~~Building for the Wrong Reasons
By Robert C. Foreman, Architect
Foreman Seeley Fountain Architecture
Is your church planning to build for the wrong reasons? Here are some of the excuses we have heard.
1. “Our church can’t grow unless we build.”
This is probably the worst misconception we have observed. There may be some situations where this is true, but building a building never causes growth to take place. In fact, the undertaking of a large unneeded expansion project can cause just the opposite – it can cause a church to shrink in attendance and it can drain financial resources.
2. “A new building will improve our image.”
Is improving the public image the right motivation for building? Even though old worn out and out of date facilities can give potential visitors a bad impression, does that mean that a new building is the only solution? Usually there are deeper problems that must be solved first.
3. “A building program will give us a purpose – something to revitalize our people and help us focus our energy.”We believe that God’s purpose for the church is to build his kingdom, to grow disciples and to minister to people’s needs not to build buildings. Buildings are just tools that the church can use to carry out its mission. When the “tools” become the focus, it distracts from our true purpose.
4. “We need to build to keep up with other churches.”
Often a congregation is led to believe that they must build because another nearby church is in a building program. Building because someone else is building is a poor reason, especially if the need is not there.
5. “It will show our __________that we really care about them.”
Insert your choice – youth, preschoolers, singles, senior adults or any other group. Buildings are not the way to show any group that the church “cares”. There are many ways to provide true care and compassion. Building is no substitute for real caring. However, where there is a real ministry need which cannot be met by using an existing facility, a new building may help meet that need.
We have listed just a few of the wrong reasons to build. The early church survived and grew for hundreds of years before it felt the need to build. Church buildings should be thought of as tools for ministry, not shrines or temples where God resides. Even churches that emphasize symbolism in their facilities need to understand that these are merely tools meant to serve a ministry need. Worship, bible study, prayer, fellowship and benevolence are some of the functional needs we must meet with buildings.
The decision to build should be based on a careful evaluation of several key factors:
1. Is the church really short of space?
2. Can need be met by increasing the available time slots for various activities?
3. Does the church have the necessary property to accommodate a new building and the necessary parking?
4. Is there a true ministry need that cannot be met by use of existing facilities?
5. Are out of date, worn out older facilities no longer able to serve the ministries of the church?
6. Is there member support for an expansion program?
7. Does the church’s current financial condition allow for a building program?
8. Have ministry and planning experts been consulted? Have denominational leaders been asked for their input? Have professional planners and design specialists been consulted to help determine need and feasibility?
9. Is there division or strife in the church, which would hinder plans from going forward?
10. Is God at work in your church? Has the church prayed for divine direction? Is the Holy Spirit preparing the people for what needs to be done?
Robert (Bob) Foreman is Senior Partner with Foreman Seeley Fountain Architecture in Norcross, Georgia. His expertise is in church programming and his firm has designed churches throughout the Southeast. For additional articles and building helps, visit their website at www.FSFarchitecture.com.
© Foreman Seeley Fountain Architecture, Inc. Used with permission
For on-site evaluations of current buildings and space, or for resources and consultations for new construction, contact Lynn Riley of the Church Health Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention at 1-800-838-2272, ext. 5114, or firstname.lastname@example.org.