Best questions for church architects

 

Best questions for church architects

When you and your church leadership have decided that your church needs an upgrade or even extra buildings to house the ministries you have going on, you would not want to just grab the first group of church architects you find. Church Capital Campaigns are expensive, time-consuming and energy consuming.

So, what should you ask when interviewing church architects? (This is not going to be some comprehensive list, but as a pastor it’s what I would ask.)

  1. How much experience do you have designing churches?
  2. Can I see your full portfolio?
  3. Can you give me a client list of people who you have worked for before so that we can get direct testimonials from them?
  4. How large is your team and what size of projects do you typically take on?
  5. Do you have the capabilities to show the end design before building even begins? In other words, can you create accurate 3D animation and show the congregation your architectural renderings before things get going?
  6. How much do you charge and how do you charge it? Is there a way for a church to pay something like this off?
  7. Do you work with churches with budgeting?
  8. How do you help a church prep it’s fundraising?
  9. What advice would you give to this church before getting involved with a capital campaign? What are the usual problems that you have encountered and do you help overcome them?
  10. Do you stage out your work and work off of deadlines that we agree on or do you set the deadlines?
  11. Are we able to make changes in the church design once everything begins?
  12. What are your favorite church designs you have seen? Would you draw on those influences to help us build ours?
  13. Would you help with any neighborhood associations that might not like the fact that we will be building? How would you help us?
  14. How will you help us match the surrounding areas? We don’t want to build the Crystal Cathedral and upset the balance of the neighborhood.
  15. Are you Christians and if so, how would you let that influence how you work with us?

 

Okay – there is a jumping off point for you guys. I hope that this helps you get started. I’ve been through this capital campaign process several times and I can tell you that you are best off asking as many questions as you can before accepting a company’s bid. You don’t want to get stuck with a company that is hard to deal with.

Road Warrior Day 2.5

Day two-Part two – The two worst feelings in the world

I always like to pose the question: (What are the two worst emotional feelings in the world) to relative strangers because everyone has had rough times in their lives and most people don’t have to think hard about the answers. It can also lead to the follow-up question, “why?” which can open a typically closed person to share some deep parts of their life. Now, I’m not saying to be an investigator or an information vampire with everyone. You have to learn to read people to see if they want to explain or if they would rather the conversation quickly.

By the way, for me, my worst two emotional feelings in the world are uselessness and shame. I won’t get into why in this journal entry. But, let’s just say I’ve faced a lot of both and I’d rather not have any more of either.

As for Melissa, she said “Loss and Guilt.”

As for Stephanie she said “Emptiness and Rejection.”

And as for Aubrey she said “Loneliness and Powerlessness.”

These answers led to a long discussion about why they said what they said and I noticed that not only were they opening up to me, but they were learning a lot more about each other. They had probably never talked much about deeper things before and I think my question bonded them a lot. It was cool to watch them share deeper things. Anyway, this time with the traveling nurses was the coolest part of my day. I’m a Christian guy and I always think of the verse that Jesus says again and again, “Love your neighbor.” But what I am learning about our society is that first you have to meet your neighbor before you can love them. I know so many people who isolate themselves in their own home world and go ten years without ever doing much else than wave at their neighbors if they happen to be both doing yard work at the same time – no judgment here – I just wonder why there is so little connection when the proximity makes connection so easy.

After I left the nurses, I went to my comfortable bed in my Lubbock corporate housing space and sprawled out on the bed to watch some TV about one of the best colleges in Texas – a future client of mine hopefully.

It was a really good day.

 

What to watch out for with church capital campaigns

What to watch out for with church capital campaigns

Church capital campaigns are no joke. You should never enter into one without really thinking about the disasters that could await you. I’ve been a pastor for many years and I know what dangers exist that you need to be wary of – this article is dedicated to warning you pastors and church leadership teams about what could come your way.

