?Buildings do not grow churches, people do. The people of God on mission for Him, striving to fulfill the Great Commission, lead to growth. People may visit a new building out of curiosity, if nothing else, but guests will stay only when ministry meets their needs and they have opportunities to minister to others.
However, inadequate buildings can limit growth. Buildings that are overcrowded or do not support the particular ministry can cause stagnation and decline.
So how does a church make the right decision? Careful evaluation, planning and timing are essential. Buildings should not determine the ministry. Instead, ministry should determine the building. Here are some steps to follow:

Planning for Ministry
Study the community and the church. Look at the culture of the community and the church. Compare the demographics of the community to the church. Is the church willing to adapt? What are the needs of the community? Which of those needs are being met by someone else? By your church? By no one?
Create a purpose statement and core values for the church. Describe why the church exists. How much is spent on what you say is the purpose of the church is a good test. Establish a plan for specific ministries that spans five to 10 years.

Planning for Space
Evaluate current facilities and space utilization. How effective are the current facilities as tools to help with the specific ministry for which they are being utilized?
Engage a church architect to complete an on-site evaluation. This will be perhaps the best money the church spends in this process. This consultant will be able to discuss space requirements, best use of acreage, codes, rough sketches of possible solutions, general costs and future steps. This process will lead to allowing the architect to develop a master plan for future use of all property by phases.

Planning for Costs
Once a master plan is in place, it is time to begin planning financially. You will need to engage a capital stewardship consultant to help you in this part of the process. How much can be raised in a three-year campaign and how much the church can afford to borrow are the critical factors. Never underestimate the ability of God among His people, and never allow the debt to limit the ministry that is growing the church. In this stage the church also begins conversations with multiple lending institutions.

Planning for Construction
The architect should now be commissioned to complete the A&E (architectural and engineering) documents. These will be your formal plans for construction. Careful planning can help avoid costly change orders during construction. The contractor can be brought on early to work with the team, assisting in cost savings.
Breaking ground to begin construction will be determined by factors such as availability of the contractor, weather and finances. The project can be divided into phases in order to manage the financial ability of the church. Never allow the cost of construction to replace the ministry of the church.

Planning for Completion
Be sure you engage the architect to be involved in construction administration. He should make multiple on-site visits during construction and authorize payments to the contractor. Before releasing the contractor and making final payment, the architect should assist your team in a walk-through to develop a list of things to be completed or corrected.

This type of planning will allow you to occupy your building with confidence and joy. It will allow you to fulfill the vision of the church and equip your ministries to advance in their work with greater efficiency. 

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