If you’ve ever put together a child’s toy or assembled a piece of furniture, you know that it’s important to do each step in order. Order counts in the church building process, too. You shouldn’t start construction without the money to pay for it, and you can’t begin building if your church design isn’t finalized. Plus, you need your construction documents finalized in order to get the necessary permits. But, with all of this done, here’s what you need to know about the permit step in constructing your church building.

Getting the Zoning Permit for Your Church Building

Once construction documents are complete, you can apply for your zoning permit. It is very rare that there is no zoning process. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you exactly how that process will look because every jurisdiction is different. Generally, you submit your documents for what is often called an administrative review. You fill out a form and provide copies of your plans. Then, the appropriate administrator in your city or town approves it.

Sometimes, however, you will also have to go through a formal review process, especially if you’re going to need a conditional use permit (which we explain here). In that case, you need to attend a public meeting to talk about your project and have the board approve it. Also note that, many times, your church building zoning permit will be separate from a building permit. Usually, you must have the zoning permit in hand before you can submit a request for a building permit.

The Building Permit Process Comes Next

Once your zoning process is complete, you can apply for the building permit for your church construction project. Again, every jurisdiction has its own process, but generally you submit your application, and the authority has 30 days to respond.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t get your building permit right away. In fact, it’s very rare that approval happens immediately. Instead, the authority issues a letter of “clarification” or “correction,” which just means they have questions about your church design or other aspects of the construction documents. Your church design professional will submit responses to the authority’s letter, and then you wait—often another 30 days —for them to issue the building permit.

Exceptions to Every Rule

It’s no surprise that there are exceptions to every rule, in terms of how long the permitting process will take. One good rule of thumb is: the larger the jurisdiction (city instead of town, large metropolis instead of regional city), the longer the process will take—and sometimes, the more complex the process will be. So, it’s important to remain patient during this process. Fortunately, while you’re waiting, you can finish your fundraising process and complete any paperwork with your lending institution. This is also a good time to use those construction documents to get bids from contractors and subcontractors so that when your permits are all approved, you’re ready to get started on the actual building of your church building.

We can provide insight about this process because we’ve worked with a lot of church leaders in many jurisdictions over the 50+ years that we’ve been building churches. To learn more about all the steps you need to follow for a successful church design and construction process, sign up for the next in our series of free i3 webinars.