Getting Started: Church Facility Management

Over the past several years, I have had numerous church leaders approach me with the question,”How do we get started with a Facilities Management initiative?”  My guess is that there are many of you out there asking the same question…or possibly trying to re-evaluate your current facility management program, processes, budgets and staffing.

Those who have asked this of me have been looking for guidance in a number of areas…the ones that seem to be the most common include:

  1. How much should we budget for facility management and operations?
  2. How do we staff for our current or new facility?
  3. How do we plan for future capital replacements?

These are a great place to start, but to answer these questions without more information and context is getting the proverbial “cart before the horse.” We need to first step back and ask more strategic questions before we can address the tactical.

With regards to setting up a Facilities Management initiative, I would suggest that there are a series of questions that should be asked before you dive too deep. Let me give us some things to think about:

  1. How much do you plan to outsource? This is fundamental and clearly will impact the size and skill set of your internal team and budgets.
  2. What functions do you expect them to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis?
  3. Will they also be responsible for set-up and tear down of rooms?
  4. Who will directly manage the daily activities of the staff?
  5. Are you planning to have a full time facilities “manager” or instead, a “maintenance” person? There is a huge difference between the 2 skill sets – click HERE to dig deeper into the difference.
  6. What is our plan for developing Capital Reserves?
  7. How much deferred maintenance do we need to address?
  8. Do you plan on using an Event Scheduler software program (other than Outlook, Google Calendar or paper and pencil)? If so, will it be web based? What do we want the tool to do for us?
  9. Do you plan on using a Work Order Management program? If not, how will you track work orders, historical data, vendor management, reoccurring preventive maintenance, etc.?
  10. What is the Current Replacement Value of your facilities?

I would suggest that your systems and processes should be defined before you determine how to staff. Your systems/process and methodologies, coupled with the costs associated, need to be the foundation of any facilities management program…then staff accordingly. As part of that process, you need to determine the type of Preventive Maintenance you plan to perform in-house or outsource. To help you get started I have posted a draft of “best practices” for a preventive maintenance program. Click HERE and download for your use. This is not an “end-all” list, but will help get you started.

There are several things to consider as you explore these questions. To help answer many of them, I would suggest the Facility Stewardship Manual. This will give you some good guidelines to get started.

I realize that I have thrown a lot at you and may have actually raised more questions than provided answers. The fact is that you are preparing to care for a complex commercial building…that God has ENTRUSTED to the care of your church…and I applaud you all for being proactive to prepare for this process.

Delegation and Outsourcing: The Acts 6 Principle

How many of you are familiar with these names: Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas

Let me share a story with you from a number of years ago so I can show you what a profound impact the names of these men had on me and helped shape the course of my vision, passion, drive and WHY.

As I started Cool Solutions Group, I was sharing my desire to assist church staff, leaders and volunteers commit their time to focus on people, ministry and their passions. I shared how I wanted to free up pastors and church staff to do the things that only they can do…minister to their church. During one of these discussions, Frank Norwood, Business Administrator at First Baptist Church, Matthews, NC (who we are currently leading a renovation project for) pulled out his Bible and read the following:

ACTS 6:1-7

1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.
3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them
4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

He then shared a story about a conversation he had with their pastor when he was new to the church. He asked the pastor what he felt his calling was and and his passion for serving the church. The pastor indicated that he wanted to preach, teach, shepherd and lead the people of this church…his flock. In his wisdom, Frank told the pastor to write these items down on a 3×5 card (this was before Evernote and Moleskins) and to never deviate from them. That was great advice.

He went on to share that he sees his role, as business administrator, to enable the pastor to not have to worry about the day to day business associated with running a large church…to free up the pastor to fulfill his passion and goals. Now, that sounds like a servants heart…and it is exactly what was happening in Acts. The Apostles could no longer address the granular issues of running the “church”. It had grown to a level that they could no longer be the “go to” guys for every detail. They needed to entrust some of these duties to other capable people. The Apostles realized that they were the only ones qualified…and called…to give “attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  This function within the church had to be theirs…no one else. So, the formation of a supporting cast was birthed. Each a qualified part of the body using the gifts God had entrusted to them to further the development of the church and to free up those called to preach, teach and shepherd their flock.

