PRUDENCE: How much can we afford?

I have been assisting churches for nearly 30 years plan and develop their ministry facilities. We have been part of developing over 4 Million Square feet of ministry facilities and every one of them had a budget.


As one involved in the development of physical facilities for churches, you may think that the most common questions would be:

  1. How many seats do we need?
  2. How many kids’ classes do we need?
  3. What material should we use for the exterior?
  4. Which design firm or general contractor should we use?
  5. How long will it take?
  6. What is the right tool for our ministry? (I WISH this was actually asked more often!!!)

While all of the above questions are critical, they are not usually the most commonly asked question.

The most common question or underlying question is – What can we afford?!?!?

I have never met a church that did not have budget constraints. When I find that one church that does not have a budget, I hope to be a part of that project so I can retire after its completion…or at least be able to pay for the triplet’s college.

Besides having a budget, I have never worked with a church that did not have either cash or loans to pay for the development of their facilities. In today’s culture, I do not know of many architects, contractors, engineers, AVL integrator, Owner’s Reps, furniture suppliers, or land owners that are willing to accept manna or sheep or goats as collateral for the payment of their products and services. This means that the underlying component of every project is how to pay for it. This may sound completely nonspiritual to many…but it is the fact!

I heard a quote that has been attributed to Max Dupree, former CEO of Herman Miller and leadership guru that put an exclamation point on this for me:

“Even if Angels ran the company, they would need to make a profit.”

That may sound crass to you, but think about the connotation of this. He’s associating the need to be fiscally responsible…regardless who is at the helm of the organization. Financial stewardship – Prudence (a word we do not use enough) – is the foundation for any initiative that an organization undertakes. It has to be. I know, I know…what about faith…what about trust…what about vision and mission? I am not discounting those, in fact, I believe that prudence is at the heart of all of these.

Think of prudence in this way. At its core, it can be defined as good judgment or wisdom gained from experience and knowledge, expressed in a realistic attitude. Prudence, however, is not the same as grave caution or wariness concerned only with preserving the status quo.

What is the Biblical perspective on this? I could quote you dozens of scriptures related to prudence…but you can research these on your own. (Prov 12:23, Prov 15:24, Prov 14:15, Prov 6:8, Prov 10:5, etc). The most common scripture about prudence…when associated with “building” something is Luke 14: 28:

“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?”

While this verse has been used…and possibly abused…by church leaders to defend a point of view, I believe it is 100% correct and applicable…especially if you are seriously looking at a facility expansion or building initiative.

Start the process by having a realistic understanding of what you can afford. That does not mean you do not apply a factor of faith and stretching…but it does mean being prudent.

Facility Stewardship Binder - Small

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