Open Letter to The Church Building Committee – Part II

Dear Building Committee,

Parkway Baptist Church | Smyrna, TN

Parkway Baptist Church | Smyrna, TN

There is a lot to consider when you’re launching on the journey toward a new building, addition or renovation for your church. Here is more food for thought as you continue the process.

  • Get your banker on board early.

So often, churches advance the project design and procure construction estimates without knowing the exact amount they can borrow. Only late in the process do they discover that what they thought they could borrow is less than the amount they can qualify for.

The bank needs to be on board right after the capital campaign is complete and when the design is in the very early stages. While interest rates are important, good service from your banker is even more important.

  • If your church is going to embark on a capital campaign, secure an outside consultant to assist and guide the process.

Well-run capital campaigns usually raise 1.5 times the annual church budget. Outside consultant fees may not be small, but the expertise and counsel pays great dividends. I have watched many churches try to create and manage their own campaigns, and then fall way short of their goals.

Trying to run your own campaign is also a huge disruption to the staff and your ongoing ministries. Church staff and volunteers are already shorthanded anyway; let the experts do what they do.

  • Your staff and your ministries are more important than the church building. This goes back to designing to a budget. Is your church adequately staffed? Is the staff paid appropriately? The building program should not block action and forward progress in these areas.
  • The facility must be balanced.

Seats in the sanctuary drive everything else.

Once the appropriate number of seats is established, you can then determine the right amount of parking, education space, children’s space, etc. to support that number. As the church grows, all of these areas must grow with it.

  • Parking is critical. Please do not try to save money by reducing parking spaces. The amount of parking you need to attract and keep visitors is much greater than the minimum numbers your area’s Codes department will require. Work to meet the needs of visitors, not to meet code requirements.
  • Location is critical.

A church might be able to open its doors in a hidden or neighborhood location, but survival and healthy growth cannot be sustained “off the beaten path”. Buying cheap real estate will kill a church.

Jesus moved on the busy roads. Vibrant churches are located on the busy roads.

Employing best practices from the very beginning will pay tremendous dividends throughout the construction process. With a well-defined process, you, your congregation and outside experts can accomplish your goals on time, with a quality result and on budget.

Dow Smith, DowSmith, Certified Church Consultant and NACDB Member

DowSmith is an NACDB member and over the past 10 years, they have designed and constructed dozens of churches, functioning as a key partner and extension of each church’s Building Committee. They also bring to their work ongoing and extensive experience in other industry sectors, applying that knowledge to further improve their church-building process.

Copy used with permission from Dow Smith. The original PDF can be found at their website: