Vetted Vendors – We Need Your Help

We need your help!!

Seriously…we really need your help.

We will be releasing our new Online community – Church Facility Management Solutions – within the next couple weeks and one area that we need you to help with is what we call “VETTED VENDORS.”

What is a Vetted Vendor?  Great question.  Here is our set of standards:

  1. Our Vetted Vendors designation cannot be purchased, it can only be earned though our teams vetting process
  2. We do not accept payments from our Vetted Vendors
  3.  Vetted Vendors are not required to offer special discounts for referrals
  4. Neither CFMS or Cool solutions Group receive any remuneration, commission, or “kick-back” from Vetted Vendors
  5. It is intended to be a list of qualified and vetted organizations that provide services to churches…some national, regional and other local.  Much of the geographic output will be predicated on the nomination process.

To that end…especially the 5th item above…we need your help to provide nominations for firms you believe to be a benefit to churches in some form or fashion of facility stewardship, facility management, suppliers, materials, construction work, repairs, etc, etc, etc.

So…if you can provide us with the following information, we will make contact with your nominees:

  1. Company name
  2. Contact person
  3. Field of service
  4. email address
  5. Phone number

We can take it from there.

Will you help us out?


Are Your Facilities Shaping You?

Have you ever heard the old adage about the 2 happiest days of boat ownership? “The day you buy it and the day you sell it.” If you are a boat owner…or owner of many other “toys”, this saying may best describe your ownership experience.

So what about our ministry tools? While most of us will never sell our church facilities, there are 2 very clear stages in the life cycle that evoke emotions similar to the boat analogy. They are Elation and Frustration…let’s explore:

Elation – The day we move in to utilize the new tool for the planned and envisioned purpose.  In most cases, there are months and years of planning that goes into the development of a ministry tool (i.e. facility for this conversation).

In most cases, the cycle generally looks like this – Church Growth > Crowded Conditions > Inability to Sustain Growth in Current Facility (Frustration) > Dreaming (of new space) > Planning (of new space) > Building (of the space…some might call this the Child Birth phase) > Elation (after move in and launching of the expanded ministries) > REPEAT

Conversely…there is the frustration component that initiated the above pattern…and will once again raise its predictable head and causes the cycle to begin again.

Frustration – This is the point in the cycle when it become painfully obvious that either the tool you have is not sized appropriately…or in many cases…is not designed to do ministry the way you want given your current context. If you go back to the cycle above, you can see about where that lands (I made it pretty obvious…just saying).

In 1943, Winston Churchill gave a speech to the House of Lords referring to the recent decimation of the House of Commons due to the war’s bombing raids. His most famous line in that address is:

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”

No truer words have ever been spoken related to the built environment…and it is so apropos to our ministry facilities. We spend months and years envisioning, dreaming, planning and building our facilities. We are diligent (most of the time) of being intentional about the space needed to facilitate ministry the way we believe will have the greatest impact on our community and target. We spend tens of thousands of dollars shaping the spaces…ensuring every door and window is in the right place…planning the audio/visual and environmental graphics…selecting just the right colors for walls, flooring and furniture…etc, etc, etc.

How you address a life cycle of the utilization of your built environment allows you to once again “shape your buildings” in lieu of them shaping you.

But at some point in the growth and cultural context of your church and community, that tool starts to shape how you do ministry. You start having to develop “work-arounds” to try to conform your ministry initiatives to the space you have access to.

Here are some real world example of what I mean:

