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.

5 comments on “Facility Management vs. Maintenance

  1. Tim, I totally agree! You posts are always spot on. Unfortunately, the church leadership culture does not support or care to understand. Church leadership is more on the immediately tasks at hand and not proactive thinking as you have outlined. I voluntarly left working in the church environment mainly because I have seen in many cases the church leadership do not care to truly embrace management best practices (or even the basics). I am sad to say but the folks work in the church and with no business experience are the most entitled and narrow-minded people I have every worked with. Sorry for the sad statement but I greatly enjoy your post and efforts to change this culture in the Church.

  2. Tim, good stuff as usual. Fred, I’m sorry to hear of your frustration, but can relate. I struggle with the same lack of understanding. “Just make it happen” is the common response I get. Saying that doesn’t really help if there are no resources provided to “make it happen”. How do we get this message through? Honestly, I’m finding that what Fred is saying is true.

  3. can you provide sensors to measure
    temperature, humidity,
    monitor the efficiency of the heat pump,
    monitor refrigeration efficiency groups,
    monitor the engine efficiency elevators to be included in the building automation system?

  4. What would you say is the difference between Facility Management and Facility Director? Besides pro-active maintenance, over seeing grounds keeping, and re-designing or purposing rooms for a large church, I oversee dept. and ministry assigned storage space and planning. I’ve been told that I am a Facility Director, but I am referred to as Maintenance Mgr………or maintenance guy. Additionally, I oversee CPR and first-aid training, as well as special projects and set builder. I am about to have my new business cards printed and desire a title appropriate to the duties. What would you say I am?

    1. Steve: Great question.

      I believe that our churches need Facility Management and Facility Maintenance. But as I look at the landscape of the FM world in churches, we too often assign the role of facility MANAGER then expect that person to perform all the physical duties of a maintenance person….thus taking them away from the proactive managerial components.

      So, to answer your question, I would look at how much time you spend in physically performing maintenance and/or janitorial services. If you spend more than 25%, then you are most likely more on the maintenance side. If that is true, then a title such as Maintenance Director or Maintenance Coordinator may be a better fit. However, if you spend less than 25% of your time performing maintenance, then Facility Manager or Facility Director would appear to be appropriate.

      Hope that helps.

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