Safety at Your Church

What security concerns must be addressed by every church and ministry? Get an overview of the most common and urgent areas of safety and security from an authority on church legal matters.

Click here to watch this video from NACDB member Anthony & Middlebrook.

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What’s your plan?

Anthony & Middlebrook, P.C. is a boutique law firm specializing in the representation of nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations, including public charities, private foundations (company-sponsored and family-endowed), social welfare organizations, trade associations, hospitals, private schools, colleges and universities, churches and religious organizations, charitable trusts, and supporting organizations.

Get Your Church Ready to Borrow

By: Charity Kuehn of Union Bank and Trust, NACDB member and Certified Church Consultant

God has blessed you and your church family with many, many gifts. You have been good stewards of those blessings, but the world isn’t the same as it used to be. Growth is expensive and requires you to have good financial partners who will help to guide you through the challenges of that growth.

As the Assistant Vice President of Church Financing at Union Bank, I want to share with you some important points you will need to consider as you prepare to request a loan from a financial institution. Union Bank’s Church financing area lends all over the United States, with a strong focus on the Central and Midwest parts of the country. I have worked with many different denominations and in cities with varying economic circumstances. There is always a common thread among church loans that are successfully approved: preparation.

You will find out that I am a pretty open person and I intend to be very candid about what a financial institution is truly evaluating. There should really be no secrets between the bank and the church as you go through this process together. As the borrower, you need to fully understand what your bank is weighing in their decision.


Making a commitment to borrow funds requires some documentation to be gathered for review by your board and your lender. You will need to have your church’s Articles and By-laws available to include with your loan request. Because board members and signers often change for a church, it is a good idea to provide documentation showing who exactly can make the decision to borrow and that the church board has approved the church to make a borrowing request. Having this documentation up-front will show your lender that you are organized, prepared  and that the process to put loan documents together will be smooth.

Church Family History

Be ready to tell your story. A powerful component to your request is being able to show the financial institution your church’s vision for your future. Provide a history of your church and include information about the church leadership and pastor. Discuss in your summary of the church the future growth plans in detail. Explain why you feel you will grow, what audience you are targeting in your growth efforts, the tools you are using to reach them and what success or trends you have so far. In essence, you want your lender to want to join your church. Share your passion.

Campaign for Pledges

As a church, you need to be comfortable and committed to a growth project in every way. A successful fund raising campaign can be solid proof of this commitment. Provide as much detailed information about the commitments you have as well as the funds you have received as you can. I suggest a detailed report of each pledge, how much has been received so far and what is left to collect. Also showing your anticipated timeline for receiving the funds is helpful for your lender to see how much you will likely need over the course of the project. For any financial institution that truly committed to church financing, they will understand the power of a great campaign and not discount or dismiss it.


Presenting finances that have an accountant’s credibility behind them will give you a tremendous boost in the eyes of your lender. No matter what bank or financial institution you work with, they are going to want to see your church’s financial history. Many times the way a church handles their financials today is the same as it was when the church began 10 or 15 or sometimes even 40 years ago. When you started your church and there were only a few members, your accounting system was simple and easy to explain to the membership and the board. When you ask a bank to decipher your “system,” it can limit the number of financial institutions willing to consider your request. I, personally, love to get the financials from a new church, but it can often take multiple conversations in order to make sure I am giving the church a fair look because the financials are difficult to interpret. My first recommendation is to have an accountant do a full review of your finances BEFORE you make your request for financing. Any church with an annual giving budget of more than $350,000 per year should consider getting a professional involved on an annual basis. If nothing else, an accountant can compile your financials into a format that will be more easily presented in a loan request.

Know your numbers

There are a few key ratios most financial institutions will evaluate as they look at your request. Here are a couple of benchmarks that I use at Union Bank to do an initial evaluation of a loan request.

  • Is the loan request less than 4x the annual contributions?
  • Does the annual loan payment stay below $600 per giving unit (a giving unit is an individual or family in your church who gives on a regular basis)
  • Does the average annual amount giving by each giving unit exceed $1200? (exceeding in this case is good)
  • Is the annual debt payment less than 30% of total gross revenue of the church?