Dangers:

  1. Factions of unbelievers – I’m not talking about unbelievers in Christ. I’m talking about the unbelievers in the vision. Just because you think it’s a great idea to build more buildings or to change up the existing structures does not mean that everyone else does too. Think about this pastors: you might be the focal point as far as sharing the word and leading committees, but you are not the focal point when it comes to removing extra money from the bank accounts of the members. And if there is a majority of powerful influencers who don’t buy in to your vision and who are not willing to put their money where your mouth is, you can forget your new church design. Influencers typically are leaders in the community and they know how to get their way. Staff and leaders of the church staff are not going to convince those congregational leaders to back your plan. I recommend taking the temperature of your influencers of you can expect to have factions rise up who not only want to stop your church capital campaigns but who will want you replaced for bringing up a tricky idea. Nobody in the world wants to give their extra money to a project you dreamed up. They want to give their money to something they believe in. And people tend to believe in what the leaders of their own spheres of influence tell them to back. You feel me? You better or you might not only not get your buildings or renovations, but you might also find yourself out of your job. Believe me – I have been right there.
  2. Bad architects – I’m not taking about people who don’t know how to blueprint and throw out some cool looking 3D animations. I’m talking about church architects who don’t know how to join up with you in the entire process of a church capital campaign. Church capital campaigns require church architects who can take you from vision to fundraising/budgeting to leadership all the way to the building of a place that satisfies both your needs and the desires of a congregation. If you don’t do your research and you just hire some supposedly strong architecture firm, you will regret it. All architects know how to do architectural renderings that look great. But very few of them can lead you as you lead your members into the promised land of a new set of buildings. You need a great firm who has done church campaigns before (like http://www.haloarchitects.com) to help carry you into those new lands. If you get a reputable firm who has never done this type of work, you will regret it.

Okay – so that is my initial advice for those of you seeking to do a church capital campaign. Good luck with your endeavors!!!

What Some Companies Do Well Online

What Some Companies Do Well Online

I love when companies actually give extensive details about what they do on their website. I kind of feel like most corporations are too vague about they offer. This vagueness leaves a bad taste in my mouth because I think it is lazy and I think it is rather foolish. Think about it: a website is your planned introduction to the online world – it is something that a company can control, unlike reviews and testimonials that might come later on. A website allows you to show off the best of what you have to offer – it’s your storefront and it should beckon customers to your sales door. But without clear and complete descriptions, what are you telling your customers? Do you care about them knowing more about you or do you expect them to make a call to you and to ask about your company? If that is your expectation you will be sorry – it’s hard enough to get people to look at sites online (which usually is the first step these days – good bye Yellow Pages). So, if a potential customer looks at your web page, you have accomplished a lot. They might want what you have to give to this consumer culture. But, if you don’t give them a detailed clue about what you do, they will push the back button and see if your competition has more detail.

I cannot stress this enough – give detail. With that being said I will admit that I have seen websites going overboard and telling people a thousand minute things about their company (detailed staff introductions and the like). So, if you cannot be complete in your descriptions while also being somewhat concise, hire a writer who can. It will help you much more than you think.

Three websites you might want to check out are:

  1. http://www.haloarchitects.com, which takes you through all of their services and gives you confidence about using them as a church design and 3D animations architectural company. If I was interested in building something, I’d put them at the top of my list. If I was looking at building my website into something that is more detailed I would definitely recommend them as well.
  2. http://www.southcrestchristianschool.com, which takes interested parents all the way through their curriculum for pre-K through 12th As a parent with so many choices out there for schooling their kids, you better have some concise details and Southcrest Christian does.
  3. http://www.wtc.edu is similar in giving prospective college students the reasons why students should spend their 2 years at one of the best colleges in Texas.

Okay, that’s my two cents about web design and how you should populate you pages. Good luck to those who need to do this and congrats to those of you who already have this part done.

Road Warrior: Traveling Nurses

Road Warrior Day Two: Traveling Nurses and me

Okay. So I woke up late today and had to hustle to get to one of my appointments on time. My breakfast was eaten on the fly inside of my car and some of it fell onto my pants. I’m not a “pant-licker” so I didn’t contort myself to taste cotton and grape jelly. I just decided that when I got to where I was heading (a law office) I’d hit the bathroom and do my best to clean it off without making it look like I peed in my pants. I’d never been to this client before and I wanted to make a good first impression for the sake of my company, but sometimes grape jelly and gravity work against me. My advice to you: Don’t eat and drive. Also don’t text and drive which I also did to make sure I let these new clients that I was nearby. Really don’t do anything and drive. 10 and 2. Check your mirrors. Don’t use your knees.

Once at the law office I cleaned myself up and did my best to use the hand dryer to dry my pants. I had to sort of do this awkward jump up and down thing so the air would catch the wet stain. As I was doing this, someone entered the bathroom and gave me a strange look. I just looked at them and said with a smile, “Crossfit, man. Crossfit.” He smiled back and retorted, “Go for it, man.” Then he disappeared into the last stall.

