Helpful Words of Caution
Presenting Relocation to a Church

Below are excerpts from e-mail messages from our architect, Gary Nicholson, written while we were in the process of preparing our Master Site Plan. He speaks here about general principles from his many experiences in working with churches. These helpful insights provide some good rules of thumb...

I might want to warn you that for some relocation will not be a rational decision. Rather, you will probably encounter some who will deal with it on a purely emotional basis. They will go through a grieving process as though they were losing a loved one. And in a way, they are. Be prepared to allow them to grieve. That's OK! No amount of reasoning will ease the pain for some.

It isn't a rational response, but an emotional one. Try to find healthy ways for them to vent their feelings without infecting or crippling the rest of the congregation that is ready to move forward. Allow them to talk about what has gone on in this building, the memories they have, how they'll miss it, etc. Those are all true and worth talking about as you continue to move toward relocation.

You might even want to invite testimonies about how the Lord has impacted lives in this building. What is your favorite memory of the sanctuary? etc. Then, what do you look forward to in the new building? Focus on mission and what you can do in the new facility that you could never do in this one. New ministries, new souls won, and new lives changed!

Allow them to have fond feelings for the old building without having negative feelings toward the new one. That is possible. A healthy move will see positive feelings by everyone toward the new facility and the old that has taken you so far as a church on life's journey!

I hope your people see your heart to move forward to reach people and your care for their feelings as well. I pray there will be few, if any, negative feelings about the move, and that it is a smooth transition to the future for you all.

On Disappointment with the First Phase

I want to begin to prepare you for the possibility that you will be disappointed when you see how much you can afford to build. Most churches who relocate do well to afford to replace their existing capacity on the new site. Churches that are growing and are full in two services (in their existing facilities) are sometimes able to do more, but they are the exception. Many will realize they will not have much breathing room at first, and that growth may mean going to two worship services -- and maybe two Sunday schools -- until they can afford to build a second phase.

You may ask: "Then what's the good of relocating?"

The answer is that you are buying the ability to grow in the future. You will no longer be limited by property limitations like you are now. Sometimes, it is still very much the right thing to relocate, but it is not the panacea that some tend to think it will be. People tend to have visions of all-new space with plenty of room to grow and do additional ministries you can't do now, like a nice choir suite, a family life center, large offices, etc.

I hope this isn't too negative, but it's best to face the truth, if that be the case

On the Master Site Plan gaining acceptence before beginning the Capital Fund Campaign

One consideration is that there may be a "learning curve" that may affect the enthusiasm of your congregation. What I mean is that some might not be too enthusiastic at first about what they see in the project, or see left out of the project. Your committee may have a task at hand to promote the idea that this is the right thing to do. Some in the church who have agendas of their own will have to "get over" some disappointment, and get focused on the task at hand.

You may need to take some time to make a case for the planned project; as it may not be what they intuitively think is the right thing. You may need to allow some time for creating a forum for discussions, visiting Sunday School classes and bringing the rest of the church membership to a comfort level with the proposed project. This will usually take even more time if you plan to do it over the summer, since some will miss the presentation the first time due to vacations, etc.

All of this can take time, and therefore the later dates [to begin capital fund drive] would be safer in my opinion to allow some time for a teaching ministry to take place, and to begin to gather momentum.

Gary Nicholson, AIA, is with the Church Architecture Department of LifeWay Church Resources.

Church Architecture Department, LifeWay