Church in a Day

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300 people build 3000 square foot churches in under 30 hours. They are doing this on a regular basis - apparently a couple per year?


  • From a participant, Jeff Higdon -

Yes, two is typical. I think they started around 2002? The way it started is a large extended family, the Steele’s, would get together and build family members a house in a week. The family probably has 50 adults that are all in the building trades or have worked extensively in the trades in the past. One of the brothers, Greg Steele, is the pastor of a United Pentecostal Church (UPC) in Johnson City, Texas. He heads up the organization, his brother is over the framing.

The way they started is they solicited donations from large UPC churchs to raise the funds to build a church, about $70,000. The church has to have a piece of property that is paid for with the utilities in. CIAD builds the church and the congregation that occupies the new building then has an interest free note that they pay back to CIAD. The money goes back into the fund to build more churches.

Also, many materials are often donated by contractors to reduce the cost.

The goal is to have 300 people for each build. The way that looks is that one month ahead of time a small crew comes out and does the foundation, rough in plumbing, electrical conduit and putting in meter box, any dirt work and pour the slab. This takes a few days with a few people.

The week of the build all the materials are staged and a large tent is set up for food in case of heat or rain. One day prior to the big event about 50 framers come out and frame the walls in a few hours, headed up by Tim Steele who is a framing contractor, and have them laid out around the perimeter of the slab.

On the day of the event where the 300 people are, it starts off with prayer at 7 am, about 7:30 everyone stands around the outside and raises the frames and they are attached and supported, then everything gets crazy as the roof trusses are set up with a high reach forklift and the trusses are nailed in while simultaneously everything that can be done at the same time is being done. Plumbing and electrical are being run, sheathing is going on even as the trusses are still being attached further down the building, siding is going on, etc. Often several people will be occupying the same vertical space. One is knelt down on the floor working, another is leaning above him to do something else, and a third is on the ladder above him. Someone may be in the attic working while someone is working on the roof. It is crazy and exciting all at the same time.

A volunteer will bring a concession trailer to cook the food and a team of ladies will serve the food under the tent at tables that are set up. They spend a lot on food! A lot of people mill in and out of the tent throughout the day as they wait on a portion of the building to be completed so they can do the next task they are assigned to, so there is a lot of talking and visiting that goes on which everyone looks forward to.

All of this takes extreme coordination and there is always an element of wondering if it is actually going to come together as there will always be challenges that make it seem there is no way it can be finished. Very rarely they don’t finish one, either due to not enough people coming or some major snag. In that case they will come back with a much smaller group and finish.

Usually within 24-26 hours of the start time the building is completely finished, even the landscaping, brickwork, etc, and they will have a church service in the building at 10 am that same morning.

There are surprisingly few injuries. Twisted ankles, cuts and bruises happen sometimes, but no one has ever been seriously hurt that I know of. Once a wall fell on a man but he was unhurt, some have fallen off the roof but again only minor injuries. The only thing serious that has happened is that at one of the early builds the baptistry tank was full of water and a 5 year old boy fell in it unnoticed and drowned. Since then they have made sure it was securely covered.

I worked with the plumbing crew which was mostly made up of master and journeyman plumbers, myself being an exception though I do have a lot of experience plumbing. 20 plumbers spent about 6 hours to do all the plumbing on the building, so about 120 man hours. The rest of the time we pitched in wherever we could, maybe cleaning up as we went or hauling materials, etc.

I hope that covered your question. Feel free to ask any others you may have.