Journal sidenote: By the way, here is some bathroom stall advice if you care to take it. Most people don’t like using the number two poop times while someone else is in the public restroom with them. Because of this, most people want to distance themselves as far away from other people in the bathroom as possible. To do this, they grab the last stall, which is farthest away. Studies show that this is the most used stall in any bathroom, which often means that a lot of butts have sat on that seat before you. The same studies also show that the stall nearest the urinals is hardly ever used – a fact which can cut down on bacteria passed between your backside and others’ backsides. So, if you want more clean sit-downs, go for stall number one and don’t worry about the sounds you make. We’ve all been there and no one expects for your rectum to whistle Dixie.

Anyway, besides my limited Crossfit adventure, the workday was relatively uneventful in a good way. We picked up two new clients and I made myself more valuable to the company. I’m sure it will matter a lot when promotion time comes around – doubtful.

Anyway, back to my Lubbock Corporate Housing after picking up some to-go Panda Express – double honey chicken, brown rice and three eggrolls, because that’s the way I roll. After I changed into my casuals, I decided it was time to knock on the suite door next to mine and find out who was there. As it turns out, I met three very nice traveling nurses who actually invited me in (not typically recommended). I guess with all their patient care, they can read humans pretty well and I either passed their test or they saw me as a very sick man who needed their nursing skills. Their names were Stephanie, Aubrey and Melissa and they told me all about what it was like to be a traveling nurse (they knew each other from going to the same Texas college). All three said they did it for the money and because they weren’t married and didn’t have kids. They said they also did it for the adventure of it. After they talked a while, I asked all three of them my favorite open-ended question which is a good one if you are looking for a way into someone’s trust: “What would you say are the two worst emotional feelings in the world?”

I’ll tell you in Day two, part two next time…

Getting Truly Smarter

Getting truly Smarter

When considering where to send my child to school I weighed my public and private school options carefully. It was a big long-term decision financially, spiritually and socially. I wanted to place my child in a school that would allow for seamless continuation from Lubbock Pre-K all the way through 12th grade graduation. I imagined that choosing one school that would take him all the way from young childhood to adolescence would be best for him. I didn’t want him to do elementary one place, middle school another place and high school at yet another. Even though it was going to cost me I made this call because really I wanted my kid to have community that went from young to older. I thought this would give him a leg up when it comes to building deeper and more long-term relationships. So, private school it was going to be.

But that didn’t fully answer my questions. There are several Lubbock private schools, which have great reputations and I wanted to make sure I was putting my child in the one that not only lived on reputation but which was actively teaching kids to learn how to learn. I want my child to be a discoverer not a memorizer. So I began doing web research looking for this very thing. Below is what I came across that ultimately led me to choose Southcrest Christian School. Check out how they build foundations so that children can really learn. See how their academic visions gave me confidence about deciding on them as the proper choice.

Thinking skills are explicitly taught and modeled. Because comprehension results from the thoughtful interaction between reader and text, improving student thinking positively impacts student comprehension. When a student fails to think while he is reading, he is not truly reading. By breaking thinking down into its component steps, teaching these steps explicitly, and extensively modeling the use of these steps, teachers can equip students with the cognitive abilities needed to fully understand a text.

Time is dedicated to skill mastery. Learning to use a skill requires extensive guided and independent practice. Insufficient time devoted to learning results in insufficient learning; students must understand the structures of text and the accompanying thinking skills so that independent application and transfer of thinking skills to other areas of learning can occur. Developing such understanding, such automaticity, requires time. Foundations & Frameworks units devote adequate time and provide adequate practice for students to truly master each comprehension skill.

High quality literature is used as a natural conduit for skill instruction. Great literature captures a reader’s imagination and motivates further reading. Foundations & Frameworks uses real, complete works of children’s literature to engage students and provide adequate material for in-depth comprehension. The literature is clustered according to readability and is used for comprehension skill instruction. For example, a book with cliff-hanging events may be used to teach and practice understanding plot, whereas a book with great character development may be used to study and practice character or comparison/contrast. Fifteen years of researching quality literature preceded the selection of Foundations & Frameworks titles.

