Book Review: When Not to Build

When Not to Build: An Architect’s Unconventional Wisdom for the GrowingChurch

By Ray Bowman and Eddy Hall (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)
Book Review: When Not to Build
As the subtitle indicates, When Not to Build is “an architect’s unconventional wisdom for the growing church.” Veteran church architect Ray Bowman had been happy to design new churches whenever he was asked. Then, after a 30-year career of doing so, he abruptly switched jobs to become a “church-growth specialist.”

Ray Bowman realized many churches who think they need a new building, really don’t. In many cases, they are underutilizing their present facility. With a bit of creative planning or relatively minor renovations they can provide for an expanding ministry without embarking on a major building project.

In other cases, the desire to build is borne out of wrong motivations or false assumptions. Additionally, the debt incurred in building new church structures is often crippling to the congregation, limiting ministry, curtailing outreach, and even stunting growth.

Bowman and Hall open this book by asking 15 questions. Each one that evokes a positive answer is in actuality a red flag against building, as it reveals a wrong motive. Though these queries may seem to embrace conventional wisdom, they are more correctly false assumptions that lead many to build for the wrong reasons.

These questions reveal the foundation for the rest of the book. Springing from this are the first three sections, addressing the principles of focus, principles of use, and principles of provision. The fourth section concludes with advice on what to do when it actually is time to build a new church building.

When Not to Build should be required reading for any church leader and board that is considering a building project or struggling with overcrowding or usage issues in their present facility.

(Also helpful is Ray Bowman and Eddy Hall’s second book, When Not to Borrow; it is an apt and useful follow-up work.)

[When Not to Build: An Architect’s Unconventional Wisdom for the Growing Church, by Ray Bowman and Eddy Hall. Published by Baker Books, 2000, ISDN: 978-0801091063, 208 pages]

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