How to Hire an Architect

(Part 1 of a 3-part XPastor Series)

posted by John Jackson

Photo  source

Photo source

Recently I was asked by my friend, Dr. David Fletcher, founder of, to help mentor Executive Pastors who were embarking on an architectural adventure. As you might suspect, pastors receive little training in seminary about this precarious journey. We used WebX as our virtual classroom. David’s organization, XPastor, is a global tool to help the Executive Pastors and other leaders in churches of all sizes.  

For many churches this journey begins with a white sheet (yikes!) and ends with a built reality in which people worship and carry out the purposes of the church. 

Questions abound for pastors who have not been through this process. Where does one start? How does one hire an architect? What is the best process for us – we are unique? When should we build? How much should we build now? What is the maximum capacity of our site?  How does one plan for growth? How does one contract a builder?

While it is difficult to cover in depth all the necessary topics in two sessions, the path for the journey was mapped out. That exact path will look as different as each church’s unique DNA. We would love to coach you if you have questions not covered by these two sessions. Contact me at

Part 1: How to Hire an Architect

What does the process of hiring an architect look like?

Step 1. Letter of Interest

Send to those firms you think are qualified.

  • Develop a written scope of work as you understand it.
  • Provide any graphic info you have such as survey or exg building diagrams.
  • Provide proposed general schedule, budget for construction, and budget for total project costs as you understand it.
  • Provide the main contact person(s) to whom ALL questions should be directed.
  • Provide the date a response is due back and state the outline of the rest of the RFQ, RFP and Interview process.

Step 2. Request for Qualifications (RFQ)

Solicit Qualifications from 6 "Interested" Architects. Request, as a minimum, these items:

  • Cover letter summarizing qualifications.
  • 4 projects most similar to proposed project, on each provide the following (at your discretion):
    • Name and Location of the Building(s)
    • Client
    • Contact person and contact info
    • Contractor and his team
    • Architect and his team
    • Building size, Total Construction Cost, cost per sf, Number of Change Orders and total amount.
    • Schedule from start to finish divided by Design/Construction.
    • Change Order Summary.
    • Project Visuals of the above and any others as supplementary.
    • Resume's of key individuals.
  • Your requirements for RFQ submittal format, number of copies and delivery. 
  • RFQ Due date with date of interviews stated.
  • Other information you deem important.
  • Review qualifications, run the references, visit projects, and "Short-list" 3 firms for a RFP andinterview. (Send a note of thanks, but no thanks to the others).
  • Proposals are due before the personal interview so you will have time to review and ask appropriate questions during the interview.

Step 3. Request for Proposal (RFP)

Request the following from the Architect:

  • Cover letter stating any qualifiers of the proposal.
  • Provide the method of determining the fee for the stated project. (Do not ask for a "BID".  Focus first on a qualifications based selection - then later negotiate the fee)
  • Provide a sample contract for review with general terms filled in based on a $__________sized project and project type (Sanctuary vs Ed vs Gym, etc. if you already know that.)
  • Provide a meeting agenda for our first meeting together
  • Provide the names and resumes' of the proposed team and request that they be at the meeting.
  • Provide a description of the architect's approach to services and the project.

Step 4. Interview


(I recommend it take place in the office of the architect - if so, allow two evenings for interviews - two the first night and one the second night with time to conclude- if not, do all in one evening)  Your are looking for a clear consensus.


Allow 1hour with a 30 minute break between to get one group out and the other in and set up. Allow the team to make a 30 minute presentation organized however they choose to do so.  The next 30 minutes should be Q/A time.  You are looking for aspects of how they think about design, what they deem important, how they would approach YOUR project, what the cultural fit would be like, passion, heart etc.

In Attendance:

The team proposed (PIC, PM, PA, ID) should be present and should ALL speak to issues in their area of expertise.


Method - ask the same basic questions to each firm.  Give each person on the interview committee a question to ask. 

Interview Questions:  In addition to questions raised by the RFQ and RFP ask the following if they fit your situation:

  • Describe a very successful project from your point of View (PIC)
  • Why do you want this commission? (PIC)
  • What are the top 3 most difficult issues you expect to deal with? (PM)
  • What parts of your service do you expect to sub-contract and have you worked with them before? (PM)
  • How do you coordinate your sub-consultants and achieve excellence as a team? (PIC, PM)
  • Under what circumstances would you feel justified in asking for a "Change in Service" to the contract and how would fee for those be determined. (PIC or PM)
  • Where do you draw your inspiration for design? (PA, or main designer)
  • What committee structures do you think we need in order to accomplish the project in the most thorough, yet efficient manner. (PM, ID)
  • Describe your process of working with committees in the various phases of services. (PM, ID)
  • At what point do you see involving Interior Designers and what is the best committee interface for that process? (ID)
  • Who keeps the meeting minutes and follows through on tasks? (PM,ID)
  • What is the most successful project you have worked on from your point of view and what made it gratifying? (PIC, PM, PA, ID)
  • How will you approach our project?  Do you see any opportunities at this time, or cautionary issues?

Concluding the Interview:

  • Summary comments by team as well as client
  • Score the interview while fresh in your mind
  • State when you will make a decision and if the church must approve the final decision before awarding.

Step 5. Selection

Choose your Architect based on the best apparent fit and then negotiate a final contract with them.  The fees will likely be very close.  This decision is too important to haggle over a small amount of money. 

Award the project, finalize fee negotiations, then notify the other two firms of the award. 



Stay tuned for more in this XPastor Series: