Answering Questions from a Recent i3 Church Building Webinar

The McKnight Group strongly believes that sharing information about the church design and building process is good stewardship of our time and talent. That’s why we write about it here and present information through our series of free i3 webinars – so that when it’s time to design your new church building or remodel an existing church property, your work as church leaders will be much easier.

Here are some questions that were asked in a recent i3 webinar. Sharing these questions and their answers is another way we can help in that process.

What’s the Cost for an Initial Conversation for a Potential Church Building Project?

Depending on where you are in the country and what type of church building project it is, we can often hold an initial meeting and give you our initial opinion at no cost to you. This would involve coming to meet with you, taking a look at your existing church building or potential location, and talking about your church vision and what you hope to do with your new church design. We also may be able to make a few initial recommendations. If there is a cost, it will just be to cover our travel expenses.

Some church leaders would like us to do a presentation to the church board or church building committee. If you’re interviewing potential church design and building companies, we’re happy to come and meet with you. During such presentations, we explain our process in great detail: how it works, the fees and time frames, etc. This also is potentially at no cost, depending on the location and project type. Again, if there is a cost, it will just be for our travel expenses.

What’s the Average Time Frame for a Church Design Feasibility Study?

The short answer is that once we have all the information we need, it will usually take us between one and a half and two months to complete a feasibility study.

The information that we need depends on the kind of church design or building project. If you’re trying to decide between two different buildings or properties, we would need the deeds for the existing properties, along with any utility information that may be available. We can research some of that information ourselves, but if you know what utilities (power, water, gas, sewer) are already available on the property, that information is helpful. Also, a survey of that property is also helpful if it’s available.

If you’re looking to remodel an existing building, we would need the information above and also the existing drawings. We would also like the chance to come visit, to see the site and take photographs. Once we have gathered all that information, we can begin our process. From that point, we can usually complete your feasibility study in one and a half or two months.

Focusing on the Available Wisdom in Our i3 Webinars

As you can see, our i3 webinars give you an excellent opportunity to get answers to your church design, remodeling, and building questions. “i3” stands for ideas, insights, and innovations, which are what we provide in each webinar. This is why we encourage you to sign up; there’s always more to learn!

2019-03-19T15:44:24+00:00 March 19th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

If You Build a New Church Building, They Will Come — But Will They Stay?

Remember that Kevin Costner baseball film, Field of Dreams and its famous line, “If you build it, they will come?” That line has become a catchphrase for many different types of construction projects.

When someone sees a new building going up in the neighborhood, it’s natural to be curious. We all want to find out what might be coming to our part of town. No matter what the building turns out to be, people are likely to visit at least once to find out what it’s all about.

The same is true whenever a new church building goes up in a neighborhood or an existing church property undergoes significant and obvious remodeling. People will be curious and come visit once the work is finished, but a building isn’t what grows a church.

A Building is the Starting Line

While it may be natural to view the completion of your church building construction project as the end of the job, it is not the time for church leaders to take a break and rest once the punch list is complete. It is actually the time when all church leaders need to be rested and ready to put forth the energy needed to welcome guests, spend time getting to know them, and work to integrate them into the church community.

Yes, a new or remodeled church building may alleviate a problem that previously frustrated regulars and guests alike. Perhaps the foyer was too small or the parking lot over-crowded. As with our opening illustration, once everyone comes to visit, they will see the improvements to the building, but they will stay because of what goes on inside of it.  

This means that you must make a good impression, not just with your beautiful new church building, but with the ministries you have to offer and the energy of the people who are making it happen. And it needs to begin day one.

Avoiding Distraction and Exhaustion Over Your Church Building

There’s another moral to this story. We get a lot of church leaders asking if they can save money by recruiting volunteers to work on everything from demolition at the beginning to painting and laying tile and carpeting at the end. While we’re open to it if the work is done with quality and within the agreed time frame, we see another concern. If you exhaust your volunteers with church building work, they won’t have energy left for the critical job of welcoming and integrating guests into your church building when it opens.

As we say so often, there are definite roles for professionals to play in any church building project. Volunteers have limited time and energy to devote to your church. Give them the jobs that outside professionals can’t do. Only leaders and regular attendees at your church can speak for your church and its vision. We can’t do that, so hire us to build your church and, when they come, give them a warm welcome and they will stay.