  1. 25+ years ago, the “foyer” of most churches was merely a place to funnel people from the outside into the worship space…maybe to also get a bulletin. In that context, you only needed 1-2 square feet per person for a foyer. However, in most churches today, people are seeking the opportunity to do life with other believes and to gather and hangout. Cafes, lounge areas, soft seating, kiosks and the like need to be housed in these lobbies.  They are no longer just a “cattle shoot” to egress people.  In most cases, significant interaction and ministry is done, and as such, most churches need 5-7 square feet per person for this common space…sometimes even more.
  2. Many years ago, the Southern Baptist had a division called The Sunday School Board that provided direction and guidelines for best practices for doing education on Sunday. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the common suggested space utilization for education was a medium sized central room with a series of very small rooms off that space.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been called on to consult a church that is in one of these buildings and experiencing the Frustration milestone as they tell me they do not have enough space.  Upon further examination, we find that they actually have lots of space, it is just poorly configured…thus shaping how they do ministry.
  3. Technology has become an incredible tool for providing better utilization of space.  For example, if you need more worship space, but also have some spaces on the campus that are “dark” (i.e. not used simultaneous to your worship times), then consider video venues or other ways to best utilize the space God has entrusted to you before you venture into a costly expansion program to add more seats in a worship center that may sit dark 6 days a week.

The above life cycle of the utilization of your built environment is inevitable. How you address it allows you to once again “shape your buildings” in lieu of them shaping you. In addition…how you plan today must be done in the context of what might happen down the road.  Plan wisely…plan for flexibility and change. Be Intentional!

The Four Buckets of Church Facility Budgeting

“Hey Tim…how do we get started with Facility Budgeting?” I hear that a lot from Pastors, XP’s, Business Admins, Facility Managers and lay people.  It is a universal concern.  Let’s take a 30,000 foot level view of the most effective means by which we have seen work.

When you are budgeting for your facilities, there are 4 primary buckets that need to be accounted for:

We fully believe that being intentional about all 4 buckets will keep you out of the dog house related to your facilities

  1. Operational – This includes utilities, janitorial, general maintenance and staffing. Budgeting these area will be critical to get RIGHT. What does that mean? It means that you are not spending too much on utilities and making sure you are spending enough in the other areas to keep up with the natural rate of deterioration. Here are some rules of thumb that we find to represent “best-practices” for churches:
    1. Utilities – $1.00-1.50/SF annually. If you are over $1.25/SF, you may want to consider an energy audit or a review of your HVAC controls, as 50% or more of your energy consumption is attributed to HVAC and the best way to reduce that is through proper “behavior” which can be assisted with proper controls. We also just released a free eBook on HVAC Solutions….get your free copy HERE.
    2. Janitorial (labor, material, paper products, major cleaning like carpet extractions, window cleaning, etc.) should be in the $1.50-$2.50 range annually.
    3. General Maintenance – This is below the national average of $2.25 – $3.00/SF and should be re-looked at. We have found that a lack of general maintenance is present, the likelihood of deferred maintenance increases.  In most cases $1 not spent on general maintenance will cost 3-4 times in the future.
    4. Staff – Based on national surveys by our firm and IFMA, we believe the number of facility staff for a well-run organization is one Full Time Facility Staff Employee for every 25,000 – 35,000 SF.
  2. Deferred Maintenance – These are the items that should have been addressed prior but for whatever reason, have not been accounted for. We have found that when insufficient of general maintenance is budgeted, the likelihood of deferred maintenance increases….same for staffing. As stated above, the cost of deferred maintenance can be 3-4 times the cost of the initial general maintenance. Sounds like good stewardship to avoid deferred maintenance.
  3. Capital Reserve – We have found that a church needs $1-3/SF in order to keep up with the real cost life cycle planning. Capital replacement is not an “IF” consideration but rather a “WHEN” and “HOW MUCH”. While the $1-3/SF is a reasonable way to start planning, the best way is to do “line-item” projects for each asset that has a like cycle. If you have not already done so, check out our FREE Life Cycle Calculator to help you get started.  We also have a free eBook on this topic.
  4. Capital Projects – These would be the type projects that be adding space or major renovations, expansions and the like. It would be “easy” to see the need for some added space and be tempted to take the money from one of the above buckets. Be VERY careful with that thinking…that is a slippery slope. In addition, small projects like painting, replacing a few light fixtures, etc could…and should…be part of your General Maintenance budget.

We fully believe that being intentional about all 4 buckets will keep you out of the dog house related to your facilities. If you need help evaluating these, do not hesitate to reach out and we will help you get started.

10 Keys to Maximizing Your Church Facility – Interview with Thom Rainer

Do you know what you need to focus on related to your church facility in 2018? If not, you will want to hear this podcast with Dr. Thom Rainer.

