7 Deadly Sins of Being "Unintentional" With Your Facilities

If you have read this blog for long or follow me on social media, you know that I have 100% embraced the word (and its meaning) INTENTIONAL. We call our initial visioning session the “Intentional Workshop”. We have developed the “Intentional Church Series” manual and I use the hashtag #intentional with most of my posts.

I believe in being intentional…deliberate…on purpose.

The concept of “unintentional” was reinforced even more this past week when reading Leviticus 2:4 where the “law” addresses the steps a person had to take to be forgiven from Unintentional Sin.

George R. Knight, professor of church history at Andrews University Theological Seminary (Berrien Springs, Michigan), explains this passage (being unintentional) this way, “You have missed, not because you are wicked, but because you are stupid, silly, careless, inattentive, perhaps lazy, or more probably because you do not possess the proper aim in life.”

Did you catch those key words…stupidsillyinattentiveperhaps lazylack of proper aim.  I know we have all been guilty of being unintentional in many areas of our lives so I am not pointing fingers.

The reason I am so passionate about “intentionality” is because I have seen too many churches and organizations be unintentional…especially with their facilities. We are not going to discuss or debate if these actions (or lack there of) are “sins” of omission or commission.  That is for another day.

As I have reflected on the horror stories, significant missteps and resulting un-intentionality, there are 7 primary “sins” that I have seen churches commit related to their facilities:

1. Not Facing Reality – Lord have mercy…this is by far the most deadly sin. I shudder at how many times I have had churches tell me that they have “faith” to design/plan a facility that far exceeds their financial capability or they think they are the “fringe case” that will be able to build their facility for 20-50% lower than the market conditions reflect. REALLY?!?!?!?!  Or equally as horrifying are the churches that fail to understand the difference between the Building Budget and the TOTAL PROJECT Budget. Huge difference. Not facing the realities of the facility design, construction cost, Total Project costs, borrowing capacity, etc are death to a project. Period! I have witnessed thousands of churches that thought they could “beat the odds” of reality and end up with a set of plans in the pastor’s trunk of failed projects (that is right…plural).

2. Build it and they will come – This worked great for Kevin Costner, I have rarely seen this work for a church. Except in a very, very, very rare instance have I seen this ever work.   A building is only a tool to assist your church to fulfill its vision and mission…it is NOT an outreach tool or growth strategy.

3. DIY (or “I know a guy”) – How many pastors and church leaders do you know that went to seminary to study architecture, construction or facility management?  Not many! In addition, I hear churches constantly tell me that they “know a guy”. With rare exception, that is a formula for disaster. As I meet with churches, it becomes painfully obvious which groups took a DIY mentality in designing and building a facility as well as managing the life cycle of the facility. I have a client in Charlotte that adopted the DIY management style for caring for the maintenance of their facility.  The trustees would personally do most of the work.  As such, they have a 45 year old facility with millions of dollars of deferred maintenance. That is poor stewardship of what God entrusted to you.

4. Lack of Capital Reserve – Nearly every component of your facility will be replaced at some point in the life cycle of the facility.  That is not a “Tim-ism”…it is a fact of how God’s natural system of physical deterioration works.  You can’t avoid it.  So, with that as the overarching reality, would it not be prudent to save money for these known expenditures? This is not an “if” equation, but rather a “when”. Plan accordingly.

5. Being Reactive vs. Proactive – The majority of churches that our team meets with is in reactionary mode.  They are so consumed with the here and now that they are not being proactive to think about what they can do today to save time, money and other resources in the future.  Being proactive is less expensive than being reactive.

6. Not keeping records for the next generation (or the next hire) – The most common process for documenting facility management issues at a church is found captive in the mind of the current facility manager.  The next most common is the legal pad and Post-it notes. While this may be effective (not efficient) for the current staff, this is a poor way to plan for the future.  What is your “Get hit by a truck” strategy?  What if your facility director gets hit by a truck or has a heart attack or just quits tomorrow?  Where is all of that knowledge and information stored so that they next employee…and future generations, can access that data?

7. Lack of planning – While I have listed this as #7, I believe that if we had a list of only 1 Deadly Sin, this would be it.  Almost all of the above items could be a sub-point of this.  Planning is at the heart of every successful initiative. Whether considering purchasing land/buildings, leasing a facility, designing, financing, building and caring for a facility, the lack of planning can be the death blow (or at least a major setback or hindrance) to your church. Un-intentionality is simply a lack of planning. BAM!

I am sure we could develop a much more exhaustive list, but these are the biggies for me.

Are you being unintentional or intentional?  I know that I do not want to have to answer to my leaders and God (remember, we are HIS stewards of what He has entrusted to us) about being stupid, silly, lazy or inattentive.