Top 9 Mistakes in Church Construction

How to Avoid the Common Pitfalls in a Building Project

No building project is without its missteps, but avoiding these common mistakes will make the process easier:

  1. Not having a clear understanding of the mission. (who, what, when, where, how and why). Why are people attending now, how did they find you, what is required for them to invite their family and friends? What are their needs, are they compatible with your goals?

  2. Inadequately prioritizing your needs to accomplish your mission. Not coming up with a balanced solution where all the parts function optimally together. Each phase will have to be a complete and financially sound solution.

  3. Not knowing your site options. At what point will your site be maxed out? How much space you will need for each phase. Your local government controls a lot more of your land than you probably realize. Regulations control storm water velocity (detention ponds) water quality (filtration strips for nitrogen, phosphate and total suspended solids). Tree conservation regulation control if your trees can be cut.

    Zoning controls property set backs, roadway set backs and buffers between different uses. These regulations can drastically reduce your usable land.

  4. Not knowing your financial resources.

    You also need to be realistic about how much money you can raise, and how much money a bank will most likely lend you. Typically, a congregation should raise 1 to 1.5 times its annual budget, and a bank will lend 3 times the amount of that budget. See Church Financing to learn more.

  5. Not having a master plan for the organization and not having it tied into a master plan for the site. Project ahead 5,10 and 20 years. It is important to spend time now to develop a plan for future needs

  6. Having a building procurement method that doesn’t address the following:
    Single source accountability.
    Competition of ideas
    Guaranteed price before you spend money
    Compatibility of the construction team
    Competition of over-all value.

    Solution: Have a contest between Design/ Build teams that have worked together successfully in the past on similar projects.

    Give them you organizations Master plan with estimated numbers etc., your current wants and needs and the maximum you want to spend.

    If your land and financial resources are adequate you will have no trouble getting 3 experienced team proposals.

  7. Showing renders of buildings that have not pasted the filter of the items above.

  8. Not letting the whole congregation participate in evaluating the proposal selected by the building committee.

    The design team will be able to defend their decision by explaining the different factors that shaped it. This will instill confidence in the members.

    Attempt to accommodate everyone. Some members will want to donate their services, some may be unemployed. Logistically this may be inconvenient but historically they have been the most enthusiastic workers. Do not deny them the opportunity to participate.

  9. Not anticipating all the costs.

    Congregations sometimes make the mistake of accounting for only the design and building costs in their financial plan. They forget all about those miscellaneous (non-building) costs that are indispensable to a functioning church. Items such as pews, furniture, window shades, insurance, construction loans etc., must also be factored into the budget.