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Hiring a Builder for Your Church

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, architect or 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 construction project.  Here are some tips on hiring a builer or contactor for your church.

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 contemporary design/build approach when building your church.  Church construction is never easy, but hiring the wrong builder can make it a untenable. 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 characteristics. 

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.


Church Building Guide

Preparing to Build     

Written by an experienced church building consultant,

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.


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