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WOW – You Offer THAT?!

The other day I was contacted by a man from a church who was working with a committee he had established to help his church understand the importance of taking care of and planning for the inevitable future costs related to their church facilities. He had downloaded one of our eBooks (Church Facility Stewardship) and was interested in other resources to make his case.

As I started to compile a response, I paused and stared at the screen…WOW – THAT IS INCREDIBLE! As the email developed and the list grew, I was frankly humbled and blown away with the resources that we have been able to make available to churches across the country.

If you have not checked out what we have developed (many resources are free) and what services we provide…just take a look at the list below.

  1. 5 Intentional Steps to Establish a Capital Reserve Account –  Free eBook – This was written as a primer for churches that are starting from Square 1 with a capital reserve.
  2. Church Facility Evaluator – Free tool to evaluate some of the key operational metrics/costs of a church related to national averages.
  3. Church Facility Stewardship Manual – Almost 300 pages of information for any church to use to establish and further their facility management initiatives.
  4. Other Resources – We have written a number of books and other material.
  5. Assessments/Training – We also provide a number of assessments and training.
  6. Life Cycle Calculator – This is a free software that will help ANY organization establish their capital reserve plan and project funds needs and when.
  7. eSPACE – Facility Management Software – We originally developed this software suite for churches, but since 2008,  we now have private and public schools, colleges, YMCAs, municipalities and other facility/property managers. In addition to the free Life Cycle Calculator from above, we have subscription offerings for:
    1. Event Management 
    2. Work Order Management
    3. HVAC Integration 
  8. Church Facility Management  Solutions – This is a new membership website that we recently released…VERY excited about this!

If your church has a facility…you need to familiarize yourself with the above items and take advantage of the best set of tools to help you be a GREAT steward!


Church, The Way It Used to Be…Really?

Recently I was driving on I-85 between Charlotte and Atlanta and saw a billboard for a church that said:

ABC* Church and School…the way it used to be (* I will not reveal the name of the church…but if you Google “Church, the way it used to be” you may be shocked at how many churches use this slogan).

I saw this and just thought…HUH? Really? Are you serious?????

“I believe that the cultural and social changes that we have been blessed with have allowed us to better grow disciples that love God and love people.”

I know what they are trying to say…but REALLY? Do you really want things the way they used to be? Do you really want church and school to be the way it “used to be”…really?  Let’s think about how church and school used to be:

  1. Schools “used to” meet in a one room facility.
  2. Schools “used to” not have computers.
  3. Schools “used to” use corporal punishment in excess.
  4. Churches “used to” require that you wear a coat and tie (that is the piece of cloth that men sometimes wear around their neck…just in case you are less than 25 years old).
  5. Churches “used to” use a Latin version of the Bible.
  6. Churches “used to” require their minister to wear a robe to preach in.
  7. Churches “used to” do all of their music with a pipe organ only, if any instruments.
  8. Churches “used to” print bulletins on a mimeograph machine.
  9. Churches and schools “used to” not have air conditioning or heat.
  10. Churches and schools “used to” require men and women sit on opposite sides.

OK…enough of my rant…but I for one do not want to do “church or school” the way it used to be done in the past. I believe that the cultural and social changes that we have been blessed with have allowed us to better grow disciples that love God and love people…and allow us to impact a culture that is far from God. While the message of the Gospel can never be compromised…and the truths of the Bible never forsaken…our means, methods and approaches must stay relevant and contextual to the society we are trying to serve…you know…in the world, not of it.

Let me share one more example.  I have heard for many years the argument of traditional vs. contemporary music in church. This is an argument that does not ring true to me (no pun intended). What is contemporary? According to the dictionary, it means: of the present time; modern. Simply put, it is what is happening right now.  And yet, so many churches have tried to make “contemporary” an ugly word.  Let’s take an honest look at church music. Fanny Crosby is credited with writing dozens…maybe hundreds of hymns that were made popular in the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s.  This era of church history was called the Sunday School Era as that is when Sunday School was first started. Now we talk about how we need to have music the way it “used to be”…which generally means we need more hymns. But the reality is, the hymns of that day were the contemporary music of the day and were considered trite and trivial compared to the great works of Bach, Beethoven, and other great composers of the Middle Ages. Sounds pretty familiar to today.

Now…I am not saying that the music of the Middle Ages is not relevant or that hymns have no meaning or place in our current culture…but I am asking if we really want our churches and schools to be “the way it used to be”.

Think about it.


FREE is Awesome – CFMS is now FREE!