Some highlights from this podcast include:

  • Your church is more inclined to experience a parent in a divorce case trying to abduct a child than it is to experience an active shooter.
  • Presence is the #1 thing your church can do to increase security.
  • Is your church facility congruent with your mission?
  • In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have deferred maintenance; you’d have enough money to handle facility issues as they arise.
  • Your facility team is an important part of your church’s ministry.

Is your church facility congruent with your mission?

The ten keys to maximizing your church facility are:

  1. Safety and security
  2. Flow of the space
  3. Contextualization of facilities
  4. Capital reserve – facing the inevitable
  5. Addressing the 4 buckets of budgeting
  6. Staffing
  7. Defining CLEAN and how that impacts staffing and budget
  8. Spatial utilization
  9. Integrating the facility and facility staff in your ministry
  10. Empowering the membership to be active in facility stewardship

Listen to the entire interview with Dr. Rainer HERE

Build Your Church Before You Build Your Building

A number of years ago I did a blog series based on a book with some pretty simple and insightful ideas. That series was based, with permission, on the book Simply Strategic Stufby Tony Morgan and Tim Stevens. I strongly recommend that you pick up the book as there are 99 great insights.

As I look back on 2017, the truths that Tim and Tony wrote about have become acute to me as I have served and met with dozens of church leaders. Our team has worked with a number of churches that could not articulate their vision, mission or focus. When asked to communicate about their vision, they were quick to tell us about the WHAT they do (programs)…but when challenged to drill down further, they could not explain WHY they did those things and heard crickets when asked to define WHO they were as a church.

To me, that is tragic…and sad.

I used to do a workshop for the NC Southern Baptist entitled “Why Build When you can Grow“. That workshop was intended to challenge the traditional thinking that you needed an owned facility to grow your church. Frankly, that is as far from the truth as you can imagine. With that said…if you have explored all of your options and facilities are still the right choice, then by all means pursue that…but do it the right way.

OK…enough soap-box preaching…let’s re-visit what Tim and Tony have to say:

SIMPLY STRATEGIC STUFF #38 – Build Your Church Before You Build Your Building

Those of us who have rented space for church services have heard people say, “Tell me when you are in your own building, and I might visit then.”

But the church building isn’t the church. The church is a living organism. It is the people. It is those who have given their lives to Christ and have gathered locally to make a difference in their communities. There are churches all over the world that have no building or facilities and yet are living, thriving local churches!

Addressing the ministry vision, mission, focus and values is the first step in lasting and intentional facility stewardship.

Putting up a building before the church is ready could cause troubles down the road. Do the following before you consider breaking ground:

  • Define your mission, vision and values
  • Build broad ownership of those defined values through your entire core of believers
  • Make sure that your leadership team is strong and growing
  • Develop a culture of volunteerism
  • Develop an infrastructure of leaders and systems that can handle the demands of a facility
  • Take the spiritual temperature of your church, and make sure that the people are continuing to take spiritual steps.

Make sure that having a facility will serve the purposes of God in your community. Make sure that it will facilitate reaching more and more people for Christ. Remember, the church is a living organism made up of the people Christ died for.  A building is only beneficial if the people are thriving.

Great insights! I would add that the above truths are not only for churches that are currently in temporary space or rented facilities…but for any church that is considering an expansion or building program of any kind. Addressing the ministry vision, mission, focus and values is the first step in lasting and intentional facility stewardship.

The above steps and tenets are universal. They can be your guide to an intentional impact; or if left unaddressed, can lead to a status of a country club or wandering in the wilderness.  In the words of the Grail Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade“You must choose. But choose wisely.”

Check out our book, Why Church Buildings Matter. Church facilities will not save a person from a life of sin and frustration. But the lack of attention to the church campus can indeed be the road block to reaching those people that need to hear the gospel message the most. Don’t minimize their impact. This book will reveal how to maximize your church facility to share the greatest story ever told, the gospel.

