Our free i3 webinars provide a wealth of information on the latest in church design and church building. In every webinar, we also allow time for Q&A when participants can voice their individual questions and receive helpful responses. We periodically share our answers to pertinent questions for the benefit of all church leaders.

Here are two questions, and our responses, that came up in one of our recent i3 webinars.

We need a church design plan before fundraising can begin, but we need to know how much to raise before we develop a plan. Which comes first?

While this may seem like a chicken-or-the-egg question, you should figure out what you can afford first, and after determining that, you can develop a church design that will fall within the scope of your budget. You can fund raise with that specific plan in mind.

A church building industry rule of thumb is that you do not borrow more than three times your annual income, which is the limit of your debt load, because you don’t want monthly payments on a church building loan to be more than a third of your budget.

What does that look like in concrete numbers? Say your annual church budget is $300,000. Multiply that number times three, and you can borrow up to $900,000. If another $100,000 in cash is on hand, a budget of $1 million is possible, but the safer plan is $950,000. If the church design plan were to call for over $1 million, making your monthly payments could be very difficult, and your lending institution may not loan that large of an amount.

In your experience, is prefabricated steel, stick-built, or precast concrete the most cost-effective building type?

The answer depends on your building’s size and purpose. If you’re constructing a building under 5,000 square feet, a stick-built building (also called a wood frame or wood truss) should be a very economical choice. Prefabricated steel is more economical for buildings over 5,000 and up to about 25,000–30,000 square feet. For a building over 30,000 square feet, other materials can be a better option.

The church leader who posed this question also mentioned stone, but any true craftsman stone building will be very expensive. You might want to include some stone accents, but if you’re counting cost, building your entire church with stone would not be economical option.

Choosing the building type is another consideration for your church leaders. A church building filled with simple classrooms will be more efficient as a stick-built structure. A tall worship center without annoying, sight-blocking posts will usually need to be constructed from steel. Clearly, with so many factors involved, it’s best to have a church design professional help you draft plans that will meet your needs.

We always recommend consulting with church building professionals as soon as possible in your church design phase. Call us today at 800-625-6448 and talk with us about your particular situation and ask your church building questions.