How to Plan Your Church Financing Project

Church leaders want to make certain that each aspect of the project is based on thorough decisions when they face an important and difficult task of beginning a building or relocation project. Costly time delays as a result of improper planning can cause major disappointments for your congregation and Church leadership. Therefore, Church leadership should carry out four important aspects in planning any major building or relocation project:

Long-Term Strategic Planning

The first and most important phase of any project is long-term strategic planning. Church leadership, assisted by a team of outside professionals, should determine current facility requirements, as well as long-term needs. A complete determination of facility requirements will make a major difference in how your Church utilizes its existing site, or how you would proceed in selecting property for relocation. This determination will ultimately affect how the project is funded over a longer period of time.

Questions to ask during long-term planning:

• What are the limitations of the Church’s existing facility?
• Will the existing facility meet long-term needs?
• How will parking be affected by expansion?
• If the Church were to relocate, can you find a visible and accessible site?
• If you relocate, will the new site be free of environmental problems?
• Would relocation affect the Church’s demographics?
• Would relocation be welcomed by the surrounding neighborhood?
• How will the project be funded?

Beginning the project too soon due to overcrowding or pressure from Church leadership can be counterproductive over the long term. Therefore, all options should be thoroughly analyzed. This initial phase can present your Church with its greatest challenges and obstacles. Even though it may be a lengthy process, once you have completed the long-term strategic planning phase, your Church will have a clearer picture of where you are going and how you are going to get there.

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Establish a Budget

The second and equally important phase of this process involves establishing a budget. It is important to know what the Church can afford to spend. It is not uncommon for a Church leadership to engage an architect to begin the design process before consulting a lender in order to determine a budget for the project. A lender can provide important information about affordable financing options, which may avoid costly delays and disappointments.

When working with a prospective lender, take the time to compile a complete information package about your Church and the project. The package should include the Church’s last three years, and year-to-date financial statements, last three years of attendance records, a brief history of the Church and information about the Senior Pastor and Church leadership, as well as a description of the building project. This information will allow the lender to analyze in detail certain factors as the Church’s asset base, cash position, historical cash flow and current borrowing capacity. If the project is scheduled for up to two years in the future, ask the lender to establish a potential borrowing capacity by using the historical financial date provided. Share Financial Services provides this financial analysis to the Churches we work with, and will help set the foundation for not only months but also years to come. We have found that this information can be provided to other outside professionals, such as architects and builders, so they can begin the process and clearly understand the limits of the project budget. Since the Church has grown on the strength of its programs and ministries, overextending the Church financially could have a dramatic impact on its operations by causing cutbacks to programs and ministries. If the sale of an existing facility is required, factor into the budget a realistic timetable and sales price. Since Church property is not always easily marketable, it is important to establish a project budget early and to stay with it.

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Assemble A Project Team

The third phase of the planning process is to assemble a project team. Put the project team together at the beginning of the project. Select someone from the Church to head up the project team and delegate as much authority to that person as possible. In order to keep the project moving, this person must not only be given the responsibility for the day-to-day decisions of the project, but also be given the authority to make those decisions without Board or congregational approval. Include on the project team other Church staff members who communicate well and are team players.

A common mistake some Churches make is to rely entirely on volunteers, or non-staff to head the project team or to play an active role. Once a project is announced, often a Church member with expertise or contacts in a specific area will volunteer to help. On the other hand, without a committed, full-time person dedicated to accomplish specific tasks, major items may be overlooked. A volunteer Church member may not give the attention to specific details of the project as would a full-time staff member.

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Outside Professionals

Once an in-house project team has been chosen, begin to select the outside professionals. Now is the time to hire an architect. If you are relocating, hire a consultant with expertise in land development, and the permitting process with the city and/or county real estate office. You will also need the services of an attorney, auditor, environmental experts as well as other professions. Select outside professionals who are not only experts in their field, but are also team players and who come highly recommended.

Planning a building project involves a lot of time and effort. It is critical that the staff person selected to oversee the project team surround themselves with professionals who are committed to work as a team. Proper planning, communication and commitment from all concerned will help the Church deal with the challenges ahead.

We at Share Financial Services realize that each Church congregation, while having a common need for funding, have unique needs which are specific to reaching its goals. We can provide the resources that your Church requires, while keeping in mind the individual needs of your congregation.

Contact Martin Northern, Vice President of Share Financial Services, Inc. at (501) 316-3100, by email at mnorthern@sharefinancial.com or by clicking the Get Started link on this web site if your Church would like to consider a Church Bond program as an alternative to conventional financing. By simply answering the questions on the Get Started page, we can begin to assist you in the initial stages of launching your Church into a successful Church Bond program. After receiving the completed the form,  we will review your Church information and send you the official Share Financial Services, Inc. Preliminary Information Form and begin by assisting you and your Church with Share’s financial evaluation process.