Published April 5, 2021
Your key to successful construction
Two words underscore nearly all successful church construction or renovation projects.
The first word is, of course, "God." Every effort, and everyone behind it, must remain focused on the Lord and His mission for that project. To quote Psalm 127:1, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it."
The second word may surprise you: "synergy." This refers to how well every team member comes together to fulfill the vision God has given. Behind nearly all successful ministry facility projects, you will find a large team working toward a common goal: designing and building a facility that helps the church fulfill its mission and ministry.
The team is comprised of the church staff, ministry leaders, and lay leaders, as well as the architect, the builder, the various design consultants, fundraising partners, lenders, and the members of the congregation.
David Reed so believes in these synergies, he made achieving them a strategic goal of Reed Architecture and Interiors.
"I have seen too many examples of projects run by competing camps," said Reed, principal and founder of Reed Architecture. "The client in one camp, the contractor in another camp, and the design team split up into smaller camps, all fighting each other throughout the project. This is not the secret to a successful project but, instead, an unhappy client."
Rodney C. James, whose father was a builder, learned these lessons from pastoring a metro Tulsa church for two decades. James founded Master's Plan Church Design and Construction with this strategy in mind. As a design-builder, Master's Plan enters each project with an established team, including Reed Architecture, where all are working in unison, creating synergy, to design and build each project.
"That synergy baseline is much higher than starting from scratch because all of the team members know what the expectations are and what is required to get there," said James. "This promises far greater efficiencies by achieving the design and construction process on time and on budget."
James, who has completed more than 40 successful church projects in his career, recommends churches start their projects by forming a building committee (or team) that focuses not on the construction process but on defining the vision for the ministry that will take place in the facility. That panel should then hire an architect or builder with ministry facility experience that can draw on an established team of specialists – architects, engineers, etc. – to lead the church through the entire journey.
"This proves extremely cost-effective because they're not having to undo and redo work," said James. He then reflected on the synergies built into Master's Plan. "Having worked together on many different projects, we know our strengths, what's needed, and what works. We know how to get things done in much less time – and that ultimately results in saving the client money."
With this in mind, Reed recommends clients hire their construction professionals early in the process to streamline planning and determine how to best achieve the client's goals with their available resources.
"Before we begin designing your project, we want to understand your vision," Reed said. "We do this by asking questions about what is important to you concerning design, function, budget, etc. Then we listen to your responses and incorporate your ideas into the project."
This process may range from facility research, feasibility studies, and regulatory hurdles to reviewing the latest materials and infrastructure developments, fundraising options, and long-range campus planning.
"Once we have a clear understanding of your vision, budget, and schedule, we can begin to explore the options available to you for your project," Reed said. "Our passion is to develop a design that fulfills the vision God has given and, at the same time, meets your budget."
By entering each project with the consistency of the assembled team, Master's Plan can provide churches all the resources necessary to complete any project. Church staff and lay members may have peace of mind that these professionals working together will provide a facility on budget and on vision.
"What I love about the team that we've assembled is that we're like-minded," James said. "We understand our projects are unique. After all, we focus on ministry facilities. Since we raise these projects again and again, with every member of the team working in sync, we can deliver a high-quality project at or under budget very consistently.
"That's what's really cool in this process," he said. "Our clients can trust us to get it done right."
Focusing on the vision
James recommends churches choose their building committee or team members based on their spiritual hearts rather than professional abilities or backgrounds.
"Having an architect, an engineer, or a builder on your team can be a great asset," he said. "They can help other members of the team understand construction terms, processes, and code compliance. But if these individual experts aren't cautious about how they address the team, they can seem intimidating, demanding, or even threatening because of their experience. I've seen several projects go completely off the rails because an expert on the team commandeered the process – with good intentions but devastating results."
Far too often, James said he witnessed building committee effectiveness bog down as those members with actual construction industry experience feel led to steer the process.
"When this happens," he said, "other team members stop providing input, often the pastor and staff can lose their guiding influence, and the path of the project moves from the Kingdom focus and spiritual vision to "a better way to do it.'"
To avoid this, James suggests churches focus on defining their project's spiritual vision and how they desire to do ministry, leaving the construction minutia to the professional partners hired to provide that expertise. This approach will help the congregation's staff and building committee communicate effectively with the church membership and keep the project on its spiritual track.
"Working together as a team with people that you trust is the key to our success," said Reed. "It's also what makes every project a blessing to be a part of."