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2012 Secrets to a Successful Building Design
By: Bernie Satrom

Getting ready to design and build a new worship facility? Here are 10 secrets you should know before you begin.

Secret #1 - Either your building will serve your church or your church will serve your building. 
Unless you purpose to do it right, you will generally do it wrong. Suggestion: Hire a ministry-driven church designer, someone with a servant heart who understands ministry and architecture.

They will help you define your vision, mission, and passion and will help you recognize your strengths. From this, they can help design a building as a tool that helps you be more effective. 

Secret #2 - The chickens will die off to fit the size of the coop.
Once you reach 80 percent of capacity, growth is stifled. It is easy to get into a catch 22. You can't grow because you don't have the room. You don't have the room because you don't have the funds. You don't have the funds because you don't have the people.

That is why we stress the importance of having buildings that are easily expanded. There is a big difference between expansion and addition.

Many churches outgrow sanctuaries and keep building new ones, turning the old ones into gyms, fellowship, classrooms, etc.  They sell the old pews and buy new ones. They sell old sound systems and buy new ones.

Some of the problem is that it takes a lot of money to keep building new sanctuaries. It gobbles up land. It creates a maze, and it kills time and momentum.

Secret #3 - It is much less expensive to take out some walls and build an education wing that to keep building new sanctuaries. 
A Strategic Master Planning Strategy can save a church millions of dollars compared with typical master planning. By starting with the dream and working backwards, we don't build things just to tear them down a few years later. 

Secret #4 - Energy costs are not going to go down. 
We have spent almost 30 years perfecting a concept called super insulation. It helps churches save 60 to 70 percent on energy costs and increases comfort in the building. The energy investment is insulation. 

There is a fairly simple computer program that shows the effect that insulation plays on energy savings. Geothermal, solar and wind are really cool, but, for most situations, the best payback is by building a well-insulated building.

Warning: Adding insulation incorrectly to existing buildings can make for sick buildings. 

Secret #5 - You can't fix bad acoustics with a good sound system, and you can mess up good acoustics with a bad sound system.
Sound matters. The Bible says faith cometh by hearing! In Psalms, it says, "The Lord inhabits the praises of his people." When acoustics and sound are an afterthought, you have a recipe for failure.  

Secret #6 - People come because they are curious but they stay because of relationships. 
We need to engage them between the pew and the front door of the church. Preaching and music are important but people are looking for a family to connect with.

Consider incorporating large foyer/commons areas your building, which are natural places to minister to and connect with others. 
Secret #7 - You can't seat the people unless you can park their cars.
Many zoning ordinances state that you only need a car space for every 4 or 5 people.  While there may be exceptions in cities like New York, generally most people drive to church and they come two or less to a car.

As an experiment, you might want your ushers to count the cars after they do the head count and see what your number is.

The key here is not to allow yourselves to be fooled. Use a realistic number in estimating your property's capacity and take appropriate steps. 

Secret #8 - Paying off an ugly building is like paying off a dead horse. 
Design matters. It is possible to design something tasteful and elegant within a limited budget. The Bible says we should "do all things heartily as unto God not as unto man." 

Secret #9 - Excellence pays. 
It is easy to pay off a building if it is designed well, built in a quality way. In my experience, cutting corners to save money actually increases the time it takes to pay off the loan. Most of our clients pay off their buildings in 5 to 7 years.

Secret #10 - God wants to be part of your building project.
It is easy to get very professional in the way that church and building projects are done. Find the professional, find the answers, do the project.

A building project can be a fantastic faith and growth journey, and God wants to bless you and be in the center of it all. Don't settle for anything less.
Bernie Satrom is president of Maranatha Custom Churches, Inc., www.buildingbyfaith.com.

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