Working with church leaders on church design and construction projects over more than fifty years has produced many experiences, some good stories, and some cautionary tales. Here is one of the latter, one that teaches a lesson about why it is good to “keep your options open.”

The Importance of a Good Church Building Plan and Good Flexibility

We often emphasize that a successful church building project requires good planning. This includes understanding costs and being realistic about what your church can afford. But once a plan is in place, try not to etch it in stone, as things can happen that will test the plan.

The Cautionary Tale

One of our past projects involved a large church embarking on a genuinely beautiful church design project. Part of the plan involved making a commitment to their attendees that church leaders would not move forward until they had secured 50% of the project cost in cash, and 50% committed in pledges.

Over a three-year campaign, the church raised cash up to 47%. At that point, however, they were completely tapped out. Everybody had given sacrificially, given till it hurt. They just could not seem to get that last 3%, and the project stalled.

We had a conversation with the church leaders at this point and pointed out that if they just finance the remaining 53%, the difference in the mortgage payment amount was virtually pennies. It was an exceptionally large, healthy church that easily could have handled the difference. However, church leaders felt they had to stick to their initial promise and spent another 6 months reaching their goal.

The Consequences of Not Keeping Your Church Design Options Open

Unfortunately, during those six months, construction costs inflated by about the same 3%. This meant that their plan was still off, and it took them several more months to catch up and get ahead of inflation. If they had just been willing to finance that extra 3% on a short-term, three-year loan, they could have easily just moved ahead with their church building project and saved the money that they ended up paying through inflation that hit them over that six months.

The moral of the story? Avoid painting your church building plan into a corner. Keep options open instead, especially by not making promises you might regret.

To hear other cautionary tales and positive church design and building stories, sign up for our free i3 webinars. We share lots of examples along with our ideas, insights, and innovations.