A couple months ago we announced the release of the only online community 100% focused on Church Facility Management. This community is the only one of its kind and we have seen great response. In fact, we had more people sign up for our Church Security Webinar last month that we had to turn people away. Some of you may think that is great…and in a way, it is. But it actually burdened me and our team.

Want to know why?

Church facility management is the responsibility of all churches…any size…everywhere…all denominations…all colors…all styles. Get my point?!?! So, is it right to not make it available to everyone and make it not just affordable…but FREE? We have been convicted when asking that question which is why effective immediately, Church Facility Management Solutions (CFMS) will be a completely FREE online membership community. The data being provided…the content…the resources…the webinars…the access to other church professionals…the access to vendors and the like should not be limited to only those who want to pay for it.

As a reminder, your FREE CFMS membership provides you:

  1. Weekly Information sent directly to you to help you be proactive and intentional with the care of your facility.
  2. Online Community so that you can get input and feedback from hundreds of other church and facility leaders.
  3. Monthly Webinars by industry professionals to provide relevant information and resources for your church facility management.
  4. Vetted Vendors will put a list of qualified vendors at your fingertips with the assurance that they have been pre-qualified by our team…and they do not pay to be on this list.
  5. Free Resources will be developed and made available to members including worksheet, forms, policy docs, job descriptions, etc.
  6. Availability to Consulting and Training Services.

Join us TODAY completely FREE!

Regardless of your church size, you need to be thinking about the best use and management of your facilities. There is no better place than this community. It offers the best of church facility expertise along with peer learning. You should not be without this resource!

Thom S. Rainer, President and CEO

LifeWay Christian Resources

Church Answers


Keys to Success in Uncertain Times

A few years ago, I attended a conference sponsored by Shelby Systems. On this particular day, the guest speaker for the session was Mr. Dan Busby, President of ECFA  (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability). This was one of the best plenary teaching times I have heard in some time. Dan is one smart guy…and has tremendous insight regarding financial issues. But what stuck with me, was his passion for the Lord and His people. This was so refreshing to me…so…I asked Dan if I could share the outline that he taught from…for which he graciously consented…thanks Dan.

KEYS TO SUCCESS IN UNCERTAIN TIMES (I would add…for all times)

  1. Practice Integrity – Integrity has no need for rules. (This really struck me…how many of us try to legislate integrity?)
  2. Talk Straight – Let your yes be yes…and your no be no
  3. Listen Aggressively – “When was the last time you were criticized for listening too much?” (Norm Augustine – Lockheed Martin)
  4. Ignite Trust – Low trust exposes everything (this concept is further explained in the best selling book “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen MR Covey)
  5. Create Margin – In all you do…including but not limited to time, personal finances, business finances, commitments, etc. (A great resource for this is Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard A. Swenson)
  6. Require Simplicity – “If you cannot explain something simply, you don’t know enough about it.”  ~Albert Einstein
  7. Insist on Flexibility – While we can learn from history, history has never been here before.

Dan finished the session by saying, “Success is having clearly defined goals consistent with God’s plan and faithfully meeting them with integrity.”

These are great lessons for all of us…whether in business, church leadership, or our families.


New HVAC Integration with Network Thermostats

As we have discussed before, the number one cost “influencer” to your utility bills can be attributed to the cost of heating and cooling your facility. And the 2 factors that are the root cause of most inefficiencies are “controls” and “behaviors.”

Most of you know that eSPACE has developed an HVAC Integration feature called COOLSPACE that now will integrate with various Building Automation systems and WiFi thermostats. Not only that, but eSPACE can integrate with many of the leading Church Management Systems such as Ministry Platform, Shelby Systems, CCB, Fellowship One, Servant Keeper, ACS, Planning Center and more (Click HERE to learn more).

Well…we have just added another integration partner – Network Thermostats. While we will not be “selling” their thermostats (they have a very generous program when then sell to churches) we have developed an integration that will allow churches that have these thermostats to integrate with eSPACE or the other event schedulers mentioned above. That’s right…if you have Network Thermostats, or are considering obtaining them, then you can increase your energy and operation efficiency by integrating them to you event and facility scheduling software.

With COOLSPACE/eSPACE integration, you can easily schedule all the events in your facility and know that the HVAC systems will respond to each event as they occur. Not only can you realize energy savings with improved HVAC run-times, your facility staff is able to devote more time to other needs as the scheduling will be seamless and automatic.

If you are looking for ways to increase operational efficiency and reduce energy consumption, you need to check out all of our HVAC and ChMS Integrations.  You will be glad you did!


