Skip links

I will Build my Church – Working with Construction contractors

Hi everyone, I’m promoting these woodworking plans in honor of my dad, who was constantly puttering and building something cool:https://e54ad7peukx0ydtll66f0xsoeq.hop.clickbank.net/?tid=trackingid As many of you know, I owned a carpentry company for many years with the motto: ‘If you can see it, we can saw it’. These plans help you to do both!

As the decades have gone by, I see a topic in the kingdom of God that must be addressed, that is construction. If you are authentically walking with Jesus, what you are doing will grow, and you will need more space. In the Amish and Mennonite communities, the entire community gets together and hosts a ‘barn raising’ event, where all the men work together and build something together. Everyone participates: the women cook and feed everyone, the children help and usually in a matter of days, a barn, church, or house is raised up for the glory of God.

Well, this is not how things generally happen in our modern Western world. Here is the traditional process in America. First of all, the church board gets together, and decides what kind of space and facility is needed to house whatever programming needs to happen in that space. This usually boils down to a required amount of square footage. Then a designer or architect is employed to create an initial rendition of what that space will look like and a floor plan of how that space will be used. In many cases an experienced construction manager can help with the design process. Then comes the permitting process. Anywhere in the world, governments insist on inspect what and where you want to build. Usually, this just entails proof that you have legal right to ownership of the property you want to build on, and that it is zoned correctly for whatever you request to build there.

In cities, this can become a complex process, as special interest and political groups attempt to oppose what a ministry would like to build, but Jesus has promised: Matt 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Do not allow community opposition to the work of God influence your building plan. Sometimes, great opposition produces great miracles from heaven.

Now, one must develop a budget and construction plan. I create this as follows:

  1. Determine the scope of work to be performed. Invite 3 contractors from each portion of the work to provide written estimates. Compare each estimate and evaluate it according to price, availability, references ensuring the contractors competency. Then prepare a spreadsheet tabulating the total cost of the project. Typically, I add 10% to the total cost to allow for incidentals that often arise in the construction process.
  2. Ensure you have adequate funding to pay for construction costs. While fund raising strategies vary, this principal is sure. NEVER WRITE FAITH CHECKS! Do not sign any contract or financial commitment until money is in the bank to pay for it.
  3. Schedule work to begin and DO NOT PAY FOR ANY PORTION OF THE WORK,
  4. Except through Progress payments: Lets say you have a contract in place for $25,000USD to supply footers and foundation work, that will require $10,000.00 of steel, rebar and concrete. Typically, what we have done is paid perhaps $4000 to the contractor to purchase steel, and had the concrete company bill us directly. We receive discounts often for paying our bills on time, and save money overall on each project. Now lets say the contractor has materials delivered and earth-moving equipment has dug footings and cranes have installed pilings or piers, but concrete work has not yet begun. The dirt work and installation of steel is usually 50% of the required work, so contractor might legitimately invoice for a progress payment of 50% of the labor portion of the contract. This should be paid immediately, as he has fuel and payroll expenses, his men all have families that need to be fed too.
  5. When work is complete, balance of the contract shall be paid in full. Some clients withhold 10% of the contract price until the entire structure is complete, but we have never done this, because we only deal with reputable contractors that always fully complete whatever they are contracted to do, with no punch list.
  6. Obtain occupancy permit from you local permitting office, and move in!

Now, this skeletal process, is what I call conventional construction, but what if you have many contractors in your church or ministry, that you would like to recruit to donate their talents towards you construction projects.

 

This is the main thrust of this article, because I have worked in the construction industry for over 20 years, and have seen insane treatment of ‘volunteer’ contractors, that has resulted in many cases of skilled craftsman never again darkening the door of a church.

