Blog

Say What?

How transparent are you when you report data to your church? Are you giving a realistic and honest interpretation of reality? You might say “Well of course, facts are facts.” Sometimes to be transparent you really need to show how you are calculating your figures, what data sets you are using, and the relationship of the facts. If not, you might end up causing more people to be struck and killed by lightning every time you eat a hamburger. Check out the graph below and see if these two independent facts have any rationale correlation;

Per capita consumption of beef (US)
correlates with
Deaths caused by lightning

I just reported to you “facts”. The work Tyler Vigen does on his site shows all sorts of correlations of facts…facts that while true, are not really connected in a meaningful way. This form of fallacy is known as “Post hoc, ergo propter hoc” (Latin for “after this, therefore, because of this”). The answer to the fallacy is more common phrase “correlation does not imply causation”.

I return to the original question: How transparent are you when you provide reports to your church? It is natural to want to justify or normalize data when we report it. If you have kids, tell me if this sounds familiar:

“Yes, I got a ‘D’ on the assignment, but no one else in the class got an ‘A’ either.”

While both statements are true, there is a lack of transparency. The fact that no one got an “A” did not cause my kiddo to earn a “D”. Here is another example:

“We have had 50 guests this month, we are doing well!” While you may be, that data does not necessarily support that. How could you be transparent? Report the number of “non-guests” monthly, total attendance for both, and compare month-to-month or from the same period the previous year. If your “non-guest” number does not change, that means you may not be very “sticky” (in the good way).

How does this pertain to your facility? Transparency in your data is required if you want to develop the four essential master plans that every church needs.

Ministry Master Plan

You must identify the “who, why, and how” of your ministry master plan. While the church down the road is growing with all its AVL equipment, shorts and t-shirt vibe, you may meet the needs of the strict liturgical folks in the community.  WHO are you?

Financial Master Plan

How do you “fund” your Ministry Master Plan? When considering your financial master plan, you may need to “right-size” what you do to accurately reflect what you are being a steward of. In the parable of the talents, this is important:

15 To one he gave five talents; to another, two; and to another, one—to each according to his own ability…” (Matthew 25:15. HCSB)

A thriving church is not exclusively based on a budget; a thriving church takes what God blesses them with and grows like He intends. Be transparent about your finances; make sure your vision matches what He has planned.

Facility Master Plan

Your facility master plan – transparency in what you need, and what is possible. Sometimes you may need to accept that physical restraints keep you from doing some things.

Sustaining Master Plan

Finally, transparency with your sustaining master plan. Whatever God has entrusted to you, He expects you to take care of it. Remember the third servant in the parable of the talents? Willfully neglecting what you have been entrusted with and expecting it to just work out…not a good thing.

Are you being transparent?

Do you have the necessary four plans?

Are you ready for His blessing?


9 Diseases of the Church Facility

The below are 9 “diseases” that many church facilities suffer from. Gary Nicholson, church architect, developed this list and thought you would enjoy playing doctor to diagnose if your facilities suffer from any of these ailments.

Enjoy (and thanks Gary, good stuff)!

Diseases of the Church Facility

Just as our bodies contract diseases that can lead to problems and cause pain and discomfort, many diseases can infect church facilities so that the church can experience functional problems and great discomfort. Rarely are these merely cosmetic, but are often outward signs of much more deep seeded problems. Examples include:

  1. Growing Pains– Consistently filling of a space or spaces in the church to beyond eighty percent, often a positive sign of growing numbers in a church. If not addressed, can become a limitation and lead to stunted growth. The remedy is not always to build new space, but to examine the possibilities of a.) Redistributing the people into underutilized areas, b.) Utilizing the space in an additional session at a different hour or time slot, or c.) Considering adding space that allows for future growth.
  2. Bumpus Maximus– When too many people are in your church foyer or lobby. This occurs primarily between services and Bible study sessions. Made worse when the preacher doesn’t stop preaching on time and people are waiting in the foyer to get into the next service when the previous service is not yet over, so that people are exiting the worship center at the same time others are trying to enter (Can be made even worse when the entire congregation ate nothing but beans the night before at the annual world hunger banquet).
  3. Circulatory Disease– When hallways and corridors are clogged or jammed full of people so that movement becomes difficult. Worst in cases where multiple services are occurring so that there is traffic both coming and going in the halls at the same time. Easily rectified by a good church squabble to thin the flock and reduce the numbers, leaving only the few who will not leave regardless of the dysfunction in the fellowship.
  4. Architectural Senility– A rather sad state whereby antiquated facilities relate to the past much more than the present. Can take on many forms. One often cited example is extremely small rooms designed for adult Bible study groups of 6-8 people instead of today’s larger groups, or built for activities that never materialize, like a recreation facility that no one uses. Another example is a very small platform with room for piano and organ and no other instruments because that was the way church was done in the 1950’s.
  5. Flashback Syndrome– The visual state of a room that induces instant flashbacks in a person who enters, usually to the 1970’s or some other era, by the nature of the color scheme and patterns, such as shag carpet with harvest gold, or avocado green color schemes. Symptoms may also include floral wall paper, or garish plaids and mauve color schemes from the eighties, etc.  Communicates that the members are out of touch with the present, or simply do not think church is important enough to bother updating the environment.
  6. Architectural Vertigo– When a church facility has been designed with no sense of balance such as between the spaces allotted for areas such as building a huge worship center without regard for the space to balance it with children’s program space, or building without adequate parking. The result is often the communication of an unintended message such as: Bible study is not important, or even that we don’t care about kids.
  7. Scatter brain” Syndrome (scatterus incognito)– A common ailment where the various age groups and programs are not arranged in any logical order and finding the appropriate room becomes extremely difficult for new or infrequent attendees.
  8. Religious Edifice Confusionitis– When a congregation builds using architectural styles or trappings from a different religion while declaring it to be “the way a church ought to look.” Greek and Roman temple forms used in nineteenth and twentieth century church buildings are often confused as “Christian”, when actually they were created as tributes to ancient gods like Aphrodite and Zeus. Makes people wonder if you know why the church even exists.
  9. Pave-it-all Landscapeosis– A disease often seen in churches that have taken the desire for a low-maintenance landscape plan to the ultimate level. Everything (except the cemetery) is paved. Asphalt has replaced the grass all the way up the building with no room for landscaping because, well, that’s the point: They don’t want to have to maintain a landscape. It has an unattractive appearance, but at least it they don’t have to do anything to take care of it.

Infected with one or more? The cure can be a lot of hard work, but so worth the effort to be free of such maladies and able to function as a church should. I recommend diagnosis by an expert in church facility diseases. Give us a call! Your facility, staff and congregation will thank you!


Don’t Miss Out!

Did you by chance miss our HUGE announcement last week?  Say it isn’t so!

Last week we released  Church Facility Management Solutions…the ONLY online membership community designed and intended to provided best-in-class facility management information for EVERY church, regardless of size, shape, denomination, city, state, staffing structure…ANY one!

As a reminder, your CFMS membership (an incredible value at only $20/mo.) provides you with:

  1. Weekly Information sent directly to you to help you be proactive and intentional with the care of your facility
  2. Online Community so that you can get input and feedback from hundreds of other church and facility leaders
  3. Monthly Webinars by industry professionals to provide relevant information and resources for your church facility management
  4. Vetted Vendors will put a list of qualified vendors at your fingertips with the assurance that they have been pre-qualified by our team…and they do not pay to be on this list
  5. Free Resources will be developed and made available to members including worksheet, forms, policy docs, job descriptions, etc. This alone will be worth the cost of membership
  6. Availability to Consulting and Training Services

If you are serious about the stewarding of the ministry facilities God has entrusted to you, sign up TODAY!

Don’t just take our word for it…here is what Dr. Thom Rainer has to say:

Regardless of your church size, you need to be thinking about the best use and management of your facilities. There is no better place than this community. It offers the best of church facility expertise along with peer learning. You should not be without this resource!

Thom S. Rainer, President and CEO

LifeWay Christian Resources

Church Answers


It’s Not a Project…It’s a Process

For the past several weeks, our pastor has been preaching a series on “How We Change the Way We Change.” It has been a great series and I have been challenged by each of the sermons. One in particular I have listened to several times is entitled, “It’s Not a Project, It’s a Process.” The basis of the teaching is that our spiritual walk is not a project…not a one and done…not a check box on a list.  It is a process and a continuous journey that requires attention, discipline, effort and dedication.

One of the analogies Pastor used caused me to think about our ministry facilities and development initiatives…a wedding/marriage. Don’t write me off  yet…keep reading.

Mother’s and daughters love to plan weddings. They will engross themselves for months and months of planning, meeting with a whole host of professionals. They will meet with wedding planners, banquet hall establishments, gown designers, florists, caterers, musicians, a preacher, travel agent for the honeymoon, bakery for the cake, invitation printers, and so on. (As a side note, I have 2 daughters and as I write this, I think I have just became a fan of eloping). There are so many details that are required to pull off the perfect day, and for most dads, it will ultimately cost more than expected as there is always “scope creep”.