Small group interaction is a daily practice. Small groups enable teachers to know their students and adjust instruction to meet the needs of individuals. Small groups also provide an opportunity for students to further develop their understanding of text through thoughtful discussion with the teacher and with others reading the same text. The small group structure also gives teachers the flexibility to group students for re-teaching, reviewing, or for providing additional, individualized, guided practice. While small group sessions take place, other students in the classroom prepare for their small group session by reading, adding entries to SPECS Logs, and completing practice with vocabulary words. SPECS Logs (SPace for Extending Comprehension Skills) are specially designed notebooks that foster student comprehension of text by providing space for the development of visual tools.

Visual tools are used to organize and represent patterns of thinking. Visual tools are graphic tools used to organize and connect information from a text. Because they represent the thinking process that has been explicitly taught and modeled, visual tools foster the thinking necessary to comprehend a text. With an associated visual tool for each skill, Foundations & Frameworks equips students to think effectively in reading and in every other area of learning. For example, a flow chart used in the study of sequence of events provides an image of the process; sequence looks like a chain of boxes arranged in order. This understanding helps students understand the sequence of history, the sequence of the scientific process, the sequence of steps involved in long division, the sequence of throwing a ball correctly, and much more content in every area.

Vocabulary instruction emphasizes complete word understanding. Vocabulary instruction must emphasize complete word understanding to be effective. Definitional, contextual, and conceptual word understanding leads to ownership, allowing the student to not only comprehend new words, but to use them effectively in speaking and writing. Foundations & Frameworks emphasizes all three areas of word understanding through individual, small group, and whole class instruction and activities. Frequent feedback from teachers enables students to refine their understanding of words and promotes intentional and accurate word usage.

Phonemic awareness and phonics instruction is explicit and systematic. Comprehension begins with accuracy and fluency in word identification. Phonemic awareness, the foundational understanding that words are formed from blended sounds, is an essential precursor to phonics instruction. Phonics is best taught through multi-modal methods that incorporate listening, reading, spelling, and handwriting in explicit and systematic instruction of sound-spelling relationships. This is immediately followed by opportunities to practice decoding words in isolation and connected text. Foundations & Frameworks emphasizes both of these areas of word knowledge, getting students off to a successful start in both word recognition and comprehension.

From nothing to something special

From nothing to something special

I’ve always respected architects because they trained hard in school to be able to take their special balance of design precision coupled with creativity to take nothing but an idea or a thought (either theirs or someone else’s) and move this idea to something concrete – something tangible – something that could be even called something special.

Have you ever seen a special building or been inside a building that inspires awe? If so, have you thought about what it took to make that place so amazing?

Think about it – where there was once nothing but a plot of land and maybe some techie 3D animations and some architectural renderings on pieces of paper comes materials put together in such a way that can lift your whole being. Doesn’t that amaze you? That which has no life rises slowly up into the sky and seems to wake up and live – a special place where people work and live out their lives. Forget the boring spots simply built for function – where people work under fluorescent lights in small spaces. We are talking about so much more than those.

I was inside the Twin Towers three weeks before the tragedy happened, but I recall sitting in one of the areas meant for tourists and I could feel the life of those two wonderful buildings. I even remember pulling out my journal and writing a couple of poems. These buildings were acting as my muse – pushing their creative designs upon me and even pressing through me. I told my wife that day that if we did move to New York (which we were thinking of doing – it was either the Big Apple or Los Angeles), I would come there daily so I could write the great American novel or maybe just a decent novella. There was energy in that space and it came from an set of architects who had the vision and the skills to bring this from nothing to something special.

Unfortunately, tragedy unfolded and something special was brought back to nothing. From earth to sky and then from sky back to the ground bringing so many people down with it. Still, despite the terrorist attacks that killed a building and its occupants, the image of that day in the center of those two buildings inspires me.

There are many other places I’ve been which have inspired me as well. Maybe I’ll write about those architectural masterpieces as well in my next post.

Small Texas Colleges

Small Texas Colleges

I am pretty positively biased about all Texas colleges, but when it comes to small Texas colleges I am especially biased. I am writing this article about one of the best Texas colleges, which is in West Texas.

Let’s me tell you about Western Texas College (www.wtc.edu), which offers two year Associates Degrees in fields which are very much in demand in today’s job markets. To be honest, I had never heard of WTC until I was sent there on a marketing assignment. But once I found it, I was soon convinced that this college needed to be found by everyone else. The administration was solid, friendly and knowledgeable. Several of them took me around and made me familiar with the campus, explained the vision and mission of the school and basically made me feel right at home. I also had the chance to meet up with the recruiters who had just gotten back from several high schools. These recruiters helped me understand the courses and curriculum being offered. They told me about the wind energy program, the oil industry classes and the specialized horticulture degree that focused on gold course management. I was impressed that some of their graduates had gotten to intern at The Masters golf tourney and at many baseball fields. Besides these impressive facts, I found that they had one of the best scholarship programs in the country.

