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Odds-n-Ends :: Seven Essentials of Church Building Projects

Mike Hankins  (as seen in Rev Magazine, July/August 2005)  

  1. Commit to the overall project budget early in the process. If you can afford $2 million, don’t have an architect design an $8 million project. Hankins says a typical formula used by lending institutions to determine a “ballpark figure” for what your church can afford is: three times your annual income, plus cash on hand, minus long-term debt.
  2. Determine what kind of program space your church needs for growth and then keep the various program areas in balance. For example, if your church currently has 70 percent of worshipers also attending Sunday school, and you decide to enlarge worship space to seat 1,000, you will need a plan for ample education space to accommodate 700 people. The main for areas that most churches need to balance are worship, education, administration, and fellowship.
  3. Plan for sufficient parking. Almost every church underestimates parking needs, Hankins says. Most building codes require one parking space for every four sanctuary seats. However, Hankins strongly recommends one parking space for every two and one-half seats in the sanctuary.
  4. Identify “soft” costs early. Too many churches build beautiful new facilities—and then fill them with “old junk” because they’ve urn out of funds for new furniture, fixtures, and equipment. Plan for “soft” costs such as construction loan interest, closing costs, environmental studies, utility hook-ups, window treatments, job site security, surveys, soil tests, and so on.
  5. Know the expansion potential of your site. Hankins sees many churches that don’t plan for future phases in the building process and then find their acreage too small to sustain growth. Hankins strongly recommends a master site plan of the property. He says a simple rule for expansion is that you will need one acre per 125 attendees.
  6. Choose which building delivery system you will be using before you start the process. A common mistake Hankins sees is that a church will hire an architect with little thought about the other aspects of the building process. There are several different delivery systems such as design/bid/build, design/build, design/construction management, and so on. Investigate the various building delivery systems and determine the best method to meet your needs.
  7. Establish specific responsibilities of each building team member. Team members will likely include the architect, contractor, surveyor, interior designer, a stewardship company, the church, and a lending institution. Hankins stresses the need for clearly written responsibilities for each team member to help prevent miscommunication and costly errors.
 (For other helpful advice on the church building process, visit

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