These numbers can give you a good idea of where you will stand on first glance with a financial institution. If you are far outside of any of these ratios, it is a good idea to analyze why that may be and do one of two things.

  1. You can either adjust your project to be more in line with what a lender will find acceptable.
  2. Prepare a strong argument about how the risk of being outside of that ratio can be mitigated. Knowing where your weaker points are before you put your request out for review not only   helps you understand what challenges you have, but may also bring to light some areas that should be re-evaluated.


Ask the important questions of your financial institution.

  • Do they understand churches and their needs?
  • Are they willing to truly listen to you?
  • Does the individual you are working with seem interested in only the transaction or do they want to be a part of your financial team?

Knowing these answers can help guide you to the right financial institution for your church. A good church lender knows that not every project is ready for approval from the moment you meet. Many projects take time and effort to get the church and the project to the point that it makes sense for them. The right lender is willing to take that time to walk side by side with you as you are guided by God toward what is best for your church.

I wish everyone who is beginning this journey my very best. If I can be a resource for you don’t hesitate to contact me. I am always glad to simply discuss and brainstorm.



Streamlining your Ministry Expansion

Streamlining your Ministry Expansion

By Chad Charon, PBS

When you are looking to build, partnering together with a design/build firm that understands ministry and has a streamlined and sequential approach to planning is critical to the success of your project.  There are many dynamics when planning for a new ministry project, not the least of these including the multiple opinions of committee members or your leadership team.  So, the unity of process becomes that much more important to the overall success of your planning.

Members of the planning team should not be encumbered by an exhaustive and rigid process, yet should experience a simple, thorough and flexible approach to planning.  Below is an example of a streamlined process for planning your ministry expansion or new construction project:

  • Scope Development / Vision Casting:

Your design/build (d/b) team is helping you work through your vision.  Your d/b team should not be telling you how to run your ministry, but should be guiding you through the development of a tool that will accommodate the needs of your ministry.  In this first phase of planning they should be listening to the individuals responsible for each area of ministry and the needs they have.  Their ability to listen will be evident by the questions you are asked.  The experience and knowledge of your design/build team can then help guide you through the alignment of your overall ministry needs creating a balanced solution for planning.

  • Design Development:

Now that you have alignment with your various areas of ministry your d/b team can move into pre-construction planning which might include master plan development and detailed preliminary design development.  This work will be specific to your project, but could include site planning, detailed floor plan layouts, 2D elevations and 3D color renderings.  Once the overall design planning has occurred and leadership is in agreement, a comprehensive accounting of the costs will commence in order to determine that the plan as approved is in alignment with the stewardship of the ministry.  This can inevitably take some time back and forth as you fit the right building tool within your approved budget.  The key here is that you are counting your costs before moving into final construction documents and subsequent construction on a project that may not be affordable.  Once the project budget and design are in alignment you are able to move into a final design/build agreement with a lump sum guaranteed maximum price (GMP).

  • Construction Documents:

Once your leadership is unified with the design and construction agreement your d/b team will immediately begin the process of preparing final construction documentation.  This will generally include all site, architectural and structural, Mechanical/Electrical and Plumbing as well as audio/visual and lighting engineering.  In addition, this work will include coordination and planning with the appropriate local, county and state authorities in preparation for and procurement of the required project permits.

  • Construction:

Your design/build team should pursue, if at all possible a partial permit release.  This will often allow for them to begin site work in advance of the final release of building permit which, if allowed will help expedite the construction process.  As construction begins your design/build team will professionally manage and coordinate all suppliers and on-site personnel including the coordination and preparation of all construction related documentation and activities for your project.

  • Occupancy:

As construction nears completion your design/build team will perform a thorough review of all construction details to ensure that all requirements have been met, remaining items have been resolved and the ministry has a clear understanding of the projects components.

PBS is a design/build firm specializing in the planning, design and construction of worship facilities throughout Illinois, NW Indiana and Eastern Wisconsin. Through our 5-step delivery process ( we work closely together those we are partnering with as our working relationship will often span a number of years.  The PBS team is comprised of Certified Church Consultants and is in leadership as a member of the National Association of Church Design Builders (NACDB).  As a part of this National Association we bring to our customers opportunities to partner through PBS with a comprehensive team of professionals who provide churches with the systems and resources they need for a fully integrated project.

