Case Studies

Zion Church Builders Inc.

Bringing Quality Construction and Character to Churches Across the Country
  • Written by: Jeanee Dudley
  • Produced by: Zion Church Builders Inc.
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

For nearly 50 years, Zion Church Builders Inc. (ZCB) has offered quality construction management services for church and funeral home projects. Based in Mattawan, Mich., the business employs nine people working from a single office. ZCB has constructed houses of worship and funerary facilities in 42 states, building a large geographic footprint in the U.S. Jim Hinze, president and CEO of ZCB, marks the second generation of family ownership and operation at the business. His father and uncle founded the company in 1965 with a single goal: to provide clients with the best professional services available.

“Our business is primarily churches and funeral homes,” Jim explains. “We save them and we bury them.
A funeral home isn’t really much different form a church, so we started doing more of that work about nine years ago. We do construction management, so the church is in full control. They serve as their own GC and we hold their hands. We manage the projects for the churches, which saves about 25 percent right off the top. That is a lot of money. We haven’t changed our program since it began. We have a lot of people that tell us we are personable. We are Christian builders; that is shown in how we operate and the people we bring on board. Our reputation stands out. We only have a website for advertising, so we work mainly through word of mouth.”

Strong Relationships

The small size of the ZCB team keeps things organized and Jim says he always has his thumb on operations. The crew works with independent contractors on each project and Jim places importance on using local labor. “When you build a church, they generally  have various trades people or general contractors in the congregation. My thing is, you leave as much of the local dollar in the local economy, that makes the congregations happier. We have a few people that we work with normally, but most things are locally to the project. We bring a lot of the buying power to the table for specialty items, especially for steel and laminated buildings. We have lots of contractors that like working with us and we work on low bid invite only.”

With a large pool of dedicated local contractors, ZCB has completed a number of complex contracts over the years. “We do a lot of United Pentecostal and Nazarene churches,” Jim recounts. “We did one in Marion, Ohio, where we built around the existing structure and then tore down the building inside. That was the third project we have performed for this particular pastor. We have one in Frederick, Md., right now and we have been working with that church for about 10 years. They had the existing building sold, the guy backed out, sold again, backed out, then the recession hit and no one would lend money. Finally, they sold it for $2 million less than needed. We brought the project in under budget, and got them into a new building. God was in it.”

While Jim and the team put heart and soul into every project, the company president notes that there is one church in particular that had a little extra personal meaning for him. “I built my own a few years ago,” he explains. “You go above and beyond when it iss your church. There were no change orders; we just took care of them. We are able to work with the tough congregations that a general contractor doesn’t have the ability to work with. I am on the church board and the finance committee, so we have the right personality to work with churches. We look at it like a marriage; we are wed to these people. I had a call the other day from a church I built 25 years ago and they remembered me. We create relationships. By the time you’re done contracting, usually, there is no relationship, but we maintain them.”

Keeping the Faith

Jim has been in the business virtually his entire life. He was 5 years old when his father and uncle founded ZCB and has been on jobsites since the age of 12. “I became a project superintendent when I was 18,” he recalls. “My first job was a $1 million project. People were a bit concerned when I was managing it, but that job went very well. It was a reformed church in WI. We still use volunteer labor, which allows the church put sweat equity into the projects to save money.”

Faith is a strong thing and the church building business has not seen many ill effects from the rough economy. “We have a great reputation so we have been busy,” Jim explains. “We are starting to see an upturn in the church building. Banks are loosening up now, but we have our own lenders we work with so we didn’t get hit too hard by the recession. We work with a lot of denominations that have their own funds for building projects. We have also kept overhead down, which is how my father and uncle operated the business. I see things getting better in the economy and projects getting better.

“Operationally speaking, I think we will be keeping things pretty much the same here over the coming years,” Jim adds. “I have a 10-year old grandson and I am getting him geared up to do things here when he is old enough. He travels with me to some of our meetings.” As the company moves forward into the generations to come, Zion Church Builders Inc. will maintain a strong focus on service and relationships with faith-based organizations.

Published on: November 25, 2013

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