In the final part of our blog series on the eight principles of a successful church building project, our vice president of architecture, Philip Tipton, continues helping you get a sense of the many considerations that are essential for ensuring your finished project meets your community’s needs. In this installment, you’ll learn why it’s important to call on professionals to turn your vision into a practical, usable church building.
Why You Need Professionals with Church Architecture Experience
One of Philip’s favorite stories about the need for professionals with church experience is related to weight. You see, a church we worked with had found what they thought was the perfect commercial building to renovate for their needs. It was a two-story building on a slope, so the front of the building opened up on the second level. This was to be their worship space.
The problem was that the floor was structurally rated for a store, which means it had a weight rating of 40 pounds per square foot. However, the worship space, which had to be rated for “assembly use” in church architecture lingo, required a floor that could carry 100 pounds per square foot.
By the time we were called in to help them deal with this unforeseen issue, the building had already been purchased and the work was underway. All sorts of additional beams and structural welding had to be included—what Philip calls “structural gymnastics”—which also impacted the usability of the space on that lower level.
Why You Need to Talk with Experienced Professionals Now
This story also illustrates why it’s never—well, hardly ever!—too early to call in professionals. For example, we can offer feasibility studies if you’re trying to decide whether to move to a new space or not. Or we can create church designs and budgets for two scenarios that you’re considering, in order to help you see the pros and cons of each option before you make a commitment.
When you work with professionals who have experience designing and building churches, they’ll understand that your vision for ministry is driving your building priorities and ideas, so they can work with you to make sure that the final building turns your vision into reality.
That said, it’s important you clearly understand your vision and communicate it as early as possible in the church design process.
Professionals also understand that your “perfect” church design will likely change during the course of the project. When we first begin meeting with clients, they often hand us drawings and say, “This is what we want.” While we’re happy to take those drawings into consideration, we’re much more interested in the bigger picture: creating a church building that supports their vision.
Why You Don’t Want to Be Exhausted on Opening Day
When you work with professionals who understand churches, it also means they understand that you’re working within a budget and that you might want to do some of the work yourself as a community, both to save money and to help your members “invest” emotionally in your project. We understand, and we’ve had churches that did some of the painting or other construction services when it made sense, and when it could be done in a timely and quality manner.
But it’s also really important not to tire out your church members working on the building. Everyone in the area is going to know that a new church is being built, and they’ll come visit—once—for the chance to take a look at what you’ve done.
This is what we call “opening day,” and it’s not the end of the construction phase so much as it is the beginning of living out your vision for ministry. If everyone’s exhausted and hasn’t planned how to welcome and connect with all those visitors, your church won’t make a good first impression and all that designing and building won’t mean anything.
So chances are it’ll be best to let the professionals do the church building work while you focus on preparing your leadership for opening day and beyond. You can also sign everyone up for our free i3 webinars (just visit our website)—that way they can get just as excited as you are about the possibilities of a new church!