Chad Charon is the Vice President of PBS Companies, a design/build firm in its 26th year of operation. PBS specializes in the planning, design and construction of worship facilities throughout Illinois and Eastern Wisconsin. As a design/build firm, research has proven that the more planning and coordination that occurs under one umbrella, the more opportunity there will be for project success by way of cost effective planning and overall construction efficiencies.

Worship Seating and Layout: Maximum Seats or Maximum Comfort

Worship Seating and Layout: Maximum Seats or Maximum Comfort

By Kurt Williams of T&W Church Solutions, NACDB member

The seating that you choose for your Worship space is very personal, and the choices are numerous:  fixed or moveable; chairs, pews or theater seats; with arms, or not; etc, etc, etc.  However, the layout of the seating may be the most important.

Most churches in today’s economy will direct us to maximize the number of people that can be seated for worship.  Maximizing seating can be achieved in three ways: Using smaller chairs, spacing the chairs closer together in tighter rows, and minimizing the common aisle widths that lead to the room’s exits. Moveable chairs are commonly used and come in a variety of widths and depths. For the purpose of this article, we’ll use a common 21” deep movable chair.

Maximizing the people means minimizing the space in the row between the seats. When simplifying the building code requirements, the minimum spacing required is 12” from back of seat to front of the seat behind.  That 12” represents the minimum seating aisle. As you can see in the graphic below and when using a seat depth of 21”, a 36” row spacing produces an aisle of 15”.  The overwhelming majority of churches use this spacing.  Some may find that an aisle of 15” may be “too tight”.

A spacing that is starting to be used more frequently by churches is 42” from back to back of the seat.  As you can see in the graphic, a 42” spacing produces an aisle of 21”. The extra 6” will feel more comfortable for people that are passing those already seated, but every action creates a reaction.

T&W Church Solutions recently designed and built for a church that had this exact decision to make.  The project included a complete re-purposing of an existing church facility which included flattening a sloped floor and rotating the platform 90 degrees for their contemporary and multi-layout worship style.

You can see that the existing condition seating layout, with pews at 36” spacing and code minimum aisles, provided for 494, 21” seats in the Worship area.  The proposed maximum seating solution layout, with moveable chairs at 36” spacing and code minimum aisles, provided for 470, 21” seats.  The proposed maximum seating solution at 42” spacing provided for 350, 21” seats.

The challenge to be aware of is IF the 36” spacing with the 15” aisle feels too tight, what does a 42” spacing with the 21” aisle do to the number of seats in the space OR how much larger will we need to make your facility to accommodate the desired number of seats?

In this example, the choice was to have 42” spacing with approximately 21” aisles, at the expense of less seats in the space.  Since the project was a renovation project, the option to expand the worship area to accommodate additional seating was not a cost effective option.  The result of the decision was a reduction in possible seats of 120, from 470 to 350.  If expansion of the existing space were feasible to maintain the 470 seats, that result would have been an addition of 1,310 square feet.

A common question posed boils down to cost per seat.  Again, using the above example and using the industry average cost for new construction of $125 per square foot, let’s do the math.

36” spacing in 3,750sf             42” spacing in 3,750sf

Width of Seats:                                    21”                                                  21”
Number of Seats:                               470                                                  350
Cost to Build @ $125/sf               $468,750                                         $468,750

Cost per Seat                               $997.35                                           $1,339.30

Every church is unique, every church’s style of worship is unique, and every church’s seating proximity and aisle width comfort is unique.  The cost of building places of worship continues to go up.  The church’s consideration of seating layout and spacing is not only a comfort driven decision, it is also has a cost component to it as well.  As you begin the Adventure of designing and building your place of worship, please keep seating layout in the forefront of your mind.  Layout several rows in your existing space with the 36” spacing, 42” spacing, or any spacing between, and see what feels the most comfortable to you then clearly convey that to the Design Team.  The Worship Experience is crucial.  Seating can, and will, have an impact on that Experience.

