Who to have in your church design meetings

Who to have in your church design meetings

As you and your leadership begin the process of working with architects who are going to build out your vision of expansion, you need to make sure you have the right sort of people in the meeting room. As an experienced pastor and church leader, I have seen church designs go bad before the big hitters come in with their 3D animations and architectural renderings. In other words, the initial meetings often have too many of one type of person and not enough of the others.

Let me be more specific: You need to balance those with engineering minds and decision styles with those who are wildly creative and out of the box. This is a balanced approach that makes sure both sides of the brain are being heard from. If you only have creative, you might get a rhombus shaped sanctuary and a pyramid shaped kid’s area. If you have only engineering minds, you might just get straight edge buildings that lack and daring or creativity at all. Make sure you invite both sorts of people and if there are any in the middle include them as well.

Another thing I have seen and experienced as a capital campaign is being prepared is that there are many more men that women being asked to give their serious input. Since men and women tend to see the world differently, you need to balance out the numbers. I would even suggest that there be male and female co-leaders of the committee so that there is not just male dominance.

Another piece of advice I would give is to include people of all ages. From 4 year olds to teenagers at every state of adolescence. This will be their space for church and they are the future givers. Give them all a chance to write/speak out a short piece of advice asking them the questions, “If you could improve anything at the church building, what would it be? What would you add to make this a place you want to worship?” I have never seen a church do this because kids and youth are thought to be too immature to offer anything constructive. It’s a big mistake because when this demographic become adult aged, they will have to live with whatever edifice was built when they were younger.

A brief and final piece of advice is to make the church capital campaign committee as diverse as possible. If you can have one person of every color in that room it would be smart. This way you don’t run the risk of losing important cultural advice that could really make your project a special one.

All of the above increases congregational buy-in from the start and that is a crucial piece of capital campaigns. I’d love to hear what you think about the above and also would like to know if you can think of others to include in the meeting.

Good luck and God bless.

Why didn’t someone tell me?

Why didn’t someone tell me?

When I was in high school and considering which of the Texas Colleges I would attend, I didn’t have a counselor to tell me what I needed to do. 16-18 years of life, jam-packed with hormones and nobody told me to study hard for my SAT. Nobody told me that I could have aced that sucker and gone to any school I wanted. Instead I just went in to that SAT morning, ignorant as to how to take this specific test. As an Honors student with a 4.4 during High School, it would have been nice for someone to tell me, “Hey bud, study the SAT as if it was the most important test you could ever study for. Colleges don’t give a crap if you ace Calculus and Physics tests. The SAT is where the scholarship money is. The SAT is why you get the acceptance letters from Ivy League schools.

The SAT is just one example. How about some real life skills being offered? How about a class being offered to show me how to budget, how to handle credit, how to choose a major in college that isn’t useless? (Most of them are.) Home Economics and Typing classes didn’t get me too far in this world.

Am I living in regret? Am I playing the victim? Damn straight.

My nephew just got accepted into the 10th highest rated in the country, The Naval Academy, and he is on a full-ride plus they pay him a salary to get a $500,000 education. I’m happy for him. But he had a dedicated high school counselor who did all she could to get him focused on the things that mattered. His parents also hired a coach who walked him through all of the steps to become ready for the real world.

I wish someone had done that for me.

Crap, I just wish someone would have walked me through getting into Texas colleges that offered some trade experiences. I would have loved taking out two years to learn how to weld, to plumb(er), to do landscape design, to learn the oil business and then go on my way to finish my four year degree at a prestigious school. Now I can barely do my own laundry without shrinking my favorite clothes.

Am I being a baby?

For sure. But you can bet that I tell as many high schoolers as possible about the important stuff. I don’t want them looking back and blaming anybody for not telling them what is what.


I’ll go away now and shout to the air. “Stelllllllllaaaaaaaa. I could have been a contender.”


Frozen Music

Frozen Music

“I call architecture frozen music.”

This quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is a great way to look at special architecture and I found out it was one of the guiding quotes behind Halo architects and Gone Virtual Studios. I think this is very significant. When you see that a company is looking to lend their architectural skills to not only get a basic job done but instead to take their buildings to an entirely new level of beauty, you get excited about working with them. It shows that they want their architectural work to have tangible rhythms, beats of life and beauty from the inside out. I think it’s pretty amazing myself.

Having met with the leadership of this company (they own both companies) for an hour or two, I can also tell that this quote has weight. It’s not just a quote-grab to throw on a website. It’s a reality they insist on. They want everything from their church design, their architectural renderings and their 3D animation to the finished product to reflect something meaningful. They want to use client’s vision and take it to a another plane so that the client is satisfied and so that they themselves can be proud that they made some frozen music with their work.

This sort of commitment to greatness has really challenged me to up my own game. I am a marketer and a writer and I will admit that my work has often been in the category lf “just get ‘er done.” But when I read quotes like this and when I see them worked out in real-life by two companies that I represent I feel as if I better follow their lead in the way I do my work. These companies have inspired me to take on a whole new work ethic. I now ask the question: “How can I write in ways that capture the hearts and minds of my reader so that they are moved to inspiration.”

So not only has it been a pleasure to work with these two companies, it has changed my way of going about my own work. No more shortcuts and no more fast jobs. I dedicate myself to doing what they are doing in another vocational field.

And obviously I recommend these companies with 5 out of 5 stars. If you have a building you really need specially built by professionals committed to their craft, I would have to say these guys are your best shot. I also want to emphasize that although they are located in the paradise of Lubbock, Texas, they work nationally. Anyway, this is my honest review. If I meet with other architectural firms, I will rate them accordingly.

Lubbock is Growing!!!

One main thing I am noticing and that is fairly easy to notice if you live here is that Lubbock is growing. It is not only adding major restaurants like Pie Five, Saltgrass and In ‘n Out (an addiction I had when I lived in Los Angeles), it is building a ton of apartments and houses to hold everyone who has decided that Lubbock is a great place to raise a family. This growth is cool for me since I live on 133rd street and much of the commercial properties are being brought to my area. But here is the thing: I lease. As beautiful houses are being built all around me, I wonder if leasing a duplex for $1400 a month is a wise move. I tell my wife that we could get a really nice size house for that amount of money, but she doesn’t want to mess with mowing the yard or being responsible for breakdowns in the house. While I understand, I still think it might be a wise move to start building some equity.

Anybody have any advice?

One thing I do have are a bunch of friends who are realtors who are trying to give me advice and who pitch me on these Lubbock homes for sale. They tell me that my way is not smart. And I just say, “I know, I know. Maybe someday.” They hear this and just shake their heads and walk away.

Now I will say this – If I was going to buy one of the homes for sale in Lubbock, I know which company I would use. It’s called Coldwell Banker and I have many friends there who don’t really press me to hurry and buy. They just wait patiently and give me good advice for a future date. Also, I like how they are led by strong Christians and how they would never rip me off. Even if I wasn’t a Christian I would be glad to have those who live by Christian principles guiding me through the process.

Anyway, someday my wife and me will put down roots and make some house our home. But for now, it’s nice to be able to up and move to another city without having to do much.

What do you think? Do you think we are smart or dumb? I cannot figure out how property taxes work with houses. People tell me they can be quite a surprise at the end of the year. This is another concern for me. If you have answers, let me know.

Thanks and happy house hunting!

Church Capital Campaigns gone good

Capital Campaigns gone good: Case Number Three

Finally, some good news. A large church I attended recently (2 years ago) decided it needed to expand its children’s ministry area, rebuild its chapel and completely remake the sanctuary. They felt strongly that they needed more space and they were right. This was a church that had been around for a long time and was ever growing. So, the leaders brought in capital campaign experts who knew what sort of church design was needed and desired. These architects had the ability to develop all sorts of visuals for the congregation and this made a big difference.

Before any sort of large money commitment was made, the leaders showed the opinion leaders and the main committees what the buildings would look like. They got buy-in. Not only did they do this, they made sure to break the building project into stages. These stages each had a price tag, but each price tag was manageable. The congregants got to see each stage with 3D animation tours and architectural renderings – they were carefully motivated to contribute to something they wanted as well.

With this capital campaign that cost well over 10 million dollars, the people stayed united in giving above and beyond. There were no pulpit manipulations. It was a smart campaign and the architects built to the initial specs. No one was surprised at what was built, because they had already seen it from the beginning. It’s the best capital campaign I have ever witnessed and been a part of…

Church Campaigns Gone Ugly

Capital Campaigns gone ugly: Number Two

Another unsuccessful capital campaign project happened at a church in Southern California where I actually worked. (So maybe that says it all – the problem was my involvement.) This was a store front church that had stayed in the same location for seven years. When the rent got raised substantially, the leadership (including me) began to ask the question: “Do we stay a store front with the increased rent or do we buy a building and raise money to build onto it?” After a lot of prayer and wrestling, we decided to buy a 1.5 million dollar facility in a crime ridden neighborhood with hopes to make significant differences in the lives in the vicinity.

Now, 1.5 million is a lot of money for a church with 100 members. And a 1.5 million dollar building in California is small and in need of huge renovations. To make a long story short, there wasn’t any extra money to bring in capital campaign consultants and thus we were left to plead for money at almost every turn using blueprints and hopeful visions. With all of that, we basically wore the congregation out and split the church into those who wanted to move forward with this expensive project and those who wanted to throw in the towel. Ultimately, we did not raise the funds and ended up having to go bankrupt. It was a major blow to everyone involved and this failure left the church having to borrow time at another church’s sanctuary for Sunday mornings.

Now I can’t say that a firm of architects who could use 3D animation and virtual tours to show off the coming vision would have suddenly made the money come rolling in. But it wouldn’t have hurt. We needed clear church design plans.  We moved in faith but I think it was more wishful thinking. And we were pretty heavy handed with our money requests. Overall it was a church capital campaign with no capital and no real campaign. With my backwards 20/20, I think we should have stayed in the store front for several more years as we slowly raised the money for a building. Unfortunately we didn’t and it cost us in every way. A strong and dedicated and diverse congregation was splintered by these poor efforts. I regret my part in it.



Church Capital Campaigns: The Bad, The Ugly and the Good

Capital Campaigns gone bad: Number One

I was a pastor for 18 years before moving into marketing and media and I have seen three different sets of Capital Campaigns. Two went bad and the other went well. Let’s look at each of the three examples one by one and I’ll tell you why these turned out the way they did so you might not fall into the same holes.

Case Study One: A large mainline church located in a downtown that needed redevelopment – the leadership of the church was watching and even forecasting the movements of its VIP congregants to the vibrant and burgeoning new churches (that had all the bells and whistles) in the southwest part of the city. This mainline church had a great reputation and was still full of people but its people got scared. Because of their fear, they hired a pastor whose number one job was to bring this 150 year old church up to date. This pastor grew up in a Marine family and having been brought up in this way, led this way. In other words, he was going to raise the money using all sorts of manipulative methods to get a lovely Family Life Center built so that less people in the congregation would be tempted to leave. After all, what church wants to lose its giving members because the church is missing a gym, a basketball court, a huge game room and valet drop-offs. This sort of amenity-based church is common nowadays because most people in America are mega-entitled and they expect to be given the best of the best, even if that best has nothing to do with the work of the Kingdom of God. So, this really wasn’t the pastor’s fault or the leadership’s fault, or really anybody’s fault. It was just a church trying to hang on using human nature and battling culture.

So, what went wrong?

