Pastors' Forum


Insights for Building

What wisdom tips do you have for small (growing) churches that are starting their first building program? What wisdom do you have specifically for the pastor to consider before starting and during the building process?


In addition to the responses from various pastors, we encourage you to read the following articles on our web-site.

Selecting an Architect by Charlie Daniels

10 Things Every Pastor Should Know Before They Build by Charlie Daniels

Multi-Purpose Facilities by Rachel Rowland

Pastor John White – Decatur, AL
Building the first building is an exciting time and can also be a stressful time if you let it. If you can hire an architect to oversee the project, I would suggest you do so. We could not afford to hire an

overseer on our first building so the responsibility was placed in my lap. We hired out each phase of the building to subcontractors. We saved some money this way, but it was very stressful to me.

Our first building was only 10,000 sq. ft. but was a major project for us. I thought the building was large enough to accommodate 500 comfortably, but it wasn’t.  We made the mistake of not providing adequate space for the nursery and children’s departments. I didn’t realize a church of 300 or 400 adults would have so many children. Since then we have torn out walls, remodeled, moved departments around, and built on additional space. If we would had taken just a little more time in our planning process and had gotten advice from professionals or even other pastors, it probably would have saved us time, money, and stress. However, we thought at the time we didn’t have the money to do anything different. It all turned out alright, but it could have been better. Be sure to stay within your means and do everything with a spirit of excellence, even if it means building smaller than you had originally planned. And don’t build your auditorium larger than your supportive areas can serve. Enjoy your growth and accomplishments during this wonderful time of your ministry.

Pastor Gary Hoffman – Rocky Mount, VA
One of the things that I did in regard to a building project, was “practicing the payment.” If my total cost was going to be $800,000, than I started a savings account and started making payments to that account of what my payment would be; $6800 per month. This told me if I could afford this project or not, and in the mean time built up a nice little savings account! God told us prove all things, and I proved this building project by “practicing the payments”!!!

Pastor Dean Hawk – Colorado Springs, CO
A DIFFERENT APPROACH – “Invest in people and you will always have money for land and buildings.” This is what the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart as I set in front of a prime piece of real estate drooling over the potential. It was too expensive and we couldn’t afford it. Even if we could afford to buy the land we still wouldn’t have had the lending capacity to build a building. We are a church that is just four years old. I too was feeling the pressure to become a “legitimate church” and to have our own facilities. In April of this year as I stayed up late one night to pray, God challenged my heart for us as a church to offer our first fruits to Him. Our first capital campaign was not to invest in a building, but to invest into the people of our city. What is eternal? Definitely not buildings! Matthew screamed off the page to me. “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

The true essence of “building a church” is not brick and mortar. It is building and reaching people! On April 30th I introduced our capital campaign, “Dare to Care,” with a goal of giving our first million dollars away to the hurting people of our city as seed for future land and buildings. I challenged our church with the vision to give above and beyond their normal tithes and offerings. The first two Sunday’s of June we received our “Daring Offering” which totaled over $130,000! To date we have raised over $160,000. It has been the most amazing ministry journey I have ever been on. We are building a Habitat for Humanity house, we have invested into 11 local community organizations (Christian and secular) that are already impacting the needs of people. They have been blown away by our generosity. We are giving money away right and left. We gave a single mother with three teenagers a mini van, we have paid for rent, utilities, gas, food, and clothing to nearly 100 families. We have partnered with two low income public elementary schools and invested thousands of dollars into each school by purchasing curriculum and equipment the district can’t afford to buy them and helping with the needs of the students (clothes, school supplies, shoes, food).

As you build your church allow these four vision statements to mold your future:

1. “If your church ceased to exist today, would anyone in the community other than your members realize it or care?”

2. “If you were the only church that existed in your city how would it change the way you responded to the needs of your community?”

3. “To reach people no one else is reaching, we must do what no one else is doing.”

4. “I want to do something so big, it is destined to fail without You, Lord. Something so great it takes a miracle to do.” (Excerpt from the Song, “Something Big” by John Waller—our new theme song)

Pastor Sam Smucker – Lancaster, PA
A couple of things come to mind. We have done 6 building projects over the years. In our first project we built a multi-purpose building which worked well for us. We could have our worship services as well as many fellowship and Christian school activities in the same building which helped us financially a great deal. In all of our projects, we decided on a certain percentage of funds to have on hand before we started – usually about 30-35%—and then as we were building received another 30-35%, and then borrowed the balance on a short-term basis. Before we started another project we would pay the previous one off and approach the next project the same way. I have always put together a building team made up of church members who were familiar with the construction arena to help with the planning, fundraising, etc. It is good for a Pastor to delegate as much as he can when it comes to building, especially if he is not knowledgeable in the building arena.

Keeping the congregation updated on the progress of the building plans and casting clear compelling vision for the need of the building is also very important. It is important to not overextend a congregation financially so ministry is not hindered.

Dr. Dan Beller – Tulsa, OK Here are a few tips for starting and finishing a building program.

  • Keep the congregation in unity and working together. Many pastors leave their pastorate soon after a building program because the congregation becomes divided and the pastor experiences burn-out.
  • Start the building fund early in order to have as much money as possible before starting the building.
  • Have the financing in place before starting so that the congregation doesn’t feel insecure.
  • Lean on the building committee to make key decisions during the program.
  • When the building is finished, give the building committee and the church board the credit.
  • When the building is finished, the pastor should take a vacation and recuperate from the unbelievable stress. By taking a break from the emotional and physical stress, the pastor has a better chance of a longer tenure at that church to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Pastor Matt Beemer – Tulsa, OK
I love buildings! In fact I was headed toward a career in architecture before yielding to the missionary call on my life.  God has given me the joy to be part of several building projects and to consult on several others.  Every church is different and specific needs vary, so it’s hard to write a direct response to this question without knowing the details of the church itself.

However every project does have the need for proper planning. I feel proper planning cannot be stressed strongly enough.  In fact, in all my years as a missionary pastor overseas I was always either in a building project, or planning for the next one!  Planning is vital!  Here are four vital planning tips:

1) Planning is Vital!

Most young churches rush to get into a building.  I suggest running as many multiple services as you can while taking the time to do proper planning.  The more time spent on perfecting the design and choosing the right materials, the better (and many times cheaper) your project will be.  It’s always more cost effective to move a wall on paper than after it’s actually built!

2) Expert Planning is Vital!

Even though I have a background in Architecture, I still employed an Architect for most of my building projects.  I’ve been out of that field for 20 years and it’s just like any field – continually progressing.  So, depending on the scope of the project you should always have a qualified and proven architect, or at least a construction firm who has excellent in-house, church-aware, designers.

However, not every architect or contractor understands church design needs.  Do a search on the internet and find the church designs you like and find out who the Architect involved was.  Architects always have a ‘style’ that they lean toward.  Most are not good at several different types of styles (no matter what they say), so find one that has successfully produced the style you are looking for.  Speak with the church leadership who used them and ask them how they did, would they use them again, etc.  Then short-list your top two or three and go and meet them in their office and interview them.  Ask them if they have the capacity to give your project the focus you want.  Ask about fees and fee schedules.  Find out what services they provide because not every registered architect is good at what they do and you can spend a lot of money and get almost nothing for it.  You want your architect to be someone you like, who does work you love!

3) Big Picture Planning is Vital!

Start with the biggest picture you can and phase the project back to what your budget will allow.  A Master Site plan is a must.  You may not think it’s worth the money, but having a Master Plan can literally save you millions!  I know of projects where they thought they would save money by not doing a proper site investigation and having a site plan only to find later that the placement of their first and second buildings made the rest of the site worthless – and we are talking acres of land that was not able to be used!

4) Planning for Growth is Vital!

Designing for growth is very easy, but very few people do it.  In fact designing for growth enables you to build a smarter, smaller building in the first phase in confidence knowing that you can double your sanctuary space in the next phase.  I believe in this principal at every level—from storage space, to children’s space, to office and admin. space and also the Sanctuary.

