Before any contractor can start construction on your church building or remodeling project, you must have a building permit in hand. Of course, there are steps to cover before you’re ready to get the building permit, including resolution of any zoning issues, a completed church design and a finalized set of construction documents. Once those are in place, you’re ready to begin the building permit process. But will that process be easy or hard?

When Getting Your Church Building Permit Is Easy

There are some situations where obtaining your church building permit will be a fairly straightforward process. You have only one jurisdiction to deal with, you submit your construction documents to them, and you wait a few weeks up to a month for them to finish their process and issue the permit. In the rare situations where it’s this easy, count your blessings, but generally speaking, the smaller the town, the more quickly and smoothly the process will unfold.

When Getting Your Church Building Permit Is Hard

There are exceptions to every rule—and with building permits, the exceptions actually are the rule. There are several factors that can slow down the permitting process.

First, many jurisdictions will not issue your church building permit the first time around. Instead, they will issue what’s called a “correction” or “clarification” letter. This is simply a request for more information on a certain part of the project or questions that require a response from your architect before the plans can be approved. An experienced architect can anticipate the questions, especially if he or she is familiar with your jurisdiction and its processes, but there is always the chance that you will need to address these questions and issues before the permit is approved. This means the process might take six to eight weeks instead of four.

Second, we’ve developed another rule of thumb for the church building permit process: The larger the city, the longer it will take and the more complex it’s likely to be. Every city is different. We had one project where the town was very strict, and it took an entire year to complete the sewer permit portion of the building permit process. That’s an uncommon scenario, but we share it as a warning that you can’t guarantee the process will be finished in just two months.

Finally, and this is rare, it’s possible that your church property could be situated on a border between city and county land, for example, or two different cities. In such a case, you could end up needing to get approvals from both jurisdictions. This can become especially complex if they have different standards that you need to meet.

The Good News

Fortunately, many building permits will be issued in the two-month time frame mentioned above. It’s not often easy and seldom very hard—but those hard cases do occur, so it’s wise to allow some extra time for your church building permit to be issued.  

Also, keep in mind that along with a building permit, often a zoning permit and site permit are needed. Sometimes these permits can be applied for all at once. Sometimes they must be done sequentially, where you’ll apply and receive the zoning permit before you can apply for the building permit.  

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