General Church Building Guidelines
The following church building guidelines are an excerpt from
the authors’ book, “Preparing to Build”. These church building guidelines have
been compiled from a variety of sources including years of experience seeing
what really works, and what doesn’t. Use these guidelines as a starting point
for planning, but please note these are general guidelines for a church building
program, and every one of these has exceptions and modifiers based on your
In general, you should estimate approximately 1 acre per
hundred people. This allows for your building, adequate parking, green space,
recreation and storm water management. This space requirement would be greatly
reduced in a metropolitan area where on-street or public parking is available.
Plan for 1 parking space for every 2.25 people on campus
at one time. This will probably be less than the required parking by the city or
county, but will more accurately reflect actual need. Initially you will be able
to get away with less parking, however, you need to plan for adequate parking
for the total capacity of the facilities, even if you decide to grow into it
To get a good idea of parking requirements for a future
building program, have someone go into the parking lot and count cars over a
several week period along with taking a good attendance of everyone on campus.
Divide the total average attendance (men, women and children) by the average
number of cars. The result will probably be somewhere around 2 to 2.5 people per
car. Multiply this number by the capacity of your new facility and this will
tell you how many parking spaces you will eventually need in order to park
everyone to fill your building to capacity.
Estimate on-site parking to be approximately 100-110
cars per acre. Structured parking (parking decks/garages) is VERY expensive.
While structured parking can dramatically increase parking per acre, use only as
a last resort due to the high cost of construction.
Sanctuary seating requirements typically range from 10
to 15 square feet per person, depending on layout, seating type, seating
pattern, and total size of the sanctuary. Stage area should be calculated
separately from seating area, which may vary greatly between churches.
Using chairs instead of pews will generally allow you to
seat more people in the same space, perhaps as much as 20% more. Chairs also
allow you to reconfigure your sanctuary as needed to support various types of
use (weddings, Sunday morning service, events, community use, fellowship, etc.)
The Vestibule/Lobby/Narthex should be about 2 square
feet per person in the worship center. Normally this will be approximately
15-20% sanctuary seating space. If you plan on running multiple services, you
should consider increasing this to facilitate the "shift change".
Classrooms range in size from 12 square feet per person
(for adults) to 35 square feet per person in the room (nursery and toddlers),
depending on the age group using the space.
Almost no church is built with enough storage,
janitorial and working space.
A high school size basketball court is 50x84 feet.
Adding modest space around the edge of the court for out of bounds, plus
allowing for restrooms, storage rooms, multipurpose rooms, etc., means that you
are probably looking at a minimum of 7,500-8,000 square feet of building.
Individual offices are usually recommended to be a
minimum of 120 square feet and pastor’s offices a minimum of 150 square feet
(with a recommended size of 300 square feet). Cubicles in open workspace areas
range from approximately 48 to 105 square feet, although they may be as small as
4’x4” (16 square feet).
Round tables in the fellowship hall will reduce seating
capacity by 20% or more. In calculating space needs, plan on 12 square feet per
person for square tables and 15 for round.
Overall, a building with dedicated spaces for sanctuary,
fellowship, education, administration and multiuse space may require from 35-55
square feet of space per person, depending on programs, ministries and other
A building with multi-purpose rooms (some rooms used for
multiple purposes) may require as little as 23 square feet per person. · Plan on
nearly twice the amount of restroom capacity for women than for men.
Hallways should be no less than 6 feet wide. Seriously
consider wider halls if you run multiple services in order to facilitate “shift
change”. This is especially important around the Sunday school rooms, and area
that always seems congested.
Handicap ramps have a slope of no more than 1 inch of
drop for every linear foot unless handrails are provided.
Budget approximately 10% of the building cost for new
Generally speaking, first floor space on grade is
cheaper than basement or 2nd floor space. If you have the room, it is generally
better to spread out horizontally instead of vertically in order to minimize
One way to estimate the cost of furniture is to take the
floor plan of your new facilities and do a room-by-room inventory of what you
would need to buy for that room. The easiest way to do this is in a spreadsheet
with columns for room, item description, quantity, item cost and total cost
(formula of quantity times item cost). Open a church supplies catalog and assign
reasonable prices for each item and let the spreadsheet total the results.
None of the above points should to be construed as
advice as to what to build, but only as points of reference to be used in your
planning and budgeting process.
With this information, you are now equipped with some
general ideas on church construction. As they say, a little knowledge can be
dangerous, however, it is less dangerous than a lack of knowledge.
It is generally in the church’s best interest to find an
outside consultant, either within the denomination or an independent church
building consultant to help mold these general concepts into a definitive plan
for your church’s building program. Outside counsel is almost always a wise move
as the gap between knowing and not knowing about a matter is much smaller than
the gulf between knowing something and doing it right.
Mistakes are easy to make. For more information on how to
address critical church building issues, read “Preparing
to Build: Practical Tips
& Experienced Advice to Prepare Your Church for a Building Program” available
as an ebook or hardcopy.
About the Author:
In addition to leading his church through a building and capital stewardship
campaign, Steve Anderson is a church building consultant, seminar speaker, past
contributing editor for Church & Worship Technology Magazine and author of the
eBook, "Preparing to Build": Practical Tips & Experienced Advice to Prepare Your
Church for a Building Program.
For more information on
church building and
related topics, visit the web site at www.ChurchBizOnline.com.
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