This section is from the "How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt" book, by Rev. Sylvanus Stall. Amazon: How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt.
It is most necessary, therefore, for each committee to avail themselves of the experience of others. Churches similar in size and construction to the one to be erected should be examined, and useful lessons learned from the excellencies and defects of others. Inefficiency or incompetency in the committee is without excuse, so long as any source of information remains unexplored and unimproved.
VI. Not unfrequently do congregations involve themselves in unneccessary debt by hastily accepting a plan or draft for a church edifice which has no adaptation to their wants and necessities. The work is begun, and when the immature ideas take shape in brick and mortar, it is found necessary continually to modify the plan and make alterations in the construction of the building. These changes, if made before the final adoption of the plan, would be attended with no expense, but when made after the work is begun, they are attended with unneccessary expense to the congregation, injury to the proportions of the edifice and the durability of the structure. Such changes, always expensive, should be guarded against with the greatest care. Such a defective plan is illustrated in the Grand Central Depot, in New York City. All the departing trains start on the western track, and have to cross the tracks of the arriving trains to get on the eastern track, that they may "keep to the right, as the law directs." So, also, must all arriving trains cross the track of the departing trains, in order to reach that part of the depot which by mistake the architect placed on the wrong side of the building. The sides of that grand building should have been reversed. A somewhat similar mistake in the plan was discovered too late for alteration, in a depot in Cincinnati, Ohio. Similar illustrations are found in churches.
VII. The cause of the indebtedness of many churches may be traced to a national characteristic of the American people. We are a nation of hurriers. Our haste would be becoming to those having the whole world before them, rather than to those most westward in the course of empire. The pulse beats quick, and as a nation we are at fever heat. We walk fast, talk fast, eat fast, act fast, borrow much, and get in debt fast. When we build a church, the work must be carried forward like every thing else - in a hurry. Instead of awaiting those seasons of the year when the price of material is lowest, and labor cheapest, frequently with but little regard to the expense, the work is hurried to completion. We too often begin with the unfounded assumption that necessity requires the edifice to be completed by a fixed day, not far distant, and if the money is not at hand, the best interests of the church are sacrificed to attain this end. The church is built not only faster than it can be paid for, but with an extravagance both unwarranted and unnecessary.
Why be in unnecessary and expensive haste? Solomon's Temple was seven and a half years in building.
The cathedral of St. Peter's, at Rome, was one hundred and seventy-five years in building; that is, from the laying of the foundation to the date of dedication. If we include the work done under Pius VI, then three and a half centuries passed away, during which time 43 Popes reigned and died. The cathedral at Milan was begun in 1386, and was not completed until a grand impulse was given to the work during the conquests of Napoleon I. St. Paul's, in London, was only thirty-six years in building. The noted Cologne Cathedral was begun in 1248. The work in the interior is incomplete, and the scaffolding for the erection of the tower is but little higher than the ridge of the immense roof. Although of more than ordinary proportions, these buildings could readily have been completed in a much less period. It was not for want of men or material. With the exception of the first, it was for want of money to complete without the creation of immense indebtedness Progress and finances kept step.
The plan of building and paying for a chapel, and then, as circumstances permit and necessity requires, beginning the work upon the church edifice proper, and carrying the work forward gradually and prudently, proves both satisfactory and commendable. In cases where the draft includes the large audience room, and lecture and Sunday-school room, under the same roof, one may be completed and made to serve the purposes of both, until the necessary money to finish the edifice is fully secured. When the plan calls for a spire, this also may often be left in a rudimentary condition, until the church is paid for, and the means are at hand to complete the plan. This method does not unfurl as many banners, nor set the project before the people with as much tinsel. It will not attract a certain unsettled and unstable class as readily as some other course. But be assured that the better and more serviceable class, who would avoid any church adopting a less prudent course, may, and often are attracted to a new enterprise or growing society by its evident elements of sound financial policy.
The congregations, which, with timid prudence, have involved themselves in greater debt, solely because of their snail-like progress, are so rarely met that they do not form a separate class, and if those who entertain this opinion will take the trouble carefully to investigate, they will find their conclusion in this matter based upon "insufficient reason."
VIII. The indebtedness of some congregations is materially increased because they lack some one to go ahead, who shall feel an abiding personal interest in the prosperity of the church.
Churches, state buildings, railroads, public works and improvements of various kinds are seldom built as cheaply, as when carried forward as a private enterprise. When exceptions to the rule are found, it is where some individual has made the interests of the congregation, state or corporation identical with his own interests, laboring as faithfully for others as he would have done for himself. A building committee may, and frequently does, act so as to secure the best interests of the congregation, but occasionally they act as though they were entrusted with the special duty of creating bills, which the congregation was entrusted with the special duty of paying.
Some may object to having one act as though building, or financiering for himself, because in numerous instances this has proven unsatisfactory to the congregation. We reply, that where a committee, or a com-mittee-man, has grace enough to receive counsel and good judgment enough to decide which is the better reason, and religion enough to render his interests identical with that of the congregation, there is no reason to question but that it will be by far better to have one select and purchase, as if for himself, than to have many, or all, purchase as if for others to pay.
An illustration or two will set forth what we have sought to say in the two foregoing points. The citizens of a village about five miles from Albany, N. Y., determined to build a Methodist church. One of the prominent citizens, after whom the village is named, was on the committee appointed to supervise the entire work. During the winter, when there was little or no demand for building material, and when dealers were glad to sell at low rates, for cash, Mr. S. went to Albany and purchased the brick required for the church, purchasing and paying for them as though he had been purchasing them for himself. The residents of the village and persons living near, having teams, were notified and requested, when opportunity permitted, to draw the brick for the new church. In this way, notwithstanding the railroad conveniences, the brick were drawn during the winter without a dollar's cost to the congregation. The stones for the foundation were drawn in the same way, and all the other needed material being purchased at as reasonable rates as possible. The work was begun and carried forward in those seasons of the year when the best laborers could be secured at least wages. The church was some two years in process of erection.