To Build, or Not to Build?

Recently, a colleague of mine asked me for some advice that might help the chairman of a church building committee convince fellow members of the congregation that such a significant expenditure of money was, indeed, necessary. Here’s a part of my response:

In my experience, the most compelling thing to convince people of the need for a building program is that building follows vision, which involves a thorough understanding of one’s missional context, which follows mission. Let me break that down.

First, the congregation must have a firm commitment to God’s mission, articulated by a well-thought-out mission statement that guides the congregation’s overall strategic plan and, by extension, it’s tactical plan.

Second, the congregation must understand its context, meaning how the people in its ministry target area think and act, what their perceived needs are, so that the Gospel message can be shared in a way that is meaningful to them.

This, in the third place, gives way to vision, a mental picture of a preferred future for the congregation, so that people have in mind what it would look like if the congregation were fulfilling the mission in its context. That vision needs to be cast constantly by those in leadership, especially the senior pastor. In one month, vision creep sets in. People need to hear it over and over.

Then, finally, follows a building. When people buy in to a vision for reaching the community and a building is a tool in that quest, it becomes much easier to have overwhelming support for the new structure.

An example: let’s say that a congregation determined that one of the biggest needs in the community was for teenage youth to have a gymnasium for basketball and volleyball (which would give it the opportunity to share the Gospel). The church might build a structure that met its own needs (say for fellowship or worship) while also constructing a gym or—for better stewardship—constructing a single, double-use facility that would meet both the church’s needs and the community’s needs.

In far too many instances, I have seen congregations construct facilities with no compelling ministry plan. The facilities become a goal in themselves and then stand empty most of the time, filled occasionally by an apathetic, declining congregation. That would be a tragedy.

Bottom line: demonstrate a vision of how the facility will serve as the perfect tool to fulfill God’s mission. When you’ve seen one building project, you’ve seen one building project!

By no means is this meant to be an exhaustive list of the reasons to build or not to build. What’s on your list?

By: Rev. Jon Braunersreuther
Mission & Ministry Facilitator, Area D

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