiously.  In addition, they know that they have been entrusted with the facility, and the world we live in, and are proactive in their approach to Creation Care. They look for materials, systems, means and methods that will minimize the impact of the facility on the environment.  They understand that being wise stewards of God’s creation is a key factor in the design, construction and long-term care of their new facility. Finally, they understand that this attention to Creation Care can actually save them operational dollars.

I believe that all 5 of these factors are important…and yet there has got to be a good balance.  When anyone item gets out of whack, it can adversely impact the others.  If cost is the ONLY issue for your church, then you will not be wise about Creation Care or even Life Cycle projections.  In addition, you will not be as concerned about getting the “right” space or if the construction team is on your side…as long as it can be cheap!  That is sad.

Are you getting ready to embark on a project?  If so…how will these impact your planning?