We shared this wise perspective in one of our recent free i3 webinars. For more helpful perspectives from church building professionals, sign up for our next i3 webinars.

2019-03-12T15:40:06+00:00 March 12th, 2019|Advice, Church Building|

How to Avoid Three Common Church Design Pitfalls

We’ve seen some interesting stumbles and near-misses in our near 50 years of church building. As a result, we know numerous mistakes to avoid in church design and building projects. Here are three of the pitfall possibilities that can take place early in your church building project.

#1: Believing the First Idea is the Best Idea

Some church leaders are certain that they know exactly what they want right from the beginning. While it’s great to be excited and inspired by your idea, it’s also smart to talk it through and be open to further feedback from others in — and beyond — your church, and even get additional input from church building professionals. We find that, often, the final version of any church design is significantly different from the original vision.

This is one case where input from church staff, leadership, ministry leaders, and even community leaders can improve upon your initial church design. By thinking broadly and seeking other ideas, one church building can meet the needs and expand the vision of multiple ministries in your church and community.

#2: Not Considering Interdependencies

Another pitfall is not thinking about various groups as a whole. If your church design creates a separate space for each ministry, you will design a much larger, more expensive campus than you really need. Instead, look at the ways to share space such as with groups that meet at different times and need similar amenities, be it kitchen facilities or certain types of audio-visual resources.

Admittedly, there are exceptions to every rule. There are some spaces that will be more dedicated than others. You may, for example, want your youth to take ownership of their space so they feel like they can call it their own.

#3: Developing Your Church Design without Considering Finishes

Another pitfall is not thinking about how your church design will — or won’t — appeal to the groups of people you are trying to attract to your new church building. If you design and furnish a church building without considering the finishes and furnishings they will like, you could find that they walk in the door and walk right back out again.

Perhaps you are trying to attract young families. An interior design focused on fancy floral arrangements on low tables, delicately upholstered chairs, and expensive artwork on the walls will likely be intimidating as parents worry that they must spend their time keeping their kids from knocking things over and messing up the fancy furnishings. However, if they walk in and see stylish, modern furniture and a children’s play area next to a café, these families are going to feel right at home and stick around.

Clearly, there are many considerations involved in crafting the best church design for your particular vision. It’s why we offer our free i3 webinars, which give you additional perspectives and illustrate solutions that might not have come to mind. We invite you to sign up today for our next i3 webinar and learn all you can about crafting the best church design possible for your situation.

2019-03-05T18:58:23+00:00 March 5th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

Dream Big with a Multi-phase Church Design

When finances are tight, thinking small is a natural tendency. But thinking small when it comes to church design isn’t necessary, or even always the most cost-effective way to go. When it comes to a new or renovated church building, it’s usually smarter to dream big, but build in phases.

Few Churches Can Do Everything at Once

With nearly 50 years of experience in supporting church leaders with the design and construction of church buildings, we can confidently say that few churches have the finances in place that allow them to implement everything that they want right away. Churches relocating from an existing church building or rental facility or starting a new church design from scratch find this especially true. These projects are expensive because all the infrastructure must also be paid for—everything from property and utilities to paving parking lots and installing landscaping. Not many churches can afford to do all this and have the church building they dream of all at once.

Dream Big Anyway—and Create a Multi-phase Church Design

Phased implementation is the solution to dreaming big without breaking the bank. The lack of available money is no reason to curtail your vision for ministry in your community. Working with church design professionals can help you think creatively about how to start with what you can afford and, as your number of attendees grows (and more funds become available), expand your church campus.

Sharing and Scheduling Your Church Building in the Meantime

Building the perfect church campus over time usually means that ministries in your church community will share space in the first phases of construction. The McKnight Group can design multi-use spaces that can be scheduled with sharing in mind, which will allow each ministry to grow. Eventually, that growth will provide funds to expand shared spaces into single purpose spaces in future phases of your church design.

Don’t be afraid to dream big! But recognize that getting there may take a while. Just as faith is a journey, not a sprint, the journey toward your dream church building complex also can be accomplished with time and patience.

We are happy to talk with you about your big dream for ministry in your community and to help you figure out what phases would work for your unique situation. Give us a call at 800-625-6448 or send us an email. We also encourage you to sign up for our latest free i3 webinars to learn more about the church design and building process.


