After numerous successful building projects for churches, ministries and other mission-minded organizations, Dan Keiser and his design team have identified a crucial component for success in mission-minded building projects: the ability of a visionary leader to delegate the project administration to his or her co-leaders.
“There are two major components in a church building project. The first is vision; the second is execution. The lead pastor sees the vision, feels it, knows what it looks like. Execution—the documents and permits, the construction process, the intricate details—is where we’ll see a calculated shift to an administrative pastor taking the ball and running with it to the finish line.”
When a smaller church decides to embark on a building project, it often means a very full plate for the lead pastor, since the church may not have been around long enough to create a leadership team with diverse responsibilities. On the other hand, a larger or more mature church usually has a more robust staff with roles outlined, which means that the leader is comfortable with handing off his vision to administrative pastors. However, it sometimes happens that a lead pastor has a hard time letting go of the daily decision-making issues of the building project.
In Dan’s experience, a church building project goes much more smoothly when a lead pastor is prepared to hand off the execution phase to fellow pastors.
“Building is very heavy in terms of the time and energy it requires, because of all the decisions that have to be made. The lead pastor needs to continue to lead the church. For instance, it takes a little bit of education to align church members to being ready to build. Especially for younger church plants, the whole idea of tithing is foreign, so there’s a strategy the lead pastor may need to go through, to get the congregation where they need to be before they can build. Those are the activities where the visionary needs to be focusing their time.”
That’s why, once the vision has been clarified and documented through KDG’s signature six-step church building process, Dan guides the lead pastor in handing off the project to co-leaders.
“I stay very engaged in this transition process to assure the lead pastor that we’ve defined the direction they want to go. We’re going to keep them in the loop, but we’re not going to bridle them with all the meetings necessary to make all the decisions. This frees them up to do what they do well.”
Let Your Vision Be Your Guide
Dan is conscientious about assuring leaders that if circumstances change the design parameters—anything from a code-related zoning issue to an aesthetic requirement from a municipal design review board—they will be brought back into the process to ensure that the changes still align with the vision. He acknowledges that it requires a lot of trust for a visionary to entrust their vision to KDG, and to empower others to make the crucial daily decisions involved in the lengthy design process.
“The cool thing about working with mission-minded organizations is that I’m usually conversing with their leadership for years before we start a project. There’s a personal relationship that’s being built between me and the lead pastor. As we continue, we bring others into the conversation. It’s key to the success of a project that there be trust.”
In some projects, Dan even gets involved with helping a lead pastor identify and prepare a co-leader who can shepherd the leader’s vision through execution. “These conversations don’t happen in a room full of people. But over the course of several conversations, I can communicate to the lead pastor, ‘Here’s where you’re at, here’s what you need to get you where you want to go.’ They start to identify people, those people start coming to the meetings, and it happens organically.”
A Few Valuable Resources
To church leaders considering a building project in the near future, Dan offers this advice: start identifying today whom your administrative leaders will be. He also recommends two books by Will Mancini that offer valuable guidance on the process of taking a mission-minded building project from concept to construction.
“Church Unique encompasses the whole concept of vision. Church plants are not photocopies of each other—churches are organically gifted and visioned.”
A church’s unique vision should inform the church’s unique design. Dan says the copycat mentality of ministry is immediately apparent when a church leader comes to him with the same design goals as every other contemporary church in the area.
“Church Unique really takes the leadership through a process of clearly identifying who they are and why they do what they do—here’s how we’re different, here’s who we’re focusing on.
“The second book, God Dreams, is about execution. The average visionary pastor’s attention is divided among many tasks, all of which are extremely important. The book breaks down that complexity of wanting to do so many things into a prioritization method—it says you can only lead one initiative at a time, but you can handle four others if you delegate them. This book really helps that visionary pastor learn to prioritize.
God Dreams also offers a quote that, for Dan, encapsulates the cornerstone of taking a church project from concept to construction: Vision without execution is a daydream. Execution without vision is a nightmare.
“When I can sense there’s growth, momentum, excitement in these younger churches, this book has been instrumental in showing these pastors it is possible to accomplish all their dreams without getting bogged down or burned out. The design process could be six months to two or three years, depending on when we engage with the church and the steps necessary to get them ready to build. You can’t do it all right now—you have to prioritize.”