Reasons Not To Build
By Dan Reiland


On Easter Sunday, we celebrated the grand opening of our new buildings, which constitute a little more than 60,000 square feet. Months (actually years) of planning, sacrifice, money-- lots of money, and of course the uncertainty of a last-minute certificate of occupancy... If you've built, you know how this goes. On Wednesday of Easter week, we had no electricity in the worship auditorium. On Good Friday, we still had issues: for example, two of the rooms in the new children's building were without carpeting and the HVAC system was blowing heat and we couldn't make it stop. But like so many building projects, it all came together just in time. God provided.

Before I go much farther, I want to give proper credit. I'm not a builder. My greatest contribution to the actual building process was staying out of the way. Tony Bartlett, the vice- chairman of our board and Pastor Chris Huff, our Business Manager, led the way and are clearly the MVP's.

In this and the next edition of "The Pastor's Coach," I will share what I have learned from Tony, Chris and our Senior Pastor Kevin Myers. Plus a few of my own experiences from consulting and thirteen years' worth of involvement in a relocation project at Skyline Church, where I served with John Maxwell.

In this first article, I want to take an unusual approach. I want to share with you several reasons not to build. You understand the wisdom of making certain you are marrying the right person before you get to the altar. There is similar wisdom when it comes to building. Make sure you know what you are doing and why before you sign the mortgage papers!

Do not build if:

1. You are not clear on your vision.

Although my list is not organized in order of importance, if it were, I would still begin with the topic of vision. If you are not crystal clear about the vision and direction God has for you, do not build. You may be physically out of room, but without knowing God's plan for your future, it is unwise to launch into a building program. It is not necessary to have a twenty-year plan, but I recommend that you are clear, very clear for a five- to seven-year path into the future before you begin a major building campaign.

2. The leadership is not fully united and supportive of the project.

If you've been leading in the local church arena for long, you know how unlikely it is to gain 100% support for any large project, especially if it's expensive and brings about change. However, to move forward without the support of the majority of your key leaders is a foolish, if not disastrous leadership decision. Assuming you have the right leaders in the right places, give them time to think and pray through the issues. You are better off taking a long time to gain the enthusiastic support of your leaders than to build with half-hearted support. You may need to proceed without the buy-in of one or two key leaders, but if they are spiritually mature and see that the vast majority believe that God favors the decision, I believe they will support the project. When it comes to your official church board, I recommend getting 100% buy-in before building.

3. You have not fully utilized all the space that you currently possess.

There are often creative ways to use the space you already have. I am not a space utilization expert, but I know that there are often solutions to space issues that may be nontraditional, but are nonetheless good choices. For example, creating a video overflow room in an underutilized room or area of the church (I've seen nice tents used for this) can provide good room for growth while giving you time for longer term solutions. This isn't easy. You may have a long-standing Sunday School class of 17 people who meet in a room that could hold 65-80 people. Moving that group out could cause a big stink. But if the church is united in vision and the leadership is behind you, the process will go much better.

4. You have not fully implemented multiple worship services.

Most churches have embraced the concept of multiple worship services. But if you are still holding out for "one large happy church family" where everyone worships together, I urge you to consider going to multiple services. If you are already at two services, then consider three. I know that a number of things from non-optimal seeker worship time slots to parking issues get more complicated, but multiple services still provide a smart alternative to building too soon.

5. You are already carrying a very heavy debt load.

How often do people you know spend more than they should when buying a home, stretching debt levels and mortgage payments, on top of consumer debt? Simple common sense tells us that this is not smart, but people do it anyway. Churches do it too. When a church is held hostage to a mortgage payment, ministry decisions tend to reflect the pressure of the debt rather than a heart for the Great Commission. High quality organizations such as INJOY STEWARDSHIP SERVICES are able to give you sound advice on healthy debt levels and how much you can expect to raise in a capital stewardship campaign based on your current size and church environment.

6. If you anticipate that a new building will motivate your people to become more outreach-oriented.

New buildings deliver a certain amount of initial excitement and motivation. That motivation, however, is short-term and never transforms a person's heart. If they didn't care about lost people and invest in relationships with them before the building was constructed, they won't start just because the building is completed.

Churches grow because of a new building only if they were growing before the building began. The building is only a tool that allows the people to continue to invest in and invite the unchurched into the various church environments.

If the church isn't growing, you won't solve that problem with a building. (The obvious exception is a rapidly growing church that has truly maxed out its facilities.) Remember, it is never wise to attempt to solve non-building problems with building solutions.

7. You are a new church plant and have less than two hundred people regularly attending.

You and your church may be excited about owning your own church building and eliminating the hassle of renting and sharing facilities. I know. For years, John and I led four services across two campuses. The second campus was at a rented facility. Every Sunday, we did "church in a box." The box was a huge truck that contained everything--and I mean everything--required to outfit the second campus. Set up began at 6:00 a.m. and the truck was tucked back into its place about 2:00 p.m. As painful as this is, I urge you to hold off building your first building for as long as you can. Gain the financial and leadership stability you need before starting to build.

This article is not against building new and larger church buildings. As I've stated, we just finished a major building project and we'll build again. These are merely some practical thoughts in hopes of helping you think through a very complex issue. If you still feel God's leading to build and your leadership fully supports the plan, build away!



This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter 'The Pastor's Coach' available at www.INJOY.com.