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Biblical Stewardship in Building
By: Michael D. Barnes

"Suppose one of you wants to build a church. Will you not really sit down first with an architect and examine the costs to see if you have the finances to complete it? For if your church decides to lay the foundation and begin construction and you cannot finish it, the community will ridicule you saying, 'This church began to build but was not able to finish.' "

Sound familiar?  It is a loose interpretation of what Jesus spoke in Luke 14:28-30.

Integrity and credibility are important in any faith-based community. It is especially important to the community outside of the church that is looking in. Approximately 40% of church projects run 30-40% over budget.

I recently spoke to a church that has the entire steel frame erected with the roof on. However, they have run out of finances and cannot complete the building. Though the pastor is a man of God and the leadership is strong, it is a bad reflection on their ability to lead. 

God calls us to practice proper stewardship in the body of Christ. Stewardship is the act of managing property finances, time, and affairs. Biblical stewardship is based specifically on scripture. When God created us humans, He made us to have "dominion" over the entire earth (Genesis 1:26). Dominion was not intended to be domination. It was God's call for us to be good, gracious managers of His entire creation. 

Concerning church expansion and building, good stewardship is the prayerful and biblical management of the entire building project. Let's revisit Luke 14:28-30 where Jesus encourages us to first sit down and get an estimate of costs in order to see if we are able to complete it. Many churches involved in building programs today suffer from the blight of never "counting the costs." 

Let me address several aspects of biblical stewardship that have assisted many churches in their journey towards building and maximizing their ministry.

Is it time? 
Good stewardship requires proper management. Churches need to ask, "Is it time to build?" God may be leading you to expand your facilities but is now the time to build?  I believe that God will address this in the hearts of the pastor and the leadership. There is a season for all things, and the most successful building projects occur when the Body of Christ understands that the calling is in the present. It is time to "arise and build."

Will it maximize your ministry? 
I believe that it is bad stewardship to hire an architect to design and build a church building unless the new facility will truly "maximize your ministry."Any church building should have its foundation in ministry. Vision for ministry comes from God, and a church building should always assist in accomplishing the goals of the church. Basically, the building is but a tool to reach a lost and dying world.

Have you counted the costs? 
Once you understand the time is now and an expansion is necessary to maximize your ministry, then it is critical to set your budget and count the costs. Every church project should not only be one of excellence, but should also be one of proper stewardship. This can only occur if the church embraces a professional architect and builder early in order to count the cost.

It is critical to analyze every functional ministry need and have a design professional assist you in understanding the space requirements in order to meet those needs. Early in the process, a design professional can determine the construction cost of a facility and thereby count the cost early. It is vitally important that both the architect and contractor be accountable to the church's budget. 

Are you building green?   
God created the heavens and the earth, and we have a limited number of natural resources to utilize on this planet. Good stewardship in a building program will also mean linking and partnering with a design professional that understands the importance of designing a project in harmony with our planet.

This means utilizing appropriate materials that are locally available, as well as designing a space to take advantage of the light and sun during the day, while keeping the heat out in the summertime. There are now appropriate mechanical and electrical systems that are available in order for the architect to design a building that is environmentally sensitive and "green."

Are you counting the cost of all variables? 
Occasionally, a design professional or contractor will focus on the actual construction cost without accounting for other costs related to the building project. When this happens, the project can still run significantly over budget. This is due to not counting the costs of a number of other support systems that go into every building.

The actual construction cost of a facility includes not only the building aspects of construction, but also the following:

* Land and development costs
* Utility costs
* Municipality fees
* Architectural and engineering fees
* Testing and subservice investigation fees (i.e., soil borings)
* Pews or chairs
* Audio/Visual equipment
* Tables and chairs for education
* Closing costs of loans and other financial costs
* Other fixtures, furniture, equipment, etc.

It is important to understand that it is God who calls us to build. When Nehemiah reflected on the challenge ahead of him regarding rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, he knew he couldn't do it alone. He lacked the strength, resources, and power to rebuild the walls of the great city.  However, there is one thing Nehemiah did have. He had faith in the God of Heaven. 

"Then he answered and said unto them, 'The God of heaven, He will prosper us; therefore, we his servants will arise and build'."  Nehemiah 2:20

God will call you to arise and build. Have faith in God, practice biblical stewardship, and your building program will be a blessing and asset to your church. 

Michael D. Barnes, A.I.A., N.C.A.R.B., is founder and chief executive officer of Barnes Design Group, P.C., www.BarnesDesignGroup.com.

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