3 Thoughts from a 10 Year Building Program

Leading Your Church through a Building Program

“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.”—Proverbs 13:12

Our church has been involved in a building project consisting of a 30,000 square foot educational/sports building. We are still in the middle of it, so only God knows how the final chapter will turn out, but here is our story up to this point.

We began dreaming and praying for this building about ten years ago. We put down on paper what we believed we needed the building to include, and began attempting to get a rough estimate of what it would look like and cost.

We instituted an annual fund raising banquet in March to begin raising money for the future building. We named the campaign “Create the Future” in an attempt to give our people a word picture of what we were trying to do. I wanted the emphasis to be building people’s lives, not brick and mortar.  There was no particular reason for the month of March, other than our World Missions Conference is in October and we did not want to detract from the money we were giving to missions. It has taken us longer to build perhaps, but we have not decreased our mission’s giving through the years. In fact, we have been able to increase it a little.

At the annual banquet we ask for three types of giving:

  1. Bring a cash offering the night of the banquet.
  2. Make a monthly commitment for the following twelve months.
  3. For those who need time to access funds, we offer a spot to write down the amount they will give in the next ninety days. 

Our goal was to raise as much money up front as possible, but not to begin building without at least 50% of the money in hand. As it turned out, we began with a little less than 50% but that was the goal.

We began to consult different architects and builders that were willing to help us dream and design at no cost so that they would have an opportunity to secure the contract to build once we began. We also contacted the city hall to investigate the procedures for building in Newport Beach. At every step of the way, I tried to include staff, deacons, and leaders so that our people would know what was going on. Our goal was to over-communicate so as to avoid the problem of “people are down on what they are not up on.”

As time went by, we began to picture a building that we anticipated would cost between 4 and 4.5 million dollars. Our fundraising efforts were producing around $150,000.00 per year. We placed the money into a separate savings account which we always kept in safe FDIC insured savings or CD’s. Our rate of return might have been lower, but we were committed to never “gamble” with building fund money or mix it with other funds.

As the years went by, we began to realize that we were going to have to either go deeper in debt than we wanted, raise money faster, or find a creative way to build the building. We decided to break the program into two phases with phase one being the educational unit, and phase two being the gymnasium. This would enable us to start sooner, need less upfront cash, and have the added incentive in fund raising of people actually seeing what they were giving to.

It took six years, but we had raised almost a million dollars without even having assurance from the city that we could build. We also had not contacted any institutions about borrowing money. We simply met each March and asked our people to give to a dream of creating a better future for the people of Orange County, California. 

In 2008 the recession hit, and it became more difficult to raise money, but we patiently stayed on track with dreaming, praying, and fundraising.

In 2010, we put together the plans and applied for permission to build both buildings. To our surprise we passed city planning with a minimum of difficulty. At that point the clock was ticking for us to apply for building permits and actually begin building. In 2011, we went back to city hall and requested a one year extension as we still had only raised around one million dollars. 

As a result of obtaining permission to build sooner than we anticipated, we realized that we would have to begin before we had raised the 2 million that we hoped to begin with. We began with about 1.5 million in hand. This was due to my inexperience with the building process and overestimating how long it would take to obtain the needed permits.

God led us to a retired contractor who had a ministry of helping churches build buildings. He was a member of a like minded independent Baptist church and had helped three of my fellow pastor friends that were able to give me a good recommendation. I met with the contractor and he agreed to take on our project. He has truly been a God-send in helping us navigate the city as well as overseeing the entire project.

At this writing we have completed phase one which consists of an approximately 16,000 square foot education building. It is a beautiful building with 13 classrooms, offices, and restrooms. Our Christian school uses the downstairs Monday through Friday, and we have multiple adult classes that meet upstairs on Sunday.

We are in the process of building phase two and estimate the 13,000 square foot gymnasium being fully occupied in September of 2015.

As I look back over the past decade there are a few things that I think we did right.

  1. We were patient. I had many people telling me that I should build immediately even though we had no start up money. I was encouraged to borrow the entire amount because construction costs were assumed to continue to climb and the longer we waited the more it would cost. As it turned out, the recession put many people out of work and construction costs actually declined. It is vitally important to wait on God and let Him lead every step. After all, it is His project, not ours. 
  2. We kept the people informed so that the dream was not just mine, but the people bought into the vision as well. By the time I asked them to vote on moving forward with the project, they had already voted with their wallets before voting with their ballots. 
  3. We have tried to place function over form so that the buildings are beautiful but not extravagant or wasteful. We did not want a monument to someone’s ego, but buildings that would help us create a brighter future for the people of Orange County.

I am certainly not in a position to offer advice on building, as we have only completed phase one of the project, but so far I can say that I am very grateful the Lord led us into it and am confident that He will lead us the rest of the way!

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