2019-02-26T20:00:35+00:00 February 26th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

Church Professionals with More than Church Building Experience

Are you considering a new church building or a remodeling project? The entire process doesn’t have to overwhelm you. You see, The McKnight Group’s expertise extends well beyond construction, and construction of churches for that matter.

The Personal Life of Church Building Professionals

Here at The McKnight Group, we practice what we preach. The McKnight Group’s Leaders are involved with church and ministry leadership boards, and participate in leading small groups and teaching classes along with volunteering for  other ministries. Many of our employees are Christ Followers who are active in their church’s ministries.  We not only have a great wealth of professional knowledge but also personal experience.

We understand your specific needs as a church, which is one reason why we encourage involving church design professionals as early as possible in your church building process.

Feasibility Studies

Feasibility studies—an initial assessment of options—is a very good way to bring in church design professionals early on. For example, is your church leadership deciding whether to stay in your current location and remodel an existing church building, or construct a new facility in a different location? Feasibility studies sketch out possibilities and help you decide between them.

Perhaps you’ve decided that you need to move, maybe you’re renting space and it’s become too small, or your church building is old and not suited to your current vision. You’ve looked around and now you’re deciding between two different properties. A feasibility study will help you figure out the pros and cons of each.

From Vision to Initial Church Design

Feasibility studies do more than sketch a possible church design for your review and modification. Yes, we can layout plans for each option that you’re considering, but we also investigate things like zoning issues and utility availability, as well as purchase price, and weigh all those issues to help you decide the best option.

Church professionals often scrap many initial drafts of a church design. Plus, back-of-the-napkin sketches don’t give you a realistic sense of possibilities anyway, which is why we recommend calling us in early to talk about your vision. Remember: we’re also members of and leaders in our churches and we understand churches.

Are you ready to take that first step? Give us a call. Sign up for our upcoming free i3 webinars that provide valuable, up-to-date information on many church building and remodeling ideas, insights, and innovations that can impact what you might achieve with a professional church design.

2019-02-19T21:19:33+00:00 February 19th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

Figuring a Ballpark Estimate of Your Church Building Costs

When it comes to a church building project you need to take a realistic look at your financial situation and develop a good ballpark estimate of your church building costs before you ever clear the land or lay the foundation. However, the cost of construction may not be what you think it is.

The Recent History of Rising Inflation

Occasionally, although less often than in prior decades, we get churches calling us that expect to be able to complete a new church building for between $50 and $80 per square foot. They think that, because inflation has been so low in recent years, these are still reasonable numbers—but they are not, especially for new construction. If you’re hoping to complete a small church remodeling project, the high end of those kind of numbers might be possible, but certainly not for a new church building.

In 2010, the average cost to construct a new church building hovered near $100 per square foot, but inflation really began to kick in during 2017 and 2018. Today, when church leaders are beginning to discuss a new church building project, we suggest that they budget between $120 and $150 per square foot—and that is just for the church building itself.

Counting the Cost beyond the Church Building Itself

However, there’s much more to a church project than the building. Outdoors, you need to factor in site development (the cost to prepare the land for the building itself), parking lots, sidewalks, utilities, and landscaping. Indoors, you need to count the cost for flooring, paint, and furniture; appliances; lighting, sound, WiFi, and audiovisuals (and don’t forget the wiring!); and, of course, keys to your new church building. For us to truly deliver a turnkey church building project, we recommend that churches budget between $210 and $275 per square foot.

Raising Realistic Funds for a Church Remodeling or Building Project

Don’t despair. There are ways to raise funds for your church new construction project. Capital campaigns continue to be the primary method for raising church building funds. They can be very successful, especially if you are willing to engage a professional consultant that specializes in raising funds for church projects. There are numerous companies around the country that do this kind of work. Here at The McKnight Group, we know them all. This means we can recommend a company that will be the right choice, the right fit, for your church and your vision for ministry.

We strongly recommend that you do not go it alone. Building or remodeling a church is a team effort. Engaging experienced consultants for both the fundraising and the church building project itself is always good stewardship. This is also why we share so much of our own hard-earned wisdom in our free i3 webinars. Let us become part of your team. Sign up today for our next i3 webinar.