HVAC Solutions – FREE eBOOK

Can we all agree that HVAC operations, maintenance, scheduling, and replacement are one of the LARGEST expenditures, both in dollars and operation/manpower resources, that your church experiences?

Utility bills, HVAC maintenance, and HVAC replacement are significant costs for most churches. however, if we take the time to plan our energy usage carefully, we have the ability to reduce costs. If we reduce the amount of run-time, we can increase the life of our units if that is also coupled with proactive intentional maintenance. This frees up money to spend on other ministry endeavors.

Nearly every church in the county has some form of heating, cooling and ventilation system; as such, these issue are universal. They not exclusive to those in Miami or Anchorage.

“If we take the time to plan our energy usage carefully, we have the ability to reduce costs.”

In light of that, we have just released a new FREE eBook called HVAC Solutions: Taking control of your HVAC to Reduce Energy Costs, Extend Life Cycle, and Increase Operational Efficiency“.

This invaluable resource will help you better understand:

  1. The impact of your HVAC usage on your utility costs
  2. How maintaining and replacing HVAC units can get expensive
  3. Ways your facility staff could spend their time elsewhere
  4. That functioning HVAC units make people happy

We will also explore how to reduce energy costs and extend the life of your HVAC units by adopting more effective behaviors and the use of control systems.

Download your FREE copy today!

Utility bills, HVAC maintenance, and HVAC replacement are significant costs for most churches. HVAC usage can be attributed to 50-75% of your utility bills and HVAC maintenance and replace are your second or third largest capital expenditure not to mention the cost of staff to constantly change settings for events. If you are looking for a means by which to increase operational efficiency and control costs, then this resource is a MUST read.

Lowering the Drawbridge

In Medieval society, a drawbridge was used by the people of a castle, facility or walled city to prevent outsiders from getting in. The design purpose of the drawbridge was primarily for military defense, so enemies could not even get to the gates. It basically told passer-bys – STAY OUT – . It allowed people to stay huddled in their fortresses and keep the rest of the world out. They would build a moat or place the castle on a ridge surrounded by a precipice so that it could be completely secured and impenetrable…until you lowered the drawbridge or some other means of transversing the divide could be conceived and constructed.

When the drawbridge was lowered, the edifice and its occupants were unprotected. They were vulnerable to attack as well as allowing access to those in the villages, region, community, etc. But if things ever got tenuous or uncomfortable and  “messy”, the occupants could quickly raise the drawbridge and close off access once again.

In modern society, we do not see many drawbridges at peoples homes, businesses, commercial complexes or churches. However, metaphorically, we still  have  erected them in many aspects of our lives. We have contrived theoretical drawbridges and moats around many components of our existence. We try to keep ourselves “safe” from outside influences and by doing so, shut out the harmful as well as good that could impact our lives.

Figure out how, in your context and community, to lower the drawbridge and invite the community onto your campus.

In relationship to our churches, many of us have done the exact same thing. We have built environments that feel cold and isolationist to the community or worse…blatantly tell people to STAY OUT.  “Church Parking Only”. “Members Only”. “No Trespassing”.

In other instances we have designed out campuses in such a way that all you can see is the front door and no sign of people doing life together. Or we develop exterior environments that are tucked away from plain sight of the watching community…trying to get a glimpse of what is behind the scary walls of the ominous church steeple and four white columns.

These are all kin to digging a moat and raising the proverbial drawbridge. Uninviting. Closed. Isolationist.

What might be a better approach, would be to figure out how, in your context and community, to lower the drawbridge and invite the community onto your campus. What things could you do physically, visually, pragmatically, relationally, outreach, etc. that would lower the drawbridge and invite people to do life with you.

Let’s abolish the drawbridge!

Check out our book, Why Church Buildings Matter. Church facilities will not save a person from a life of sin and frustration. But the lack of attention to the church campus can indeed be the road block to reaching those people that need to hear the gospel message the most. Don’t minimize their impact. This book will reveal how to maximize your church facility to share the greatest story ever told, the gospel.

King Solomon and the Building Official

As part of my regular Bible reading,  I read 1 Kings 6. Take a minute and at least read versus 2-6…I will wait.