This church as it began to pitch this sort of mega-church style did so with a lot of talk and no show. Consultants were brought in to teach the leadership how to pull more money from the congregants using mainly out of context Bible verses and peer pressure. Even though companies with the ability to use technology like 3D animations to give a clear picture of what the final church design would be existed, this church decided to cut corners and just bully pulpit the congregants into a sense of responsibility. Most congregants were not pleased. They were not included in a change agency model and so the members felt forced by the pastor and his staff. Nobody likes to be forced. And nobody likes to give extra cash to a project that they cannot see.

In short, here is what happened. The Family Life Center got built for ten million dollars that the church had not even come close to raising, factions arose who actively fought the project, and ultimately the church lost more than half of its members to the churches on the SW of town because they were tired of being pushed around. The pastor was fired and now on Sunday mornings, what used to be a bustling church has become an empty church. It’s a sad story. But it’s one that you can learn from no matter what sort of field you are in. If you are going to add edifices to your current one, you need architects with vision and technology as well as a change agent model of transformation to get it done with the least resistance.

That’s case study number one. We will talk about the other two in future articles.

Journal of a Road Warrior: Part one

For business purposes, I travel to represent my company for three months at a time in various places. I usually stay in short term furnished housing or corporate housing and admittedly I get a bit lonely. So, I decided to start this journal here to remind myself that I am still human – to stay connected to my soul rather than just blurring away in my body day after day as a machine doing tasks. Not that my job is that bad – I get to do sales and marketing for my company and my company treats my fairly. And when I travel all of my expenses are covered. So, that’s the good news. The bad news is that I do most of my traveling in West Texas, which is not known for its culture or beaches or mountains (highway overpasses are the highest peaks you are going to get and blowing orange dust are closest you are going to get to sandy beaches.) Still I hear that most people here are friendly and I aim to find some charm in these humble outposts.

 So, here we go: Day one staying in my comfortable Lubbock Corporate Housing

 Today I woke up early in my extended stay and decided that I should make the most of my Lubbock short-term housing situation. I have a one bedroom with a lot of space in it, but I saw the pool outside and I determined that I ought to break it in. So, I threw my swim suit on and went for a few laps in it. No one was there and so I used the pool as a workout for the day. I am an observer and despite the empty pool, I noticed that there were a lot of cars in the parking lot, which meant lots of people had accidentally chosen to be in my sphere of personal influence. As an extrovert, I planned on meeting as many of my neighbors as possible.

 And why not? You never know the connections you might make if you just introduce yourself to others. Sure, some people might think you are a weirdo because we live in a world where there are lots of weirdos who carry around chloroform and who are trying to take advantage of new targets. But I will do my best to ingratiate myself to my fellow corporate housing road warriors so I might have some close acquaintances before I leave.

 After my swim, I came inside and made use of the breakfast that was provided. It was the sort of breakfast I had come to expect while on my many trips – basic but good enough to energize me for the day. Then it was off to shower, get dressed in my shirt and tie and go start my marketing contacts for the day. I don’t want to get much into my work here in this journal because most days are the same old, same old, but if something interesting pops up, I’ll let you in on it. Anyway, it was a regular day and a successful day as I began my three months in Lubbock, Texas. One thing surprised me about Lubbock this time. It has been a year since I have been here and I was blown away by the growth of the business markets – especially in the restaurant world. I felt like I was in Dallas – everything from Twisted Root burgers to Saltgrass steaks. I avoided those for this day and went for two of my local favorites for lunch and dinner – One Guy from Italy and Spanky’s – both incredibly unhealthy, but amazing to the taste buds.

Anyway, I guess this will be just my introduction to my journal because not much else happened today. I hung out in the lobby reading the newspaper to catch sight of some of the other people staying there and then I was off to my own bed. Overall a good and solid day of work and life. Tomorrow I will make first contact with someone – see what they think about the world we both walk around in…

 Until then, keep moving and breathing deeply.

