Renovating your church can be a stressful ordeal. There are projects to oversee, questions to answer, concerns to hear, money to raise, bills to be paid, plans to be made, change orders to experience, contingency plans to set out, etc. And all these things just have to do with the renovation. You still have sermons to preach, ministries to lead, and people to care for during the entirety of the project.
Our church just completed a sanctuary renovation in the spring. The renovation updated our sanctuary significantly and created more stage space so our contemporary service could worship in our sanctuary (we had been meeting in our fellowship hall). We were also able to add effective seating by transitioning from pews to worship seating. We are grateful that the project is completed and have benefited from worshiping in our renovated sanctuary. These several considerations I trust will save you some headaches as you envision and complete a renovation or new construction.
- Make sure the idea for renovation is not just your own. I cannot take any credit for this one. My church staff and other church leadership drove the idea for renovation long before I arrived. Before I came to Wilkesboro Baptist two years ago, the church agreed to complete a renovation by 2020 and selected a committee that would design and decide on the project. The renovation was the church’s idea, not just my own. As a result of the preparation by our church staff, deacons, and leadership, church buy-in was high for the renovation project.
- Hire the right company. If you are going to work with people on the renovation or new construction at a church, you need to make sure those doing the work do it well. Certainly, being a good steward of church resources is important. But going with the lowest bid may turn out to be a poor choice. Securing the services of a company/business who will meet their deadlines, do good work, and respect the church. We used Church Interiors and were satisfied with their professionalism and meeting of deadlines. The project also came in at budget with relatively few change orders.
- Get help and depend on others. It is impossible for the pastor alone to manage a renovation, engage in fundraising, lead the church, care for people, and prepare adequately to preach. Our church was blessed with a property committee chairman who regularly oversees construction projects and an associate pastor who excels in managing details. These gentlemen and other church leaders took much of the pressure off me so that I could continue with the ongoing church ministry.
- Don’t neglect the important things. Renovation or new construction is often necessary, but it is never primary. Making disciples, worshiping Jesus, and sharing the gospel must remain the priorities. In some ways, renovations and additions can assist with these important things. But they must never replace them. One way we are keeping the focus of the church on the important is to tithe the giving for the project to missions. For every $100,000 that is given to the church for the renovation, we are giving away $10,000 to local, state, national or global mission.
- Reflect and celebrate. During one stage of the project, we opened the room up to our congregation to write prayers on the sub-flooring. Many members took the opportunity to reflect on God’s goodness to them through the church. For our dedication service, we were able to have baptism. We baptized ten people. Connecting baptism to the dedication made the dedication even more special. Baptism also helped keep the focus of the church on what’s important, not just what is visible. Reflection and celebration aided church buy-in during and after the project.
- Be prepared for criticism or for people to leave. Any time you renovate, build, raise money, or change things, doors are opened for criticism. Take your time with individuals and groups in answering questions. Be open and transparent about the project and the cost. Anticipate criticisms and even be ready for people to leave the church. Some will feel the project is unnecessary or have misgivings about the fundraising. Remember, it is not your job to make everyone happy.
- Learn from the experience and capitalize on the success. We learned a lot through this renovation process. Functionally, our sanctuary is now used for both our worship services. Our audio and video is much better. And our sanctuary is aesthetically more beautiful than before. However, we recognize that a successful renovation is just a template for success related to our church’s mission—discipleship. Using momentum from the renovation, we are looking forward to new and effective ways of making disciples, reaching our community and releasing our members to serve.
What other considerations regarding construction or renovation would you add?