Church Construction Team Combinations to Avoid

In the world of church facility construction, renovation and development, there are several integral roles and responsibilities that are required for every project.  They may or may not be paid professionals for each role, but they are present and the responsibilities to the project are no less important.

Here are the basics that virtually every project must have as part of the church’s team:

  1. Architect/Designer – To plan, program, design, develop drawings, obtain permits and do compliance inspections.
  2. Engineers – To engineer the building components such as structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection.
  3. Interior design – To pull it all together and put the “top coat” on the project…what is visible.
  4. Civil Engineer – To develop all the required site (land) related engineering.
  5. Geo-technical Engineer – To investigate the soil conditions and make recommendations.
  6. Surveyor – To verify property attributes such as property boundaries, topography, tree locations, easements, etc.
  7. General Contractor (sometimes referred to as a Construction Manager) – The entity that is licensed to pull the permit and direct/take responsibility for the construction activities of the project.
  8. Sub/Trade Contractors – The firms performing the actual construction duties under the direction of the General Contractor
  9. Special Inspector – This is new since 2000 when the International Building Code was released, and adopted by most municipalities. Their role is to provide milestone inspections of predetermined requirements of the project. These inspections are different than the inspections performed by the local building inspector…and these are a cost to the church.
  10. Specialty engineers, consultants and integrators – This can include entities such as A/V/L (Audio, Video and Theatrical Lighting), kitchen consultants, cafe consultants, environmental graphics, acoustician, vision clarity, generosity/stewardship, financing, etc, etc, etc.
  11. Owners Rep – The person who is the liaison/advocate for the church to all the above as well as the translator of all things project related. This should be an independent 3rd party.

Now, I have seen some of these hats worn by the same firm or person. For example, some civil engineers also do surveying. Most integrated architects also have interior designers on their staff, which makes perfect sense. Some architects have engineering disciplines in their studio. Some general contractors also perform certain sub-contractor scopes of work.

Another combination of roles that has been utilized in many church projects is where the General Contractor is also the Designer/Architect. In this format, referred to as “Design/Build”, the contractor and architect are either the same entity or they are under one contractual agreement with the church. This format can work and I have firsthand experience where it has served many churches well. But the church is giving up the checks and balances that come from independent entities, each with their own contractual and moral obligation to the church. Again, I come from this world (30 years), but it is critical for your church to understand not only the upside of this dual role, but also the things that will be inherently different.

Finally, here are the 2 combinations of roles that need to be avoided whenever possible.  I have seen more projects go sideways when these combinations are implemented:

  1. “We have a guy.” – Lord have mercy!!! I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have heard this and watched churches engage their “guy” to do a major role in the project, to only witness things go terribly wrong. Again…I am not saying it always go poorly…I have seen where, by God’s grace, it worked…that it is far more the exception than the rule. I have seen more “Jack-leg” work and weekend warrior projects that ultimately have to be re-done (usually at even higher cost than they would have invested from the onset) due to poor workmanship…or design…or acoustics…or blah, blah, blah. In the end, have we really been good stewards of what God has entrusted to us? Was it worth saving a buck to damage a relationship? Is it worth doing segments of the project DIY but in-turn have sub-par aspects of the final project?
  2. Architect as Owner’s Rep. – This is one that I really struggle with and have actually been kept me up at night when I think of it. This is the epitome of the classic phrase “fox in the hen house”. Here are the primary reasons why I feel this way:
  • As a general rule, architects are poor cost estimators. Ask any of them…they will readily admit this.
  • The preponderance of the project budget is spent pre-construction.  The construction is merely the fulfillment of the lines drawn on paper (or in a computer) during the design phase. Given that, do you want the financial viability of your project to be laid in the hands of the entity drawing the lines?
  • Accountability…who will hold the design professional accountable if they are also the Owner’s Rep? What if there is a problem with the design drawings?  If the Owner’s Rep is responsible to be the advocate for the church and translator of all things project related, how can the design professional (as Owner’s Rep) be objective if the issue is going to impact them in an adverse manner?

Does your project need an architect? No question! Get a good one…call me if you need some recommendations.

Does your project needs an Owner’s Rep? Absolutely!

Just be cautious about commingling these roles…and stay clear of the “guy.”


Why Use Facility Management Software For Your Church: Part 5

This is it…the 5th and final segment in our discussion about the positive attributes of utilizing a facility management software solution for your church or ministry. The other segments can be viewed on our blog page.

Today, as we wrap this up, I want to give you some features that you should consider as you are looking for the right system for your use. As I have mentioned prior, there are several good products on the market…so do the due diligence and find the right solutions for you.

So….what are the features you should consider?

Minimum Features:

  1. Produce and evaluate Work Order Requests: We believe that as a minimum, your system should allow your staff/personnel to notify you of the need for a work order. The process should provide enough information to the recipient to make an assessment of the issue before they physically explore it further.
  2. Prioritize the Work Orders: As part the work order process, the sender should be able to establish a “priority” of the work…at least in their minds. This will give the recipient a heads-up as to how the sender perceives this issue.
  3. Track work orders: The better products on the market allow you to track each work order that is generated…through its entire life cycle.
  4. Historical data: This is very important…what is the historical data associated with your equipment? When was the last time it was serviced and what were the issues then? If the system does not track this, then you will have to do it manually…which seems redundant.

Upgraded features:

  1. Track vendors and assign work orders directly to them (even if they are in-house or volunteers): The better systems on the market will provide for the tracking of the subcontractors, suppliers and vendors associated with the care of your facilities. Who are they? What service categories do they work in?How do I reach them? Who is my primary contact? Are they a volunteer group in the church? In addition, the ability to have an automated process for sending work orders can save you valuable time and money…not to mention a reduction in misunderstandings.
  2. Notification process for all work: The best systems on the market have automated notification processes. These should include notification for when a work order is requested, when an ETA is established by the Vendor, when the work is completed and if the work is going to exceed the agreed-to projected cost. As it is said…time is money…and these systems are meant to save time.
  3. Asset tracking and assigning of work orders to specific equipment: As we explored in a previous segment, it is ideal to be able to track all of the equipment in your facility. It is best if you can catalog all of your equipment and then be able to tie a work order to a specific piece of equipment. If you cannot catalog the equipment and track it…then it may not be the right product for you.
  4. Capital Reserve and Life Cycle Planning: How are you currently projecting the life cycle cost of your equipment? Do you have an ongoing list of capital improvements that need to be made? Do you know how much money it will take every year to replace items that have come to the end of their useful life? Having the ability to track these items in one centralized place will make the long term management of your facilities much better.

There is more that we could discuss…but let’s leave it at that for now…if you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact us direct.


What I Learned from the Janitor

A while back I read  The Janitor by Todd Hopkins and Ray Hilbert (Oh…did you think I was referring to a person…sorry). This short book is written in the format of a novel (a la Tom Peters) and is a very quick read…but with some great insights.

I won’t spoil the story portion of the book…as it is well written, but I do want to share with you the 6 principles the book raises. Some of these are going to sound simplistic to some of you and even like common sense…but in reality, most of us do not live what we know to be true. HMMM…that sounds like something the apostle Paul once wrote.

Here are the principles:

  1. Recharge vs. Discharge: What are we doing to recharge our minds, bodies, energies, soul, etc. When we stay so focused on our work or on a task that requires us to discharge, it is important to take the time to recharge.
  2. View family as a blessing, not a responsibility: I am not sure there is anything to add to this. If we don’t get this right…not much else matters.
  3. Pray; don’t pout: Ouch…I must admit that many times, when things go wrong or I am stressed or not getting my way (whaaaa), I tend to pout, wallow and the like (not very pretty)…when I should pray.
  4. Pass it around: You will need to read the book to fully grasp this…but the premise is to give ourselves away.
  5. Don’t spend; invest: This was my favorite. Am I “spending” my time and energies or investing it in things with eternal value. We must evaluate all our activities in life as either an investment or an expense.
  6. Leave a legacy: The reality is that we all will leave a legacy…but what kind?

I would recommend picking up the book and spending a couple hours (if that) to get lost in the story and then absorb and apply the principles.  This is good stuff.


Why Use Facility Management Software for Your Church: Part 4

For those of you tracking with me…this is PART 4 of our 5 part series about the benefits of using Facility Management Software for work order processing, equipment tracking and so much more.

If you have not been tracking with us (and we know who you are), then you can see the first three post on our BLOG page.

Last time we left off looking at some of the salient reasons to use a web based facility management software package…I will not review them all as it would take too long…so let’s jump in to the last few…ready?