 

Lets talk about recruiting and managing ‘volunteer’ contractors for your building project. Let me begin with a story of one of the finish carpenters that worked for me for five years. This young man had a problem with drugs, and often his weekends were spent partying and doing debauchery. Every Friday, as I would hand out paychecks to my men, I would say: You all go to church somewhere this weekend, and pay your tithes. Most would laugh for they were already planning on heading to the bar that night. Never could understand how a man could suffer in our Oklahoma heat for 40 hours each week, then blow his hard earned cash in a bar or at the casino, week after week, until years of their life were wasted. One day, we had a slow point in our work day and I struck up a conversation with this young man, and asked him how he became such an incredibly gifted craftsman. His life story was tragic. He grew up helping his dad install windows and doors for a window supply company, and learned the precious principal that when it came to work: ‘quality and keeping your word are non-negotiable, money and scheduling always are’. If he was going to build something, it was built right or he wasn’t’ going to do it. His home life became a living hell though, as his mom began to smoke pot and use drugs, and he began at a young age to party with his mom. This eventually ended his parents marriage, and he made a wrong life choice. Instead of staying with his dad, who attended church, he moved in with his older brother and his mom, and adopted the partying lifestyle.

Over the years, I would encourage all of my crew to attend church on the weekend, and I heard the following story that bears repeating here. One of the carpenters was actually in church, and the pastor announced that they were raising money to convert a storage space into a youth meeting room, and while taking up the offering, asked if any of the men of the church might consider volunteering the following Saturday, to begin demo and pre-construction. My carpenter decided to show up, and in minutes had organized the job site, removed everything in the way of progress, and rolled out his tools and went to work, creating the decorative trim work, building an exquisite podium, and installing new doors to the space. By the end of the day, the room was pretty much completely done, as all of my crew members are men of honor that make a showing on any job site they appear on. The church was impressed by the incredible speed and craftsmanship of this young man, and so the pastor asked him if he would consider helping with the new children’s area.

Here is a common problem revealed. Many tradespeople are incredibly gifted when it comes to performing construction projects, but many remind me of the ghost crabs we used to chase on the beach in Virginia. They have one huge claw to protect themselves(that is their construction gift), but that huge claw protects their weak side, where they only have one tiny little claw. Many of them are strong warriors on a job-site, but in their personal life, fight demons and brokenness, that we can rarely fully understand.

Well, to make a long story short. This man showed up again, worked his magic, and the church got a children  facility built. Yet, when he came to work on Monday, he quietly complained to me: ‘Chris, this church business is wearing me out!, I helped out again on the weekend and we built a children’s area this time, but I have joint custody of my kids, and I didn’t see much of them this weekend.’

 

At that point, I was tempted to pick up the phone and call the pastor, and perhaps I should have. Here’s what happened next. The nature of construction is project driven, and there can be times where we have little work to do, and sometimes I have to send good men home, as there is nothing to employ them that is billable to pay their paychecks. Many times I have negotiated projects for wages only, just to keep my crew together. Obviously, a company cannot do this very often of there will not be a company for very long. That guy named Bill comes around every month looking for money, and he’s a great friend as long as I pay him every month. If I stop, he gets nasty, and starts cutting utilities, services, or closing material accounts. Gotta take care of the Bills in our life, or they can get nasty.

 

Well, back to my story. So we had a slow couple of weeks, and this young man needed some help financially. He was still attending church and requested prayer from his pastor, who encouraged him: ‘brother, you are a giver, and you can’t out give God’ If you have time next week come by the church and let me find you some volunteer projects to do.

 

So, this man came by the following week and the pastor had him build some benches, yet that weekend, when his kids came over, he did not have gas in his vehicle to take them to a public park, and of course, taking them out to eat or to a movie was out of the question.

 

We were rolling again the following week, and needed all hands on deck, and he came back to work to make a check.

 

Couple weeks later, I asked him if he was still attending church, and sarcastically he said: ‘I will never darken the door of another church Chris. They wear me out! Several other men on the crew sounded a loud ‘Amen’! and my heart was grieved.

Ever hear the expression: ‘I got burned’?