Kurt Williams, NACDB CCC, LEED AP, is a Design/Build veteran at T&W Church Solutions ( with over 25 years in the industry, 20 of those years guiding over 100 churches through the various stages of Planning, Designing and Building their new facilities.  T&W Church Solutions is a Design/Build firm who partners with ministry-focused architects to serve the churches of Central Indiana as well as the only NACDB (National Association of Church Design Builders) Certified Firm in Central Indiana.  Kurt can be reached at

Communicating the Priority of Sustainable Funding To – and Through! – Your Building Committee


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GL Barron Construction | First United Methodist Church | Coppell, TX

You dreamed it.  The architect designed it.  You want you to build it.  And you’re ready to fire off a capital campaign to pay for it.  Good to go, right?

To borrow from a classic Hertz™  commercial, “Well, not exactly.”

Many churches regard a capital campaign as a stand-alone, short-term financial objective, instead of being viewed as one of several crucial elements contributing to long-term, sustainable funding.  In light of the upcoming project, leaders and building committee members enjoy a prime opportunity to communicate the role the campaign will play.  As part of your “Big Picture,” an effective church capital campaign works in concert with budget support (tithing), missions funding (outreach), and legacy giving (forward thinking) to provide a foundation for long-term financial stability.

Your committee must grasp and convey the real-world ministry impact, moreso than the achievement of new space, that the campaign is going to set in motion.  Helping believers see beyond the fundraising will enable them to value the project within the context of long-term ministry goals.  This critical step promotes collective ownership of the vision, and where your member’s heart is, so is his or her treasure.

To get your building committee thinking along these lines, come to a unified perspective on the following:

  • How will the new or improved facility promote and affirm the vision of the church? The building is the means, not the end.  This may sound basic, but people, processes, and priorities can easily undermine momentum and cloud perspective.  Keep them on track and looking ahead.
  • How will the capital campaign mesh with existing financial needs? This is where Big Picture thinking is essential, not some novel idea.  If a campaign becomes a simple matter of asking for “extra” money, you run the risk of diverting budget support and remaining flat in total giving.
  • Who is driving the communication of the campaign-specific goals within the context of the ministry vision as a whole?  Nurturing buy-in to the project, and releasing the resources to pay for it, depend on this critical activity.  Understand the value of communicating early, and often, to the congregation about how the upcoming project is a critical part of what is yet to come.

Learn more about Impact Stewardship. ▶

Since 1999, Impact has helped raise over $950 million to expand ministry space, enhance mission outreach and retire unnecessary, excessive church debt. Our team brings together decades of experience in stewardship teaching and curriculum resources, capital stewardship campaign consulting and capital campaign media to help your ministry implement a spiritual plan that enables a wider reach to your community.

Choosing the Right Lender for Your Project

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JH Batten & Custom Sound Designs | Raleigh First Assembly | Raleigh, NC

By Jon Huskins of Crossbridge Funding Group
Provided by NACDB Member: Kurt Williams from T&W Church Solutions

Churches and Nonprofits: Preparing for Financing or Refinancing

While the Great Recession of 2008-2009 may seem like something of the past, the reality is we’re still living with its consequences. In fact, it greatly impacts today’s economic environment.

In 2008-2009, many businesses failed. This resulted in foreclosures and high unemployment rates. At the same time, real estate values collapsed—and banks, in particular, sustained tremendous losses. This economic slowdown was fueled by increased regulatory scrutiny, fewer available loan sources and more conservative lending practices.

While the economy is in better shape today, Jon Huskins, President of Crossbridge Funding Group, says the effects of the Great Recession are still felt today.

“Not surprisingly, our nation’s economic recovery has not been speedy,” Huskins says. “It takes years to recover from economic downturns.”

The Turning Tide of Lending

For the first few years after the recession, loans were hard to obtain and the underwriting process was an even more rigorous process than normal. Now, several years later, banks are more confident in the market. It’s a great time for churches and other nonprofit organizations to refinance or move forward with building projects.

“Banks are still conservative in their lending practices,” Huskins says, “but they are eager for good quality business—and churches are the ideal client.”

He says that with banks competing for business once again, bank liquidity is high and churches can get loans at attractive interest rates. He cautions churches to conduct a thorough review of banks.

“Churches shouldn’t just be looking for a loan, but a funding partner,” explains Huskins. “With more options today, churches should evaluate their choices carefully—not all lenders are the same.”

