Alan Wildes

Alan Wildes

Guest Post: Questions & Better Questions

This year, I have asked several people to write guest posts to allow readers to hear the voices of people I trust that also work with churches.  I have made quite a few contacts and friends over the past 15 years and the friends I have made have served hundreds of churches; especially in the area of church construction/expansion.  David Dial of Blue Box Studio is one of those contacts.  He is a talented architect and an amazing artist. Here is what David has to share with you–

Over the last 25 years, I’ve been in my share of interviews for clients who are starting new design projects for spaces, interiors, & buildings. During that time, I’ve started putting many of the common questions into two categories. First, useful information that helps cover all the bases. Second, questions which really tell you something about the person/team you’re going to be spending a lot of time, energy, tension, friction, great discovery, success and finally reaching your goal with. Typically that goal is actually just the starting point for the client. They finally get to use the tool or experience the place they have been trying to create to serve others.


Looking back on the critical points of decision by the client (whether our projects or ones we have rescued), there are 2 key milestones that determine so much of the success and energy taken.

First Milestone – How to select who the church will partner with.

In order to determine if someone is the best fit for that journey, it takes some questions of depth to determine if they are the best choice. Experience, portfolio, and reputation should be the items checked off before that team is invited to the table. The questions at the table should be based upon how they can help you make the wise decisions on the journey, as well as how hard this team/person will work for you. Are they going to join in and be a part of your team or is your project and team just going to be a notch on their portfolio and an accounting code to bill?

Second Milestone – ‘Which trail (design process) do you want to take to get the top?’ There is more than one.

The second milestone actually should actually come first, but it rarely does. All the clients we work with are really made up of multiple key leaders. No matter how good they are at their roles, planning a major building project is typically outside their usual hitting zone. What we find is that their ideas for the project always, unconsciously, contradict each other. Finding the right process typically aligns the whole team with less conflict before the designers and constructors enter service.

The place to start any project is asking these questions- What kind of process do we need? Will all of our internal team be able to move at that pace? Are our internal goals aligned or are we going to need someone to help get our goals in sync?


The flow chart shown is never 100% one or the other. However, one column needs to lead and the other, at most, need to season the process. In other words, any project that is 51% performance and 49% experiential in its goals is going to be frustrating to the owner, the design team, and the construction team. One needs to lead 80% of the time so that there is a driving goal to compare and contrast all the secondary decisions to come. When you can talk through all the goals and ideas before getting into the design effort, the project typically goes smoother and is less expensive. That leads us to the decision matrix we have used for years. This simply graphs the cost of the timing of any choice/change in a project.

You can always wade into the swamp of design project and find your way out with a good guide. The best guide will map out your trip for you and allow you to make the most impacting decisions prior to the final packing for that trip.

Good luck on your project. It will be a trip. Make it a great memory to build your story on. Blessings.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *