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When Is Your Due Date? (To Own, Build, or Expand Your Center)

October 2003
By: Patrick McLaughlin and Ron Haas
It's true. You'll know when the time is right to purchase or build a new facility. Last year we helped more than one hundred fifty ministries raise capital for buildings, programs, and additional staff. Take to heart these principals of sound planning and apply them to your center.

First things first
As you imagine your future through strategic ministry planning, ask this question: "If staffing and dollars were not an issue, what would our center be like?" Describe the ideal facility. Would it have a warm, spacious lobby to create a good first impression and counseling rooms that make clients feel at home? Appropriate space for an ultrasound machine? A computer lab for career training opportunities? More storage for clothes and supplies? The bottom line is: How will a new building help you reach more women and their families?
Bigger is not
always better,
but the right
building in the
right location
might make your
center more

Some people have the opinion that it is not biblical for a ministry to own property. They argue from a practical viewpoint that a ministry should always be a tenant because it is less expensive. "After all, God provides for the sparrow, and He will meet our needs." Amen to that, but I assure you that it is not ungodly, unspiritual, or inappropriate to own your facility. If the time is right--if you're due--then go for it!

The American dream is to own one's own home. Ownership provides security and equity. Most importantly, ownership allows you to design your home to meet your needs instead of squeezing into someone else's floor plan. Is it any different with your center? As you grow, you need a facility that fits your ministry strategy.

The old maxim is true: "The three main points to consider when buying real estate are: location, location, location." Too often we are satisfied with second best. "Oh sure, we will take that dumpy old building in the middle of nowhere and see what we can make of it." If this is truly God's work, why should we settle for seconds or thirds? Why not select prime real estate across the street from Planned Parenthood or the college campus? Go where the action is. Jesus went to the people who needed Him most. Remember that the major donors who could help turn your dreams into reality are attracted to big, bold plans that get results.

Ask tough questions while doing your space needs analysis. Do you need 800 or 10,000 square feet? What new programs could you add to your center if you had the room? What staffing and volunteer needs would grow in an expanded facility? What additional overhead costs should you include in future budgets? What could you do in the new center that you can't do now? How will that new program better fulfill your mission? These and other key questions must be answered in the "What" portion of your planning process.

It begs the question--"Why not?"

Make sure that your ministry stays mission driven and that new facilities will enhance your program, not become a financial drain. We have been working in England since 1992. Consider this: the Church of England has 1,800 parishes throughout the United Kingdom, but only 5% of the nation attends services on any given Sunday. The quaint parish churches with stained glass windows and magnificent architecture are breathtakingly beautiful. Unfortunately, many of them are nearly empty. If the physical facility were the attraction, each church would be packed.

Your program, not the physical facility, is your reason for existence, but a new building could enhance your ministry. Bigger is not always better, but the right building in the right location might help you reach more abortion-minded and abortion-vulnerable women. A capital campaign for a building will invite your donors to give larger gifts to meet greater needs.

So how do you begin the process? The first step is to discover what your donors think by conducting a pre-campaign or feasibility study. This will test whether or not the dollars are there to fund this facility. It is important to count the cost before you "build the tower" (Luke 14:28). Ideally, your center should organize a capital campaign to raise dollars before you build, instead of managing debt after the fact. People prefer to give to the future, rather than pay off the past.

You will want to answer two additional questions in the "How" section. How many donors who would support this project are out there? How many people would volunteer to serve in a campaign structure? To launch a successful campaign you will need many volunteers who will donate their time and several donors who will give generously over and above their current level of support.

John Stott said: "Vision begins with a holy discontent with the way things are." Do you have a clearly written vision statement that is guiding your ministry into the future? If a new building is the next step in reaching your ministry goals, let people know your needs. God is not having a cash flow problem. There are plenty of resources available for ministries that have a vision and a plan for reaching people.

Do not hold your ministry back from the growth that can be accomplished in a new facility. Your due date for a new center may be closer than you think.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Patrick McLaughlin, president and founder of the Timothy Group, is a specialist in relational fundraising, including major donor contacts, events, and capital campaigns.

Ron Haas is a consultant with the Timothy Group and has served as a pastor, a vice president for institutional advancement, and a grant-making professional for a Christian foundation.

Pat and Ron can be reached at 616-224-4060 or at

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