By Neal Roseberry, AIA, LeMay Erickson Wilcox Architects
So your church building is becoming a real frustration: too cramped, too awkward, too just-not-what-we –need for the way we want to do church. Or maybe you don’t even have a church building yet, and are wondering what the first steps are. In our experience as church architects, many churches will begin the process of addressing their building needs the old-fashioned way: they will form a committee or team and begin to discuss what physical alterations might provide the needed building remedy. And those can be useful discussions, for sure. But we urge our church clients to begin not by discussing their building needs, but their ministry needs. And ministry needs are clearest within the context of a ministry vision.
Visioning is perhaps the most important thing that can precede a building program. Buildings take too long, cost too much, and send the most vivid, visceral message of who a church is to not be as purposefully designed as possible. Here are the kinds of basic questions that we like to ask when we begin working with a church:
What makes our church unique?
What are the essentials (the DNA) of our heritage and ministry?
What do we do that brings people to join our church?
Where, exactly, are we trying to go as a church?
Once a congregation can answer these questions, a consensus vision for the church can be established. And once a vision is established, a strategic plan to reach that vision can be crafted. Again and again, we have found that building programs that complement a well-understood specific ministry vision are most successful–from earliest planning through fund-raising and into construction. It’s all about building consensus in a clearly communicated, ministry-based fashion that roots building design in ministry needs and goals.
If you found this article helpful, you can meet the author and learn more from ministry expansion experts at Building On Purpose 2017, for more information or to register, click here .