Responsibilities of a congregation include caring for the facilities used for worship, mission activities and fellowship. In some churches, members serving on the building committee have responsibility for routine maintenance of heating and plumbing systems, the building's exterior, landscaping and the interior. However, when capital improvements such as remodeling, rebuilding or renovation are involved, the building committee's work spans the entire project from a feasibility study to completion, including communication about its purpose and progress with the entire congregation.
Committee Membership Responsibilities
Those called to serve on a building committee are active members who know about the church's ministries. Their familiarity with church programs and activities gives them insight into how a building project can capitalize on opportunities for growth, outreach and member service. Committee membership requires adherence to the church's bylaws and financial plan, discretion and a commitment to attend all meetings. The chair and, in his absence the cochair, act as the group spokesperson, schedule and oversee committee meetings and represent the church before governing denominational bodies. A committee secretary takes minutes and attendance, distributes minutes, agendas and meeting reminders, and tracks information from subcommittees, while a subcommittee chairperson leads the work related to an assigned aspect of the overall project and communicates with the building committee. All members help to draft the building committee's mission statement.
Identifying Church Needs
A building committee evaluates needs that new construction, renovation or remodeling can meet to align improvements with the church vision and mission statements. The research and analysis done may include gathering input from the congregation, surveying the members to identify skills and resources they might offer and studying the impact on the neighborhood. It identifies zoning laws or ordinances that must be considered. The feasibility study also reviews the affect of the change under consideration on water, sewage and electrical systems, and potential liability for road and parking access. Some building committees contact experts in real estate, engineering and technology to complete their report.
Planning to Address Needs
The building committee interviews architects and contractors, often calling in an architect to prepare preliminary plans upon which financials can be based. Cost projections, financing and the prospect of a capital campaign to raise funds all appear on the church building committee's list of duties, although a special subcommittee may be charged with pulling together the numbers. The building committee chair then reports to the congregation, which may have to approve the proposed drawings, costs and time line. Depending on the church's denomination, the chairperson also may have to present the project before a governing body for approval to proceed. Once drawings are finalized and financing arranged, the building committee chair applies for any needed permits.
Overseeing Project Completion
The many details to consider in a building project, from interior decoration to outdoor signage, fall to the building committee, which often designates a subcommittee to help with the decision-making and keep the project on schedule. The secretary of each subcommittee tracks task completion and reports this to the building committee secretary who maintains a schedule checklist for the project. The building chair and cochair serve as the points of contact for decisions and guidance needed by the architect and contractors selected. A main part of their job entails keeping fellow committee members, church staff and the congregation informed of progress and setbacks and monitoring expenses with the church finance officers. Should costs jeopardize the budget, the building committee would agree on changes in materials or design and issue a work order change signed by its chair.
- New York Presbytery: Property Support Process #1; Guidelines for Church Building and Grounds Committees
- Sunrise Church: Building Committee Charter
- Arkansas Baptist State Convention: The Church Building Steering Committee
- JDCM Church Builders: Building Committee Structure
- Rardin & Carroll Architects: How to Form A Building Committee
- The McKnight Group: Construction Documents
Trudy Brunot began writing in 1992. Her work has appeared in "Quarterly," "Pennsylvania Health & You," "Constructor" and the "Tribune-Review" newspaper. Her domestic and international experience includes human resources, advertising, marketing, product and retail management positions. She holds a master's degree in international business administration from the University of South Carolina.