The Contractor You Hire May be the Single Biggest Success Factor
in Your Church Building Program
When you begin to discuss a church construction project, one
of the first two wrong
things churches normally do first is start looking for a church
builder (the other is look for an architect). Your
church will need a builder but
before you contract with either a builder,
design build firm
(with a few notable exceptions) you need to understand what you
need and what you can afford with regard to your church
Here are some tips on hiring a builer or contactor for your
Assuming you know
what you need and can afford, you will need to decide whether to
go with a traditional design/bid/build strategy or a more
approach when building your church. Church construction is
never easy, but hiring the wrong builder can make it a
church construction consultant
can help in the selection of a contractor or builder. They
should know how to investigate the financial health of a
prospective church builder, know how to check licensing,
referrals and insurance status. Knowledgeable assistance
can also help the church avoid making an "emotional hire".
An emotional hire is one where everyone "feels good" about a
particular builder without an objective analysis of their proper
fit and pricing.
Church construction is a "big boys"
game with high stakes and long term penalties for getting it
wrong. In church construction, there are no "do over's" -
you don't get a mulligan. Mistakes can mean tens or
hundreds of thousands of dollars of hard earned offerings
wasted. The church must make an informed contractor
selection and aggressively negotiate the terms of the
construction agreement. The standard AIA agreement used by
most general contractors is usually written a fashion to be
strongly weighted in favor of the builder. Get some expert
help in negotiating your contract with the church builder,
general contractor or design/build company.
You should always strive to hire a
local builder for your church construction program, someone that
has to continue to live and work in your community. DO NOT
use a general contractor from within your church.
Sometimes it works well, more often than not, you are unhappy
with the building AND you lost at least one family over it.
One church went so far as to let two general contractors in the
congregation bid their church building project. The one
that did not win, left. The one that did win, wished he
hadn't and needed to be replaced half-way through the building
program. If you have a GC in the church that wants to
help, let him serve on the building committee and provide some
oversight, as the church's superintendent to the project.
Church construction is difficult
work, often times made more so by the church. Many church
builders or general contractors do not want to do church
construction because the church is known for two typical
1) They can't make quick
decisions and when they do they often change their mind. If
you have to have a meeting to nominate people to elect a
committee to make a decision, you will not have a pleasant
experience with your church contractor. Create a team
of people empowered to make decision and let them run the
project. The church does not need to vote on
incidentals like color of the carpet or pitch of the roof.
In the same regard, spend your time planning and do not make
changes to the plan during construction unless absolutely
necessary. For the record, change orders are
where many contractors make a lot of money, so avoid them.
2) To the church's shame, the
other reputation they have with regard to church building
programs is that they are slow to pay their bills. Pay
bills on time and you will find the church general
contractor much more willing to work with you on issues that
will pop up
Both of these issues are in your
control. Don't bite the hand that feeds you and don't
irritate the contractor building your church!
Other Tips: Insist that your builder
or general contractor provide you a fixed, not to exceed price;
not a cost plus bid for your church construction. Make
sure that the "allowances" in the agreement for such things as
lighting, carpet, and site work are reasonable. ALWAYS get
three bids. Demand to see the bids from the
sub-contractors. And don't hire a builder or general contractor
just because they have built churches...make sure the builder
has built churches like yours and in your price range.
Much of the information
on this page is excerpted from the book
Preparing to Build.
For more information
on hiring a builder, architect or design build firm, download the eBook.
Written by an experienced church
Preparing to Build provides
your church valuable, real-world insight based on real-world experiences and
input from hundreds of church building projects.
"Preparing to Build was an
incredible value - just a wealth of
information. The truth & his experience
jump off the pages."
Dwight VanDaveer, Engineer & Church Building Committee Member
With over 160 information packed pages, this
book will explain the process of building and how equip the saints for the
work of building the church in an effective manner that will reduce the
church's cost, risk and effort. Click for more information or to purchase.