This man reminds me of this verse:

Ne 4:2  And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?

Instead of being a living stone and part of the vibrant life giving body of Christ, he got misused and trashed, like one of these stones described here in the book of Nehemiah, a burnt stone.

 

Ok, that Is the wrong way to recruit contractors and craftsman, but is there a right way?

 

Several years ago, my business partner invited me to attend a large church here in Oklahoma named Church on the Move, pastored at that time by the legendary Willie George (or gospel Bill as he is known to those who have been Christians for a long time). Pastor Willie was building an authentic western town, with a working steam engine to be used as a kids summer camp, led by another gospel legend, his uncle Roy Evans. In the service, he presented the construction plans to build bunkhouses, a bumper car pit for the kids, a chapel and several other projects. He announced that they were going to host 8 volunteer work days, over the next 8 months, and encouraged people to volunteer and sign up. He promised a steak dinner to every volunteer, and if a person completed 3 volunteer days, they could send one of this children to summer camp for free. My business partner has five children so he worked them all.

I decided to volunteer for one of them, just to see what they were all about. There was a phone number on the church bulletin of a man named Ted, that you could call to see what projects were being don’t that particular day. The first day, he had us paneling and installing trim work on two bunk houses. (so I knew what tools to bring)

The church supplied a church bus at 7AM to transport us the hour up to site, and when we arrived at the bus, we were served coffee and donuts, and volunteers shook our hands and thanked us for serving, and helped us carry tools and store them in the baggage compartment under the bus. Very upbeat start to a great day.

People sang, prayed and chatted on the ride up, with everyone excited about being able to do something for the kingdom of God. When we arrived on site, general Roy Evans greeted each of us personally, shook our hands, and carefully directed us to tables for our respective trades. I was directed to the carpenters table. Another cuppa coffee was placed in my hand, my tools we loaded on a golf  cart and I was shuttled quickly to the bunkhouses under construction. I was introduced to the electrician and plumber working there, and in seconds we planned how to wade though the unskilled volunteers, and how to maximize our efforts. I immediately rolled out tools and recruited a couple of volunteers to man handle sheets of paneling to areas that did not need to remain open for electricians and plumbers. Tom and I began to level up sheets and nail them in place. The electrician also moved with lightening speed, installing recept boxes and boxes for light fixtures, so we could lay out and cut our panels to fit. To make a long story short, a loud blast signaled LUNCH. And we were fed a grilled steak with potato salad, beans, and gallons of iced tea. Great food, great fellowship, and again, general Roy up front, thanking us all for our hard work. He is a humble man, and you could tell he actually meant what he said, and he cared about us.

 

Well, after 30-45 mins or so, that old train whistle sounded again, and it was time to get back to work. Volunteers took our plates and cleared the tables and we waddled back to our respective work sites.

To make a long story short, by the end of the day, we had completely finished our two bunk house cabins. A productive day by anyone’s standards.

 

I served one more time, constructing a 40’ by 150’ wood plank deck for the bumper car pit. This too was accomplished in one day.

 

Now lets look a little deeper, into why this project went so well.

First, I need to look at a Scripture that we are all mostly familiar with: Eph 5:33  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

RESPECT- This word is often lost in today’s society, but it is a God given desire for every man of God. As I see broken families, men that treat their wives like brute beasts, and women that constantly natter, complain and degrade their man, my heart breaks, It takes the power and love of God to possibly love our wives like Christ loves His church, but it is that same power that a woman needs to be able to call forth the king in her husband. Practically, if a man is not getting the respect he needs at home in his family, he needs to find it at church, or he will find it in the workplace among hard working men.

