Step 3 of Your Church Building – Building & Design Needs and Master Plan
Let’s talk about Step 3 of our ten-step process that is designed to get you out of temporary facilities like a Y.M.C.A. or a school. Or maybe you are in a permanent building and have outgrown it. This is for you, too.
Step 3 is to determine your long-range needs and to develop a Master Plan. People often skip right to wanting to buy land. It is better to keep things in order. If you know exactly what your needs are, there may be other possibilities besides buying land.Brian and Tavia Kelly asked me to come help them in Edinboro, Pennsylvania near Erie. They had outgrown their building so much that there was a small group meeting on the landing of the stairway between the first floor to the second floor. They were really out of space!
McLane Church had bought twenty-six acres and needed help to develop it so they could build a new facility to continue to reach their community. Because I was unfamiliar with the area, one of the first questions I asked was, “What else is happening in Edinboro?” Brian told me that they were excited because Wal-Mart was coming soon. There was not a Wal-Mart anywhere around. That led to: “Where do people shop if that is like Wal-Mart or Target?” There was a store called Ames where Brian remembered going to work with his grandmother. I asked to see the Ames store. As we walked around inside the building Brian asked, “Why are we here?” and I told him, “As soon as Wal-Mart moves in, this store is going to be out of business.” He assured me that would never happen because the store was kind of a landmark, a fixture in the area.
We also looked at developing the twenty-six acres the church had purchased. It had rolling hills, like much of Pennsylvania. It turned out that to develop the property, we would spend their entire budget for the building just on the site development work. We needed to level off the hills, build a pad for the parking lot, and put in a water management system. So before we could build a building, we would spend every penny the church had, could fundraise or borrow just for the site work. It did not make sense to do that.
Then Wal-Mart opened. We went to the Ames store a couple of months later and looked around. They were not restocking the shelves, and everyone looked like their dog just died. Wal-Mart was going to put them out of business. I advised Brian to keep the land while focusing on the Ames building. It was a fifty thousand square foot building on a ten acres right in the middle of the city and right off the main street. It had a parking lot, utilities, landscaping and the building itself was up. We would save a fortune! I encouraged the church to buy the building and move the ministry there versus building from scratch on the hilly property that would cost a lot more.
Ames was asking a lot of money for the building, about a million and a half? We did not have a million and a half.
We tracked down the owner, a real estate developer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and asked him how firm he was on the sale price of the building, and if he would consider selling it to us for less. He asked how much we could afford and we told him it would have to be less than a million dollars. He literally laughed at us and hung up the phone. So we waited for God to work. It was not long before he called us back and asked just how much under a million would we could offer. We strategized a bit, got back to him and laid our cards on the table. We assured him that our offer was not a reflection of what the property was worth, and told him what we could afford. He got quiet and said he would call us back. Long story short, we bought the building for four hundred fifty thousand dollars! It was ready to use and there was no waiting to build.
McLane church never did develop the twenty-six-acre site, and they eventually outgrew the Ames building, too. Now they have multiple campuses that have a major impact from Edinboro to Erie.
We were able to buy the Ames building because we knew what we needed, we had studied who we were and how we were growing. We knew the type of ministry God was going to grow there. So we knew what our needs and options were.
When you are defining who you are as a church and what you need, follow Step 3 to figure out if you need land or a big-box building. Keep your options open, because God might answer your prayers in a completely unexpected way like He did at McLane church.
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