Is Church Design and Construction Just a Commodity?

“We have a local builder that builds warehouses, how different can that be to a church?”

“We want a ministry space specialist to help us plan and design our new facility, but any contractor can build it.”

” We are going to bid it out and just take the lowest price.  All contractors and architects do the same thing.”

These are all comments that I have heard over the years.  I understand how people formulate these perceptions….but I am convinced they are flawed.  As a rule, the construction industry is seen as a commodity…and that is a shame as the best projects (quality construction, relationship, scope, value/cost) are almost always done in a collaborative environment with experts in their fields.

Let me ask you some questions:

1. If you are having an issue with your heart, are you going to rely on your Family Physician to be responsible for all of your care? They’re all doctors…Right?

2. If you drive a high performance European car, are you going to get it serviced by the corner gas station that usually only works on Fords? It’s just a car…Right?

3. When you need a professional audio/video/lighting package, do you call your local music store to get your HD cameras and to “fly” your subs? Aren’t we just getting some microphones and speakers?

You get my point…the answer, most of the time, to the above is NO…we call an expert in their field.  OK…but isn’t any doctor an expert in all things medical?  Why would you want a cardiologist vs. a general internist to care for your heart?  Why do churches call WAVE and other similar firms when they need the best AVL systems to meet their ministry objectives.  Why would you hire Plain Joe Studios to develop your branding, way-finding and environmental graphics? Same answer.  And we could go on and on and on.

So, why do we think the local commercial architectural design firm or the local general contractor that builds houses, retail and warehouses is the best choice for our church development project?  Where does the above logic go “off the reservation” of hiring an expert? Do we really think that all designers, architects and builders/developers are created equal?

Let me take it even one step further.  You might have a local cardiologist who is “pretty good” at what they do. They may do several procedures a year and have a good reputation.  But when you have an important situation…or are not sure your local resources can meet your goals and desires, you would most likely go to John Hopkins or the Mayo Clinic or you would go straight to the number one rated hospital for Cardiology & Heart Surgery which is the Cleveland Clinic (according to U.S. News).

Seems like a an interesting dichotomy.  But I assure you….not all designers, builders, developers, AVL designers, car mechanics or doctors are created equal…nor do they all have the same expertise, specialization and experience.  So get the RIGHT EXPERT to meet your needs…don’t settle and don’t look at them as a commodity, unless you only want a commodity product/service.