I feel as though I just handed someone a blank check

My church is in the middle of planning a remodel of the sanctuary. There’s some structural things which needs fixing, the lighting needs improvement and of course everything needs fresh paint, carpet, etc.

So tonight we had a Church Conference, at which everyone gets a Voice and a Vote.

And after some discussion, the Vote boiled down to “Yes, the Committee ought to be given the authority to spend all the money we’ve got on the remodel” or “No, they shouldn’t”.

Some of the plans were disconcertingly far along, others not decided yet (like which new light fixtures), and no one was willing to give any estimates as to how much any of the pieces actually should cost–which kind of makes sense, since the potential builders are working on their bids right now, but I’d be kinda curious how much the proposed structural stuff is expected to cost, and how much the new pews should cost and that sort of thing.

And I kinda wish that the congregation got a vote on what color scheme should be used.

Although on the other hand, it’s disconcerting and irritating how few people show up to this kind of meeting. We’ve probably got over a thousand members. Most Sundays, I’d guess we have 600 or so people across three services.

And if we had more than 75 people at the meeting, I’ll eat my hat.

I’m not sure that it’s a bad idea to have all the little nitpicky details decided by this committee (as opposed to the people who showed up at the meeting tonight, or the whole congregation). But it’s unnerving what details get discussed and analyzed or don’t get discussed and analyzed.

This isn’t my first rodeo (church remodel), and probably won’t be my last, and I think they all kind of follow a pattern, but it’s still an odd feeling, to both know what’s going on, and not know.

Our church is going through the same thing (we have money to do repairs, we need to decide what is most important, &c). However, it’s a very small church. We’re lucky to have 60 people in the pews on a Sunday morning. At the last meeting to discuss where the money will be applied we had 100+ people, every damn one with an opinion and I swear every damn one with a relative who would be more than happy to do the repair “cheaply”.

Just here to sympathize.

I see your point about letting the whole group decide, rather than a committee, but would you ever get a consensus with such a large group? I can imagine if the committee went with something trendy or “out there” that they’d be met with lots of suggestions.

What we’ve done for some resent updates is have a committee prepare two selections complete with display boards of samples the way decorators do, and then the whole group voted between those two. I don’t know how your church is organized or if you’re too far along in the process to suggest a different approach.

I can’t be elected to serve on the board for a few years - and I am glad. Years of slap dash or undone repairs are catching up with us fast. We don’t have budget, and we do have “factions” who all want different pet projects funded. Building maintenance eats up the majority of our business meetings and strikes me as the least churchly aspect of my church life.


The Timeline is too darn quick to change the process or get votes on different color schemes now–they want the work done by July 1st, although I’m not sure that actually works with the stated lead time on the new pews.

I have been in at least one church where we did get to pick from Plan A, Plan B and Plan C–and I think we ended up with the cheapest one, except we modified it to include the cross on the carpet from the most expensive plan.

And like I said originally, I’m not sure they’ve made any real mistakes in judgement, it’s just unsettling how fast things go from zero to sixty.


My sympathies–that definitely sounds worse.


Either I misunderstood when the work was to be done, things have gotten more complicated in the execution, or when they realized that they couldn’t get the pews or the lights before late September (both are on backorder), work slowed down.

At any rate, one main wall has been drywalled–looks like it just needs paint. One main wall has major holes (waist high on construction workers) in the floor next to it (covered today with plywood labeled with the word HOLE in four foot high letters–hot pink). The single biggest structural issue has been resolved. One fourth of the pews have been unusable for a month–and are due to be removed in a couple of weeks–a start-up church wants them.

Despite hearing the so-called update in two church services, all I’m really clear on is that the pews will have new life as pews somewhere else, and remodel won’t be done till late September.

As a choir member, and now a member of the Summer Ensemble, I will be very happy when we get the choir room back. And the screens in the sanctuary back. And more choir members back–today we rehearsed with two sopranos, an alto, and a respectable handful of men. For a song which was supposed to be 3 part mixed voices, which usually means Soprano, Alto, Men, not Soprano(with Alto and Tenor help) and the rest of the men.

The congregation didn’t seem to mind, though.

All things considered, it could be worse, but there have been some minor procedural errors that have not made life more pleasant for the choir, on top of the mostly inevitable inconveniences associated with remodeling the sanctuary, and having the choir room (behind the altar area) off limits.

So…what are you going to use for pews, then? Sounds kind of grabby for the start-up to waltz in and demand a quarter of your pews!

75 people seems like a fantastic turn-out for that type of meeting, in my experience. And they never, ever put those kind of decisions to a vote, either. My sister and I were included as the only young adults/youth on a redecorating committee for our sanctuary remodel back in the late 70’s, only to find out that the decisions on wall color and tile color and carpeting had already been made. I still hate the choices they made…at least the walls and carpet were still blue for my wedding, though my sister wasn’t so lucky. There is not a Sunday that goes by that I don’t look at those boring cream walls and sigh. So you know you won’t ever make everyone happy no matter what you choose. But what’s funny is, of all the people on that committee, I’m the only one who kept attending the church for the past 40 years. Okay, my sister and I are also the only ones left alive! But everyone else moved away or changed churches before they died! One of my dreams is to have enough money to leave the church to remodel again…but only if they paint it blue!

My impression is that the first set of pews to depart will be the ones that we can’t use at present, because they aren’t attached to the floor (because they needed space behind them to do the work on the foundation). In which case, we’ll hardly notice they’re gone.

We do have a multitude of chairs which can be used, although now that I write that, I’m not sure whether the chairs are presently in use in various adult Sunday School rooms, which could be a complication.

Not my problem. My job is to show up, sing, and cope with the inconveniences of being mid-remodel.

Must be the year for church remodeling or something, because just yesterday, the congregation voted on a bid from a construction company to repair and refurbish the exterior of the church. Mainly to fix water leaks and mortar. But the committee gave us a full accounting of exactly how much money would be spent.


The sanctuary is now as done as it can be until the pews, the carpet, and the lights arrive. All of which are on backorder, for at least another month. Actually, I’m not sure about the carpet–it may just be that it can’t be installed until the present pews are gone, and that won’t be until the new pews arrive.

We’ve also removed our former senior pastor, and the new one has been announced but has not arrived yet. This is unrelated to the renovation, but it amuses me to include it. And it adds to the chaos.

The first quarter of the pews have been removed to their new home, and replaced with chairs the church owns. This was done right before the two fullest services of the summer–beloved former pastor of the church, and the farewell to our most recent senior pastor.

And now, to the casual glance, all is done. But when you look more closely, you can tell, it’s not quite right yet. And the choir still hasn’t figured out a graceful way into the choir loft–though I think that’s the herding cats affect of certain choir personalities, rather than anything caused by changes in the choir loft.

I have a chance to be on a committee to deal with some issues at our church, including remodeling. I was considering helping out, even though I knew I’d end up hating the process (and perhaps one or two parishoners).

I am now fleeing.

Thank you.