  1. Historical Data: I have used the P90X workout series…it is really good and the trainer keeps reminding us that we need to write down what weights we use and how many reps. He uses a cute little phrase to say “if you don’t know what you’ve done, how can you know what you need to do”? That same applies to our building management and maintenance. If you are not tracking what you have done…then how do you know what needs to be done in the future? If you are not tracking when a HVAC unit was last serviced, how will you know when it needs to be done the next time? Having a database that lists your equipment and the historical data will give you great insight on the condition of the equipment and the steps that may need to be taken in the future. This kind of tracking is not just to have data of the past, but to help plan for the future.
  2. Asset database: Do you know the make, model, serial number and filter size of each piece of equipment at your facility? Do you know what kind of light bulbs you have and how many fixtures in the facility use that type bulb? Stop for a second…tell me the size water heaters you have as well as the make and model number…can you do that? How many exit signs do you have…and what kind of bulbs do they utilize? Now, I would not expect you to know all of this off the top of your head…but could you, with a few clicks, get to this data? Is it written on a legal pad or tucked away in the corner of your mind. These are tough questions that need to be asked and answered.
  3. Warranty tracking: Have you ever paid for a service call to later find out that it was under warranty? How did that make you feel? Were you able to get a full refund? I have witnessed, far too often, when a church just gets work done because something is not functioning correctly without much consideration as to the warranty that may still be active. This is a waste of Kingdom dollars and frankly; it frustrates me. I have a client right now that had been calling subcontractors to get work done…and in some cases paying directly for said work…that was the responsibility of the general contractor that built the space. This was not the contractors fault, but rather the church did not have a system in place to know what items were still under warranty. Knowing what the warranty is for your major components can save you a great deal of money…short term and long term.

So…this wraps up the “why” portion of our discussion. Next time, in our last segment, we will  look at the features that you should consider when evaluating different solutions…and yes…I suggest you do your due diligence to find the RIGHT solution for your church. There are several good applications on the market. Some are geared  primarily toward churches and others are more “commercial” applications but may still meet your needs. Do your research…and take advantage of Free Web Demos…they can be invaluable.

Thanks


The Importance of the Facility Manager During a Church Construction Project

A number of years ago, I ran across an article by David Strickland, architect from Atlanta. I was impressed by the article and got David’s permission to re-print it (Thanks David).  There is a lot of good stuff for your consideration in this article…so enjoy!

Some of the most successful projects we have had have included Facility Managers as an integral part of the building committee or vision team. If we do our jobs, at some point in the process the collection of historical information will systematically transform into a plan for new or modified facilities.

There are a myriad of details to discuss about the needs that will have to be met during the pre and post-construction phases, as well as functionality during the actual construction process. How do churches provide for existing ministries during construction and for the ministries that are needed in future following construction? Challenges will surface somewhere along the way for every church. Utilities may be off line for a period of time or some groups will be forced to relocate due to the activities associated with the demolition and/or construction work or there is an unplanned event that must be accommodated without interruption such as a funeral. The Facility Manager typically is tasked to work with the design and construction team to develop a logistics plan that addresses these critical times of the construction schedule. Thereby, when it is possible, preparation can be made well in advance of the actual occurrence so that everyone is informed, and that all ministries are accommodated with minimal inconvenience throughout the entire process.

“Facility Managers truly are a vital part in the day to day planning and operations of the church.”

In addition to being the source for historical information and the keeper of the construction logistics plan, the Facility Manager can also be a great resource to help in developing the plans for the future. Others on the team may have great vision for what could be, but there should be discussions of how the vision can be a reality with regard to facility use. What can be accommodated in the existing facilities and what will best be accommodated in the new facilities?

Day in and day out, Facility Mangers deal with the challenges of maintaining and operating the physical plant. This can be vital information for the architect and engineers. During a major renovation or during a period of new construction the economy of scale may provide great opportunities to reduce costs and to easily accomplish upgrades. These upgrades could save the church a great deal of money over time with regard to the operations budget. As an example–energy management tools are now available that will allow Facility Managers to plan, schedule and control heating and air conditioning operations well in advance of the actual date needed. This can all be done from their desktop computer.

Questions about the maintenance of new or renovated facilities should be discussed during the planning period. For example, a Facility Manager would probably want to know; what types of light bulbs are going to have to be maintained for routine replacement? What type of floor finish is going to be used in each location and how will it be maintained? How do we access new equipment for routine maintenance? There are many very good questions that should be discussed during the planning phase—a happier alternative for all than the same discussion after construction when it is not as easy to make adjustments to enhance functionality.

No two congregations function exactly alike. Where a Facility Manager is in place, it is always prudent to include them throughout the planning process. They truly are a vital part in the day to day planning and operations of the church. Invaluable assistance will be rendered by the remainder of the team–church leadership and lay leaders—as well. A productive team will be formed of individuals with varying backgrounds and experiences. Our experience indicates these diverse teams constitute productive, cohesive groups capable of successfully addressing every vital issue and making the best decisions for the ministries of their churches. All are necessary to making the team functional, but a good Facility Manager always provides insight that no one else can.