The weeks just prior to the wedding, the tension grows. Emotions are on edge and the final details appear to be in disarray. “I can’t wait until this is over”, is voiced by many people involved with the wedding. But everyone keeps pushing through as they know how much this day means to the bride and groom (or so we think).

Then the big day comes and all of the months of planning are culminated with no further planning required…it is here. Bells are ringing…rice is thrown…cake is cut (and shoved in each others mouth) and all is well in the universe.

So, is it over? Is the “project” done?  Can the bride and groom say, “Boom…that is done”? I think not. The PROCESS has just started. The wedding is only a milestone on the journey of a marriage. The wedding is not the marriage…it is only an element within the process. Now the real work begins. If a couple thinks that the wedding was the penultimate point of the marriage, they are doomed for failure. In order for a marriage to succeed, you have to work at it and on it every day.

So how does this apply to our ministry facilities? I am sure you already see the similarities.

A building or development initiative  can be exciting to plan and dream. “What if we could do X?”  “Think about how many people we will be able to reach.” “Wouldn’t this be a great color pallet?” This is the fun part. We love meeting with all the “professionals” involved in the project and getting their ideas and expertise.

“The process of operation, care and management is going to cost your church 70-80% of the total cost of owning this facility.”

But as the actually permitting, financing, final pricing and the actual construction draws nearer and nearer, reality starts to kick and and tensions and emotions start to escalate. People start second guessing decisions. The finance team stops sleeping at night (similar to the brides father!!!!). The pastor and executive team keep a happy and positive face on in public, but behind closed doors, tempers flare and emotions run rampant. But…we push on and get the development initiative kicked off with dirt, nails, bolts and carpet all taking their rightful place.

Then comes the dedication service….AHHHHH. “We have arrived”, is echoed by the the leadership team…as well as the contractor, architect and trade contractors as “project” fatigue has worn them out. Dignitaries are invited. Mailers sent out. E-blasts have blanketed cyberspace and every doorknob has been polished. We are moving in!!! What a great day of celebration…like the wedding.

BUT…in the same way a wedding does not a marriage make, the dedication service does not a ministry facility make. Dedication weekend is merely a milestone of the process of owning and using a ministry facility. The planning and construction part may have had some spiritual implication (such as the building team loosing their Christianity…LOL). The real opportunity to have an eternal impact starts at this point. The “tool” for ministry is just now being launched and commissioned to fulfill the plans, dreams and vision of the church to reach its community.

But too often, there is the long forgotten reality that over the life cycle of this facility, the process of operation, care and management is going to cost your church 70-80% of the total cost of owning this facility. The pre-planning and “wedding” is only going to cost you about 20% of the to cost of ownership…but the utilities, general maintenance, janitorial and capital reserves (i.e college planning, retirement savings…to draw it back to the wedding analogy) are the largest component of the facilities cost. Long after the “new car” smell is gone, you will still have to change light bulbs, clean carpets and restrooms.

So, when you are planning a facility development initiative, remember that it is not a “project”, but rather a long term process. Prepare for the long term and not just the immediate phase of the wedding.


Church Facility Management Solutions IS LIVE!

Cool Solutions Group is so excited to announce the release of CHURCH FACILITY MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS.  That’s right…we are LIVE!

If you are one of the 250+ early birds, then you have already received your notification, but if you have been waiting…the wait is over.

Don’t just take our word for it…here is what Dr. Thom Rainer has to say:

Regardless of your church size, you need to be thinking about the best use and management of your facilities. There is no better place than this community. It offers the best of church facility expertise along with peer learning. You should not be without this resource!

Thom S. Rainer, President and CEO

LifeWay Christian Resources

Church Answers

As a reminder, Church Facility Management Solutions is the ONLY online membership community designed and intended to provided best-in-class facility management information for EVERY church, regardless of size, shape, denomination, city, state, staffing structure…ANY one! You also do not have to be a “facility manager” to benefit greatly from the information provided.

As a reminder,  your CFMS membership provides you:

  1. Weekly Information sent directly to you to help you be proactive and intentional with the care of your facility.
  2. Online Community so that you can get input and feedback from hundreds of other church and facility leaders.
  3. Monthly Webinars by industry professionals to provide relevant information and resources for your church facility management.
  4. Vetted Vendors will put a list of qualified vendors at your fingertips with the assurance that they have been pre-qualified by our team…and they do not pay to be on this list.
  5. Free Resources will be developed and made available to members including worksheet, forms, policy docs, job descriptions, etc. This alone will be worth the cost of membership.
  6. Availability to Consulting and Training Services.