2019-02-12T20:56:08+00:00 February 12th, 2019|Budgeting, Church Building, Church Design|

Why Vision Trumps Construction Experience on Your Church Building Committee

The variety of expertise attendees have can be very valuable to church leaders. For example, it’s a good idea to recruit people to your finance committee who have some understanding of debits and credits and how to read a spreadsheet. Some church leaders even invite worshipers to fill out a “time, talent, and treasure” inventory to help plug people into ministry opportunities that fit their skills and experience.

This is also why we sometimes see church leaders putting people who have building or construction experience on church building committees. However, we don’t necessarily think that’s an important priority. This may be surprising to many church leaders, so we thought we’d explain our thinking.

Why Not Make Good Use of Construction Experience?

Certainly, it’s great to have a variety of perspectives on any church committee. This allows for the helpful discussions and eventual agreement. It can also be beneficial to have a member of your church building committee that has a passion for construction — but they should also have a passion for the vision of your church if they’re going to be a useful member on your team.

Why a Church Leader with Vision Trumps Construction Experience

Philip Tipton, our vice president of Architecture, says this:

“Construction knowledge is great, but I would never sacrifice an individual that understands the vision of the church, the mission, what the church is called to do, who they feel God is trying to have them reach.”

In other words, construction experience is secondary to a church leader who knows about your church’s various ministries and where the church is headed.

You will be hiring an architect and general contractor, or a design-build team like The McKnight Group, who will guide you through the church design and construction process. It’s sometimes useful to have a church leader with construction experience on the building committee, but it’s not necessary. Instead, it’s crucial that every member of the church building committee is focused on your church’s vision for ministry in your community and how a church building might help accomplish those goals.

One Talent that is Useful on a Church Building Committee

This doesn’t mean that there are no specific, useful talents that can benefit a church building committee. We do recommend, for example, that at least one member of your finance committee be a member of your church building committee. As mentioned above, they should also be familiar and on board with your church’s vision. (You don’t want someone working at cross-purposes with your church building project.) But you do need a financial representative who can remind you of what’s possible for this stage of your church building project, given the realities of your church’s financial situation.

So, when it’s time to put together your church building committee, do check your list of people who have financial experience, but don’t focus on who has worked in building or construction. Choose dynamic and visionary leaders, and if they happen to have building experience, that’s a bonus.

Another bonus for every church leader is our series of free i3 webinars. These webinars can educate you on the latest ideas in church design and construction. We suggest that you sign up for our next i3 webinar on our homepage today.

2019-02-05T17:40:44+00:00 February 5th, 2019|Church Building, Leadership|

The Church Building Project Fee Structure

Recently, we completed a major series entitled Church Building Steps from Start to Finish where we discussed each of the steps needed to complete a church building or renovation project. One question that might come to mind before undertaking such a process is how are fees structured?

The Church Design Phase

For the initial church design, you will need an architect (or a design build team like The McKnight Group) to give you a basic plan, based on your church vision and ministry needs. How design professionals charge varies greatly. The fee for this will often be charged by the hour or as a fixed price, usually through a written agreement.

Once you are satisfied with the initial design, you will need to complete the construction documents. The architect should price these once the basic design is complete and the building budget is estimated. The cost of those construction documents will constitute the bulk of the architectural fees for your church building process.

The Church Building Construction Phase

Next, you will move into the construction phase. In addition to the actual costs of the building (materials, labor, etc.), there will be overhead and profit for the construction company that is doing the work. As building process moves along, periodic payments to the construction company will be required to purchase those materials and pay its team of workers and subcontractors.

The McKnight Group Fee Structure

Here at The McKnight Group, we quote a firm price for the initial design. Then we calculate the cost for the construction documents during the design phase, based upon your actual church design. Once the construction documents are complete, we will give you a final guaranteed cost for the church building construction itself, and a timeline for when portions would be due, based on construction goals.

Naturally, each church building project is different. This is one reason we offer our series of free i3 webinars. Each webinar gives you examples of what different churches are doing, which helps you understand what might be possible for your unique situation. We encourage you to sign up for our next i3 webinar and get the latest church building information we have to offer.