And what was the result? Re-read verse 7: “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” The church grew…people accepted Christ as their Savior and people became disciples. The church did not suffer because it delegated or “outsourced” certain functions…it THRIVED!

For those of us/you that serve the church, either as a support staff within the church or as an outsource partner such as our firm, we have been called to a very special part in the Body of Christ. We are called to use OUR gifts, skills, expertise and experience to allow those called to preach and teach to fulfill their vision and calling.

The Importance of the Church Facility is Renewed

I was recently re-reading an article by Sam Rainer (Lead pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church. He is also the president of Rainer Research and the Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Rainer Publishing as well as the eldest son of Thom Rainer) printed in Church Executive.  Sam lists out his set of 10 unexpected trends to surface in 2020.  This was a very insightful article…you need to read it. I was particularly taken by one trend relating to Church facilities…obviously a topic near and dear to my heart.

Here is a quote from the article:

The church is not a building, but a building is where the church meets. And buildings are the most expensive part of discipleship. In North America people go to buildings to do things — they go to the game in an arena, to the doctor at her office, to school in the classroom, and to the movie at the theater. Part of our culture is the expectation that things happen in buildings. This cultural expectation is true of the church — people go to church to be discipled.

Not all churches have buildings, nor am I advocating that they should. But church facilities are one of the most expensive and most critical tools church leaders use in shepherding God’s people. In short, buildings are important pieces in God’s mission of building his kingdom. Many building and design firms are becoming more intentional about creating space with the purpose of making disciples. In the next ten years, this focus will continue to grow. And churches will begin to view their buildings as part of their discipleship process.

What are your thoughts on this?  Is your local ministry effectively using your facilities as a discipleship tool?  If so…congrats.  If not…why not?  Is it not part of your strategy or are the “spaces” not adequate to facilitate discipleship…or are they not maintained properly to make them an effective tool?

Utilizing facilities for discipleship is like the 3 legs of a stool…the facilities must be:

  1. Designed to fulfill your vision and ministry initiatives
  2. Made available for people to use and properly scheduled
  3. Well maintained and cared for so that they are safe, clean and represent your ministry values

If you ignore even one of the above, your desires to utilize your facility to further your discipleship and ministry initiatives can be greatly impacted…just like a missing leg of the 3-legged stool.

Are you being intentional with the function, use and care of your ministry tools?  This is what we refer to as Facility Stewardship…these tools have been entrusted to you to properly steward!


Fram Oil Filters and Church Facilities

A few years ago, I was introduced to Kevin Folsom, former Director of Facilities and Plant Operations, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas  He wrote a White Paper entitled “sustainable facilities” vs. Sustainable Facilities. This is an excellent article and frankly some of it is over my head…Kevin is one smart dude!!!!

Here is a quote from this article:

There are numerous levels that can be used to go about this, but to start we have to remember our early Physics lessons in high school about the 2nd Law of Thermal Dynamics. Everything we build will decay, but it may last longer if properly maintained. So, here’s a puzzling question…If we build facilities that the natural law causes them to decay at fairly predictable rates throughout its birth to burial, why do we not plan for it?

According to a research project done a few years ago, facilities…any facility…will deteriorate at a rate of 1-4% per year, assuming regular preventive maintenance. However, this rate of deterioration will in most cases more than double if the regular, systematic preventive maintenance is not performed.

So…why do we, as church leaders, avoid addressing and planning for the inevitable? Would you drive your new car and never change the oil until the engine seizes up and then cough over a huge amount of money for a new engine? That does not make any sense to me.

Let’s step back and look at the big picture for a minute. An appropriate preventive maintenance program should be funded on average at 1.5 percent of the CRV (Current Replacement Value) of a facility. Using the Fram Oil Filter analogy and advertisement from 1972, let’s look at how the “pay me now or pay me later” principle might be applied to your facility.

Let’s assume you put 15,000 miles a year on your $25,000 car…you are prudent and change your oil at a minimum of every 5,000 miles…and the average oil change costs $50.00. That would be $150.00 a year.  In addition, let’s assume you have 60,000 mile tires, meaning you should get 4 years of wear (life cycle).  If the tires cost $150 each, that would be $600 or $150 per year.  There is some other miscellaneous filters, belts, etc that need to be replaced every year or accounted for every X number of years.  Let’s assume that we need to allocate another $100a year for those items.  That totals $400 of “preventive maintenance” on your car. Based on the above assumed purchase value, we would invest 1.5% of the value annually to keep the car running smooth.  Is there anyone out there that thinks it is a waste of time or money so spend $400 (1.5% of the value) each year to maintain your vehicle and extend its useful life?

