But God said unto me, thou shalt not build an house for my name, because thou has been a man of war, and hast shed blood (I Chronicles 28.3).”
Biblical history’s most aspiring church builder was told that he could not build, because certain limitations hindered him. Though the nature of hindrances vary, the fact remains: Nobody can do it all. Therefore, the first step toward successful and timely building management is for the pastor to acknowledge his own limitations. He must evaluate these limitations and lay out boundaries accordingly.
The obvious solution to one person’s limitations is to delegate work to qualified associates. Yes, that means committees! For instance, outside consultants retained by the church will need some information from which to work. Somebody needs to take pictures, dig out papers, compile information, and so on. The directives for what to do will come, but if an organized effort is not on hand to fulfill the tasks, the project will remain at square one far longer than necessary. Committees can benefit the process of communication both within the church congregation as well as to the outside. By vesting authority in a committee, the interests of the membership at large are represented in a fair and organized manner.
Committee work also helps the pastor in providing efficient and timely response to requests for information from outside consultants. After all, committees are just people. They shouldn’t be any larger than necessary, and they must be selected with care.
Concerning this same subject, a survey committee is highly desirable. This committee is responsible for polling the needs of the people in five basic areas: worship, fellowship, administration, education and general spaces. The building plans must keep these needs in mind.
Once the scope of the building project has been defined, the committee’s areas of study should expand to such topics as the selection, financing and promotional aspects of the construction process itself.
Most pastors are blessed with people representing a variety of skills and knowledge. Paul discusses God-given abilities and talents in I Corinthians 12. Talents with dirty fingernails are just as profitable to the Lord’s work as the spiritual gifts that generate so much interest. The resources available need smart management to achieve maximum effectiveness. These people can, in turn, provide valuable referrals for services needed by the church, not to mention possible outreach targets!
The building committee is best headed by an experienced professional, preferably a general contractor. A contractor is a business owner as well as a builder. He is experienced at managing projects and people. This person is the primary representative of the church to the professional community during the building program. Therefore, he should assume the prominent role of negotiation of contracts. All the while, he should, of course, meet with the pastor for periodic briefings and to address specific problems that may arise.
Once you have established the committees and are ready to start the building project itself, it’s important to remember that pastoring is one job, and church building is another. Consequently, the first task at hand is to develop a capable management team for the project. Insightful management will allow the congregation to clarify their vision in order to establish a schedule and budget. In other words, they should establish the answers to three questions: “How big, how soon, and for how much?”
The building process involves managing resources as well as materials. And there are three considerations to keep in mind in effectively managing resources. First, it is important to recognize that doing is not necessarily managing. Managing involves setting up conditions for doing and then making sure that the doing is accomplished according to plan.
Secondly, recognize that both “doing” and “managing” activities consume time and resources; neither is unlimited.
Next, recognize that doers are not always good managers. If the manager can maintain a productive relationship with the “doers,” much more will be accomplished. After all, you’re building a church to house more people, not less!
So who would make a good project manager? The American Institute of Architects lists in one textbook these traits of the ideal manager:
Must have ability to take charge, to lead, to make decisions.
Must be a team person, willing to organize and work through others.
Must be a strong conceptualizer, able to analyze a task and understand what needs to be done to accomplish it; must think in terms of time.
Must be a bit of a psychologist, knowing when to step up the pressure, when to loosen up.
Once the work of building has actually begun, beware of time-wasters! It has been said that the time one enjoys wasting is not wasted. In other words, there is a time for recreation; this is quite appropriate. But when the meter’s running, time becomes money. A few common time-wasters that the aforementioned textbook lists:
Having no deadlines
Attempting too much at once
Indecision and procrastination
Socializing at meetings instead of managing
Inability to say “no”
A church building project – like other endeavors – is absolutely not a one-man show! The unified effort of the congregation, coupled with the guidance of outside professionals – channeled through prayer and sacrifice – results in a job well done.
The results are worth it! And by taking this approach the results you will get will be a positive response by the surrounding community as well as a center for continued revival.