 

I used to tell my men, ‘The government may give you a hand-out, but I will give you a hand up. On this crew, we take boys and make men out of them. Sure you can make good money here, but we are a company worth far more than dollars and cents. We are people of honor, excellence, determined to become the best we can be’ (ihttps://www.chrisaomministries.com/2014/11/manhood-a-bit-of-redneck-righteousness)

 

One man came to me, after quitting several times to go with another company for in one case $5/hour more money, asking for his job back. I told him, “Sure you can come back, cause you gave me a weeks notice, and have not lied to me, but why? I can only pay you $16/hour, they were paying you $23. I wish I could pay you that but there is not enough money in the contracts we do to afford it.’ His reply makes my heart smile to this day: ‘He said. “Chris, it’s not about the money, its about the way you treat me. You have been better to me than I have been to myself. That other crew is a sweat shop with people screaming, demanding production every second of the day. I go home and I have nothing for my kids, and I hate it. There is more to life than money. Chris, how did you learn to treat people so good?’ I replied: ‘I’ve been on crews like you describe, and worked for some screaming doorknobs over the years.

All I do, is remember, and determine to not be like some of the idiots I’ve worked for. You’re right, it’s not about money. I could make more money here by taking advantage of clients and our crew, but I don’t do it. I’m on salary, and just like you, I need to get here each day and bust a move, if I want to get paid each week.’.

 

Let’s go back and revisit the two ministry settings I presented. In the first, the pastor did not respect the carpenter. Had he greeted him with coffee and donuts and perhaps provided something for that mans children to do during those work days, he may well have kept that family in his church. Clearly, that pastor had never worked construction, nor had any understanding of that carpenters daily fight.

 

In the second scenario, pastor Willie intimately understood and highly valued the skilled people that took time from their families and workplaces to come help him. I have no idea of the estimated cost it would have taken to build the town of Dry Gulch, USA, but I’d hazard to guess that pastor Willie knew intimately the estimated costs. Yet, he put a seasoned construction manager on staff, who knew what was needed to run work, and his uncle Roy did an exceptional job of valuing and expressing honor and gratitude to the hard working professionals that showed up to make things happen.

 

Let me give a similar testimony that happened under pastor Kenneth Hagin at Rhema Bible Church. I had just come back from Canada after a five year church planting expedition, and had been working as a carpenter to support my family, going through the Union Journeyman apprenticeship Program. Tough work, around tough men, with classes in the evenings for 3-4 years, but worth the process. When God called us back to Tulsa, I rolled into church one Sunday, with my Chevy Pick up and job box full of tools. Pastor announced that they were beginning to remodel the second floor of the church building to great a 2-3000sf youth ministry. (Might be bigger than that). He told us that a staff carpenter named Roger was in charge, and if anyone might be able to volunteer to help the following week, he believed God would honor it. Well, I needed work desperately, with a wife and toddler to care for, so Monday morning at 8Am I rolled into Rhema, ready to make a showing. I met with Roger, and he supplied materials and everything needed and he explained what needed to happen. Amazingly, there were three other actual carpenters there to help. Well, we began to assign work and lay out the job, which involved constructing several ministry platforms, one of which was 150’ long with an ‘S’ radius front design. Again, there were many other skilled people there, I remember one lady who had a painting business. She began to paint the partition wall of the space, and to make a long story short, by Friday of that week, the space was complete. Great fun with some great people.

 

The following Wednesday night, pastor showed pictures of the new youth auditorium on the big screen, and humbly thanked all of us that volunteered explaining that because of our hard work, we had saved the ministry $400,000.00 in construction costs. For a moment, I was challenged in my faith, cause I was still broke, needing a job, but then I remembered to practice what I preach: “True faith in God puts passionate pressure on promises, prayer and praise, but NEVER on people’. So, God supplied a temporary job at a factory and an apartment for my family, while we awaited the months of administrative process for my carpentry certifications to arrive from Canada to formally obtain my journeyman’s license. During the year that process took, I completed the last couple of night course required for my carpentry license, and during the blueprint reading course, was given private instruction on construction management that stays with me to this day. In one day, my pay went from $9.50/hour to $19.01/hour. God may not pay up every Friday night, but when He pays, He pays well.