He points to Luke 14:28-30 as a guide: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”

What Church Borrowers Need in a Bank Partner

There are a variety of loan sources, including banks, credit unions, denominational lenders and bond companies. Huskins recommends that churches ask potential partners about the following:

  • Experience with nonprofit lending
    •    Volume of church loans closed during the past few years
    •    Underwriting guidelines critical to the decision-making process

The cheapest deal is not always the best deal. In fact, a quality relationship with the bank is as important as the loan itself. A good way to gauge the bank, Huskins says, is by evaluating if the bank is more concerned about their policies or your vision.

How Potential Borrowers Prepare

In order to prepare to move forward with financing or refinancing, churches should:
•    Know how much money you will need
•    Focus on telling a compelling story
•    Professionalize financial statements
•    Model debt impact on operations to avoid debt bondage

The most important element of preparation is the loan package. It should include:
•    Loan purpose and desired loan structure
•    Church history and governance information
•    Organizational documents
•    Financials for the prior 3 years (Banks prefer CPA-prepared statements.)
•    Existing debt schedule
•    Attendance trends for prior 3 years
•    Current operating budget
•    Capital campaign information and results

Additionally, if you’re seeking a construction loan, include the following:
•    Description of build team
•    Background information for builder and architect
•    Copy of the construction contract
•    Plans and specifications
•    Construction schedule It takes time to pull together a comprehensive loan package.

Churches should use available expertise—both internal and external—to prepare.

How Banks Analyze Loan Packages

Just as churches are evaluating lending partners, they, too, are being evaluated and, specifically, their loan packages. Lending partners evaluate the viability of a loan request based on the strength of church leadership, governance processes and the quality of financial statements.

“Documents are judged on whether they are internally or CPA-prepared, as well as whether they are compiled, reviewed or audited,” says Huskins.

Additionally, key bank underwriting guidelines are applied to the evaluation. Specifically, banks assess:
•    Deposits and loans
•    Debt coverage ratio – 1:1 or higher
•    Debt as a multiple of the operating budget – 3 times
•    Debt service as a percentage of the operating budget – <33%
•    Loan to value ratio – 75% to 80%

In addition, lenders analyze church loan packages by other financial considerations, including the number of giving units, attendance trends, prior capital campaign experience, and the dollar amount that the top 15 givers contribute to total operating budget.

Upon Loan Approval

Once the loan is approved, the church will receive a commitment letter that outlines the loan approval. The letter will outline:
•    Debt coverage requirements and frequency of testing
•    Bank approval of additional borrowing
•    Prepayment penalties
•    Financial statement quality and reporting requirements Huskins says to look for key loan covenants that may restrict certain areas of operations.

Lender Selection

In order to avoid the potential hazards incumbent in the lender selection process it is imperative to focus on the following critical steps.

7 Tips for Preparing for Financing

1.    Research banks that serve the nonprofit market.
2.   Don’t approach banks too soon—take the necessary time to prepare.
3.   Model the impact of debt on operations and ministry.
4.   Know the desired loan amount and structure.
5.   Understand the difference between commitment and terms letters.
6.   Avoid prepayment penalties.
7.   Avoid excessive fees and understand closing costs.

The selection of the right banking partner will have implications far beyond the completion of a building project or loan refinance.  The bank selected will not just be the church’s lender but a partner that potentially defines the ministry the church ultimately pursues.

Jon J. Huskins is the President of Crossbridge Funding Group, LLC. He can be reached at 317-514-0262 or

This Article has been supplied to you by T&W Church Solutions as part of our effort to provide growing Churches in our region with relevant information to enhance their ministries and to reach out more effectively to those who do not know the Lord.

Kurt Williams, NACDB CCC, LEED AP, is a Design/Build veteran at T&W Church Solutions with over 25 years in the industry, 20 of those years guiding over 100 churches through the various stages of Planning, Designing and Building their new facilities.  T&W Church Solutions is a Design/Build firm who partners with ministry-focused architects to serve the churches of Central Indiana as well as the only NACDB (National Association of Church Design Builders) Certified Firm in Central Indiana.