The entire chapter is fascinating to me as a person involved with worship, ministry, and facility development…but as I started reading those selected versus, I could not escape my mind wandering into the realm of the absurd. I started thinking what it would have been like for Solomon if he would have had to get a building permit for the Temple based on many of the requirements in modern day building code. I could not help myself (I am weird that way).  The more I thought about it, the more I realized how overwhelming these kind of issues can be to church leaders who just need more space and yet seem to have to deal with a flood of requirements that impact their design, function…and particularly their budget.

So what might it have been like for Solomon?

The following are some of the things a code official might have confronted the King with had our current codes been enforceable.

Enjoy…and Merry Christmas! 


Dear King Solomon:

It has come to the building department’s attention that you are constructing a new temple for assembly occupancy and public meetings. While we support the development of such structures, we need to bring several critical issues to your attention that require immediate correction and adjust.

Please read the following and then contact our office with any questions or clarifications and to provide us with the required documentation. Your prompt compliance with these requirements is appreciated:

  1. After searching our files and the scroll room, we are not able to locate an application for a building permit. As a government official, I am sure you understand the need to adhere to all required rules, regulations and ordinances. We require a detailed set of plans for our review and approval (please do not submit on stone tablets as we do not have the storage for such).
  2. Based on information obtained by our team, it appears that you intend do build the assembly building 90 feet x 30 feet. This would equate to 2,700 square feet. Using our occupancy formula of 7 square feet per person, this space could accommodate 385 people ( 2700/7). The current building code requires all assembly buildings with an occupancy of 300 or more to have an approved automatic fire sprinkler/suppression system. Please ensure that this is reflected on your submitted plans.
  3. We understand that you intend to construct the side walls to a height of 45 feet. We have 2 serious concerns about this. First, please get with the zoning office to ensure that you are in compliance with the height restrictions for that zoning district. Secondly, your project is in a seismic zone that requires special attention given to the structural components of all buildings with special consideration given to buildings with such height. Please ensure that your submitted plans address all of these requirements.
  4. It is our understanding that you intend to build this structure with 3 floors. This is of great concern and need to draw your attention to our accessibility ordinance. You will need to provide for the vertical accessibility by means of an elevator to reach all 3 floors. In addition, you will need two (2) other means of fire rated egress from each floor to a fire rated exit to the exterior of the building. In addition, please review the ordinance for the required Area of Refuge and the required 2-way communication system. NOTE: The use of ram-horns are not acceptable means of communication.
  5. Our new building code no longer allows beams used to support an upper floor to merely rest on the structural wall below.  The new code requires the following:
  • Structural footings and pads under all structural members
  • Columns or other structural accommodation to support upper beams
  • All beams must be mechanically fastened to the columns below using the approved seismic fasteners, hangers and straps
  1. Based on the occupancy calculation above, and your chariot parking requirement of 1 space per 4 seats, you will need to provide 97 parking spaces (385/4) which must include the appropriate ratio of handicap enabled spaces. As an aside, while the 4:1 ratio is code minimum, we have found that other such assembly facilities require a ratio closer to 2:1.

We believe there will be more items to address once we receive and review your signed and sealed building plans. However, these are critical items that must be addressed before you submit.

Thanks you for your understanding and prompt attention to these matters.

As always, please remember that we are the government and are here to “help.”

Mr.  Building Official

COMING EARLY 2018…the only online community focused on Church Facility Management. If you want to get on the early bird list, click HERE.  There is no obligation…just letting us know you have interest.

Your facility, staff and congregation will thank you!

What If The Story Is Never Told?

If you have read my blogs or “Why Church Buildings Matter”, you know I am a fan and proponent of “story”. I believe that story is a critical part to our lives and particularly the physical manifestation of our church’s vision, mission and culture via our facilities.

But…what happens if the story is never completed or told? What if everything always stayed in a perpetual state of “draft”? Matthews 5:15 tells us,

“No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”

Stories were meant to be told, shared, enjoyed, and fulfilled.  Think about these questions:

  1. Is the script enough? Will the story be told if all we do is write a script?
  2. Is the set design enough? Will the story be conveyed if we only envision, plan and select the color pallets for the stage set?
  3. Is the storyboard enough? Who actually sees the storyboard? Usually it is just a handful of people.
  4. How many tickets can you sell to a concert of an incomplete symphonic work?

