Church Design: A How to Guide

Discover Our Church Building Plans

Church Building Plans

Whether it be a sanctuary, fellowship hall, gymnasium, or youth center, an effective church design will serve the current needs of a congregation and also accommodate future growth. Before we discuss the process of creating functional and appealing church designs, here are a few reasons why existing plans tend to fall short:

Why You Can’t Rely 100% on an Existing Church Plan

When you started thinking about building a new church, chances are you started by searching the internet for photos, floor plans, and common designs to get ideas for your project. During this process many church leaders stumble upon something they believe is just what they need, but the problem is, there are a multitude of considerations that make existing church designs unreliable.

4 Reasons Why Existing Church Designs are Unreliable

1. Size and Numbers:

Before choosing a space to accommodate your church, it’s important to note that the size of your building should be uniquely based upon the size and fluctuations of your congregation. Below is a snapshot of factors that could affect your church building plan:

How to Estimate the Building Size You Need:

Lets say an average Sunday at your church consists of 1,000 members and you typically hold two services. Probably seems like a simple enough calculation, you need seating for 500 people per service and a good rule of thumb is:

Square Footage Equation

15 square feet x (number of members per service) = SQFT needed for chairs, aisles and a stage.

Scenarios the Can Change the Calculation

The scenarios posed below are some of the most commonly overlooked and influential factors that make each church size and design unique.

  • What if you want pews rather than folding chairs?
  • Have you thought about the influx of visitors on Easter and Christmas?
  • Have you accounted for the increase in members after New Years?
  • What about the growth you expect after completing the new building?

These are the kinds of scenarios a company with Church construction experience like General Steel can guide you through as you design your new church building.

2. Codes and Loads:

Engineering a church building for local environmental factors such as snow, wind and seismic conditions can greatly affect the final material cost of a church design. If you’re looking at an existing church building plan, it’s important to consider the extra money you may gain, or how your budget may be reduced by correctly engineering the structure for maximum durability and efficiency.

3. Future Expansion Possibilities:

As a rule of thumb, it’s easier and more cost-effective to expand an existing building by making it longer than wider. Steel buildings can be specifically designed for future expansion from the end walls, whereas other construction methods are much more difficult to expand upon in the future. Choosing a pre-fab church building design allows you the flexibility to expand as your congregation grows.

4. Budget and Financing:

It’s true that an existing floor plan can help you determine how many classrooms, offices and storage areas you can fit into a certain size building. However, it does not account for all of the materials and finishes that can take your church design from 2D to 3D.

Price Per Square Foot Ranges for Finished Church Buildings

We’ve seen these materials and finishes cost anywhere from $40 per square foot for modest designs up to $150-$300 per square foot for extravagant plans. Whether you’re working with a bank or just trying to maintain a budget set by your church leadership, knowing how much the building will cost from the first shovel full of dirt moved to the last light bulb screwed in is essential to any successful church project.

Modest Church Design

Modest Church Design

More Extravagant Church Design

Extravagant Church Design

How to Effectively Design a Church Building

Now that we’ve discussed how an existing church plan can provide you with both good ideas and unpredictable costs, lets look at how you can lead your church in the right direction and how you will guide your congregation through a successful project that will serve their needs for generations.

General Steel’s Unique Church Project Process

General Steel has planned, designed and delivered more church buildings across the United States than any other company. In doing so, General Steel’s church project team has gained unmatched experience and developed an exclusive process that will guide your church from inception through the completion of construction.


Effective Tools for Planning Church Projects

Below we will examine how Calvary Baptist in California used our church building design process, including floor plans and 3D renderings, to plan and build their new church building.

Calvary BaptistProject Information
Building Size:90′ x 50′
Location:Bishop, CA
Wall Color:Polar White
Roof Color:Polar White
Trim Color:Hawaiian Blue

Zoning and Code Analysis

Before deciding what to build you have to determine what you can build according to your local zoning guidelines. This step includes answering questions like setbacks, height restrictions and occupancy guidelines.

2D Church Floor Plans

Example floor plans can be an effective reference as you begin to decide how to use your new church building and General Steel has hundreds for you to gain ideas from. In the end, the design has to be perfect for your unique congregation which is why the design team at General Steel allows you to make multiple changes to your floor plan while guiding you towards the perfect design. You can see the final changes Calvary Baptist made to their floor plan by examining the two ideas below.

Initial Design

How to Design a Church

Unlimited Design Adjustments

As you can see, in Calvary Baptist’s final floor plan revision the Pastor determined it would be best to move the exterior stairs from the North end to the South end of the steel building.

Final Design

Final Church Design

Accepting the Final Floor Plan

In this church floor plan, the exterior stairs were moved per the Pastor’s instructions. Once the final floor plan is approved, 3D renderings can be created.

3D Church Renderings

As we discussed before, the exterior finishes are an essential part of any church design. Some exterior elements are unavoidable if you need to compliment existing structures while others are purely aesthetic or functional.

Any way you look at it, this is why the 3D renderings of all 4 sides of your building are an indispensable part of planning your church project. These full color replicas of your future building allow you to communicate the vision to your congregation and make important changes as Calvary did in their renderings below.

View More Renderings

Church Building Design Ideas

Initial Exterior Design

Church Design Revision

Visualizing the Changes

If you’re not 100% certain you want to make a certain change, ask for a rendering of the change before and after to make your final church design decision.

Final Exterior Design

Final Church Rendering Design

Accepting the Final Church Rendering

Once you accept all of the church design changes, it’s time to visualize the rest of your steel church building including the roof design, windows, doors and color options.

Design the Roof of the Church in 3D
Final Church Exterior church Design

Visualizing the Church Design from 4 Sides

An effective 3D rendering package will show the church design from all four sides of the building and a bird’s eye view of the property. This is a good time to finalize window locations and color selections.

What If There’s An Existing Building?

If you’re expanding upon an existing church building, simply send photos of your property as Calvary did below. As you can see in the renderings above, General Steel will design your new church building to complement the existing structure.

Church Design for Existing Buildings North Side
Church Design for Existing Buildings South Side
Church Design for Existing Buildings West Side

Final Steps Before Ordering Your Building

After approving the final versions of your 3D renderings and floor plans, some churches are ready to move forward ordering their prefab metal building while others need to begin raising the necessary funds.

The Final Product

Here’s what Calvary Baptist’s church looked like after they completed the church design process with General Steel.

Calvary Church Design After Completion of Construction
Need a Church Loan?

An A.I.A. certifiable cost analysis is provided as part of a General Steel church design package. This comprehensive document is a line by line description of how much your church project will cost from start to finish. Since it is A.I.A. certifiable, this cost analysis can be used as part of a loan package to secure funding for your church project.

Design Package Credit

A church design package through General Steel costs a fraction of what an architect would charge and the best part is, the cost of the pre-construction services you receive are credited towards the cost of your building purchase! Making the service essentially free!

Contact General Steel to Get Started

Come see for yourself how General Steel can help you effectively plan your church project. We will meet you where you are in the process of building and provide you and your church with the tools necessary to make your project a true success!