If you are serious about the stewarding of the ministry facilities God has entrusted to you, sign up TODAY!


Does the 80% Rule Still Apply?

I have been working with churches since the mid 1980’s (I know…I am old!!!). During that era, most of the churches I served bought pews for their worship space. That was the norm. The rule of thumb of 80% occupancy meant being full was very applicable. In a pew configuration, the code considers a “seat” to be every 18″ in width. LOL…not with most deacons I know! A better measurement would be 21″-22″. So we have some space that the fire marshal says are seats that really aren’t. But the other major factor with pews is the “spread out” space…you know, the place to lay my Bible, or a ladies purse or coat. Most people using pews take up far more than their fair share of butt space, so the 80% rule was serious business and a key indicator for most churches.

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, more and more churches moved to flexible seating…usually in the form of a stackable chair. These proved to be a great way to utilize a facility by having the flexibility to add or remove seating or to totally take it down for other functions. Most of these seats were in the 20″-22″ range and even could interlock to give the illusion of a pew. Two primary benefits for a church was the sheer cost (typically lower than a pew) and the designated seat per butt. It allowed for a quantifiable 1:1 ratio of people to chairs. This should have made the 80% rule obsolete, but there was still the mindset that we needed the “spread out” space and so many people still consumed 2+ chairs to accommodate their personal property and desire for personal space. In addition, there was still a paradigm of allowing people to enter the worship space and sit where ever they liked. This meant that you would have spotty areas of seating with 1 chair here or two there or the entire front row empty. These two realities made the 80% rule still viable and necessary for worship space planning.

However…I think we are seeing a real trend that is impacting change of the 80% rule. There are two primary contributors to this shift:

  1. Theater Style Seats– This has been a growing trend over the past 7-10 years and I believe it will only continue. Theater seats allow you to have the 1:1 people to seat ratio, but most have an integral arm rest between seats so it is easier to obtain your personal space. In addition, the fold-down seat requires enough weight and force for it to fold that it is not as convenient for someone to try and use it to lay their Bible…as it will just fall to the ground, unless you have one of those large white leather coffee table Bibles.

There are several other benefits that theater seats offer such as:

  • Allowing more seats in a similar space as chairs.in some cases 10-15% more seats. That give you more bang for your buck.
  • Parking requirements will be “right-sized” compared to the calculations required for flexible seating.
  • Same applies to your total restroom counts.
  • With the total number of occupants identified by the number of seats and not a square footage calculation, your HVAC system can also re right-sized…which can reduce costs both initially as well as related to life cycle.
  1. Crowd Control– Do you just let people sit wherever they like?  Does your worship space fill up from the back to the front and from the aisles to the middle? I have seen a very helpful trend being used by growing churches…what I will call “crowd control” or seat assigning or for those of you looking for a politically correct term –  concierge seating. There are several attributes to this methodology that I see can help with your worship seating:
  • Segment off the worship space from front to back. I have seen many churches using pipe-and-drape or just ropes to barricade the back section of the worship space until the front fills up and then then will open up the back section in increments to keep the room “full”  from front to back.  This helps to ensure that the rooms fills before more seats are made available and also provides less distraction when late-comers arrive as they can sit in the available seats in the rear.
  • Ushers direct traffic in the worship space. While this may sound controlling, what if your ushers helped people fill in every row from front to back and from aisle to aisle? Instead of letting people camp out on the end cap of a row, ask them to move all the way to the opposite end and then back-fill the row until it is 100% full. No saving seats. No spaces empty. While this may not feel natural, if you are space deprived…or feel like you are and yet still have more seats than people, this will help you maximize the occupancy.

It is my opinion that if you utilize the above two methods to manage your worship seating, you can exceed to the 80% rule to 85-90%…maybe more. You may ask why this is important me (and to you). Here is why…it goes back to stewardship…financial and facility stewardship.  If we can maximize the space God has already entrusted to us before we venture into a another building initiative, we are being better stewards of our current spaces as well as the money entrusted to us. I like the sound of that.


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.

 

Crowdsourcing for Church Facility Management

  • Can you image having hundreds or thousands of church facility professionals assisting you and your church be the best steward of your facility?
  • Can you image having access to the best minds in the church facility management and maintenance world just a key stroke away?
  • Can you image being provided with free resources on a weekly basis that will provide your church the “best-in-class” data and information to be intentional, efficient and effective with the managing of your facility?

We believe that the collective minds, experience, knowledge and expertise of church facility and leaders should be unharnessed across the nation to ALL churches regardless of size, age, demographic, denomination, music preference or growth patterns.

Have you seen the new show on TV called “Wisdom of the Crowd?” It is a new cop drama about a man that builds a crowdsourcing computer to help find his daughter’s killer. The premise is that we are smarter together than on our own. While entertaining (and maybe not completely realistic…nor am I endorsing the show or any of its cast), it has made me think about the notion of crowdsourcing and my favorite topic…Church Facility Stewardship (Management).

Let me explain.

Crowdsourcing has been defined as: The process of getting work [or funding], usually online, from a crowd of people. The word is a combination of the words ‘crowd’ and ‘outsourcing’. The idea is to take work and outsource it to a crowd of workers.

A famous example would be Wikipedia. Instead of Wikipedia creating an encyclopedia on their own, hiring writers and editors, they gave a “crowd” the ability to create the information on their own. The result? The most comprehensive encyclopedia this world has ever seen.

While there has been some criticism about the quality that is derived from crowdsourcing, the principle of crowdsourcing is that more heads are better than one. By canvassing a large crowd of people for ideas, skills, or participation, the quality of content and idea generation will be superior.

There you have it. Getting ideas from multiple people on a topic or issue, can actually make the quality of the content…the information that is made available…by what might appear to be random folks…BETTER.

That concept is an underlying reason for the development of a new service calledChurch Facility Management Solutions.” We believe that the collective minds, experience, knowledge and expertise of church facility and leaders should be unharnessed across the nation to ALL churches regardless of size, age, demographic, denomination, music preference or growth patterns.

  • Do you realize how many churches have a facility?
    • ANSWER: Most of the 350,000 (+/-) churches in America.
  • Do you know how many have a full time skilled facility manager?
    • ANSWER: A small fraction.
  • Do you know how many churches have proactive means/methods for the maintenance, management and long term capital reserve planning?
    • ANSWER: A VERY scary…really scary…small number!!!!

We have developed Church Facility Management Solutions to be your partner in your Facility Management and Facility Stewardship initiatives.  This membership community will provide:

  1. Weekly Information sent directly to you to help you be proactive and intentional with the care of your facility
  2. Online Community so that you can get input and feedback from hundreds of other church and facility leaders
  3. Monthly Webinars by industry professionals to provide relevant information and resources for your church facility management
  4. Vetted Vendors will put a list of qualified vendors at your fingertips with the assurance that they have been pre-qualified by our team…and they do not pay to be on this list
  5. Free Resources will be developed and made available to members including worksheet, forms, policy docs, job descriptions, etc. This alone will be worth the cost of membership
  6. Availability to Consulting and Training Services

If you want to be a part of this movement and join those that take the stewardship of the facilities God has entrusted to you and your church seriously, then sign up NOW to get started.


 

The Little Black Dot

Guest Blog by Lisa Cool

When I was first married…almost 34 years ago, my Sunday School teacher did an illustration for us that I have never forgotten. He took a blank piece of paper and then with his pen, placed a dot in the middle of the paper. We all went around the table describing what we saw. The common reply was, ” I see a black dot in the middle of a white paper.”

Turns out , there was a lot of value for me in this little exercise. The white paper represented people in our lives, and the dot represented the flaws we would experience…especially with our spouses when the honeymoon period was over. Just as our class focused on the dot, we tend to do that with our loved ones.

Those annoying dots…the habits/short comings would blind us to the beautiful white paper with all the good things we love about that person. Many times when I am frustrated with my kids, or Tim, I realize I am focusing on a little dot and overlooking the white paper. I have used this illustration many times with friends when they are “venting” about their jobs, boss, spouse, kids, etc. It’s amazing what happens to our moods and perceptions when we minimize those glaring dots and look at the entire piece of paper. I also use this exercise with life. How often when we feel let down or have challenges do we focus on that circumstance and overlook the big picture.

I remember a time when Tim and I were devastated by a life situation and the stress was taking its toll. While sitting on our front porch, we started focusing on all the good in our lives. Somehow, that screaming dot softened with the reality of a faithful and good God who had seen us through hard roads before.  The serenity prayer comes to mind as some of those dots can be very difficult to live with; “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Often times, we may not be able to minimize or erase those dots, but we can change our perspective and attitude and most importantly, pray.  Maybe those dots are there to teach us life lessons such as patience, self control, trust or unconditional love.

While you deal with all the dots in your life, I hope you don’t lose sight of the overall page.


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?

Thanks


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!