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Step 10 of Church Building – Occupancy Permit and Move-In

Step 10 of our ten-step process will help you get you out of a temporary facility like a school, Y.M.C.A or theater and into a permanent facility. And if you have outgrown your church building and need to expand, redevelop or relocate, this process is for you, too.

Step 10 covers the final occupancy permits and moving into your new church building.

The construction process can be a lot of fun. The first 50 churches I did in the 80’s, I wore a tool belt and hard hat, and I was on the job site every day. Fresh cut lumber smells great to me. It is very satisfying to see a project go from an empty field to shaping and molding what becomes God’s house  –  a powerful tool for ministry. Our goal is to make sure that your project is fun.

A lot of people think that when the building is done, that it is a completed project. That is not accurate. When you get to the end of construction and landscaping, and you are ready to get your occupancy permit, that is where the wild card comes in.

You will not get an occupancy permit from the building department or the planning department until the fire department gives the final occupancy permit saying that you may use the building.

The Fire Marshal does not have to go by what the drawings show. The Fire Marshal can require anything,  regardless of if it is called for, inconvenient or expensive. And you cannot go over their head. The mayor is not over the Fire Marshal’s head. The only one over the Fire Marshal is God, and we should have been going to God from the very start, right?

It is best to go the extra mile in building a great relationship with the fire department. When we build buildings we have the local fire department and the Fire Marshal come out at various stages during construction. We have a big box of donuts and coffee or a nice spread of snacks put out for them. If it is lunchtime, we cater lunch.

The best time for your first visit from the Fire department is when the building is framed up, right before you put any insulation or drywall up, and maybe when the roof is not even on. Have them come and tour the building. You want them to get a feel for how the building is built, including the size of hallways, access ways, and exiting. They will want to be familiar with it. A lot of times I will give the Fire Marshal a piece of keel (a big fat crayon), and ask him to mark everywhere he wants a fire extinguisher to be mounted on the walls as he walks around the building. That is heaven to a Fire Marshal. Fire extinguishers are already marked on the drawings – they have to be every 75 feet. I like to offer the Fire Marshall the chance to add extra ones. It acknowledges that we are on his/her side. It shows that we looking out for fire, life and safety issues and that we want the safest building possible. That is how you build a great rapport with the Fire Marshal, and it will pay off when you ask for that occupancy permit. Trust me, I have had fire departments come into buildings that are 100% finished and the building dedication is next Sunday, and they start telling you what they want to add. Making friends with the Fire Marshall because is extremely important; then when you get your occupancy permit, you can celebrate like you have never celebrated before.

Your grand opening event should be planned out in advance and it should be phenomenal.

Between occupancy permit and the grand opening of your church is moving in.

Be sure you have a moving team ready. It should be a team of volunteers from the church to orchestrate how you are going to get everything moved in. Make sure that you have all your FF & E (fixtures, furniture, and equipment) ordered and being delivered in advance of the moving date. The team will need to organize and schedule when you move in chairs when you have your sound, video, light and everything is finished, and make sure there are tables and chairs and whiteboards in the classrooms. You want to be able to coordinate it very carefully so that when items are delivered, you have a place to store them. And then be sure that everything is moved to the correct place and installed. This will ensure you are ready to go prior to your grand opening celebration.

The grand opening of moving is really just the icing on the cake. Now you get to fire up that tool, the building, for what it was designed for: to encourage, equip, and empower people; to have everyone invite their friends; draw in the community to introduce them to Jesus Christ; to reach the lost and develop Christ-like disciples, and to become the powerhouse ministry you have envisioned.

Call me now at 719-439-3019. And download free e-book resources that we have for you.

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