2019-02-14T20:30:14+00:00 January 29th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

The Church Building Project Timeline

Recently we completed an extended series of blog posts entitled Church Building Steps from Start to Finish, covering each of the steps that must be completed prior to moving into your new church. The series was a long one, but certainly not as long as it takes to actually complete the process. Which raises the question: Just how long will it take to complete a church building project from start to finish?

The Basic Answer

On average a major church design and building project will take you from two to three years to complete. This includes all the steps we’ve outlined in our series. It also makes some presumptions about how long each step in that process takes, including the amounts of time the church takes to make decisions.

Reasons Your Church Building Project Could Vary

Here’s one example of how a timeline can be affected at the permit phase. As we stated in our Start to Finish post on permits, it can take anywhere from a month to a year to get all the permits in line to begin construction. That is a wide variance. Although fifty percent of our clients have their permits in hand eight weeks after they begin the process, the other fifty percent will wait either a shorter or — more likely — longer period of time to get the permits they need to begin construction of their church building.

Another component that can impact your schedule is funding. The best time to raise money for your project is in the spring or fall which means if you complete your church building budget in March, for example, you may not have time to do the necessary behind-the-scenes preparations for a spring funding campaign. It is more prudent to wait until fall (after folks have returned from summer vacations) to launch your campaign, thus slowing the final steps of your church building project.

Our Church Design and Building Scheduling Planner

Because there are so many variables associated with the church design and building process, we create project schedules to help. It can easily show you starting and ending dates, depending on the variables plugged in for elements like permitting periods and when you expect to get your capital budget completed.

If you are considering a church design and building project, please contact us at We will be glad to help you figure out the specific timeline for your church project based on the particulars of your situation.

Clearly, every church building project is different. It’s why we suggest that you visit our homepage and sign up for our i3 webinars. Each of these free webinars explains different details on what you need to know in order to end up with a church design and church building that will meet the needs for ministry in your community.


2019-01-22T20:43:58+00:00 January 22nd, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

Church Building Steps from Start to Finish: Construction

Our step-by-step series about church design culminates with the process of church building. After nine posts on necessary preparations, we talk about what you need to do during the construction process.

Coordination Meetings

A regular coordination meeting between the general contractor and designated church leaders is a key component to successful church construction. This weekly meeting addresses logistics, especially if the new church building or renovation project occurs on a campus currently used for worship and ministry activities.

Topics from these meetings could include which entrances need to be available on Sundays (due to construction and safety concerns) and when water or particular restrooms might be shut off for hours, days, or weeks.

These meetings also provide an opportunity for church leaders to note what needs addressing or cleaning as work proceeds.

Finalizing Church Design Details

Many details from big to small need to be discussed and decided during the construction phase. These include interior design (including paint, flooring, and scheduling deliveries). Other important decisions revolve around keys: How many master keys will be available? How many different types of keys will be needed for different groups using different parts of the church building complex?

The Church Building Punch List and Move-In Process

The creation of a punch list (also known as the quality assurance walk-through) on your new or remodeled church building is a crucial indicator that your construction process nears completion. You and your general contractor will tour the church building, room by room, and identify anything that’s not correct, needs fixing, or is not yet installed. Those items are added to a list, and you will sign off as each item on the list is addressed and resolved.

The move-in period is a time when you and your team will learn how to operate the systems in your new church building. Some folks will need systems training in operating the thermostat and HVAC system, while other team members will learn about the audio-visual system. Your general contractor will give you all of the maintenance and operating manuals associated with the various systems in your building, as well as a set of marked up drawings of any changes to the initial building design as it has been constructed.

Finally, your general contractor will give you a warranty for the building construction that includes the builder’s commitment that they will address any issues that arise once you use the building. Although every general contractor intends to do their job perfectly, issues arise. The warranty is a critical component to the successful sign-off on a completed church building project.

Recapping the Church Building Steps from Start to Finish

Our long series on church building comes to an end, but if you would like to revisit each post, here are the steps in the process:

·        The Catalyst

·        The Design Phase

·        Zoning Considerations

·        Building Codes

·        Utilities and Schematics

·        Budget Review

·        Funding

·        Construction Documents

·        Permits


In our next post, we’ll move beyond the steps and address the best timing for your church building project. Meanwhile, please visit our home page and register for our upcoming i3 webinars. As you can see, we share a wealth of information with you in these free webinars!

2019-01-15T16:10:54+00:00 January 15th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|