Building God’s Way
As an architecture firm focused on supporting the efforts of faith-based ministries, Building God’s Way (BGW) aims to deliver exceptional value to places of worship. Based in Ogden, Utah, BGW has established a strong network of general contracting and building supply partners all across the United States, allowing the company to bring its unique model to bear on projects from California to the East Coast.
“We try to bring a more relationship-based approach to getting projects done,” says Don Mahoney, principal architect at BGW. “Too often ministry groups are taken advantage of by individuals who will prey on them, so our goal is to help them avoid those kinds of confrontational relationships.”
While BGW has designed more than 700 ministry-based facilities across the country, the firm does not limit its work solely to churches. “We also work in schools, from intercollegiate work all the way down to preschools, and we work with a wide range of different Christian denominations,” Mahoney says.
Through its BGW Supply division, BGW has also negotiated factory-direct pricing with leading manufacturers throughout the U.S. who have a heart to support Christian ministry, bypassing local distributors and eliminating layers of mark-up. “We take a stewardship-based approach with an emphasis on both initial and long-term costs, but we also do a lot of relationship building between our subcontractors and ministry groups so we can help establish a mutually beneficial relationship,” says Mahoney.
This relationship-building process includes establishing ministry programs on the job site, an approach that means a ministry does not have to wait until its new building project is complete to start performing outreach services and transforming lives in its community.
“It’s a very holistic approach and at the end of the day we’re looking for continuity between the goals and aspirations of the ministry group and the ways they employ and interact with people in their communities,” he says.
In addition to facilitating on-site ministry efforts, BGW offers seminars aimed at helping individuals to become more sustainable, both financially and otherwise. “It’s about creating community through our buildings,” says Mahoney.
A better building partner
Since its inception, BGW has been doing things a little differently than the average architecture firm. Founded in 1998 by Dan Cook, BGW was born out of his own experience working with Christian-based organizations. “He found them to be very inconsistent and he thought a more consistent approach based on developing relationships along the way could make the subcontractors more profitable and speed up work,” says Mahoney.
This model has found success even outside of the faith-based community, with owners and developers of all stripes coming to appreciate BGW’s holistic, conflict-free approach to the design and construction process. “People don’t need to hire us because we’re Christians, but because we’re Christians we are consistent in who we are,” he says.
From its headquarters in Utah, BGW is a half-day flight from a majority of the country, allowing the firm to work across the U.S. and easily oversee each jobsite. By partnering exclusively with general contractors who become the official BGW representative in their market, BGW is able to establish a strong local presence in cities nationwide. In Ogden, BGW recently completed a 25,000-square-foot building that serves as a full-time events center, as well as a church.
This unique model allows the owner, faith-based Genesis Group, to subsidize its own building costs by renting out the facility to a variety of community groups and individuals. “It’s allowed them to focus more of their budget on the community and local outreach programs, instead of being so financially burdened by a building” says Mahoney.
The approach also further enables faith-based outreach efforts because church members can build relationships with community members who come to use the facility. “The church now plans to offer free day care, so if someone comes for a quinceañera, for example, and they have an infant, they can take their kids to the day care center and the church will take care of them for free as a form of outreach,” says Mahoney. “It creates a beneficial relationship and maybe they’ll try to find out more about the Genesis Group because it’s demonstrating its value to the community.”
Doing more with less
BGW has a number of similar projects in the works throughout the country, as the architecture firm tries to help faith-based organizations achieve their mission without breaking the bank. “We’re trying to teach churches how to become sustainable so they’re not building these buildings that sit vacant except for intensive use on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights,” he says.
In addition to churches and event centers, BGW has a number of hotel projects in the works and each will be staffed with church members who are able to perform religious outreach even in the workplace. The firm currently has 129 ministry projects under contract, including institutional projects at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas, and Simpson College in Redding, California.
The recession took its toll on the construction industry, but through a fortunate turn of events, BGW was able to escape the worst of the economic downturn. “We picked up two good sized projects that kept us going and also changed software to a new system that almost doubled our efficiency; so while we did have to downsize, we were able to get as much done with a staff of 30 as we were with a staff of 75,” he says.
While Mahoney’s background in architecture serves him well in his role at BGW, he actually credits his undergraduate English degree as one of his most valuable assets. “When you’ve learned your craft you know by instinct what works best, but it all comes down to being able to communicate that knowledge to a group of people,” says Mahoney.
The principal architect sees a bright future ahead for BGW and the economy as a whole, citing a new generation of business leaders eager to discontinue some of the traditional business practices that have held the industry back. “With the younger generation you don’t see a lot of those ‘good ol’ boy’ types of relationships,” he says. “They’re looking for groups that work in collaborative ways and are willing to extend themselves and share knowledge with one another.”
Mahoney is optimistic about BGW’s progress going forward, seeing architecture as an important aspect of helping to build faith-based communities. “We want to continue helping ministry organizations to understand the changing nature of how to deliver their message to communities and we look upon architecture as one of the tools to assist us in doing that,” he says.
He points to BGW founder Dan Cook’s recent book “10 Tsunamis Impacting Ministries” as a model for how faith-based organizations can thrive in the modern world. “Its purpose is to help organizations understand what things are coming at them, the shift in culture and why sometimes it might not be a good time to design a new facility,” he says.
With a strong network of general contractors and suppliers throughout the country and an innovative new approach to construction projects, Building God’s Way will continue to remain a leader in architecture and design for faith-based communities across the country.
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