Mistakes Pastors Make in Pitching a Church Building Project

Every church construction project begins with a church discussion. How you address this new project matters. A misstep at the beginning can have serious repercussions that reverberate throughout the entire process.

Here are a couple of mistakes you will want to avoid.

1. “The board has decided . . .”

As is the case with any big changes in the church, it is critical that you set a tone that says, “We are all in this together.” Any time you have drastic changes in policy, vision, or plans, people will struggle. If they feel like these developments are being foisted upon them, it is that much harder for them to adjust—and they will focus in on the fact that you are making decisions that will impact them without their input.

Construction projects can be trying on a church. They consume a lot of time, energy, and attention. Sometimes require quite a bit of sacrifice and inconvenience on everyone’s part. So it is vital that you get church buy-in on the project. That means presenting it in a way where everyone feels like their input, opinions, and sacrifice matter

This means that you need to help them understand the need and help guide them to the same place that led your board or leadership team to decide this was the best course of action. Explain the options and the pros and cons of each and the most compelling arguments for moving in a specific direction. Give everyone a couple of weeks to digest this information.

Eventually, you can say, “We have heard everyone’s input and weighed all the options. As a church, we are going to go in this direction.” This will be a lot easier for everyone to stomach than stepping up to the podium and announcing, “We have decided . . .”

2. “This decision requires a consensus.”

While you want everyone to feel like they have a voice, you cannot manage anything as time-consuming as a building project by consensus. If you announce that you are not going to move forward without a certain percentage of the membership being in agreement, you are opening the door to problems. It merely informs the people who have the biggest problem with the idea to start a campaign against it—and that can get ugly.

You want to communicate that you care about people’s feelings and impressions, but you do not want to set up a specific target that you need to hit before the church can move forward. What happens if you announce, “We are not moving forward without 75% of this congregation’s blessing,” and 73% say yes?

Promising not to move forward unless everyone agrees is a strategy that will likely backfire. You cannot get everyone enthusiastic about everything, and that is OK. Do not let that be the decider on what the Lord can do.

3. “We will not take out a loan.”

It is almost impossible to prepare for all the curveballs that will get thrown at you in the process of a building process. So making definitive statements about what you will or will not do can often put you in an awkward position. You need to be very careful not to paint yourself into a corner later.

Telling your congregation that you will not borrow money is a perfect example. You might have the best plan for a capital campaign or a series of fundraisers that will help you secure the funds you need, but that does not mean you will not find yourself in a position where a loan makes the most sense. Problems arise, architects or contractors sometimes require retainers, or unexpected expenses arise. You do not always have time to raise the funds you need during the process.

Be very careful about making promises you might not be able to keep. Instead of saying, “We will not take out a loan,” try saying, “We will not borrow any money without doing our due diligence and making sure that it is in keeping with our values and from a source that has our best interests at heart.”

Prudence is Wisdom

In the end, this boils down to communicating things in a way that is not rash or careless. If you take some time to work out what you want to say and think through how different personalities are likely to hear it, you are going to find the rollout to be a fairly straightforward process. When your church clearly understands that you are all on the same team, you will be ready to move to the next phase of the plan.