This article is a guest article from Bob Sharples. Following on from my article recently about the myths around assuming that getting a building is a solution to your long term problems, Bob highlights to further myths that churches can believe about owning their buildings. This is not a case for or against owning your building but rather to help you think carefully through the requirements before you start your building project. Bob is an architect/planner and an elder at Bearwood Chapel in the West Midlands.
There are two myths about buildings which evangelicals have been believing since the 1950s:
- The myth of the multi-purpose space. It does not exist. There will always be a compromise whether it is size\volume\floor surfaces\wall finishes\acoustics\heating\ventilation; and
- Maintenance: The myth is that you don’t need to do this. Churches are particularly susceptible to this misguided school of thought when a building is new.
How do we avoid falling for the myths? The answer is surely to value the gifts and wisdom of people within our churches. There’s a saying that “a prophet has no honour in their own town.” Let’s make sure we don’t do that with gifting in our churches. This includes listening to architects, project planners, accountants etc. It’s all too tempting to ignore the architect over costs, thinking that you can save here and there. When things go wrong, we end up going back to those people to help us out of the hole.
The multi-purpose space myth
Going back to item one: the multi-purpose space (MPS). I want to pick up on two elements: volume and floor coverings. To take one example, if you are running a toddlers group or activities for smaller children in your MP and the ceiling is too high, the noise can be magnified but also studies have proven that young children are most at home with domestic volumes and therefore are more easily settled. Secondly you need a carpet which does not show up stains and marks. Have you ever done toddlers work on a hard floor? It is not recommended. Yet if you have an active youth group a sprung timber floor may be a better solution and you may need different features again for the acoustics when holding a worship gathering. When designing the main hall there needs to be a primary and dominate use but a realisation it may not be suitable for everything.
The Maintenance Myth
Once a building is built you need to allow a good maintenance budget and regime. This is more important in older buildings. Indeed, what you will discover if you don’t do this is that with increasing regularity your leaders’ meeting will be informed of a one off “unique” bill whether it’s replacing the doors and windows, repairing the roof or fixing the baptistry plumbing. Soon, you’ll realise that these “one offs” are happening annually.
Turning to one aspect of the maintenance issue: roofs and gutters. It is important to check your gutters and roofs at least once a year (twice if you have a lot of trees adjacent to the roof). Blocked gutters result in water ingress causing damp and a redecoration bill or worse. In this day and age, it is not necessary to get on a ladder to check this out but get a drone and do the inspection from the safety of ground. Also, there are people who clear gutters for a living so rather than an elder getting up on a ladder only to fall off straight in the Lord’s presence, get a pro in because they have the insurance and equipment to do it safer than you. Don’t penny pinch.
As Scripture says, a wise person will count the cost before embarking on a venture. This is as true of your building project as it is of any aspect of church life. Make sure if you are considering purchasing a building, a new build project, an extension or even a lease that you have considered all factors, that you’ve dealt with any myths and that you’ve counted the cost.