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As part of a building program, many states require that the building be designed by an architect registered to practice in that state. (This law applies not only to new buildings, but also to building additions.) Therefore, one of the first things you should do is familiarize yourself with the requirements of the law in your state to make sure you stay in compliance with the law.

What Is An Architect And How Can He Help You?
An architect is a person trained to design structures to meet the needs of people. He takes into consideration the spatial requirements, the site development, and the budget.

The greatest service an architect can render initially for a pastor or a building committee is to design on paper the pastor's vision for his church—for both the present and the future—so everyone can see the plans and share the vision.

It doesn't matter what size your church is now, you need organized direction for future growth. Architects refer to this as a Master Plan. Developing a Master Plan for present and future building is essential if the work is to be successful. Otherwise, the various stages of a church building program will be uncoordinated, initiated only as the need arises with no sense of the overall picture to govern how each part of the project is designed.

For example, RHEMA Bible Training Center has a Master Plan. As the needs of RHEMA change in the future, this Master Plan can always be revised. But the Master Plan establishes a goal to work toward.

Putting the pastor's ideas on paper will help crystallize the vision he has for the church. An architect's input is especially invaluable at this stage because he will know if some of the ideas are not workable due to code requirements, space limitations, parking, construction budget, etc.

Another area in which an architect can render service to the pastor or building committee is in the selection of the site. One consideration in selecting a site is the proposed seating capacity for your church. That will also help determine your parking capacity as set forth by city ordinances, including space for handicapped parking.

Of course, the site must be zoned for church use and be able to accommodate utilities necessary to service the size of your building. It is also important to learn if any part of the site lies in a 100-year floodplain area; that's because a floodplain area cannot be built upon.

How Do You Find An Architect To Help With the Planning?
Working with an architect should be a pleasant relationship. There are a few things you as the owner need to determine prior to seeking an architect.

For instance, you should know as much as possible about the type of building you plan to build: the seating capacity of the sanctuary, the number of classrooms and offices, any special features, etc. With the scope of the project determined, you are ready to begin interviewing prospective architects.

Because architects are trained to be individualists, you may find that some act like "prima donnas." However, you have the advantage of the indwelling Presence of the Holy Spirit to direct you to the right person. As you ask for His guidance in the selection process, you won't make a mistake. God our Father is the Chief Architect and Master Builder, and Jesus is the Cornerstone and Foundation of our faith.

In the interview process, ask for resumes from several architectural firms, as well as referrals from other pastors and/or church members. Some of the questions that will help you make a decision include:
1. What is the fee schedule?
2. What service is rendered for this fee?
3. Can service be provided in stages as the program grows?

It will also help you to talk to some of the owners and building contractors who have worked with the architect in the past. In this way, you can learn how closely the architect sticks to the plans and specifications, and how he handles omissions or mistakes in the plans.

Working With the Architect To Complete the Building Design
After selecting your architect, you will enter into a contract with him. A good owner/architect contract is published by the American Institute of Architects and lists the extent of the architect's services and the fee amount for each phase of service.

The architect you choose should be flexible enough in his fee schedule to enable you to stay within your budget. It is desirable to set a fixed fee for each phase of work, rather than a percentage of the overall cost, which can vary.

As the owner, the church must furnish the following items to the architect before he can begin:
  1. Survey of the site showing contours, easements, setbacks, utilities, dimensions, bearings, and if the site is within a 100-year floodplain. (A civil engineer can be of assistance in such matters.)
  2. Soil test for the foundation design. (This requires the assistance of a soil-testing laboratory.)
  3. A detailed list of classrooms, people capacity, and multi-use rooms. (The architect will also need to know whether or not the building will be built in phases.)
  4. A proposed budget.
Usually included in the architect's fee are time costs for a structural engineer and a mechanical/electrical engineer. Special consultants for sound or acoustical design are separate unless you choose to include them in the architect's contract at additional cost.

As the building design progresses, the architect should advise you if the budget can be met based upon your space requirements. If not, revisions in your program will need to be made. The architect can advise you on the price of various finishes that could raise the overall cost of the building.

As a part of his plans, the architect should provide alternates that will afford cost savings if you as the owner want to accept them. Alternates can simply be a change in materials or the omission of a building wing that can be added later.

When the design plans are firm, it is helpful to have the plans reviewed by the City Building Inspection Department. This review would include the fire marshal, mechanical/electrical inspectors, and the building inspector. Some cities require a fee for this service, but such a review could avoid problems later when the plans are submitted for a building permit.

Also, the City Planning Commission must review your plans for traffic flow, parking spaces, site drainage, and the impact of the building on the surrounding environment. If you plan to install underground storage tanks, the City will require an environmental impact study.

Upon approval of the City Building Inspection Department and the City Planning Commission, the working drawings and specifications can be completed.

The Role of the Architect In the Bidding Process
The next step is to receive guaranteed bids for the cost of the building. This can be done using a formal bidding process in which the architect asks for sealed bids from qualified contractors after a specified length of time, or the architect can negotiate the cost with one particular contractor. However, competitive bidding is a must to obtain the best possible price.

The architect can help you evaluate the bids and also contact other architects to check the various contractors' performance on other projects, their financial capability, and whether or not they generally complete their work as designed. Also, the contractor chosen for your building project should be required to furnish a performance and payment bond for the full amount of his contract.

Once you have a bid proposal that fits your budget and you're satisfied that the contractor can do the job, the next step is to enter into an owner/contractor contract.

Source: Pastor's Manual by Kenneth Hagin Jr.
Excerpt permission granted by Faith Library Publication

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