The Need for a Church Extension and our Approach

Dear BPCWAians, I thought it would be useful to recapture some salient points of our church extension project in the Pastoral letter to emphasis some of the key focus and actions moving forward. While the plans are still high level at this stage, it is important for everyone to know the progress, the needs, and the potential challenges so that you can pray for and support God’s work. Moreover, for those who attended the recent update and for some who were not around, I hope that this write up will be a useful reference if any part of the presentation was not clear.

The reasons for a church extension. BPCWA must always remember the key principle that the church’s aim is to continue to provide a conducive and supportive environment for the study of God’s Word so that people will learn about Him and grow spiritually. We also aim to increase our covenantal family fellowship. With the growth that the LORD has brought to BPCWA, these have become a challenge. With the increases in attendance to Sunday School, Bible studies, fellowship meetings, and fellowship over lunch/dinner, just rebuilding a similar Nehemiah house can no longer meet this increase in numbers. Hence, this project has become a “Church Extension”, rather than just “Rebuilding Nehemiah house”.

The approach. The choice of the architect is extremely critical as this company will design our extension, manage the tender process for a builder, and project manage the building and the subsequent warranty period for us. The usual run of the mill house builder will not have the needed experience for church and public social space designs and requirements. In order to ensure that we have the right architect, we approached a range of companies, from high end architectural firms to smaller ones. This was to ensure that we covered our bases and was as comprehensive as possible in our due diligence for BPCWA. Though the high-end firm provided good suggestions, they declined to participate as our project was deemed to be too small. However, their concepts helped us differentiate between the smaller firms, when it came to assessing the ideas for the latter group. The Session designed objective spreadsheets for evaluating each architect. Each Session member awarded points in evaluating our key criteria as each architect was interviewed separately. We finally narrowed down to two architects from the four that we initially considered. God answered our Tuesday night prayers to Him in helping us ascertain which one to finalise on. God answered clearly in how He moved the heart of one to back out when we requested both to submit preliminary designs which will help us decide which architect to use. The one remaining will still submit his first pass design work for our evaluation. This has been reassuring to the Session that God is indeed leading us as we depend on Him.

The potential designs. In building a double storey multi-purpose room building, key design criteria were that it must solve both current space constraints and some foreseeable future growth, while ensuring easier and safer access for both young ones and elderlies between buildings. After assessing the available space at the existing Nehemiah house and the carpark space on Canning Highway side, architects generally recommended using the latter due to better usage of space. Furthermore, since the Canning Highway land has a smaller level difference, it would be more economical and easier to connect to the existing church building. This design choice would also give us more carpark space when Nehemiah house is demolished. This became the natural choice. Another key factor that will enable us to go ahead is getting the necessary approvals for the use of the Canning Highway side land for a multi-purpose building and the conversion of Nehemiah house’s land for carpark usage. I do want to emphasise that while architects are excited at the “public street presence” of Canning Highway side (which of course benefits their publicity), we know that it has always been the LORD that draws people to notice our church building and brings them into BPCWA. We must never attribute His work to “street presence” lest we become carnal in our thinking and hence decision making. Please pray earnestly for this as the architect begins to approach the relevant councils for approvals.

Building fund needed. After considering our reserves and setting aside some of it for urgent situations and support of needed ministries and mission work, we will still need to raise A$1.3 million for the first phase of the extension. Phase one is the new building extension with multi-purpose rooms. Some may be wondering – why is it so expensive when you can get a regular home builder to build a good house at perhaps only a few hundred thousand Australian dollars? Well, we have to remember that this cost includes consultant fees (commercial use applications, the tender process and project management), design fees, demolition works, carpark resurfacing, and the cost to build the actual new building itself. Moreover, we have also tried to include some modifications to the existing church building to create a bigger fellowship hall. And unlike most homes, this is a 700 square metre double storey building, possibly at least double that of most homes. And since this is a public building, it means that the specifications must meet different building codes. Similarly, the quality of the materials used for carpets and floorings must handle high volume human traffic. There will also be many more rooms, which means that unlike normal homes, walls must have sufficient sound proofing so that they can be used for Sunday schools, Bible studies, preaching and discussion groups. More rooms also mean that classroom fittings for more tables and chairs are required. In addition, this building will need significantly more lighting and cabling work than normal homes. It will require a sound system too. Then, there are the expensive wet-works such as building more toilets. These alone account for the significant difference in price between a normal family home and a public building.

Hence, in case any are also wondering – why not just demolish and rebuild an entirely new church? You can now imagine why demolishing and rebuilding would easily cost A$7 million at today’s building and labour costs. This amount does not even factor in the need to rent a place for worship for more than a year, if indeed such a place can be found.

Next week, we will revisit the Biblical principles about giving to the LORD’s work, and when and how the building fund will be collected. In the meanwhile, do approach myself or Deacon Eugene Leong for any questions you may have.

Yours in our Lord’s service