Getting Started

September 19, 2008

“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”  That refrain from the musical/movie, “The Sound of Music”, gives a great reminder at the initiation of a church building program!  It begs the question, where is the real beginning point.  Too often, when a church is being blessed with growth, it is assumed that the beginning place is to move full speed ahead with building a building.  Actually there are several important steps to consider and questions to ask that need to come first.   After all the goal of any project is to maintain and multiply effective and fruitful ministry to a local congregation and to the sphere of her influence in the surrounding community.

Here are some steps with questions to ask when a church is growing and feels the need to expand facilities.

Always start with PRAYER.  That sounds like a, “duh, we’re a church, after all.”   However, too many times the real essence of prayer is overlooked.  We can start planning and dreaming and then ask God to bless it!  Ever been there and done that?!  I sure have.  Prayer for wisdom and knowledge on how to proceed and prayer for unity and common vision become very important.  Leaders often know what needs to happen, yet that hasn’t filtered down to attenders and members who will participate in a building program.  It is advisable to expand the conversations about building beyond the confines of staff and ministry leaders to a congregational group committed to pray. 

Next, a defined “VISIONING” process should take place.  To define, refine and clarify vision is the key item to having a church commit to a building program.  Vision is a much better initial and long term motivator than need, obligation or even leadership’s enthusiasm.  It has to be caught by all for the best possible results.   Vision is truly the glue that holds things together and gives the energy to move forward.  Some questions to consider would be:

·       What is our Vision?

·       What is our Purpose or mission?

·       How well have we communicated this to those gathered at our church?

·       How ready are we for a building program?   (the church ‘health’ question)

·       What are the demographics of our congregation and the surrounding community/neighborhood/region?

·       What are our God-given goals for ministry now and ministry 5-10-15 years from now?

·       What kinds of ministry/outreach do we desire to initiate in the future to fulfill our vision and mission?

·       What can we afford?

·       What and how, if any, amounts do we want to finance?

Only an intentional and defined process of visioning will give you the parameters to begin a good design process.  During the Visioning process, leaders and members spend time together with 3rd party consultation (like WL Perry) to ask and answer these questions.  This part of the “very beginning” is what lays a solid foundation for unity and strength to start and finish a project.  Also, it gives the data necessary to do good Master Planning utilizing your site and any existing facilities.  

The next step of a design process has many important elements, as well.  At WL Perry we use an effective process called, “Ministry Driven Design”.  This incorporates all the elements from the dream stage to post construction.  Please see our article describing that in detail.

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