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Getting Your Congregation to See That Now Is the Time to Build
By: Michael D. Barnes

You are a growing church and you have already gone to two services.  Your Sunday school classrooms are maxed out and your children's and youth ministries are all ready feeling the strain of lack of space. 

It is time to build.

But the pressing question that many pastors and leadership of churches have is this: How do you get your congregation to see that now is the time to build?

Perhaps the most important foundational aspect of the church design, building and construction process is getting the entire congregation on your team. Without your congregation saying "now is the time to build," you, your leadership, and your building committee are merely wasting your time. If you are out trying to lead and no one is following, you are only taking a walk!

So the question is…how do you get your congregation on board to build?

To begin with, the congregation must be in unity and harmony with the leadership. It is important that the congregation catch the vision that the pastor has for the church. Each building project takes finances, which often involves equal sacrifices of your church body.  That doesn't happen unless your congregation is on your team.

There are four strategic steps a church leadership team must take in order to get your congregation to see that now is the time to build. 

STEP 1:  The Vision Quest
I refer to this initial step in the process as The Vision Quest. This is where the design team, along with the church and leadership, searches for the vision that the church has for the future. Before your architect can design, they most know the needs and desires of the church. Basically, they must understand the vision that God has given the leadership.  

There are two important steps here:

See the Hurt
The church needs to look out into their community. People in your community who don't know Jesus are hurting and need ministry. I believe that all church facility designs must be ministry-focused. Therefore, the No. 1 goal of any church building project should be maximizing the church's ministry. Seeing the hurt basically means looking at and identifying ministry opportunities.

See the Need
You see the need for a church facility expansion by looking in. Once you understand the hurt in the community, which begins to define your unique ministry, you are ready to evaluate your physical needs in order to accomplish such ministry. An evaluation of your existing facilities will shed some light on whether you are in a position to offer ministry to those who are hurting.

One of the most important parts of this Vision Quest phase is the initial "buy-in." It is our experience that questionnaires don't work. Only person-to-person, quality communication early can produce buy-in. The design professional and the leadership team must establish a healthy dialogue regarding the perceived ministry needs, the ministry opportunities, and the importance of maximizing the church's ministry. This can take place in either small group meetings or large church meetings where an open discussion can be established. This process most always produces an early buy-in of the entire congregation.

STEP 2:  The Vision in Focus
The architectural focusing and ultimate documentation of the vision occurs here. To focus a vision, the architect must establish the design goals and complete an analysis of all spaces that are required. I truly believe that a successful church building is like a skin that expresses physically what is already true of the church's spiritual and ministry activities inside. The church leadership team and the architectural firm must embrace and focus on the vision.

Seeing the vision requires looking up because God gives the vision to the church, so it is important to acknowledge Him when defining such. When your church has identified the hurt and then identified the facility need to accommodate that ministry, it is important for them to further clarify God's vision for the church by looking upward.

The architect works closely with the church to document all goals and objectives in a written format.  According to Habakkuk 2:2, it is important to write down and document the vision: "Write down the vision and make it plain."

As church architects, we believe that vision for the local church comes from God.  It then is communicated from God to the local pastor and then from the pastor to the church architect.  One of the architect's major goals in serving the pastor and a church is assisting in clarifying the vision. 

Understanding the client's dreams, desires, hopes and aspirations during the early phases of a project will ensure that the resulting design (in step 3) accurately reflects the client's major needs. This will ultimately produce buy-in and will assist you in getting your people to see that "now is the time."

The importance of documenting all ministry needs in writing and sharing them with the congregation in small or large group meetings is critical because: 

* It keeps the building project "ministry-focused."

* It keeps the design professional accountable.

* It keeps the congregation focused on the need and it keeps them on your team.

STEP 3:  The Vision Formed
The translation of your needs and architectural form is completed here. The architect begins work on the actual design of your new facility. Most people think the architect doesn't get involved until this stage.  It is always critical to get your architect involved early during The Vision Quest and The Vision in Focus. However, it is now time to start the actual architectural design.

Church architecture grows from the foundation of ministry. The architect takes the vision, hopes, dreams and goals of a church, and merely puts skin around them.  The architect takes all of the gathered data from Step 2 and puts it in the hands of a design team where floor plans and site plans are developed. The look and feel of the building is established and design concept is formed. The master plan is also an important part of this process and should address the next 5, 10, 15 and 20 years of the church's future. 

Once the design concept has been accepted by the leadership, the drawings are put into a presentation format, often including 3D digital renderings as well as short animation movies that powerfully convey the completed design. 

STEP 4:  The Vision Told
The final step in this process is communicating it back to the entire church. The finished design concept is represented by floor plans, site plans, and realistic 3D renderings. When the design is being presented by the architect to the congregation, it is critical that 3D computer models and animations be utilized. This enables individuals to experience the building as if they were visiting it for the very first time.

Remember all architectural design elements should reflect the early ministry goals that were originally comprised by the church in small group meetings. When the church understands that a building project is ministry-focused, they in turn will embrace the project. 

Remember the very first step in this process was The Vision Quest. The church was intimately involved with the leadership and the architect in establishing early ministry goals. In this final phase, The Vision Told, the church sees for the first time the architecture that embraces the ministry and allows the church to stretch out into the community.

When a church sees that a building project is more than bricks and mortar, they will understand that the plans are solutions to your ministry challenges. Understanding that a church building program has its roots in real-life evangelism and ministry will always help the congregation see that "now is the time to build."

Michael D. Barnes, A.I.A. is a church architect and chief executive officer of Barnes Design Group, www.BarnesDesignGroup.com.









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