Anyway, when the recruiters were finished answering all of my questions, I wished I could have gone back in time so that I could start my higher education right there in Snyder. Their strong connections to Texas Tech (my alma mater) would have prepared me for the four year programs, which would have gotten me jobs in fields I never even thought about. Sidenote: I graduated from Texas Tech with a double degree in Political Science and History and neither of these got me any sort of job. If I had showed up at Tech having two years of wind energy or petroleum engineering under my belt, I would have surely have gone for those majors at Tech and found great jobs. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I don’t necessarily regret my decision to go straight into a four-year college, because regret doesn’t get you anywhere. But I can surely tell other high school seniors about the opportunities at Western Texas. I think everyone in Texas should take a look at their website and begin to consider this school and it’s two year degree programs.

 

 

Buying a House: What to consider as you buy

Buying a House: What to consider as you buy

This is the second part of an article I wrote last week about what to look for before committing to buying a house. The first three things were: Checking out the neighborhood for sexual predators in the area, property value predictors and the house’s history. Now let’s have a go at the next two things you should be looking at when buying a home.

  1. The location of a home and its distance to your most important places in the city. With all of the Lubbock homes for sale, this is not that big of a deal because you can pretty much get anywhere in fifteen minutes. (It’s definitely not the two-hour commute that I had when I lived in Los Angeles. That was a killer.) Anyway, if you live in a larger city and you know where you are going to work, where you are going to worship, where you want to have some fun. There is no reason to set yourself up for a long commute to your work, your church or your escapes. Don’t spend most of your life in a car. Get as near as possible to your most common spots. If you don’t know what those spots are, do some research before you get there almost as if you are planning a vacation.
  2. What is the school district like – If you have children, this is a key thing to find out. You don’t want to put them into a public school that is known for being weak on test scores and understaffed when it comes to counselors and administration. If you are going to send your children to a private school, again just make sure it is close to your home.

Okay, those are my main questions that you might not have thought of before. There are obvious financial questions you will have and a lot of tedious budgeting to see if you can afford the house or even better if you can get a lower price on the house you want. But since that is what most people are already thinking about I wanted to offer you some questions from a different angle. It’s not always about getting the best looking house at the best price – you need to make sure the tips I gave are part of the deal too.

Okay – good luck with getting that perfect place. Be patient and don’t settle. This is a major investment you do not want to regret.

Balancing Function and Beauty in Architecture

Architecture is not supposed to be about just creating functional spaces – buildings set up to simply house hundreds of cubicles under harsh fluorescent lighting where people work. And office spaces don’t have to be ugly. Sure when you come to work you are there to work, not to get swept away by beauty and creativity.

But isn’t there a balance to be had? Can’t buildings be beautiful and functional?

Now I know this little story I am about to tell is more about interior design than infrastructure, but it gives a good example of the balance I am writing about.   Here’s the deal: I pulled up to a little insurance office where I needed to handle some business. It was a storefront State Farm agency – just a plain, white building with no beauty to be found. When I went in, I saw the seemingly requisite fake plants in the corner of the lobby to go along with a calendar on the wall. It was depressing. I expected the two offices to my left to have similar looks. But the one I went into shocked me.

 

The 50ish woman who handles my insurance was sitting behind a desk that had a few pictures of her family and a bulky computer. It was a functional space. But then I looked to my left and was blown away by this impressionist painting that had been done on canvas and hung with care. There in the midst of a plain office was this beautiful piece of art that the lady told me was what she kept in front of her so she could glimpse it every few minutes. She said it helped to have it there. This woman had turned this office into a place where she could function with beauty staring back at her.

I’m not sure how to build like that – that takes really strong vision. I am acquainted with a church design group who has this sort of vision. These church architects bring beauty and function into every one of their projects and frankly I am blown away by their work. (They also do other types of projects besides churches but churches are their main focus.) Anyway, I think it’s rare for people to really be able to find the balance for their clients. I wish they would consult some other architects who just don’t get it, but they are too busy. And you probably can’t just take notes and figure out how to get passionate architecture.

So that’s that. Balance.