I remember driving with one my clients to look at other churches that they liked and talking about how, with the limited funds we had available, we were going to complete the master plan that we had envisioned together. The master plan was for an urban church located on property that the church, and sometimes the pastor with his own money, had assembled piecemeal over the years as homes were abandoned or burned down on the nearby block. The city would pay to have the homes demolished and then the lot could be purchased for the taxes and demo costs. Through quick action and a watchful eye this pastor had assembled enough ground for the entire needs of the master plan.
The only hitch was to meet all of their needs we needed to build a multi-story densely programmed building. Unfortunately this was not within the means of the funds raised during the capital campaign. It is hard to add a basement to an existing building later on. The common belief that basements are free is a falsehood. So…we are out driving, looking at these churches in the community. We have seen several built on the model we had planned, a multistory church, densely planned on a small site. Then as we got further away from the city center and into the suburban areas we started to see churches on large acreage 10, 20 acres or more with very modest buildings built obviously as a future fellowship hall or education wing for when the larger sanctuary would be built in the future.
So I asked the question- “Which type of church do you believe you have the most in common with from a land and construction stand point?” Well, the pastor answered, “The multistory church, and by the way why are we looking at these suburban churches anyway?” It had occurred to me while we were looking at these distinctly different approaches to building and site design that we were looking at our situation totally wrong. We were seeing limitations where we should have been seeing abundance. I stated that I believed, contrary to the master plan we had completed a year ago, that we had more in common with the church on 20 acres than the church on 3 acres. I was greeted with blank stares.
I proposed a new vision, I saw that the surrounding lots were not run down bad neighbors but potential acreage for expansion and that we should build only what we could afford while utilizing some of the existing facilities until we could purchase additional ground and afford additional building. Prior to the completion of the first phase the church had already purchased two additional lots to allow for future building with an eye for 3 more lots in the future. The perspective of abundance is one I now adopt as my default approach to dealing with master planning and design of churches in general. Too often we see all the things we cannot do versus the opportunities that are around us waiting to be discovered, waiting to be recognized as opportunities not limitations.