The Hyles Church Manual

by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)

(Chapter 04 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Church Manual)

4. A Building Program

The early church had no church buildings as we have today, yet it grew to tremendous proportions. It is true that church buildings are not necessary for growth, but certainly they are an aid to growth and progress in a New Testament church. We shall attempt to present in this chapter a simple and direct program for building. Since the problems of each church are unique, different adaptations of this plan will often be necessary, and in many cases, no doubt, a different plan entirely would be more suitable. Through he years I have found the following suggestions helpful in the building programs of my churches:

1. Don’t magnify building. Buildings are only tools which enable us to reach people and teach people about the Lord Jesus Christ. They should not be magnified out of proportion. In the Grange Hall Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas, we grew a rather large rural Sunday school and church with only six or eight adequate classrooms. We used the shade of trees, the baptistery steps, the bedrooms of the parsonage, the attic, and church buses for Sunday school classrooms, and yet the church grew rapidly.

When I assumed the pastorate of the Miller Road Baptist Church of Garland, Texas, the total property valuation was $6,000. We had a building made of Arkansas tile with nothing but concrete on the floors, rafters for ceilings, and with no choir or pews. The first Sunday forty-four people attended to welcome the pastor. We had a little prefabricated building about sixteen feet where we had two Sunday School classes and other than this, we had only a nursery adjacent to the auditorium. We had five Sunday school classes meeting in the auditorium that seated comfortably only about 150 people. With these limited facilities we grew to an average of over 400 in Sunday school, with a high of 952. We used garages of the houses of neighbors. We borrowed an empty house across the street which we used for Sunday school classes. Since we had no pews, we came to an opening assembly in the auditorium and sat o folding chairs. We then went to our classes across the street in the borrowed house. Each person carried his chair with him across a busy street. Folks who came in early for the preaching service found an auditorium empty of chairs, and it remained so until Sunday school was over. Then they could see people carrying their chairs across the street to the auditorium.

We then built a one-story educational building but we could not afford chairs for this. I stood up and announced to our people that we were going to have the only Chinese Sunday school in America. Since the Chinese sit on rugs in school we would have a Chinese Sunday school with our children sitting on “throw” rugs. It was inconvenient, but the church grew. When we dedicated the aforementioned Sunday school building (which, by the way, I built myself), a strange thing happened. Bear in mind that I had never built a building. I knew nothing about buildings. We simply could not afford an architect, and we had only #13,000.00. With some wise counsel from a cement contractor, I led in the construction of the building. When the building was dedicated, we were very, very happy and proud even though it was a very simple building. On Dedication Day somebody asked me what kind of heat the building had. “What...err...kind of...heat?” I asked. Oh...Ah...Yes, you guessed it right, I forgot to put heat in the building. We got some star drills, drilled holes in the walls and ran pipe along the ceiling to provide gas heat for the building. To this day the pipes are still visible. In spite of this the church grew.

To be sure a church can grow without adequate buildings but its growth will be faster and more solid if the building program can keep progress with the church’s growth. Hence, do not magnify the buildings but plan for adequate facilities, if at all possible.

2. Keep planning ahead of the needs. The pastor and deacons should be planning ahead constantly for the needs of the church as far as buildings are concerned. Some churches even find it wise to have a master plan to provide continuity to their building program. This is certainly a wise step. As plans are made, they should be made within reason and common sense. Many churches build an auditorium that is such a mistake as this. An auditorium can be built with room for a balcony to be installed later or with plans for expansion later. I would rather have a smaller building that is packed than a larger building that is half empty. This is one reason that including a balcony in auditorium plans is usually a wise thing. When the balcony is not is use, the people will not be aware of this fact and the spirit of the church will not be hampered.

3. Consider your needs, not your money. Remember the promise, “But my God shall supply all you need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Sometimes the needs cannot be met immediately. Hence, the building program may have to be made in several steps, but it always seems to be a mistake when a church considers money before it considers its needs.

4. Appoint a building committee. Through the years I have asked the church to empower the board of deacons as the building committee. This is in keeping with our policy of church organization. (See chapter on Deacons.) Be careful here not to choose people just because they are builders or well-to-do. Stay with the spiritual people of the church in this capacity. Now if the spiritual people happen to be builders or well-to-do people, it is much the better. It is better to choose the spiritual common man than the carnal well-to-do man.

5. Look at many church buildings. Acquaint yourself with the church architecture of the day. Especially should you acquaint yourself with the buildings of churches that are the same type church as yours. For example, our church is very evangelistic; hence, we want our buildings to look evangelistic. We have found it wise to visit numbers of evangelistic churches and look at their facilities. The deacons, or building committee, should take many trips together, carefully taking note of different advantages offered by different type structures. Do not limit your building to copy another but rather make it include the best features of many others.

