Jeff Bowden

A building expansion and renovation project is an exciting and challenging time for any church family. There is excitement as the church upgrades and expands facilities to accomplish their vision and mission, but there are challenges along the journey which a church must be prepared to handle. At present, Forest Hills Baptist Church is renovating multiple areas of the campus to expand worship, education, and gathering spaces for completion in the fall of 2019. Here are a few lessons I learned while leading a church through a renovation.

  • Prayer must be at the center of a building project. FHBC has conducted multiple prayer efforts during the planning process, stewardship campaign, and construction phase including prayer gatherings, prayer walks, and prayer guides in seeking God’s Will and guidance (Prov. 3:5-6).
  • Leaders should continually keep the church’s vision and mission in front of the people. Before, during, and after, people need to be reminded of the “Why?” for the project. At FHBC, the vision and mission statements, as well as the core values, have driven the purpose and the type of project planned. It is also critical to keep the focus on people, not facilities. The old adage, “Build it and they will come” is not a good strategy. Buildings are only tools to help people facilitate ministry, not the ministry itself. It’s about people.
  • Communication, on different levels, is vital during a construction project. The first level of communication is among the key parties involved in the construction. At FHBC, we have scheduled bi-weekly “OAC” (owner/church, architect, and contractor) meetings to coordinate next the action steps. These steps could include shutting down power to move utility lines, closing an entrance into the building, decisions or questions concerning construction, or preparing an area for the next phase of construction. Second, communication to the church family and staff is key. It is important to communicate construction updates using multiple avenues that affect the daily and weekly operations of the church, especially affecting regular programs. At FHBC, we closed two building entrances, including one to the church office, for the duration of the project. Timely communication is vital concerning updates as people experience new traffic patterns.
  • A project will force leadership to plan ahead as construction unfolds. At FHBC, our project involves multiple areas of the campus. The construction zone required losing 95 parking spaces at a peak attendance season. What happens now? What about Easter? On the interior, construction will require moving our contemporary worship service, as well as five Sunday School classes and five offices. Where does an entire worship service relocate? Where do these classes and offices relocate for a season? Leaders must gather the proper information in each construction phase, plan appropriately, and communicate.
  • Celebrate God’s goodness in everything. God is always at work, so watch. At FHBC, we had a vision for a parking lot ministry, but it had not materialized. Since we lost so many parking spaces, we had to utilize unconventional areas for parking. To assist people in the parking lot, a number of deacons volunteered to help in three different Sunday morning shifts. Now those volunteering are experiencing the benefit of this ministry. Because of the immediate need caused by construction, a ministry has been created. God is working all the time.

Finally, the most important attitude during the whole building process is flexibility. No matter the plan, something unexpected will arise so be flexible and humble. God is working through all circumstances. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Jeff Bowden is a member of BACE and Associate Pastor of Education, Forest Hills Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee.