Guide for Local Church Improvement Projects (Property and Buildings)

The United Methodist Church (UMC) 2008 Book of Discipline contains certain requirements and suggestions to assist local congregations when adding or disposing of property or facilities. The District Board of Church Building and Location (DBCB&L) is a group of members from throughout the District who are experienced in church building and expansion projects. Their charge is to help you move forward in meeting the needs of your congregation while upholding the framework outlined in The Book of Discipline. These fellow Christians want to help your Church grow and serve your community. Below is an outline listing of the suggested steps to be followed for Church improvement projects.

1. Establish A Study Committee to analyze ministry and facility needs of the Church. Committee should evaluate community demographics, human needs, building and space needs, and program/ministry needs. The financial needs for an expanded facility must also be projected. This Study Committee may later become the official Building Committee. Please contact the DBCB&L through the Albion District Office (269-962-7760); they want to help you get started.

2. The Study Committee prepares a report for review and comment by local Pastor, District Superintendent and the DBCB&L. After receiving comments, Study Committee refines report for consideration at a Church Charge Conference. Informal congregational meetings and surveys should be considered to assess needs and gather ideas.

3. A Special Church Charge Conference (I) is called by the District Superintendent to approve project development and elect a Building Committee of not less than three members to prepare a proposal. A current copy of the UMC Book of Discipline should be reviewed for process guidance.

4. The Building Committee retains an architectural firm to prepare a feasibility study based upon the identified ministry and facility needs. The Committee works with the Architect to develop preliminary plans (drawings) and cost estimates. Committee identifies all possible financial resources for the project, and develops and oversees a Capital Campaign as needed.* Committee prepares a report for review and comment by local Pastor, District Superintendent and the DBCB&L. After receiving comments, Committee refines report and prepares it for presentation and final approval at a second Church Conference.

5. A Second Special Church Charge Conference (II) is called by the District Superintendent to approve the project, budget and funding plan* recommended by the Building Committee. Church Conference approval directs the Building Committee to proceed with the construction documents with detailed contract drawings, specifications and bidding of the project.

6. The Building Committee authorizes the architect to proceed with final plans, specifications and contract documents for Committee review and approval. The architect oversees bidding and prepares construction contracts if within budget. The Building Committee and architect may need to revise construction documents or reduce the scope of the project to keep within the budget established by the Church Conference. The Building Committee relates to the contractor through the architect. Church staff and members relate to the architect and contractor through the Building Committee. When project is complete the Building Committee accepts the building and verifies that plans and specifications have been met and all bills have been paid.

*FINANCING NOTE: Based on prior experiences of both great success and painful failure regarding the financing of building projects, the DBCB&L uses and promotes the “1/3 – 1/3 – 1/3” rule – meaning that 1/3 of the funds needed for the project be “in hand”, 1/3 be pledged, and 1/3 be borrowed. Churches whose project funding proposals rely on less than 1/3 “in hand” and more than 1/3 “pledged” and 1/3 “borrowed” may require further investigation and may not receive support for a Second Church Conference.

Resources available from the District Office (517-629-8150) or the Board of Global Ministries 1-800-862-4246

  • District Board Manual – A Planning Guide for the District Board of Church Location and Building ($6 – 64 pages)
  • Church Building Space – An Architectural Planning Guide ($8 – 84 pages)
  • Manual of Procedures – For Church Building Programs ($6 – 70 pages)
  • Brochure about The United Methodist Development Fund and Church Loans from that Fund
  • The Building Planning Process (step by step) per 2000 Book of Discipline (2 pages)
  • Summary sheet for reporting spatial needs and financial needs (2 pages)

Adopted June 16, 2010

By Albion District Board of Church Building and Location