 

Eventually, we started our own carpentry company, and my bill out rate was $35/hour, and our company that grossed only $250,000year, grew to 1.1 million in our final year of business. Many say: I wish I had a million dollars, but truthfully have never faced the responsibility level required to ethically manage a million dollars. I have, in one 12 month period: we negotiated, sold and performed over a million dollars of construction contracts, and all of our contractors and suppliers got paid in full for services rendered. All I can say about that time is that God knows how to get good use out of a man. Busy years and times.

 

As the company grew, all of the men elected to get their own business insurance and become self-employed, as it works out to about $2.50/hour more money on average, than when I paid them as employee’s, and this is America, where freedom is fought for and expressed as part of our culture. It seemed like overnight when what began as Tom and I working out of our shared family mini-vans were managing 23 full time hard working contractors. Like trying to herd cats.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk7yqlTMvp8)

 

As the company grew, the requests for donations grew exponentially, with requests for missions support, church projects, or needs for compassionate aid. Lets say a senior, living below the poverty line had a tree fall against their house and tear off a chimney or porch, but they have no property insurance or ability to repair their home. Obviously, we care, yet we are running a business, not a charity, so this is what I did with the constant requests for charitable work done. I bought a 3×5’ white board with erasable markers and put it on the wall in our front office. I would write one line description of projects like: Mrs Jones (widow) tree tore off chimney. Needs materials and 3 guys/3 days.

The nature of construction can be a rather fluid environment, with projects constantly starting and finishing throughout any given week. Lets say I had a crew scheduled to install a kitchen remodel for 3 days of the week, but they want to make a full paycheck and work their 40 hours. If we had enough money in the bank and enough materials available either in surplus or purchased on my lumber account to do Mrs. Jones job, I would schedule a crew over there to help Mrs. Jones with her home repairs. For me, it was pure charity, but for my carpenters, they were still on my clock, paid. This made sure the project did not drag our past the 3 days I estimated Mrs. Jones needed, and allowed my men to make steady weekly paychecks.

Every week for about a year or two we did one of these charitable projects, and the Bible verse we based it upon was this: Jesus said when we donated to the poor, to: Matt 6:3  But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4  That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. We did them as part of our worship towards God, with no fanfare or publicity. When each project was complete, I simply erased the recipient’s name off of the white board, and then moved on to the next name on the list.

 

I estimate that we accomplished around 100 of these projects over the 2 years that we provided this ministry, and helped our community greatly.

 

I’m on a bunny trail. Bang! I shot the rabbit and I’m back on track. The topic is ‘Recruiting skilled contractors to build ministry facilities’.

 

  1. Recognize that their gift is every bit as valid as mine or yours. There is no such thing as a big I and little you in the kingdom of God. Jesus died and rose for us all and loves us each equally. When a skilled contractor shows up on your project, recognize that they are typically being paid $75-100/hour for their time in industry. Should God move them to desire to help you, that is a reflection of the grace of God to you. Ps 110:3 Your people will volunteer freely on the day of Your power; In holy splendor, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew. Yet God Himself has placed His power upon you to build, and He moves the heart of people to help. These people are a great gift into your life, and as they come to your project, are a great opportunity for outreach and ministry, if you love and respect them, and treat them honorably. https://www.chrisaomministries.com/2016/11/what-to-pray-about-laborers
  2. Always be sure to do your best to feed and reward them for their hard work. Create some sort of merit badge, ball cap, T-shirt or something to reward people for participation. People of God need to be celebrated, not merely tolerated. Always add value to people, God loves them, as His representatives, so must we.
  3. Plan any of your ‘work parties’ as ministry events, deliberately seeking to empower and equip all volunteers in the call of God upon their lives.
  4. Say Thank-you often to all who participate, and deliberately recognize people in public services. A little heartfelt gratefulness moves mountains.
Return to top of page
X