When Not To Build by Ray Bowman and Eddy Hall

This book is written by believers who are also architects who have built many church extensions / new buildings. You would think that this book would be damaging to their business, but in fact it is filled with some excellent wisdom. Of course, they do say there is a time to build, but to get to this point requires numerous stages, stages which the majority of churches who contemplate a building project fail to take, and then discover that the new space is not filled with new people!! The amount of stories in this book of churches who built because they THOUGHT they had run out of space – and then have never grown into the new space is frightening.

In fact, chapter two is entitled “Can Buildings Kill Church Growth”. The answer is YES it can! He argues (convincingly I think) that there are three false expectations in regards to church building projects: 1. Building will stimulate growth; 2. Building will improve members’ giving to ministry; 3. Building will motivate people to minister. As the authors say; “these three false expectations all have one thing in common: they all assume that buildings can meet non-building needs.”

Building projects too often shift the focus, and more importantly, the energy of a church from ministry to buildings – which for the authors is always a bad thing. Also, most churches who THINK they need to build because they are out of space, are not in fact, out of space. The authors, in their professional capacity often challenge churches to think about adding an extra service, combining or using classroom space more effectively, or even doing some interior building (adding or removing a wall, etc).

Their main point is this: churches need to think LONG and HARD about any building project. They need not only be out of space, but, just as importantly, the church needs to be able to afford the building project BEFORE they begin it. This reduces the ‘shift’ in focus and energy from ministry to buildings – instead of writing letters and doing appeals trying to raise the next payment, the church can continue to declare the gospel.

This is a valuable book – one that MUST be read by any leadership team before deciding to build!


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