This is a topic rarely covered in theological sites but since a few of us were involved in the construction of a church, we thought it would be informative to share a few of our observations and challenges related to the project.
We started by examining closely churches of various sizes and ages. Since a church is a home for people of all ages, it needed to have features to accommodate everyone, from daycare for the little ones to senior-accessible areas and functions for the older ones.
We not only needed to have a good idea of the initial congregation size, but also needed to plan for growth since our goal was to bring in as many new congregants as possible. That was one of our core mission mandates. Our intent, of course, was not to try to siphon parishioners from other churches but instead to find people “on the fence” and get them to give us a try. There are a lot of such people.
Another component of our research was to determine the rough financial standing of our church community to help us decide what types of programs, trips, etc. we might choose to offer. The more we thought about this, the larger our list of classes and activities became. Some of these, like Bible studies, were obvious but we felt strongly we should offer such things as classes on Apologetics that could get fairly advanced, and trips to places like The Ark in Northern Kentucky and the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.
Anyway I am getting ahead of myself here. We needed to figure out the right blend of office and training space that would optimize space while offering the most practical use of that space. We designed multi-use training facilities with one large room for bigger classes that had a large 4-way partition in the middle that could be unfolded into any or all of 4 different directions, allowing for any combination of 1 large class up to 4 smaller classes in a single room. This particular partition was custom made. This really worked great and was a lot more practical and easier on the budget than 4 separate rooms.
Once we had the main building, offices, training room, daycare, vestibule, and parking designed and laid out by an architect, we underwent the arduous process of financing. It took us fully 8 months to get past the drawing phase. There are a lot of places you can go for loan information. We would up using Korteco to guide us in the right direction. They helped us with tax repurposing on some of the larger purchases including steel and HVAC, and also helped with working through all the tax exemption laws to reduce the overall cost of the project. Our desire was to spend every dollar as expeditiously as possible.
For our particular church we wanted to have the rather attractive grounds be accommodating to outside classes as well as peaceful walks. The area is wooded and we have 4 acres in addition to the buildings that we wanted to make as pleasing as possible. We had a gazebo built with benches around the outside which served as both a peaceful resting spot as well as a place where small classes could be held. The wooded areas are bisected by grassy areas so we had a landscaping company owned by one of the parishioners do all the shrubs, mulching, and lawn planting and also hired an irrigation company in Richmond to install a relatively inexpensive irrigation system to insure the lawn stayed green and healthy even in the hot, dry summers in Richmond.
All in all this project was a huge undertaking, but we were glad we put in the time up front to try to think of all the requirements, roadblocks, and hurdles. There were still a ton of issues but the end product was the very best we could do to provide for the community and we get a lot of compliments from the parishioners on how thoughtfully it is laid out. We are honored they think this way.