One of the things I noticed early in my ministry is how often churches build their dream building but never grow to fill it.
I never will forget driving by a big, beautiful church campus everyday on my way to seminary.
When I asked one of my professors about the church they told me its sad story. There was a time when it was growing, a thriving church that was aggressively reaching their community for Jesus. It was obvious that they needed more space so they relocated and built their dream building. It didn’t take long for people to realize there was a problem. Instead of growing, the church slowly began to die. Was it the building’s fault? No, but the building exposed and exacerbated deep seated problems in the life of that church.
I’m not telling you not to build or to never relocate.
I’ve led churches through two major building projects in my time as a pastor. But before you take that big step make sure you don’t fall into the trap that so many churches do when going after their dream building.
Keep your focus on your mission, not the building.
Allow your builder, building team and those responsible to focus on the construction of the building. Don’t get sidetracked. Stay focused on your mission and community. Lead and love your church. Win people to Jesus. Disciple other believers. Provide leadership for the vision and leave the construction process to those who are experienced and paid to do that job.
Don’t allow the building’s debt to outweigh the church’s ministry.
There are various ways of stating this, but at the end of the day, don’t let your eyes be bigger than your budget. Build big enough to meet your needs and within your means. Build a quality building that will last and enhance your church ministry, but not for your ego.
Don’t believe the lie, “If you build it, they will come.”
You still have to go like Jesus commanded. To be sure, there is an excitement that comes with a building project, but speaking from experience I can tell you that excitement soon fades and the mortgage keeps coming. As mentioned above, keep the focus on your mission and people.
Make sure the reality is as good or better than the dream.
It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver. Don’t promote pictures of a building you can’t possibly build. If the building changes significantly during the process, inform and update your people. Don’t promise a cathedral and deliver a metal garage.
Don’t build a monument to a man or a movement. Build a tool to expand your ministry.
I’m always loath to put somebody’s name on a building. I understand why that used to be done, but I could preach an entire series of sermons about earthly and heavenly rewards on why you shouldn’t do that. It’s often tempting to try and make a statement about the effectiveness of a ministry or endurance of a pastor by creating a building in their honor. Don’t build for the past – build for the future.