The Precursors of Facility Stewardship

For the past 10 years I have been beating the drum of Facility Stewardship. You can search through the archives of this blog and find dozens of posts on the subject.  Heck, we even produced an almost 300 page Facility Stewardship Manual (hint…get your copy today). I believe in this principle. In fact, at a recent meeting of our leadership team, we reiterated that our WHY, as a company, is to “To assist organizations be EFFECTIVE, EFFICIENT and INTENTIONAL with the facilities they have been entrusted to steward.”

This is what we do. This is who we are. This is what drives us.

Going back through most of the information we have produced on this topic, I realized that the majority of the content is based on the assumption that a church already has a facility that needs to be stewarded…and that is true, given the majority of the life cycle costs of a facility are after you move in.

But…you cannot move into a facility until after it is dreamed about, planned, and built. You cannot steward something that does not exist. (What came first, the chicken or the egg?)

With that as the backdrop, the precursor to Facility Stewardship has to include all of the phases leading up to the existence of a facility. I know that sounds over simplified, but that’s the facts. In many instances, the time, energy and intentionality invested in these precursor activities will set the tone…if not the costs…of the long term life cycle stewardship initiatives. Poorly designed and built facilities generally cost more to operate, thus increasing the life cycle cost.

We see the life cycle comprised of 4 primary components:

SUSTAIN: The “Sustain” component is where we (or at least I have in my writing) tend to focus our attention when we think of Facility Stewardship given all the existing churches that have facilities to maintain/steward. There is actually a very small percentage of churches planning/building in any calendar year…usually 1-3% of all churches in America are in a “building program” in any given year…so we are inclined to equate Facility Stewardship to the other 97-99% of the churches that have facilities whom need to maintain, pay utilities, clean, replace light bulbs, repair HVAC systems, etc.

“We cannot look at Facility Stewardship and Life Cycle as a “one and done” process…the term “cycle” would infer that it repeats itself…and so it is with the life cycle of a facility.”

But we cannot look at Facility Stewardship and Life Cycle as a “one and done” process…the term “cycle” would infer that it repeats itself…and so it is with the life cycle of a facility. Once you have been in a building for any period of time, there is a natural occurrence that starts the cycle over again (and again, and again). We tend to start to dream of new ways to do things…thus the need for new tools (or re-purposed tools) which in turn requires planning and some facet of building…then sustaining…repeat.

Given the above, there are 3 precursors to the “sustain” portion of Facility Stewardship:

DREAM: This is a critical step in the process of every facility initiative which provides the platform for church leaders to ask “what if” and understand a variety of scenarios that might be possible depending on God’s leading and the intentional uniqueness of your church. Dreaming is not just “blue sky” thinking (although there is a component of that) but needs to be weighted by intentional “next steps”.

PLAN: Intentional planning is required to achieve a desired goal. Period. Most church leaders miscalculate or under estimate the value and impact of this phase. Here is a fact; You will spend most of your total project budget during the planning phase. That may sound un-intuitive given that you will likely write checks for less than 15% of the total cost of your project during the pre-construction process. However, the reality is that every decision you make during this phase will impact the cost of your project. The “Build” phase is merely the execution and fulfillment of the planning. Do not take this lightly.

BUILD: Building and construction can be confusing and feel adversary for those not actively involved in the industry. There will be hundreds of items that must be addressed and resolved. There will also be times of frustration, concern about quality, doubt about the validity of a “change order”, schedule issues, budget issues, closeout, warranty, etc, etc, etc. It can be overwhelming…but it doesn’t need to be that way. You need an advocate and “construction-eese” translator making “cloudy” issues clear. Someone sitting on your side of the table allow you and your team to do what God called you to do…minister and lead.

Don’t assume that the precursors are not as equally important to the sustaining elements of Facility Stewardship. Taking the above for granted can cost you dearly. Facility Stewardship is not an “either/or” but rather a “both/and” process. Let me put it another way…the Dream, Plan and Build are not merely precursors, but integral parts of Facility Stewardship.


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