3 Ways To Reduce Cost In Church Construction

A church building project is a complicated and daunting task – and expensive. Sadly, many churches do not initially have an appreciation for how cold and deep the water can get. These churchd often find themselves over their head in their church building program in many ways, including financially. This article outlines three proven ways to reduce cost in church construction.

Here are Steve’s three universal rules when it comes to church construction:

  • It is harder than you think it will be,
  • It will cost more than you think it should, and
  • It will take longer than you think it will.

Being harder and taking longer are certainly nuisances, but cost is a real problem. Please hear me well – almost every church building project comes in over budget – the big question for your church will be by how much. That said, there are things your church can do to minimize this or even come in under budget.

This excellent article by Religious Product news reiterates the fact that cost overruns are very common, especially for churches. It goes on to echo our point about the benefits of a church building consultant. PreachingToday.com quotes an American Planning Association study that showed 9 of 10 projects had underestimated costs.

Because churches often stretch to their financial ability to the very limit in creating the construction budget, cost overruns have serious repercussions. In this article on ChurchLendersDirectory.com, cost overruns is listed as the most common reason pastors leave during or just after a church building program.

1.     How to Reduce Cost in Planning the Church Construction Program

The easiest time to save money in church construction is in the planning process. The key is to understand what you need to build, what you can truly afford to build, and how you will pay for it BEFORE you retain an architect or builder. Design and construction professionals cannot answer these questions for you. The money you save by getting an objective understanding of needs and feasibility will save your church money, time, effort, and stress; and as the article indicates, it might save you a pastor too! For more information, see this article, Who Not to Call First for your church building program.

Charting the course begins with understanding where you are with respect to need and ability. Saving money starts with qualified and objective planning. Since there is no right way to do the wrong thing, a church needs and feasibility study should be the first step in any church construction process.

2.     How to Reduce Cost in Contracting For Church Construction

An overlooked method of managing financial risk in a church construction project is through proper contracting. Risk can be legitimately reduced or transferred by how the agreements are negotiated. Risk WILL end up somewhere, if you don’t negotiate well, it will end up with you.

Your church will be entering into an agreement with a design/build firm, or multiple agreements with a civil engineer, architect, and builder. Each of these organizations knows more about the building  and contracting process than the church, and each has a fiduciary responsibility to their organization. As such, their contracts are always going to be stacked in their favor. That is not meant to be mean, it is just a fact of business. Like the saying goes, don’t take a knife to a gunfight. Get some help.

An attorney can look out for your legal rights, but very few have the experience to know how to limit your financial exposure and risk. An owner’s representative can negotiate contracts on behalf of the church to look out for your best interest and reduce the project budget, as well as the risk of cost overruns. Proper contract negotiation will reduce your cost and risk, but it takes an expert on your side of the table.

3.     How to Reduce Cost in Managing the Church Construction Project

A church construction consultant, acting as an owner’s representative, brings vital experience and knowledge to the church’s side of the table to even the playing field. They have the knowledge and experience to go toe to toe with an architect, builder, or sub-contractor to minimize the cost, risk and stress that would otherwise fall to an under-equipped church. A church construction consultant acting as the owner’s agent or construction manager can help value engineer the facility to give you more for the money. The consultant can also help avoid or manage situations that might otherwise lead to cost overruns.

There Is No Shame in Getting Outside Counsel

Proverbs 4:7 instructs us to get wisdom and understanding;
The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding.”

Both Solomon and Moses sought wise counsel from outside their congregation in their building programs. If it was a good idea for these great men of God, it is probably a good idea for your church as well, don’t you think?

About the Author:

Stephen Anderson is the author of Preparing to Build and is a church consultant versed in church construction planning, church growth, church health, and capital fundraising. He is the founder and principal consultant for AMI Church Consulting.