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When temporary tents are no longer sufficient… 

Considering a multi-million pound building is a daunting, faith-filled challenge. A member of a Baptist church which went through the process has now set up a website to help. By Jim Hammett 

Nearly ten years ago a group of Christian people began to feel the need to build a church-run facility to impact the local community in the rapidly growing Shenley1south western fringes of Milton Keynes.

They had been meeting for 12 years and called themselves Shenley Christian Fellowship. Gradually numbers had grown to about 200 and they were now on their fourth or fifth different meeting location.

Most of the local schools had been used on a Sunday during that time, but it was the pressure to stabilise the weekday outreach work that really galvanised the church into action. Five different venues for five different aspects of church outreach left a lack of internal identity and gave a fragmented external image. How did all these ‘works’ link up and tie into worship on a Sunday, at yet another location?

Starting to consider a multi-million pound building is a daunting faith-filled challenge. It proved to be more like a lengthy journey. A roller coaster ride of faith-filled moments of excitement, despair, fatigue and elation.

Shenley2The journey is not just about bricks and mortar, money and designs, but a journey of asking fundamental questions about the purpose of the church in the local community, how it will express those visions in decades to come and what is the Gospel balance between evangelism and social action. How could one building not only sustain existing ministry but be flexible enough to allow for the needs of outreach in 2030?  

We started with a community survey, knocking on every one of the 1,156 doors in the community, asking questions about what they needed, how it could be met and did they have any prayer needs (a staggering 25 per cent said they did). The outcome led to three new ministries being established in the community that still operate today. It led to a recognition that some of the needs could not be met through hired premises.

It also led to the recognition that many locals didn’t see how all the activities linked together and were organised by one group of local people Church build extract of journethat were their ‘local church’. 

Search for land, designs, fundraising, working with professionals, calls to other churches, visits to numerous church cafés and new builds and hours on the internet made one realise that what was needed was a one-stop shop to help churches on the same journey that we had travelled.

Despite the past experiences of members of the congregation, gathering the knowledge was like a giant jigsaw puzzle without a guiding picture on the lid.

So in collaboration with Christian architect Nigel Walter, we developed a website that aims to steer people through this journey of faith. It’s now live at www.churchbuildingprojects.co.uk.

It's a free service for any church denomination to help you on the ride, covering everything from clarifying your vision, to raising the money, from employing an architect to sermon ideas that can help the congregation along the way.

Sometimes the temporary tents are simply worn out or they no longer fulfill their purpose. It’s then time to build a structure to be a tool to serve the ministry for generations to come. 

Jim Hammett is a Christian consultant who has been responsible for advising a number of churches undertaking substantial new build schemes. He is a member of Shenley Christian Fellowship, a Baptist Union member church in Milton Keynes, and co-author of www.churchbuildingprojects.co.uk, a free service for any church contemplating a large building project

Baptist Times, 02/07/2014
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