In 2004, the church of which I was the pastor decided to relocate. We knew we could not build on the land we had and our building was hard to find (we often said we were invisible). We sold our property and leased an empty building to build it out. I think I learned some lessons from that. One mistake we made was not consulting a sound specialist before we finalized the plans. The building ended up having carpet and a suspension ceiling- 2 sound suppressors. We had a dead room sound-wise. We left a live room with too many hot spots. But you could really hear the singing of the congregation. In our new place we couldn’t hear the congregation sing.
I also learned to expect the unexpected to happen. That fall 3 hurricanes rolled through down delaying our construction. I can’t remember how late we finished, but we didn’t begin to worship there until the first Sunday in January 2005.
Here in the desert we’ve been growing and have begun to max out our facilities. This is a good problem to have, except we are small enough to still have a money problem.
A while back we knew this day was coming and we engaged an architect to develop a master site plan. As we continued to dialogue with him it became clear that we needed a transitional plan because the final buildings would be over a $1 million each. We need to grow to be able to afford a new sanctuary and all the other stuff.
Our building committee did some initial leg work and we came up with a workable plan to present to the congregation to begin the process for prayer and giving. We had very good “buy in.” We got some estimates that were preliminary.
Here are some things I’ve learned so far, though I’m sure there will be more.
1. Never underestimate the ability of the local government to really mess you up! We discovered that they changed the setbacks. Our current building is set as far back as it can go on a pie shaped piece of land. The change is set backs and easements has meant that we cannot expand this building.
2. Never underestimate the ability of the local government to make you spend money. We can’t actually maximize the space under our roof, unfortunately. A few years ago our fire district went to the “international standards with modifications.” This means that any new building needs sprinklers. The problem for us at this point was more our renovation. If we “put too many people” in there in terms of sanctuary square feet, and narthex square feet (different sq. ft/person ratios) we have to retro fit the building with sprinklers. So we have had to be careful in how we divide the building in the renovation.
I’m really not sure about the purpose of sprinklers in a church sanctuary. They are triggered by heat, not smoke. By the time they go off, the people in the building would most likely be dead. Sprinklers stop the spread of a fire. They are great for multi-story buildings, or really large buildings with multiple rooms. That wouldn’t be our sanctuary. Even our Education building wouldn’t really benefit from sprinklers in terms of getting people out. They would, possibly, keep the fire from spreading to the desert before the fire department gets there.
3. Never underestimate the ability of the estimate to double in size. Our estimate for the modular was too low. Not sure why the estimate was too low. The sales person really didn’t seem to have a good grasp of things. We have moved on to another company that has gone much better so far. For about the same money we’ll get a new modular, not a 25 year-old one.
4. Run estimates with venders in parallel. Our mistake with regard to the modular is that we started with one company and got all the way to a pre-contract estimate before checking out another company. It cost us time that we might regret losing. Had we done the work with them at the same time things would have gone faster. We also would have seen how much better the staff of the new company really is in terms of understanding the product and installation. The people we are talking to are not just salesmen but have been involved in every aspect of the process.
5. Never underestimate how long it will take to get to the point of renovation and expansion. This has taken much longer than I wanted. I had hoped to see some work beginning by now. The men on the committee have lives and jobs. You aren’t a company’s only client either. So, as we used to say on mission trips to Mexico, be flexible.
We’ll see how the next steps go. I still hope all of this gets done by the beginning of the new ministry year in August (please, Jesus, please).