Whether you’re just beginning to consider transforming a church building or thinking about new church construction, you’re bound to have questions arise. Those questions might come from your church design team, from curious attendees, or from your fellow church leaders. That’s why we always include a question-and-answer session at the end of each of our free i3 webinars. We know that once you’ve been inspired by the webinar’s ideas, insights, and innovations, you’re going to want to know more. Here are some responses to questions raised by church leaders at a recent webinar.

Tearing Down a Church Building vs. Remodeling

We hear this question often, and we know it can be a difficult question for church leaders to ask. An old, beloved church building can outlive its usefulness. It can deteriorate so much that the cost of upkeep exceeds the cost of new construction—even as construction costs keep rising (more on that in a moment). The structure of an older church building might even weaken and fail in ways that make it dangerous to be inside.

Sometimes, we have been able to work with church leaders to salvage part of an older church building, which is still in better repair, and only tear down part of the structure. At other times, an older church building is just too big, and finding creative ways to shrink the overall church design cannot be cost-effective when using a partial tear-down. Everything depends on how much you can afford to keep putting into maintenance and what your options might be for beginning afresh with a new church design.

Making Church Design Changes Despite Rising Construction Costs

When church buildings are still structurally sound, questions often arise about what it would cost to make certain types of changes to an existing church design. If you’re just seeking to refresh your look with carpet and paint, that’s not going to cost a bundle; perhaps $10 to $20* a square foot, or maybe up to $30*, depending on how fancy you want to get. If you want to tear out some walls, build some new walls, and rearrange your internal church design, you could be spending somewhere between $35 to $55* a square foot. If you get into situations where you’re ripping out structural walls or need to put a new roof on your church building, or install a new HVAC system or sprinkler system, you would be looking at something closer to $80 to $90* a square foot or more.

While that might seem like a lot, new construction is averaging $150 to $160* per square foot and quickly rising these days. This means that you can make some significant changes to your existing church building and still be saving money.

Wondering What Opportunities COVID-19 Could Bring

Some church leaders are asking us what they might do to improve their church building due to COVID-19. A lot of leaders realized that with social distancing requirements, a meeting space that could seat 100 suddenly could only seat 25 or 30 people. We don’t necessarily recommend making long-term changes based on these numbers, because no one expects these limits to be back soon. However, we are talking with church leaders who are thinking about constructing a few larger rooms so that, if social distancing becomes necessary again, they will still have one room that would fit 100 people.

Some leaders made changes while churches were shut down or when attendance was lower during COVID-19, but in terms of church design and construction, with the pandemic winding down, that opportunity is passed. It doesn’t mean, however, that now’s not a good time to ask questions about how the pandemic impacted your community. What ministry changes might you want to make to meet the needs of people in your area?

We hope that these responses are as helpful for you as they were for the church leaders who attended our webinars. We invite you to join them and sign up for our next webinars, so you can ask your own questions.

*Prices are based on Midwest construction markets.  Prices do vary regionally.