Reflections from building the HBC Hub

About 12 months ago I took an architect and a couple of our Committee of Elders to a 1970s warehouse and pitched the idea that by the grace of God we could use it as a home base for our church activities. They showed amazing trust in my intuition, they helped work out how to communicate it well to our church, and they pitched-in heaps. God showed amazing grace in getting it all finished too. It was a wild ride that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But here’s some reflections a year out…

(If you don’t know about our HBC Hub, it’s for all our non-Sunday activities… we don’t do church there at all. It’s just for meetings, lunches, Women’s Bible Study, night time seminars, evangelistic series, welcome nights, anything… just not “sunday church”)

  • There are ONLY 3 types of spaces you need in a church hub – these were the things I was looking for in the 80 or so places I looked at;
    • car parking spaces,
    • informal spaces (meeting rooms, conf rooms, cafe, entry, hot-swap desks, etc),
    • utility spaces (kitchen, toilets, storage, photocopier, stationery, etc).
    • (I’m really glad we didn’t use space for private offices. It can make it hard to have some conversations, but that’s what the meeting rooms are for. The space is too valuable.)
  • Commercial building requirements are generally twice as ridiculous as residential ones.
  • Labour is generally 4 times the cost of materials – so pray for helpers.
    • Some helpers are great at one type of job, some are great at doing many. Get people doing their type of thing.
    • People generally need to be given permission to start. If you find a good starter, he’s a God-send for helping others.
    • It’s worth getting professionals to do jobs that everyone will look at in years to come… like setting the plaster on the gyprock.
  • I’m glad we put the money into glass doors and extra glass panels in walls; it lets in heaps of light and it means there are no “unseen” meetings. Everything’s above board.
  • Getting the right materials and tools on site at the right time took 80% of my time.
  • While in the midst of it, I was very emotional. I was constantly on edge about how people would judge it, and if they thought it was a stupid idea. Even when they said they liked it, and they couldn’t wait, I still heard them as if they were complaining it was taking too long. Every question people asked sounded like an attack – but it wasn’t!! My ability to hear them positively went out the window. Towards the end of the project I took a week off before I became a complete wreck. That taught me a lot about my potential to mis-hear people’s intentions.
  • Moving the staff coffee machine was the best way to get the staff to leave the old office.
  • Some people clean well. Other people clean perfectly. Don’t get the former to do the last sweep, and don’t get the latter to come everyday.
  • I wish I’d made the conference room a bit more square shaped. It’s 12m x 5m. It works. And I don’t think we really could have changed the layout, but it’s the only part I’d like to alter.
  • The first thing we bought for the hub was a $300 leather sofa suite… 1 week before I even went to the Elders for approval. Having that sofa in the building the whole time meant a lot to me. I feel like I should leave it there when we move out.
  • When you ask for donations, be clear that you will only take the things that you want. If people want you to take it on principle that it’s a donation, don’t. It’s amazing how many broken items were “offered”. Ask for people to donate new things, not old things.
  • Have a list of things that you want to get, but you don’t have the money for… some people will only want to pay for those type of things. May as well let them.
  • Have a celebration at the end. Rejoice in all the ways people have helped… time, skills, even the money that was donated and the praying that was done for it behind the scenes. We got people up and interviewed them simply on the basis that they gave money. It felt a bit weird but they sacrifice was just like all the others, so why not thank God for them?!

Ministry Risk = Likelihood x Consequences

Ministry risks can be evaluated in the same way that other risk scenarios can be… likelihood multiplied by negative consequences.

If you’re renting some location for church, how much of a risk are you running?

First, consider the likelihood of the owners ending your contract in the next 12 months… if its a good relationship, it might be 10% chance. If it’s a bit shaky, it might be 30% or 40%.

Second, consider the consequences of being kicked out… financial costs, moving, goodwill, are there even any possible alternatives? You should also consider the positive outcomes; a new momentum for the church? It might get those fringe people more involved? It might end some traditionalism that’s crept into your culture.

Basically, if you’ve got a high-probability and grave negative consequences, you’re in a bad risk position. You need to act now.

We looked at this, and even tough the likelihood of being kick-out was pretty low, the consequences were terrible – there’s nowhere else for us to meet in the surrounding 10kms!! So we’ve already setup a fund for buying a building. We don’t need it – yet – but the risk analysis made it a wise move.