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Church Construction
By: Ray Robinson

1. Is this a good time to build with such uncertainty in the economy?
Though it is true that the economy is still struggling, we are finding it to be a great time to build your new facility. We are finding our project costs very competitive, and churches that are building are getting some great deals. Since constructions in other sectors (housing, commercial, etc.) are all down, many subcontractors are looking for work anywhere they can find it.

However, economic timing should not be the primary consideration in trying to decide whether to build or not. The real question is: Does God want you to build a new facility? The voice of God and His direction are critical to the success of any project.

Secondly, your congregation must be fiscally and spiritually prepared to build. Such preparation takes time and planning. If these two important elements are ignored, then regardless of what kind of deals you could get on the cost of your facility, you could end up with a new building and an unsupportive congregation. This would be catastrophic to your church. After helping over 400 congregations build their new facilities, we have found that if God has blessed your ministry with growth and revival and He has directed the church leadership to move forward and the congregation stands behind that decision, then it is the right time to build.

2. How much does it cost to build a church today?
One would think this would be a simple and easy question to answer. Yet, due to a multitude of variables, it is exactly the opposite. It is a very difficult question to accurately answer. Currently, we are seeing projects ranging from as low as $105 per square foot to as high as $165 per square foot.

Why such a large variance? Programmatic needs and specialty requirements are what drives the real cost of any project. Wise church leaders understand that the architect and builder they select to build their new church are really their partners in ministry.

We believe in building long-term relationships with clients. Who you select should want to be your ministry partner that helps keep you in the facilities you need to successfully fulfill the mission God has called you to fulfill. Our greatest testimony comes from those repeat clients that we have worked with for many years. Our experience allows us to help meet the needs of our clients regardless of what their build budget is. Our clients simply tell us what they can afford to spend and then we use our experience to maximize every dollar they allow us to use. We are ministry-focused and budget-driven.

If a low price is all you are interested in, then I would encourage you to remember Benjamin Franklin’s popular quote: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

3. What happens when the church is given a project budget only to find out later it was unrealistic?
Church budgets especially during the design phase are very important. The total architectural fees are based on not the established budget, but typically on the actual final project cost. If a budget is established and everyone goes into the project relying on the accuracy of the architect’s budget, only to find later it was unrealistic, the outcome is catastrophic to the church.

Why? Because the church usually gets their construction loan based on their project budget, and, if it is not correct, then the church must change the scope of work, increase their loan amount, or raise more money. Neither of these options is viable to the project during the building program.

If the scope of work must be changed, it will usually end up requiring that valuable space be eliminated reduced, thereby impacting the project in a negative way. If the project goes over budget, the bank typically will not increase their loan to meet a new higher budget.

The greatest challenge of a project exceeding their budget is the impact made when the church leadership must go back and admit mistakes were made in determining the final budget. Usually, it is very difficult to get the church membership to give additional money simply because the leadership did not do their due diligence in choosing an experienced church architect capable of establishing a realistic project budget.

Thus, a realistic project budget is vital to a successful project and must be a critical factor when choosing a design build team to design your next facility. Ask the appropriate questions during the interview to make sure your selected architectural firm has a proven history of design facility to established budgets. 

Ray Robinson is vice president of sales and marketing for JCDM Church Builders in Joplin, Missouri, www.jcdm.com.

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