Leadership Solutions Blog

Hiring For Your Next Church Building Project: Ability Over Proximity

Most pastors did not go into ministry to become real estate developers or financial advisors.

In fact, there really isn’t much taught in seminary, if anything at all, about running a multi-million dollar operating budget or taking on a multi-million dollar church building project.

Pastors often find themselves in the unfamiliar territory of banking, fundraising, architecture, property negotiation, civil engineering, code ordinance, construction, etc., and the obvious and seemingly most prudent next step is to get someone they know who is in or closely related to these industries to help provide assistance.

In almost every church our team visits, we hear “now, just so you know, we have a guy who is a banker/architect/contractor.” It’s great to have people in your church who know banking, architecture, construction, etc. However, church construction is completely different than any other type of construction in that the building is designed and built around the owner’s use and budget.Most architects who specialize in other areas of design don’t understand programming in church. Almost all contractors find themselves on the pricing side of a project when it’s already somewhat designed more than in the beginning stages of design. Meaning, a contractor’s main role is determining how much something costs more than what gets built. Therefore, most churches don’t struggle getting through construction as much as they struggle getting to construction, and what a leader needs is someone who knows that specific process.

There are a lot of values in having people in your church who know something about the industry:

  • Trust - They’ve sacrificed with you and they know your heart and your vision. They are a part of your mission. You don’t have to question their intentions.
  • Competency - You recognize that they know more than you do.
  • Relationship - All things being equal, why not go with the person you would like to see benefit from the experience? And, it’s going to be very tough to tell someone in your church that they are not qualified or that you don’t want them to do the work, and that you think someone else can do it better. Ouch.

Here is what we would tell you in this situation:

Proximity/relationship should provide these people with the opportunity to win the business, but qualifications ultimately should determine who is awarded the business.

Some pastors think that telling someone they’re not going to get the business will hurt the relationship, but nothing will destroy a relationship more than unmet expectations (on either side). There is no greater risk in having unmet expectations than by having an unqualified person managing the largest capital investment in your church’s history. Remember, You don’t want to hire people you can’t fire.

“Proximity should provide the opportunity, but qualifications ultimately should determine who is awarded the business.”

The best way to hire people is to create a set of standards you require to fill their seat, such as recent and relevant work experience, references, understanding of the specific needs of your project, knowledge of the local area, and their ability to work through pre-construction and the design phases of the project. Then, if someone in the church doesn’t get the job, it’s not about you telling them no. It’s an easier conversation using your set of standards to explain why someone else was a better fit. The advantage of working with a knowledgeable and experienced Church Owner’s Rep is that they can help you create this set of standards, and can be the “no guy” when it comes time to have these tough conversations so you don’t have to.

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