Church Building Program Tips

Church Building Program Tips
By Robert Hendrick

Answers are easy: it is the questions that are hard. Knowing the right questions to ask is one of the keys to a successful building program. The question that you do not ask is the one that will probably come back to bite you later in the project. Talking with other ministers has been a great help for us in avoiding simple mistakes. The horror stories we hear about church building programs are true, and most of them happened because the church did not ask all of the right questions. What do you really need in order to meet the needs of ministry? (God has promised to meet our needs out of His riches and glory.) What can the church afford to build? How will the church pay for the project? Get professional help to develop a projected budget, and then financially prepare for a building program. Jesus told us to count the cost before we build (Luke 14:28-30). Doing the first things first will save your church time, money, effort; and frustration.

Before You Call the Architect

In the article, “Helping Build God’s Vision for Your Church,” by Arks, Incorporated, it is stated that more than two out of three churches waste thousands of dollars on unfeasible plans they can never build because they did not have a clear understanding of ministry needs in contrast with their financial abilities. Get some objective and experienced help to balance the needs of the ministry with your financial ability to build.

Borrowing Money

Banks loan money based on their perceived risk. A well prepared financial package will help you secure the financing you need, or at least help get the best possible terms with respect to down payment, interest rate, and schedule of payments. One-half of a percentage point reduction on a one million dollar loan can save over $25,000 in the first five years. In our building program in Harker Heights we submitted financial packages to three different lending institutions and chose the one with the best terms for our program.


It has been said that when a church is eighty percent full it will no longer grow. We have found this to be true for the last two years. It is better to be proactive rather than reactive.

Knowing What to Build

Understanding the current demographic composition of your congregation is key to forecasting future needs. If you are not taking accurate weekly attendance (worship, Sunday school, nursery, toddlers, by school grade or program), then start next week.

Knowing who you are and how you got here is the key to predicting the future space requirements for your programs.

In his book “Successful Church Building,” Robert Knowles states some guidelines that are very similar to what we found, especially in our second building program.

* Estimate approximately one acre per hundred people. This allows for building, parking, green space, and waste water management.

* Estimate parking to be approximately 110 cars to the acre.

* Plan on an average of one parking space for every three people in attendance. This may be more than the required parking by the city or county, but more accurately reflects actual need.

* Sanctuary seating ranges from ten to fifteen square feet per person, depending on layout, seating pattern, and total size of the sanctuary.

* Vestibule/lobby/narthex should be about two square feet per person in the worship center. Note: if you are running multiple services, you may want to increase this to facilitate the “shift change.”

* Classrooms range from twelve to thirty-five square feet per person in the room, depending on the age group using the space.

* Overall, a building with dedicated spaces for sanctuary, fellowship, education, administration and multiuse space may require from thirty to fifty-five square feet of space per person depending on programs, ministries, and other factors.

Another hurdle that we faced during our second building program was the zoning laws in Harker Heights. Our church property is zoned B-3 Commercial. The zoning code stated that a church could only be built in a residential area and not in a commercial zone. Alter some research I found out about the Religious Land Use and Institutionalize Persons Act of 2000, and what it means. A Christian law firm was willing to represent us in court for free, but God intervened. With this information and God’s favor we were able to get the local zoning coda rewritten to include churches in any zone.

Growth is not an option; therefore building programs are a must. We are building His kingdom, but in the process God does not expect us to neglect our families. With His help and others we can keep it all in balance and continue to do great things for God.

Article “Church Building Program Tips” excerpted from “Forward Magazine”. Article written by Robert Hendrick.

“This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”