You have spent a season of prayer about the direction your church is to go and have a confirmation of the road ahead. Now what do you do? How much do you do on your own?

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When should you call in the professionals?

When building a church or planning a church expansion project, it is best to get a professional involved in planning as soon as possible. Why? A design professional can guide you through the process by:

  1. Talking to the right people in government and avoiding wasted time. There are many departments in government and it seems like no two cities, counties, or townships are set up the same way. It can be confusing and frustrating if you do not know the right questions to ask of the right officials.
  2. Determining a construction budget. Some churches come up with great ideas but have no idea what the cost would be or if they can afford it. Some churches are financially sound yet think they can’t afford a building. A design professional will help with these issues.
  3. Providing guidelines for building committee selection. The building committee is instrumental in all phases of the construction experience. The right ministry minded people provide strong leadership and reduce pressures on ministry staff.
  4. Defining current land use potential. Some churches are faced with the prospect of running out of land for their growing church. How much is enough and when should you look at moving or branching out? Both are important items to be considering in master planning.

Who should be involved in the design professional selection process?

The best thing is to have many people view the presentations and a few make the decisions. Church leaders, with staff present, should view the presentations and make the selection. Then, with the recommendations of the design professional, appoint your building committee. The building committee can see the same presentation upon their first meeting to become familiar with the chosen design professional.

What should the qualifications of the professional be?

A good request for proposal or interview should always have these qualifying items.

  1. List of church or related projects within the past ten years.
  2. Percentage of total work on church projects.
  3. Fee structure.
  4. List of ten references from past church projects.
  5. Key people who will be involved
  6. Typical timeframe of a project.
  7. What the church would need to provide to complete this project.
  8. What kind of innovative ideas have you implemented in other recent projects?

From these answers you should be able to determine if the design professionals are church specialists, a design specialist in another field, or just a general design professional. Obviously, you want a church design professional with specific church architecture and construction experience. Any designer can design a space but not everyone can build a worship center, family life center, or multi-ministry building that isn’t just a blank room. A church design specialist will know how to make the nuances and small features fit your church’s culture. If they are involved in their church, they have experienced overcrowded foyers, small restrooms, poorly designed kitchens, inflexible platforms, poor traffic flow, and not having enough classrooms. Instead of trying to explain these things to someone, why not have someone who understands your ministry? It is imperative that you, after prayerful consideration, select a design professional that is a church specialist.

After selecting your design professional, references should be checked for at least three of their former projects. Make sure to ask…

  1. Were they trustworthy?
  2. Were they honest?
  3. How is the quality of the finished building?
  4. Is the function of the building appropriate for the ministry using it?
  5. Would they use them again?
  6. How did they handle problems?

Problems are going to come up. Did they handle them quickly, effectively, and in a Christ-like manner? These items will tell a lot about the design professional, the builder, and the church.

Fees can be set up different ways: flat fee, hourly fee, a percentage of the construction cost, or a combination of all three.

Should you choose a professional who does Design/Build or Design – Bid – Build? A study conducted by the Construction Industry Institute reveals that of 350 projects, Design/Build was significantly better than the Design – Bid – Build process in the areas of cost, time and quality.