What Might a Church Construction Process Look Like?

Church leaders often ask me what the construction process will look like once they hire the industry professionals to design and build their new facility. To answer their question I usually tell them that the church construction process can be divided into 5 phases. The following is one way to approach the design and construction of your next building. I’ve also included a sampling of the services that might be performed in each phase.

Any process you select to use should enhance the ability of your church to fulfill its calling by aligning the new facilities and/or the renovation of existing facilities with the church’s core values, mission, vision and strategic plan. There is much you will want to capture during the process to help you maximize the potential of your congregation to fulfill the Great Commission. Aligning the new facility or renovation of your existing facilities with your ministry and campus is key. I recommend that your next building project address what is mission critical to your ministry.

Below are the phases with a sampling of the work to be accomplished. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or need for clarification.

The Discovery Phase

This is the foundational phase in the process. Get this one wrong and it may be difficult for the rest of the process to go well. The Discovery Phase takes a close look at the following:

  • The church’s culture. What is the congregation’s expression of their unique values and beliefs?
  • The church’s community and its culture. Who is the church trying to reach and what are they like?
  • The church’s connectivity to its community. How is the congregation connecting with the community? Are the connections working to reach them?
  • The clarity of the church’s mission and vision. Is the leadership able to clearly communicate these?
  • The health and fitness of your congregation and leadership. Is the church both healthy and fit to take on a construction project?
  • The church’s ministry design. What is generating growth or holding it back?
  • The programming for each current ministry along with projections for any ministries you wish to create down the road.
  • The examination of your buildings and grounds to determine their condition. Are there any trouble spots with the existing buildings and grounds that will need to be addressed?
  • The analysis of the codes to identify anything that may hinder you from expanding your facilities. Can you build or renovate what you want and how you want?
  • The church’s financial bandwidth. How much can the church afford to spend on the construction project? How much of that amount should it spend?

The Dream Phase

This is the futuring phase in the process. The Dream Phase brings together the following things to help you move your ministry forward by adding and/or renovating the right space.

  • What is the Long Term Vision for your ministry and campus? What will you do and not do on your campus? Where do you intend to end up when your ministry is fully grown and your campus fully developed?
  • What is next? What should the church build or renovate next to help it accomplish its mission? Establishing clear ministry priorities will bring clarity to the next phase in the process. Without it the process may not produce a finished product that will effectively and efficiently serve your ministry for years to come. Churches usually cannot afford to build everything they want at one time so they have to pick and choose what to build next and then plan to meet other ministry needs with future construction projects. Someone has to answer the hard questions about your ministry priorities and make the difficult decisions to move the church forward.
  • The church’s strategic plan with the goals, objectives and tactics of each ministry so you can orchestrate each ministry in your church to fit and function on your campus and in your buildings, both existing and new.
  • Don’t forget to match your financial capability to your dreams. Can you afford to build your dreams or is it time for a reality check that will bring your wishes in alignment with your wallet? Can you divide your dream into affordable phases so eventually your vision is completed as you build each phase over the years ahead?

The Design Phase

This is the formation phase in the process. This phase brings together the Discovery and Dream phases to produce the following:

  • A master site plan showing all existing and future facilities and ground’s development. It is a road map to show your congregation the mile markers along the way during your journey. It should show them where are you going and how will you get there. As you look at your future what will you build first, second, third and so forth to accomplish the mission and reach your future destination? Will you adjust and adapt the use of existing square footage as you add new space? Show them what that may look like as you add new facilities and re-purpose existing ones.
  • A floor plan for phase one on the site plan.
  • An elevation of the next phase. What will the outside and inside of the building look like?
  • A presentation model. How will you help the congregation visualize what the new building and/or renovation will look like along with how it will meet your ministry needs?
  • A ministry game plan that shows in detail how your ministries will successfully function in the midst of a messy construction project. Show them how you plan to minimize disruptions and distractions during construction.
  • A financial pathway that matches the design to affordability.
  • Construction documents. Once everything is in order you can release your design team to develop the construction drawings.

The Development Phase

This is the building phase in the process. This phase makes the first three phases a reality.

  • This is where you build what you have spent hours researching, planning and designing. 
  • This phase provides key opportunities for your congregation! Church leaders, in the midst of the pressure of the first three phases, often forget about the spiritual opportunities the construction process brings to the congregation. You may have hundreds of sub-contractors and their employees on your campus during construction. These folks may never step foot on your property or come into contact with you if it were not for your project. This is a golden opportunity to reach these industry professionals in your community. Don’t miss it!!! Plan for it! Pray for it and then look for ways to express your gratitude and appreciation for their hard work. One way to show your appreciation and the love of Christ to them is by providing a “truck” wash once a week where you vacuum and wash their vehicles while they are on your site. You can feed them lunch or simply provide cold bottles of water for them all through the day. While it is important to plan well, spend your money wisely and maximize every dollar ear marked for your project, the souls take priority. I mean, isn’t that why your church is there in the first place? What good will it do a church if it gain the whole world but lose the souls entrusted to their care during the process?
  • By the way, the construction process is usually sprinkled with bumps and bruises all along the way. There are going to be challenges during the process and certainly during the construction phase. It is just the nature of the beast. Don’t forget God’s purpose for trials and tribulation. James 1:2-12 may be a good passage to revisit throughout the process to remind yourself what God’s purpose is for testing times. 

The Direction Phase

This is the follow through phase.

  • This is where you manage and maintain your facilities and grounds once your project is complete.
  • I believe you should design and build your facilities with the end in sight.
  • Research has shown that around 70% of the overall cost of your facilities for the first 40 years of existence is maintenance.
  • You have to live with the decisions you make in the first four phases…so make informed, wise decisions about the facilities you design and build. It can reduce your financial burden for years to come if you make good choices on the front end of your building program.

If you want to discuss your plans to expand, renovate or relocate your campus please reach out to me by email at [email protected] or by phone at 864.977.1632. We offer a number of ways to help you navigate the construction waters you will be facing.


Below are some resources that may help you better lead your church through your next building project.

Video Resources:

When NOT to Build, Relocate or Renovate

Why Church Construction Projects Fail

How to Vet Your Construction Project Before You Announce It to Your Congregation

Church Construction: A 60 Minute Walk Through

Why Your Church Renovation Should Start with a Plan, Not a Paintbrush

Preparing to Build Video Training Series

Book Resources:

Pre-Construction Guides

Design Guides

Marshall Shannon
Ministry Design Coach
Pre-Construction Navigator

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