Corporate Housing is a necessary Good

Corporate Housing is a necessary Good

(Let me say before I start – This is a review of short term housing I have had experience with over the years. I’ve been in plenty and wanted to share what I think about two places I would consider as exemplary.)

Corporate housing, specifically corporate housing Lubbock, Texas, is also known generally as short-term furnished apartments. But, not all corporate housing spaces are created equal. (I’ll say more about that later.)

Anyway, I have heard several of my colleagues who got caught with me in Lubbock for several months speak of corporate housing as a necessary evil. Because of what they had to say, I started to dread my rookie experience in one of these extended stay apartments. They made it sound like we were going to be trapped in bed bug-ridden prisons with dirty sheets and disgusting comforters – showers shooting out low water pressure ice cold water and toilets housing mini-alligators or huge rats.

I knew my company, which had sent us to Lubbock for longer term surveying work was cheap, but I just didn’t want to believe the horror stories of where we would be staying. But still, I prepared. I bought bug spray, a sleeping bad with my own pillow and a large pot to heat up water for the baths I would be taking.

Fortunately my colleagues who had been on similar trips were lying through their teeth. The corporate housing we got to choose was called Home Style Suites (www.hssuites.com) and it was the exact opposite of what had been described to me. It wasn’t a necessary evil but a necessary good. There were fancy beds, excellent showers, plenty of room to stretch out, a good sized TV placed in front of a comfortable couch and all the stuff we needed to feel treated like loved employees instead of ones deserving of a torture lair.

I was so glad that we had been put into a clean, furnished suite. It made doing the hard work we did during the day a lot easier knowing we would be crashing at a nice spot near several restaurants. Since then we were sent into a different corporate housing suite (www.athomecorporatesuites.com) and when we found out that it was run by the same owners who ran Home Style Suites, we breathed a collective sigh of relief.

And we were not disappointed. It was just as good as its sister company. Now, when those two have been booked up and we were forced to try other options in town, there was no comparison. I won’t name names because I have been told if you don’t have something nice to say you should say nothing, but let’s just say this other place really sucked – it was like that had cut every corner possible.

I’ll leave it at that.


Private Schools versus Public Schools

Private Schools versus Public Schools

As a student in Lubbock, Texas, I grew up going to public schools. From preschool through graduation, I navigated the system pretty well and must say that I enjoyed it (not the classes as much as the social and sports side of things). I never even knew what a private school was and what it offered thus I never asked to be put into one. Public school was all I knew as a kid and it was great.

As an adult, I know a lot of people who would not even consider putting their kids into public schools. They tell me that there are not enough spiritual elements, that the classes are too big and that there is a lack of safety. In most cases, what they say about public schools is true. But I probably need to say it really depends on what public school you go to. Some of the newer ones I have heard about have great administration and excellent teachers. My nephew who has been in private school since pre-k has decided to switch to public school for 3rd through 6th grade after taking a tour of a new school building which bustles with a lot more children and the promise of new adventures.

I have to say that both private schools and public schools have pros and cons and that it really depends on where you live and what your financial situation is (private schools in Lubbock tend to be pretty expensive.)

From a teaching and leadership angle, I have to say that when I was a teacher I much preferred private schools. When I was at a public school, I had about 36 kids in each of my classes and they were very hard to control. Plus the support I received was minimal because the administration was so busy trying to keep the parents and kids happy. When I moved to teach at a private school, I had tiny class sizes and thus it was easy for me to direct the lessons. I also had a lot more parent support and I was able to teach a lot of my kids about preparing for entrance exams for college. There were also great counselors who had time to really guide the students. So, from a teacher side, I definitely recommend going private.


I am currently working with a private Lubbock pre-k through 12th grade school and it is based on biblical principles. Their mission and vision follows the Golden Rule. If you happen to live in Lubbock, I would recommend going to Southcrest Christian school. If you live somewhere else, I would search for public schools or private Christian schools that have good reputations and which will serve your children.

That’s all I have to say about that…