A church in Michigan that has several weekend services just built a 3500 seat sanctuary.  They could have built a bigger sanctuary, but they were wise and built one that is large—but also has been engineered for further growth.  This enabled them to not over-extend their finances and I’m sure that in the present economy they are very glad they did it this way.

Some churches build their sanctuary – even when quite small – like it is the last sanctuary they will ever build!  However this church in Michigan designed theirs in a way that the wall to one side of the sanctuary is easily removed!   They also located the stage in the corner against that temporary wall, so both the stage and the sanctuary can be doubled in size by creating an exact reflection of the existing sanctuary.  So when the extension is complete all they have to do is remove the wall and now the stage will be located in the middle of their 7000 seat sanctuary, and all this while causing minimum disruption to the churches activities!

A church in Arizona was meeting in a school and at their first service they launched their building program. What I like most about how they did it is that they had a master plan that showed creative growth planned into their site from the start.  It was designed in a way where they could add each phase with almost no disruption to the existing church activities and it gave the church a vision for growth, not just a vision for a building—from the very first day!

Pastor Bob Hoover – Decatur, IL
In a small church building fund program I believe that first off the Pastor and the board members need to be in full agreement, and that it is a God-given project. It is important that they are all speaking the same thing in the public. It needs to be presented to the congregation by the Pastor as to how he or she and the Board believe it will take place, with a plan. The congregation will now know how to pray. We placed on the wall a lighted goal with blue Christmas lights, and every time a thousand dollars came in for the building fund, we changed a blue light to a white light.

Once a month we celebrated as the lights began to be changed. We made a big deal out of this. We raised well over half the money needed for the project in a very short period of time, and the remaining balance was paid off very fast. It was fun and everyone knew what was going on as the project progressed.  Keep everyone informed and excited to omit wrong talk.

Pastor Mark Garver – Madison, AL
In my experience, it is very hard for the leadership and the church as a whole to get behind just an idea—a written and a visual plan go a long way.  I think it is always best to keep the vision in front of them without the church feeling the pressure of building.  Together you and the church need to keep pressure (faith) on the Word about God supplying the need and you must be careful not to put the pressure on the PEOPLE.  Thirteen years ago when we went from a store front to our current facility it was huge for a congregation of fifty.  We believed God together, we sowed as a church, and confessed together.  I know that your congregation is watching and following your lead and your faith in this matter.  If you are just thinking it is time to start a building fund, they will be thinking they will get in when there is a real need.  If you are convinced the Lord is getting you ready for something and you can communicate that to them, they will follow.

For us, when we moved from the store front to our current facility, it was impossible in the natural.  We had about 50 people and our building fund was about $2000 and we needed $25,000.  The Lord dealt with me to sow it to missionaries who were going to Spain.  We could legally do that because our offering envelopes specifically say that we reserve the right to redirect funds to the area of ministry where it is most needed.  After we sowed that money, we had a flood of money come in.  The next problem was, however, we had been to two banks and they both politely said “no way.”  One day the Lord told me to call a particular bank.  I set up an appointment and we got the go-ahead.  The vice-president of this bank pushed our loan through and then resigned the day we closed.  The building we got had not been on the market, but I had a leading to call the owner.  They had just had a board meeting and decided to sell the facility; so he said if we wanted it we could do it without a real estate agent which reduced the price.  We came to an agreement on price and then they agreed to do $50,000 in repairs.  We were in negotiation for more repairs, when the Spirit of God said to take the offer as is.  We did.  The next week they got a full price offer for the facility as is.  What is my point?  Being led all the way opens the door for supernatural provision.

We are currently in another building program.  We have just purchased 17.5 acres of prime real estate.  The Lord has not directed me to build, just get the Land.  That’s what we did; nothing more, nothing less.  We are currently having two services, keeping the land and future building in front of the people.  We are believing together, we have sown a large seed to pay off another ministries facility, and we are confessing together every Sunday morning before I minister the Word.