6. Employ an architect. This is a vital part of a building program. I have found it best to use Christian architects who draw plans for many church buildings. It is amazing how much such an architect can help and how many ideas he has accumulated of which the pastor and deacons would never think. Much prayer should be given in the choosing of an architect. Remember, just because a man is a good architect does not make him qualified to draw church plans.

7. Employ the architect to draw preliminary plans. By preliminary plans, I mean a floor plan along with an artist’s sketch of both interior and exterior of the building. This is normally done at a very nominal fee.

8. Have the architect explain the floor plan, the elevation, and the architect’s sketches to the deacons. Such a meeting would probably last several hours, and the architect should go into much detail as he informs the deacons of his suggestions.

9. The deacons should then adopt these preliminary plans. A vote should be taken by the board concerning the plans, and if the plans are adopted, the can proceed with the building program.

10. The pastor and deacons should then present the plans, as adopted, to the church for church approval. Of course, this meeting is announced at least two weeks in advance and must be well attended by the membership. I have found it helpful to make slides of the architect’s sketches, floor plans, and elevation showing them to the people and explaining them in detail. Caution must be taken not to run ahead of the people. Be sure deacons are in complete agreement as to the building program and be sure the people are ready to go into such a program.

11. The church may then vote to employ the architect to draw the complete set of plans, to adopt the preliminary plans, and to empower the deacons as a building committee to see the building through to completion. If the church enthusiastically adopts the plans, then the architect may proceed with the drawing of the completed set of plans.

12. Be looking for money. All the time the pastor and/or deacons should be looking for finances. Local banks should be contacted as well as savings and loans associations, insurance companies, brokers, bonding companies, etc. Though final action on a loan by a lending agency is not usually taken until the plans are completed, it is important that the steps be taken to secure finances even before the completing of the plans.

13. It is wise for a church to limit its debt retirement to one offering a month, or one-fourth of its income. This has been our policy through the years and we have found it to be a sound one. Allocate one entire Sunday a month for debt retirement or 25% of the income. Explain this to the lending agency and they will be impressed by your financial farsightedness and conversation.

14. Raise all of the money that you can. Through the years I have steered clear of the money-raising campaigns that interfere with the evangelistic program of the church. I have also steered clear of an every-member canvas, etc. First, the pastor can decide what he himself can give. It should be sacrificial if he expects the people to sacrifice. Then he may call a meeting of his staff and explain to them that he is sacrificing. He can then show them the need and ask them to join him. A little card could be passed out asking the staff to indicate at the bottom of the card how much they could hive during the days of the building program. For example, if the building program is going to last six months, ask them to write on the card how much they can give over the six-month period. We do not ask the people to sign the card. We simply want to know how much we can expect. We have no idea who it is that is going to give that much. It is between them and God.

Then a similar meeting is held with the board of deacons, explaining the them what the pastor and staff are going to do, laying the burden upon their hearts and leading them to join you in sacrificing. Then a meeting could be held with the teachers and officers and other leaders of the Sunday school and church. This meeting is similar to the one conducted with the staff and the deacons. Again, cards are passed out. The people indicate their promises but do not sign their names on the cards. After these meetings, a called meeting of the church should be conducted. It should be handled along the same lines of the aforementioned meetings. The Sunday school hour would be a good time for this since the Sunday school workers have already made their promises. In this meeting the remainder of the church can decide what would be a sacrifice for them, again using the blank card method.

After the pastor, the staff, the deacons, the teachers and officers and the people have written their intentions, a total can be added and a victory report given to the church. It is very important that during this period the pastor be very honest and sincere with the people. He should keep them informed as to how much money is coming in and the needs that remain. I have found it unwise to use high-pressure methods, and I have also found that when the pastor is honest and sincere with the people, God’s people will always meet the need.

Attractive envelopes should be printed for people to use during the building program. Below is a sample of one we have found most effective:

15. When the plans are completed, the contract should be let. We have found it wise to use local builders. We have also found it wise to let only reputable builders make bids.

It is also wise to have at least four bids. To get four bids a church would probably have to contact six to eight contractors. The date should be set for the opening of the bids. The bids should be sealed and given to the architect. At the date of opening the deacon board, or a designated portion of the deacon board, should meet with the pastor and the architect for the opening of the bids. The architect opens the bids and reveals their contents to the deacons and pastor. The deacons may then vote their preference and let the contract.

16. There are varied types of agreements with contractors. There are several different ways to employ a contractor. The best way is what is normally called “a turn key job.” This means the contractor hives his bed and agrees to build a building for so much money. He does all of the labor and then presents the building to the church upon completion.