The Top 3 Things That Building Committees Wish They Would Have Done Better Before They Built

Evaluating and contracting design and construction services has never been an easy task for the church. In today’s economic climate, the challenge has become exponentially harder as struggling builders are becoming increasingly “creative” in how they represent themselves. Discussions with hundreds of churches that have built has boiled down to a very simple “Top Three” list of advice and wisdom that will help your church make the most important decision, with the most financial risk, that it may ever make. Without further ado, let’s take in the wisdom of those who have already survived the adventure of designing and building a new facility.

The Top Three things that building committees wish they would have done better before they built are:

1.  Check the References of Your Team – Really, Check the References.
2.  Fully Understand the Fees for the Work.
3.  Fully Understand How the Project Will Be Delivered.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed”
– Proverbs 15:22

“Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding”
– Proverbs 3:13

Check the References of Your Team

Really, check the references! The attitude of “they wouldn’t give us the reference if it wasn’t good” needs to change. Any design and build firm that claims to build problem free, either has not built, or is less than honest. The issue is not “if” you are going to run into a problem, but “when”. That is why you owe it to yourself and the church to check, extensively, the firm’s references. There is a saying that companies have resumes, and people have references. Without a doubt, the people that you will work with will make your project a success, or something less. When speaking with the firm’s references, ask six simple questions:
1. Who were the people that you worked with on your project?
2. What were the problems that took place on your project?
3. How were the problems resolved?
4. Who paid for the problems?
5. How is your relationship with the people that worked on your project?
6. Would you hire them for your next phase?

Fully Understand the Fees for the Work

The primary cost items for a construction project are design and engineering, general condition costs, building construction costs, reimbursable costs, fixture and furnishing costs, and builder overhead and profit.

Faced with the daunting task of choosing the right builder for their project, building committees have resorted to shopping building firms based on their overhead and profit percentage. They believe that overhead and profit are the only variables between builders with the remaining project costs (Design & Engineering, Construction Costs and Fixtures & Furnishings) being somewhat fixed. That assumption is far from accurate. Choosing a builder based solely on their “low” overhead and profit percentage has sometimes become a rude awakening for churches around the country when they finally stumble upon the “hidden costs” of the project.

Many times, attention is gained with a low overhead & profit figure from a builder, only to find later that there are other “costs” the builder has moved into general conditions that have subsequently created a higher actual project cost to the church. When evaluating your design and build team, make sure that the general conditions, costs, and the overhead & profit are identified and carefully compared.

Fully Understand How the Project Will Be Delivered

Church building committees spend countless hours wrestling with the approach they will take to design and build their new facilities, and with good reason. Construction still remains the number two most litigated industries in America today – second only to medical. Almost $.20 of every construction dollar goes towards claims and litigation. So how does a church protect themselves from becoming a statistic, while building positive relationships with their designers and builders? Often the approach taken to design and build is a reflection of the building committee, their comfort with risk, and their personal past experiences with similar projects. Today’s church building committees face a harder task of selecting an approach than their predecessors, due primarily to the “hybridization” of the traditional three delivery systems: Design-Bid-Build, Construction Management and Design-Build. There are distinct Pro’s and Con’s to each approach. Make sure that you understand the pro’s and con’s of the various delivery systems and have identified who (you, the architect or the builder) will be responsible for the different situations that will occur on your building project.

A good Design and Build Team, with a heart to serve the Lord, can make what could be a time of ministry distraction into a time of ministry focus. Selecting a team to serve your ministry should be based on the relationship with the team members that you would be interacting with regularly through the course of the process, the past experience of each team member, and the ability of each team member to synergize with the others to develop cost effective solutions for your project. Every project, first and foremost, is all about God. The next thing a project is all about is people. Great people can steer your church through the landmines of the construction process and protect you and your congregation from the risks that are commonplace in the construction industry.

Kurt Williams is a Design/Build veteran at T&W Church Solutions ( with over 25 years in the industry, 20 of those years guiding over 100 churches through the various stages of Discovering, Designing and Building their new facilities. T&W Corporation is a Design/Build firm dedicated to serving the churches of Central Indiana and is an active contributing member of the NACDB ( Kurt can be reached at

Article as Published in Church Solutions Magazine, Virgo Publishing, January 2009