Do you see a pattern here?

Here is another factor to consider.  If your $25,000 car has a life expectancy of 8 year (15,000 miles for 8 years, for a total of 120,000 miles), how much do you need to set aside to replace the car?  We know we need to invest $400 +/- annually to keep it running, but that money is going to be spent and we sill need to plan for the new vehicle in 8 years.

If I make the assumption that vehicles are going to experience a 5% cost inflation per year (compounding) then the cost of that replacement vehicle will be $36,938 which means I need to set aside $4,617 each year in a “capital reserve/life cycle” account.

So, if we are inclined to subscribe to the above 2 models for maintaining and replacing your vehicles, does it not make sense to do the same for your facilities?  God has entrusted you to steward them…right? If so, to quote Sean Connery in The Untouchables, “What are you prepared to do?”

Where’s the Money to Fix This?

A few weeks ago I received a copy of the Church Finance Today newsletter. The lead article really caught my attention and I have used it as the title of this post.  Given my focus and dogma on the topic of Facility Stewardship, I had to read on!

The article was full of great thoughts and comments…it even had a quote from yours truly (Tim Cool) which was a little bit of a surprise…a pleasant surprise.  You will want to read the article for yourself, but here are some thoughts from the article.

They provided 6 Tips to help get started in developing an intentional and proactive plan for long term care:

  1. Avoid the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it mentality.
  2. Don’t ignore “out of sight, out of mind” items.
  3. Good Stewardship includes physical assets.
  4. Tap experts to assess your needs.
  5. Create a capital reserve account even if you start small.
  6. Work towards your plan every year.

These are great tips…and I especially LOVE # 3.

One of the other quotes by the author, Bobby Ross, Jr., really seals the deal for me and is exactly the drum I continue to beat:

Every air-conditioning unit, every piece of carpet, every window, every light and the entire roof will need to be replaced at some point. It’s vital for leaders to recognize all of it needs to be replaced sooner or later. And setting funds aside now may avoid more painful scenarios later – like a church that needs to rent temporary worship space while its air conditioning gets fixed*

It is not a matter of IF they will be replaced.  It is a matter of WHEN and HOW will you fund it.

Intentional churches plan for the inevitable!

A few weeks ago, our team released the first of its kind LIFE CYCLE CALCULATOR. If you are serious about getting started with a Capital Reserve Plan…then this tool is the right first step.  Click HERE to get started.








*Originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Church Finance Today. Used with permission.

Focus or Frenzy?

I (Jen Erwin, Onboarding Specialist for Cool Solutions Group) recently read the following excerpt from Dr. David Jeremiah:

“It’s happened to everyone: You go online – to make a single purchase – and an hour and many clicks later you are on a totally unrelated website wondering how you got there. We sometimes act like small children who are attracted by bright lights and loud noises. What we do externally often bears little resemblance to what we intended to do internally.”

And even though that last sentence punched me in the gut, I couldn’t stop myself from reading it again and again: What we do externally often bears little resemblance to what we intended to do internally.

I know that eSPACE doesn’t ascribe to the theory of frenzy. We respect and value order and believe that’s how we, ultimately, were designed to operate at peak performance.

Same goes for your facility: If you’re aimlessly putting out fires instead of strategically planning for appropriate upkeep through careful, calculated and poignant budgeting, what happens around you may begin to show little resemblance to your original intention.

That’s why our team created the Life Cycle Calculator.

Capital Reserves? Check!

Asset Tracking? Check!

Life Cycle Projections? Check!

Addressing Inflation Factors? Check!

ORDER. (We love it!)

So, why stand back and throw stones (knee-jerk reaction) at the bad guy (lack of planning, deteriorating facility) instead of taking the upper hand to wrangle him into submission (budget appropriate funds needed to sustain)? You have control here! “Intentional” is more than just a buzzword at eSPACE – it’s a means by which effective facility management and stewardship is tackled.

It’s time to focus – and it’s time to let your internal intention create external results.

Make sure to download your FREE copy of 5 Intentional Steps to Establish a Capital Reserve Account.

5 Intentional Steps to Establish a Capital Reserve Account

If you are reading this post, then your organization likely owns or utilizes a facility. Given that, there are some facts about the life cycle and condition of your facilities that you need to be aware of:

  1. All buildings deteriorate at a rate of 1-4% per year
  2. As such, nearly every physical component of your facility will be replaced or have a major overhaul
  3. The rate of deterioration can more than double if we do not stay current with the natural rate of deterioration
  4. All of the above will require dollars

So the big questions are…how much money will be needed and when.

If you cannot definitely answer either part of that question, then we have the right resource to help you better develop a long term life cycle and capital reserve plan (and it is FREE):

5 Intentional Steps to Establish a Capital Reserve Account

Almost every component of your facilities will have to be replaced at some point. Do you have an action plan? INTENTIONAL organizations plan today for tomorrow’s costs. That’s why it’s critical you establish a capital reserve account now!

What’s in the eBook?

  1. Easy to understand concepts of Capital Reserves
  2. Compelling statistics about the cost of facility ownership
  3. Intentional steps to get you on the right path
  4. Tools to get you started

This FREE e-Book helps you implement the 5 steps necessary to start the process of Life Cycle and Capital Reserve planning.  Click HERE to download your copy.

Also, don’t forget to check out the eSPACE Event Scheduler and Work Order Management tools to help you be efficient, effective and intentional with your Facility Stewardship.


I Have a Vision for ALL Churches

I have a vision.

It is the underlying force that undergirds why I do what I do professionally as well the products and services our company provides. This vision is at the root of Cool Solutions Group and eSPACE. It is at the heart of the culture of our team. It is not just a business proposition (the WHAT we do) but rather the WHY we do it.

Here is my vision:

That every church would have access to and would fully utilize the best practices of Intentional Facility Stewardship.

This would include not only the management, maintenance, cleaning, budgeting, planning, or construction of facilities but would also entail a proactive approach to Life Cycle and Capital Reserve Planning.

I can see some of you scratching your head.  Of all the visions and causes and crusades that people gravitate to, why this?  Some may be thinking it is “easy” for me, as I have been working with churches and their facility initiatives for 30 years.  Others may think this is shallow compared to world hunger and sex trafficking. Let me explain the history of this vision.

For the first 23 years of my professional career serving churches, I was involved in the planning and physical construction of facilities.  During that tenure I assisted over 350 churches build or expand facilities.  It was incredibly rewarding…until I visited many of these facilities years later to see them in conditions incongruent with their age or projected life cycle.  This pricked my heart and mind. I saw churches raise, and spend, million and millions of dollars to build these new ministry tools to in turn not care for them or prepare for their future repair and replacement inevitability. That sent me on a several year journey to see if I was missing something or if I needed to learn what it meant to properly steward a facility.

What was the result of that journey? I came to the following resolutions:

  1. Everything on earth belongs to God…which means we have been entrusted to steward what is His.
  2. The long term care of our facilities is a spiritual responsibility.  We will be held accountable. Read 2 Kings 12: 4-13
  3. All buildings (churches and otherwise) deteriorate at a rate of 1-4% per year. That is a fact…indisputable and part of the law of nature…that God created.
  4. A well managed and maintained facility is more inviting and less distracting to guests.
  5. If the church properly budgets for operational expense (utilities, janitorial, maintenance and personnel) the likelihood of deferred maintenance is greatly reduced.
  6. The cost of operating a facility will consume 70-85% of the total cost of ownership of that facility over a 40 year duration compared to less than 15% for the initial construction. That should shift our focus and attention.
  7. When a church has a true capital reserve account…monies set aside systematically in a separate account for future capital replacements…they will not be negatively impacted by major capital expenditures nor will they have to borrow or raise money to replace such assets at the end of their life cycle.

So, if we believe and accept these tenets, we MUST be compelled to develop and implement plans to steward our facilities. If that is true, then we MUST set aside funds to care for the assets entrusted to us.  This is not a new premise…or a 21st century concept suddenly brought to the forefront given recent economic conditions.  Actually this is an age old directive (I assume you read the scripture above).

I am sure many of you think I am making too big of a deal about this, but until I see this vision realized, I am going to keep beating (pounding) this drum. If you knew, as I do, that the majority of churches DO NOT have an ample Capital Reserve plan (heck…most don’t have ANY capital reserve monies), then I think you would join me in this cause and vision.

Over the next couple weeks we will be posting about a brand new tool to help you be more intentional with developing a capital reserves and lice cycle calculations. This robust and interactive tool will give your church an incredible tool.

Stay tuned…and be INTENTIONAL!

Also, don’t forget to check out the eSPACE Event Scheduler and Work Order Management tools to help you be efficient, effective and intentional with your Facility Stewardship.

Facility Management vs. Maintenance

Over the past 8 years, I have met with dozens and dozens of business administrators, executive pastors, operations directors and facility personnel. As I have documented these experiences, I see a real and perceived discrepancy between the meaning of Facilities Management and facilities maintenance. To some of you, this may sound like semantics, but I think that it is much, much deeper than two “words”, even if some may consider them synonyms. Let me describe what I have seen and then let you decide if there is or is not a difference.

First, let’s explore how various dictionaries and sources define these 2 words:

1. The organization and coordination of the activities of a business in order to achieve defined objectives
2. The act or manner of managing; handling, direction, or control
3. The technique, practice, or science of managing, controlling or dealing with

1. The act of maintaining
2. Care or upkeep, as of machinery or property
3. The work needed to keep a road, building, machine, etc. in good condition

As I look at these definitions, I see a couple things that jump out at me:

1. Management appears to define the act of being proactive.
2. Management requires a skill to lead and direct activities of an organization or team
3. Maintenance appears to be developing a way to maintain the status quo
4. Maintenance is focused on the care and upkeep of something which may be seen as reactive.

What words could be used to differentiate management vs. maintenance? Here are some possible word associations:













Save over the Long Term

Spend as needed

Increase Life Cycle



I think there is indeed a difference between these words…especially as it relates to facilities. Facility Management can be defined as so much more than maintenance. It can and should be proactive in looking for ways to staff, save, and service. Keeping up with the best tech ideas, security, budgeting, Life Cycle planning,  “green uses” and more. Also, Facility Management staff can look for ways to better set-up, design, and use its “plant” rather than simply caring out work orders or manual instructions. In most church settings these functions are a last minute “Hick-Up” and are not thought out well or processed INTO Ministry systems, processes and flow. In short, Facility Management is working “ON” verses simply “IN” a process.

A simple way to think of the difference is that maintenance is keeping what you have running smoothly and efficiently, but Facility Management means planning ahead, seeking to improve, managing risks, learning what is available, proactive and possible.

So, as you explore your facility stewardship needs, are you providing management or merely maintenance? Both are important…but there is a difference.

If you need assistance sorting out the difference and leading a proactive Facility Management initiative in 2017, please contact our team of facility professionals.  You will be glad you did.

Also, don’t forget to check out the eSPACE Event Scheduler and Work Order Management tools to help you be efficient, effective and intentional with your Facility Stewardship.

Church Annual Giving Statements

I am thankful for my friends at Generis for offering a great FREE tool to help your church look at your annual giving statements a little differently.

As a leader, you have much to do. Not only are you responsible for the daily care of the congregation, but you also deal with life’s unexpected moments that require your pastoral attention. You lead the staff and volunteers, and oh, by the way, attend to the weekend and message prep questions that keep popping up every week.

Even with all of these leadership realities, elevating and normalizing the giving conversation in your church and saying thank you to givers is HUGE. Don’t miss this natural moment to invest into the spiritual life of your givers. It’s worth the focus and the work to demonstrate a spirit of gratitude!

Church management software does a great job of making these statements an easy and efficient administrative task. The Annual Giving Statement should not be just an administrative task, it is an opportunity to normalize the giving conversation in your church! Don’t settle for easy and efficient but instead aim for making a meaningful engagement with your givers. You can do this by celebrating, building trust and casting vision through an excellent annual giving statement strategy.

As you prepare an annual giving communication to your givers, use this resource to frame your work. This resource will walk you through several important steps to engage with your givers on a new level this year. Engaging them like this opens their hearts and develops deeper roots in their church engagement.

For more information about surprising and delighting your givers through a successful annual giving statement strategy, click below to download this amazing resource.

Image result for download buttonAlso, don’t forget to check out the eSPACE Event Scheduler and Work Order Management tools to help you be efficient, effective and intentional with your Facility Stewardship