A very popular way of building is “cost plus 10%,” which means the contractor agrees to build the building at what is costs him plus 10% for his profit.

An interesting way to build is called “contract plus percentage of savings.” Suppose that a builder agrees to build the building for $100,000. An agreement can be made with him that a percentage of all he saves the church will go to him. For example, suppose he can build it for $90,000. Then he will get one-half of the $10,000 he saves. In other words, the original agreement is that the contractor makes 10% of the $100.000 which is $10,000. If he can build the building for $90,000, he makes $15,000. If he can build the building for $80,000, he makes $20,000. So the more he saves, the more he makes.

Sometimes a church finds it impossible to employ a contractor and must build a building with volunteer labor. This is the worst of all the plans but it can be done and has been done very successfully.

In some cases the church will let the contract for a portion of the building and use volunteer labor for the rest. Perhaps the church members would want to paint the building, or lay the tile floor. Then these items simply could be left out of the contract and left to the church members to complete.

17. As soon as the contract is let, the church could have a big ground-breaking day. Goals should be set and a record attendance should be present. This should be a day of joy and victory. Often it is wise to have visiting dignitaries such as mayors, governors, congressmen, etc. The ground should be broken by the pastor, deacon chairman, or some other important member. Pictures should be taken to be used for future publicity purposes, for newspaper articles, etc.

18. During the building program there should be a weekly meeting of the deacons. This meeting is for the purpose of alerting the deacons to the progress of the building and allowing them to make necessary decisions as the building committee. Again the pastor should be very careful to keep the deacons informed and abreast with him in the building program.

19. The pastor and deacons should work closely with the contractor.

20. Lighting should be considered very carefully. Some architects and builders are a little aesthetic and tend to make the building a little dark. A light building is very important to a church, and care should be made to provide sufficient lighting.

21. The building should depict the personality of the church. It should reflect the church, and it certainly should not clash with the church’s personality or profile.

22. Give much attention to the public address system. This is very vital. I like big speakers near the platform in preference to many little speakers scattered throughout the auditorium. The speaker should be able to hear himself. The pastor should certainly work closely with the architect and builder in this matter as the pastor is the expert in involved as far as the public speaking is concerned. It matters not how beautiful the building; if the people cannot hear, the entire program is in vain.

23. Following are some suggestions and sketches concerning the building of auditoriums and Sunday school classes with brief explanations of each:

The fan-shaped auditorium shown above is for many the best auditorium for speaking. This enables the speaker to be close to each person. It makes for good eye contact as well as acoustics.

Using the type of balcony shown above, the seating capacity can be nearly doubled and with proper engineering, posts can be completely eliminated on the lower floor.

Many churches have used the above departmental plan. Notice the big assembly room and the small classrooms. The assembly room can also be used for classroom space by the use of modern folding doors. Though this is a good plan, one disadvantage is the amount of space used for hallway.

Above is a splendid departmental plan. Notice that the classrooms are located around the assembly room. The entrances to the classrooms may be modern folding doors or heavy cloth. Many churches have used velour or velvet for this. These heavier materials keep out the sound very well. The advantage of this arrangement is that the assembly space is not limited to the big room but the classroom space can be used for assembly space when the folding doors or drapes are open. suppose 200 children could be cared for in the classrooms. An assembly room seating 100 would be sufficient and the other 100 could sit in the classrooms during the opening assembly. This is a tremendous space saver.

The above plan is similar to the previous one. The idea is the same. The classrooms can be used during the assembly time and much space is saved.

Here is a suggested arrangement for the Beginner Department. The previous sketches are only suggested for primary age and up. It seems to be a wise thing for the beginner and nursery children, ages 2 through 5, to be in open rooms. Notice the tables. Each class sits with its teacher at a table. At the tables the records may be taken, the handwork may be done, etc. Then the lesson is taught by a different teacher each week who teaches all of the children. The teacher stands at the edge of a rug shown above and known as the “story rug.” The children gather around, sit on the story rug, and listen to the teaching of the lesson. Back to the tables they go for other handwork, etc. We have found it wise to use individual classes for the first grade and up and open rooms for preschoolers.

The above is a suggested nursery plan. You will notice several things:

1. Adequate closet and storage space

2. A half kitchen for the preparation of formula, warming of baby food etc.

3. A diaper washer for the convenience of the workers

4. Diaper-changing tables

5. Diaper bag racks

This is a suggested toddler nursery plan. You will notice several things:

1. Diaper-changing tables

2. Diaper bag racks

3. Toy boxes

4. Toddler-size restroom

5. Nursery staff dressing room


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