Continuity of Oversight

Of all the potential problems that you can encounter during the long course of a church design and construction project, the very worst is the fractured, fragmented disaster that results from a ‘lack of continuity of oversight’. The absolutely simplest way to avoid becoming ensnared in this kind of trap is the careful, sensitive appointment of the ‘right’ individual as chair of the project ‘building committee’.

The person selected as this chairperson should be very detail oriented. “Perfectionist” comes to mind. For the best chance of this chairperson staying effective and a member of your congregation for the duration of your church project, it would be best if they were not self employed.  It would ill serve your church project if their own professional survival got in the way of it.  A better selection would be someone working for a sizeable company with a distinct future there; that is, someone not reading the classifieds every Sunday after church, looking for “another step up the ladder” elsewhere.

Another way of stating the concept of “continuity of oversight” would be “single point of contact”. During the life of this project, your church will be dealing with an architect, possibly several engineers, the county or city,  a contractor, and many others. With your church building committee chair as that single point of contact, there is a single repository at all times for information about previous decisions, decision strings, yardsticks, milestones, etc. Anytime a question comes up, your chairperson will know the answer, or how to get it, and that it was answered, and by who.

I know you’ve heard the phrase “divide and conquer”; that concept seriously applies here. I certainly don’t mean to imply that an architect, engineer, or contractor would purposely attempt to supply or request information to or from a number of individuals for the express purpose of fragmenting the “project memory”. What I do mean to tell you outright is that I have seen this kind of fragmentation occur naturally more times than I care to remember. Any time a question occurs to an architect or engineer, or anyone for that matter, they will seek to obtain the answer or a decision as quickly as possible. They will go out of their way to get it now, even if it means asking someone they shouldn’t. And if that person does what seems, on its face, like the right thing and responds, the person that should have been asked the question in the first place is now out of the loop.  Clueless that it’s even happened.

The very best way to prevent this kind of problem is to make your chairperson the sole point of contact with those outside your church, and to strictly adhere to this position.

Other ways include:

Any time you specifically request that something be included in your project (secure lockers in the choir robing space, round concrete pavers from the sidewalk to the electric meter, etc.) it should be added to a comprehensive list that is being maintained by your chairperson.

The chairperson should be present at all meetings; in the event that they cannot be present, you might be better served by rescheduling, and most likely will not even lose any time in the process.

When your architect presents your church with a review set of construction documents (final plans and specifications), which you should absolutely require, your chairperson can review them, along with the minutes in the project binder, to insure that there have been no lapses on your architect’s part.

Finally, that same project binder should be reviewed just prior to the final inspection of the completed project.

Regarding the final inspection, your chairperson might find it distinctly to their advantage to inspect the project in advance, say, the weekend before the formal, final inspection. In that way, your chair could perform their own leisurely inspection, with the binder in hand (avoiding, at the same time, the fragmented final inspection, with several folks going off in several directions at once, and impossible to effectively keep up with, or adequately document). A list of deficient items should be prepared at that time, to provide for a complete formal review and inclusion in the final “punch list” that your architect will prepare.

I once worked with a very good project superintendent who had his wife inspect his projects the weekend before the project final inspection.  It might be unorthodox, but I’m here to tell you –  his final inspections were the most issue free I’ve ever seen. The final inspection was actually a pleasure.  I don’t have any real comment about his married life, but his professional life reflected very well on it.


Tom H.



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