Throughout scripture we see references and prophecies to God’s plan for His creation. We also see references in relationship to the futility of man’s plans. However, consistently the Bible supports the plans of man which are in line with and committed to the work of the Lord.
As churches look at committing their facilities to the ministry needs of the Lord and plan for the future growth and education of His kingdom, they also need to be good stewards of the resources God has given them. This includes the planning and development of a well thought out church facility. Though we do not know where the Lord will lead any particular church congregation, we do know what we are called to do as Christians. We should make sure that the decisions made in relationship to our church facility do not hinder us from aiding in the fulfillment of His plan.
RATIONALE FOR MASTER PLANNING
Today, church congregations find themselves facing an unprecedented array of current trends and complex issues that impact all aspects of congregational life. Rising energy costs and new green initiatives have severe implications for a majority of church facilities, many that were built when energy was relatively abundant and inexpensive. Other trends include: spiraling construction and maintenance costs; an increase in fire and safety requirements; security concerns; changing educational methods, along with equipment and technology demands (audio/visual/computer); greater church office demands; handicapped accessibility needs in public buildings; and harsher code and governmental requirements and restrictions.
Yet, while these factors may encourage a “cutting back” of church activities and outreach, the need to take a fresh, wholistic view of all the issues is imperative, especially in these times of diminishing resources and increasing ministry opportunities. The challenge to effective stewardship is perhaps as important today as it has ever been and the way a congregation meets that challenge may determine its future existence.
You cannot just look at one facility issue in the life of an organization such as a church without having to look at a number of other interrelated issues. For example, even a quick glance at energy conservation reveals the need for zoning of spaces according to usage frequency. This in turn requires a study of the congregation’s present and future goals and programs (programming). To answer the question, “Where should a particular ministry be located in the facility?” involves reviewing criteria such as handicapped accessibility, circulation patterns, location, etc. One of the first steps is to work with a qualified architect to prepare a “Master Plan” that will determine the most advantageous arrangement of spaces and functions taking into account as many pertinent factors as possible. (see our article “ Church Space Relationships – General Model”)
The purpose for the Master Plan is to plan for the future so that the facility can enhance the ministry and growth of the congregation. Paramount in this process is an analysis of the available resources that will provide the ability for the church to grow. These resources can be broken down into at least three categories:
1. Capital Resources: Facilities, Property, etc.
2. Financial Resources: Income, Endowments, etc.
3. Human Resources: The Church – full of gifts and talents given for ministry and growth.
In determining a Master Plan some of the major criteria are: space relationships and functions; circulation patterns; handicapped accessibility; visibility; and energy conservation (zoning). As you considering an existing facility, the Master Plan must remove the negative and enhance the positive. Facilities are tools – they can be good, bad, or inappropriate. Just like in our own workshops, we choose a tool based on the need that is to be met. Once we define the ministry need, and analysis the resources, we can then plan for the best facility tool to meet that need.
John W.G. Rosecrans, AIA is the Owner and President of DIMENSIONAL DYNAMICS, Architects and Planners, Inc. located at 455 Old Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, PA 19317. phone: 610.388.0755 fax: 610.388.2761