I am going somewhere with this, so hang in there and appease me for a minute.

Stories were meant to be told, shared, enjoyed, and fulfilled.

I did a Google search for statistics about the number of manuscripts that never make it to published book status and how many screenplays end up in the black-hole of the “could have been” file.  The numbers are staggering…here are some of the stats I unearthed:

·         On average, there are 50 spec screenplays sold every year out of 250,000 spec screenplays circulating around Hollywood and various other film making venues.  That translates into 5000 to 1 odds.

·         Odds of fatally slipping in your bath or shower are 2,232 to 1. So you have a better chance of dying due to a shower fall than getting a screenplay published.

·         Literary Agencies typically reject 99.5 of everything they see. Out of close to 500 queries a month (electronic and surface mail) they may receive, they invite perhaps 50 proposals for review. Out of that fifty, perhaps one or sometimes two is ready to be delivered to publishers. So your odds of getting your literary baby to a publisher is 500 to 1…or a .2% chance of getting published

These odd are not great and yet authors, scriptwriters and the like, continue to produce manuscripts, drafts, and screenplays year after year.  Why?  Because there is this hope that eventually they will be noticed or that their proverbial ship will come in and their life will be altered forever. Hope upon hope. Envisioning a better, more spectacular future.

So how does this relate to the story of our church facilities?

I have been serving churches for 31 years…built my first church project in 1986 (before many of you were born) for Bethelview United Methodist Church outside Boone, NC. I have been a part of some incredibly exciting development projects and ministry initiatives. I have been privy to some remarkable stories. The concern I have is when I see a church or other ministry invests tens, and even hundreds of thousands of ministry dollars…entrusted to them by God…to only develop the manuscript or screenplay. They spend countless hours and monies, contributed by people giving sacrificially, to develop pretty pictures, concept drawings, and even complete architectural plans that are just the manuscript of the story. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the creative process and the vision sessions I have been a part of and led. But is that enough? Is the pretty storyboard and fly-through videos of our planned spaces enough? Have we been prudent and diligent in our stewardship initiatives if that is as far as we get?

I say “Not just NO, but….” (you can fill in the rest).

If the story was worth the effort to commit the time and dollars to develop the manuscript…and it is financially feasible (which means your manuscript needs a section on financial responsibility)…and provides the right, intentional tools to fulfill the vision and mission, then the story needs to be told. It needs to come to fruition. It needs to be built…or leased…or purchased…or renovated…or converted.

Don’t allow your manuscripts and pretty pictures to windup in a closet at the church or the pastor’s trunk. We do not have the luxury to gamble with odds like the examples above, with Kingdom assets. We cannot spend dollars, given sacrificially, knowing that the likelihood of reaching the finish line has a success ratio of 500:1. That is a high-stakes venture and not very responsible as a leader. If your team has been properly lead thought a well-crafted process, and has fully vetted your ministry needs, culture, financial capabilities, congregational buy-in, team and other market conditions, then complete the work. Tell your story.

There is a world waiting to read it.

Check out our book, Why Church Buildings Matter. Church facilities will not save a person from a life of sin and frustration. But the lack of attention to the church campus can indeed be the road block to reaching those people that need to hear the gospel message the most. Don’t minimize their impact. This book will reveal how to maximize your church facility to share the greatest story ever told, the gospel.

Do You Really Know How To…

…clean a church facility?

…sanitize your children’s spaces?

…differentiate the difference between Motel 6 “clean” and Ritz Carlton “clean?”

…determine the amount of staff needed to clean and maintain your church facility?

…keep your facility and its occupants safe?

…spot the first signs of trouble?

…establish a capital reserve plan?

If you cannot affirmatively answer any of the above, then it may be time for us to talk.

To learn more about the Facility Management and Security Training services provided by Cool Solutions Group, check them out HERE.

Your facility, staff and congregation will thank you!