September 22, 2022

Unique Challenges Faith-Based Organizations Face with Commercial Building Projects 

Church rendering

Not all commercial construction plans and projects are created equal. And this couldn’t be truer and more applicable than with those faith-based organizations looking to explore building expansion. If you’re responsible for organizing your church’s building project, you’ll be facing unique challenges that other traditional commercial building owners won’t. And you’ll want to identify those unique challenges quickly and early on in your building planning process.

Here at Jerdon Construction, we specialize in commercial building projects for faith-based organizations and congregational communities. And in our vast years of experience, we’ve learned to anticipate and overcome certain challenges you might be facing right now. Today, we’ll share some of those more common obstacles and church-related considerations, along with insights and solutions, to help guide your decisions moving forward with your church design and building project.

Churches Are Challenged to Choose a Construction Partner

Because your church might have unique approval processes and requirements, it might be difficult to know where to begin when selecting a commercial building partner. Every construction firm will have its own process for bidding, communicating, managing, and executing the building project, only muddying the waters even more. But what you’ll be looking for is a quality builder with ample resources and experience with faith-based organization building projects.

Additionally, churches have unique intentions and plans for their ministry spaces, unlike traditional retail or commercial office buildings. For the faith-based organizations, these new buildings will serve as community centers intended to host worship services, serve as meeting facilities, additional storage, and educational centers. Carving out the purpose of your building is the best place to start. From there, you can start communicating with potential construction partners about what your plans are for this project.

It Can Be Hard to Find Church Referrals

Before you make official partnership decisions, you’ll likely seek out referrals and testimonials supporting contractors you’ll consider. But as a church, it can be challenging to find other organizations like yours or referrals from similar building projects. Contracting firms will always have a portfolio of success stories. But as a church leader or church board, you’ll want to identify commercial construction projects that align with your plans. Ask around and be selective about choosing any partner who doesn’t have direct experience building faith-based commercial structures.

Here are some vetting questions to add to your list:

  • How many faith-based organization projects have you completed?
  • Can we speak with officials from those churches to discuss their experiences?
  • Were those projects completed within budget and on time?
  • What were the last five projects you’ve managed?

Church Designs and Proposals Are Different

Your commercial construction plans and processes are going to differ from that of other commercial projects. You may be working within church committees, focused on stewardship campaigns and transparency with your congregation. And you can’t be working with a partner who doesn’t understand those dynamics. Additionally, your proposal and approval processes will require ongoing communication and clarity.

Designs are going to be different for faith-based organizations, too. Your congregation needs a building to be “home” to a community. It’s not about sleek, modern designs so much as it is about creating a welcoming space for a growing church family. And when the building begins, you’ll be challenged to find a pace that rolls in phases, minimizing disruption to your ongoing church activities. These needs and preferences for your project will be best met by finding a contracting partner with direct experience in church-building endeavors. Identifying key ministry needs is a key factor to start with in a building program. Teaming with a General Contractor that is experienced in ministry needs and the value of reaching the community for Christ is of paramount importance. 

Be sure to verify these key distinctions for commercial construction projects:

  • Describe your business and its history.
  • Are project costs estimated or fixed?
  • What is the firm’s scope of responsibility and range of capabilities?
  • Can the company deliver design, engineering, and construction for the project?
  • Do you have site supervisors and subcontractors?
  • What permits do you anticipate will need to be secured for a project like ours?
  • Are you insured and certified?

There Can Be Unique Financing and Budget Requirements

Churches can often face unique challenges in finding great construction partners because there are unique budget and financing nuances that some contractors won’t recognize without having previous experience. Be clear about what your church budgets and timelines are so you can discuss these dynamics with potential commercial firms before you begin securing bids. Any companies not willing or not flexible to accommodate your plan can be overlooked.

Prioritizing Safety and Community Reputation

Because your church has the reputation of being good, moral and welcoming, you have to be extra vigilant about only partnering with vendors and firms that align with your public vision and mission. This means you’ll focus on certain business partners who share values and have an equally strong community reputation and local charitable support. It can be challenging to find quality vendors for your building project who maintain a responsible and supportive business while keeping safety a top priority. But it’s not a measure you’ll be able to overlook when evaluating potential contracting partners.

Here are a few initial vetting questions you can ask of potential contractors:

  • Are you involved in any Lehigh Valley community activities as a sponsor, supporter, or leader?
  • What local organizations are you currently affiliated with or possess membership in within the region?
  • Can you provide safety records and injury prevention guidelines?
  • Are you familiar with our vision and mission as a faith-based organization?
  • What makes your company different or better than others in the Lehigh Valley?

Managing Compliance and ADA 

All commercial contractors should be well-versed in compliance and ADA accessibility requirements for commercial space designs and buildings. However, as a church, your requirements might be even more unique than the general guides of code that govern other projects. From push and pull hardware on doors and basement easements to wheelchair accessibility and intercom emergency features, you’ll likely have a list of accessibility must-haves that speak to your church community. Before selecting a commercial construction firm, make sure you present all those unique extras you’ll need to best complement your final new construction design. And verify that the firm you choose is willing and able to accommodate those requests.

Some Common Mistakes to Avoid

Because your area of expertise may lie outside of the commercial construction industry, there will be certain aspects of this journey that are new to you. Venturing into the unknown can also lead to making common mistakes with your project and in selecting your partners. Here are a few common mistakes your church committee can seek to avoid.

  • The lowest price isn’t always the best.
  • Don’t skip calling the contractors’ references.
  • Avoid working with partners unfamiliar with faith-based organization projects.
  • Ask every question you and your committee have, no matter how trivial it might seem.
  • Establish a core team of communication officers to ensure someone is always available for decisions, changes, and challenges.

Conclusion

As a faith-based organization, embarking on a commercial building project is going to present unique challenges and obstacles. The key to overcoming them effectively is choosing the right commercial construction partner for the job. 

Jerdon Construction not only has experience with church building projects, but we also specialize in the varying nuances that are only present in these types of builds and designs. Check out some of our other faith-based organization projects to see our Lehigh Valley work. Let our team help you through these initial processes and share our church success stories! Connect with us about your plans today! We can assist your congregation with every step, from conception to completion, answering every question along the way.