July 10, 2012 by: Ben Heimsath

With this post, we begin a three-part series on what it takes to produce a great Master Plan.  If you'd like to have a copy of all 10 Essentials, you may download them now.

Master Planning: 10 Essentials


The Master Plan is a crucial first step when a church or religious community prepares for a building program.  The success of the Master Plan can determine the success of all the later steps of design, fundraising and construction.

Master Planning for Congregations - CollaborationThese 10 Essentials have come from experience with literally hundreds of churches and religious communities.  When we develop a Master Plan, we are creating a plan for action.  These efforts prepare a congregation for the changes and challenges they will encounter in completing a successful building project.

1. Examine ministry goals -- who are we?  Whom do we serve?  Where are we growing now?  Where will we need to grow?  Many congregations or religious groups have spent considerable time and effort in determining their goals, but sometimes these conversations haven't started.  

The Master Plan should begin with a review of reports and other documents that clarify the group's mission.  An important part of Master Planning is to develop an understanding of how all construction projects and future developments will reinforce the main purpose of the organization.

2. Analyze existing programs for current needs and future growth.  This analysis is specific to the kinds of spaces that are needed for each use, and the adequacy of the existing facilities in providing for them.  Examine immediate needs, but also account for long-term growth.  

Consider new areas of ministry.  Are there activities that currently use little or no space, but will need to be accommodated in the future?

3. Thorough assessment of existing buildings considering their potential for adaptive reuse. What changes are needed to address code deficiencies or fix other problems?  Would an upgrade or addition make an existing building more useful?  Can a new use be accommodated in an existing space?

If an existing structure is to be removed or demolished, what are the costs?  When any major change is contemplated, consider who will be impacted by the changes or demolition.  Have they been adequately included in the decision-making?Master Planning for Congregations - Watercolor Presentation


Look critically at existing buildings for ways to make upgrades or changes so they can fit with and enhance the new construction.

Church Design & Construction/ Adaptive Re-use/ Campus Architecture/ Building Committee/ Master Plan/ Presentatons/ Site Development