Guest Post: “So, How Much Does It Cost?”

Guest Post: “So, How Much Does It Cost?”


In my 15 years of working with churches I have had the privilege of working with some amazing people.  I work with wonderful people within the church and get to know other people who serve churches like me.  It is energizing when I get to work with people who have the same heart for the local church as I do.  Shane Hornbuckle of Van Winkle Contruction is one of those people.  I asked Shane if he would be willing to share a post for my blog with this topic in mind; “Discuss a topic that you almost always encounter when beginning the conversation with a local church regarding a building project.” Here’s what he had to say:

As the largest builder of religious facilities in the Southeast, the most common question we are asked is, “How much will it cost?” The astute reply is, “It’s not about how much it cost, but rather what is your budget.” In Luke, Jesus says:

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ [Luke 14:28-30]

An Owner comes to us with dreams and a desire to construct the perfect building for their congregation. A responsible contractor provides a programming (or conceptual) budget that is based on historical experience and current market value and then adds a percentage of around 10% to allow for the potential unknowns that occur.  Typically, the committee is shocked at the projected cost of their dream. The reality is their vision is not based on accurate information or current market conditions. Our job as a Construction Manager is to help the Owners realize their dreams within a budget the membership can afford.

Here are a few examples of Van Winkle’s work

Recently we worked with a church that had a BHAG, “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.” This goal included a Community Center, parking deck with a Senior Center on top, expansion to the worship facilities, and a choir practice room. The dream budget was over $60 million. When they presented this vision to the congregation, an enormous amount of excitement was created. The fundraising efforts were incredible and they raised over five times their annual budget ($2.5 million).  Unfortunately, they were only able to raise 20% of the $60 million and the congregation perceived this shortage as a failure. This experience leads us to valuable Lessons Learned:

  1. Creating a realistic vision the congregation can rally around is vitally important,
  2. If you have a BHAG, break it down into digestible pieces and then communicate the steps to the congregation.

Because we have over eight decades of experience, we help each church think beyond what is directly in front of them. Each project is unique, but the process is the same. We encourage you, the Owner, to ask us questions in the preconstruction phase where the architect and construction manager can really help with making a realistic plan to build your budget and solve any issues.

Begin with prayer, build a fiscally sound budget and everything else will fall into place. Your building success, the one that God has entrusted you with to build His kingdom, is our goal.

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