A Clinical Approach to Your Church Building Project Blog Feature
Erika Soerens

By: Erika Soerens on November 05, 2020

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A Clinical Approach to Your Church Building Project

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Church building projects are exciting—and daunting. Visioning, funding, planning, implementation, and project management are all critical aspects of a design-build project. With all these variables, how do you ensure that the right people are involved from the start to provide input to each other, to collaborate throughout the project, and to communicate with the church?

Learning From the MDs: A Clinical Approach

The health care industry gives us a framework to follow. For example, at places like the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, when a patient has a significant illness, various doctors and specialists come together to assess, diagnose and determine the best treatment plan. Together, they look at the patient as a whole person from various perspectives and coordinate their efforts. There is open and timely communication moment by moment and ongoing throughout the patient’s recovery journey. This clinical approach is highly effective in treating patients.

Similarly, when a church embarks on a building project, they need a team of experts who can evaluate their ministry health, diagnose the best course of action, and deploy a team of specialists to implement the plan. A church building project requires input from stewardship experts, lending partners, a design-build team, and other specialists.

Our friends at Church Growth Services highlighted the benefits of this clinical approach for building projects. “We feel that convening all of the various project professionals right from the beginning would be a great place to start,” says Mike Stadelmayer, Vice President of Client Relations at Church Growth Services. “As church leaders articulate their vision and ministry goals, each of the related professionals could share their perspective. Conflicting goals and timelines could be collaboratively resolved sooner rather than later.”

Aspen couldn’t agree more! In our work with churches, we use a similar integrated approach for building for ministry that ensures the right people are involved in the process from the start and can see each project through with a church.

The Positive Side Effects of Proactive Planning

Early on with a building project, it’s essential that church leaders share their vision and goals with the architects, designers, and other building and construction leaders. A local site/civil engineer and other experts for your interior or exterior site considerations should be brought into these conversations as well. In addition, selecting and including the financing/lending, fundraising, generosity and communications support teams—either from within your church (staff, board members, etc.) or through external partners—early on is important as well.

“It’s important to engage with a full team to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the vision and strategy as well as with the funding, deliverables and timing,” says Bob Gray, Project Developer with Aspen Group.

Aspen Senior Project Developer Pat Kase adds, “Considering the various project needs and costs with others at the project onset is key. For example, with new construction, the site work required can be the second largest cost of the project (building construction being the first). You want to have worked with a local site/civil engineer so you can at least ballpark these costs early on.”

In addition, knowing how you will fund the work, who you will work with to finance the project and having a plan to grow your congregation’s generosity throughout this effort is an integral part of this proactive approach.

Rx for Better Building Projects

The kind of planning and collaboration we are highlighting is also key to resolving problems that arise within a building project, including unexpected challenges, delays, conflicts or costs—all which happen at times within a project even with the best of planning and teams. However, with ongoing communication and a full team in place, a church is better positioned to solve the problem and find a creative and agreeable solution more quickly.

For example, in a recent church building project, Aspen involved a civil engineer in the initial planning. This civil partner was able to add value to the parking configurations that were drawn up. This led to lower costs and a more effective parking situation longer-term for the church.

In another project involving an existing building, a structural engineer was brought into the early brainstorming and spoke into the type of structure that was needed. The church ended up limiting the demolition of the existing building. This significantly impacted what was constructed and lowered the project cost.

A clinical approach can help with so many of the tasks—large and small—in a building project. From clarifying the focus in the design phase, to speeding up the overall timeline, to minimizing costs, there are many benefits.

Before you embark on a building project at your church, a clinical approach can better ensure that your full leadership team is looking at the whole to achieve your overall mission and purpose for the project. This is energizing for everyone involved and leads to a better and more efficient process.


About Erika Soerens

Erika Soerens is former Marketing & Events Specialist for Aspen Group.