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Is Your Technology Actually Helping You Minister Better?

By: Neil Miller of KiSSFLOW

On the Monday Morning Church podcast, I speak to Executive Pastors and Church Administrators about the monumental changes in technology over the last 15 years.

It is amazing to hear how churches are using tools that few could have dreamed of earlier. Technology, like church management software, has allowed churches to scale their impact like never before.

But the same church leaders are also worried that technology is eating too much time from their staff.

Think about your own setting. How many hours a day do ministers at your church spend in front of a screen? How much of that time do they spend manually updating information, editing volunteer profiles, and transferring data from spreadsheets? How long does it take them to respond to all the emails piling up in their inbox?

When it comes to facilities, how much time is spent updating logs, checking HVAC schedules, and sorting through work orders?

Technology has given us amazing benefits, but it also demands a lot of our attention.

What if there was a way to retain all the benefits of technology, while at the same time freeing up ministers to actually have more time to spend with people?

“There’s a sweeping trend that has taken the business world by storm, and churches are smart to open their sails to it.”

Automation.

While it may sound like an imposing word that your church isn’t ready for, it’s likely exactly what you need.

With automation, a church can take a deep look at the workflows of their regular processes – both those that involve the whole congregation (e.g. communication approval, facility requests, and volunteer registration) and those focused on how the facilities run (e.g. work orders, purchase requests, and event scheduling).

By automating a workflow, you not only set up a standard way to handle the process every time, you can also eliminate manual tasks such as sending notifications, updating calendars, and transferring data.

In addition to giving pastors and ministers more time back in their schedules, automation can also:

  • Standardize your core processes to ensure consistency across campuses
  • Reduce the number of errors that happen because of manual transfers
  • Give an audit trail of every request
  • Track the current status of any item instantly

Take a standard Facility Usage Request. A manual workflow can have lots of holes in it. There could be missing critical information, the request could miss an important approval, and it could take hours to figure out the last person who acted on the request.

When you use automation tools like eSPACE and KiSSFLOW, you can set up a standard process to run with consistency and efficiency. You can even set up conditional workflow paths, requiring additional approvals for larger spaces or additional steps if the requester needs to pay for the usage.

Automation is a way to keep the massive scaling benefits of technology without having to dedicate so much time to it.

Companies around the world have already embraced automation and use it to improve their processes. Churches can do the same to reduce the administrative burden on pastors and free them up to connect with people more.

For a full overview of automation and some tips on your first steps, download the free Beginner’s Guide to Church Automation. You’ll learn how other churches are using automation and why it’s more accessible than ever before.

Neil Miller is the host of the Monday Morning Church Podcast, presented by KiSSFLOW, the church automation solution. To learn more about KiSSFLOW and see how churches are using automation, visit http://church.kissflow.com.

What “Story” Does Your Church Facility Tell?: Story vs. Fairy Tale

Which do you prefer…a Story or a Fairy Tale?  What is the difference? Let’s look at these…then apply them to our church facilities.

The word story may be used as a synonym of “narrative”. It can also be used to refer to the sequence of events described in a narrative. More narrowly defined, it is the means whereby the narrator (or Story Teller) communicates directly to the reader.

Stories are an important aspect of culture. Many works of art and most works of literature tell stories; in fact, most of humanities involve stories. Owen Flanagan of Duke University, a leading consciousness researcher, writes that “Evidence strongly suggests that humans in all cultures come to cast their own identity in some sort of narrative form. We are inveterate storytellers”.  We use stories to pass on the past to the next generation or to give instruction.  It is also used to convey an idea, concept, precaution, and the like.  A story can be fiction or non-fiction and can become embellished over time…but most stories that convey a non-fiction narrative are generally filled with truth.

fairy tale , on the other hand, is a type of short story that typically features folklore and fantasy.  Most of the time we refer to them as a type of children’s literature.  The term is also used to describe something blessed with unusual happiness, as in “fairy tale ending”  or “fairy tale romance” (though not all fairy tales end happily). In the vernacular, a “fairy tale” or “fairy story” can also mean any far fetched story or tall tale; it’s used especially of any story that not only isn’t true, but couldn’t possibly be true.

I like stories and I like fairy tales. I like to understand perspective, the past, the present paradigms and all the things you can learn from a story.  I also like getting lost in a good fairy tale.  I love fairy tales like The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe.  It is great to become transformed into these make-believe worlds with their unique languages, places, characters and assumptions.

However, what I do not like is when I think I am observing or participating in a story to learn that it is actually only a fairy tale. I feel betrayed, tricked or misled. Have you ever read a story and were fully engulfed in a theme to only find out that it was not true or relevant or congruent? Bummer! I hate “bate and switch” experiences.

Consider the following word association chart:

So…when it comes to your church facility, is it telling a story or a fairy tale?  Is it congruent with who you are?  Your vision? Your mission? Your culture? Or will people see your facility…then upon experiencing your interactions, worship experiences, first impression, and culture realize that it was just a fairy tale?

Tell me what you think.  Are your facilities telling an intentional story or merely a fairy tale?

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.

Nathan Parr Joins Cool Solutions Group

For the past several months, we have had a significant increase in inquiries from churches that need help with addressing issues related to their facilities. Some are in need of new space, but the majority have one of the following needs:

  1. Better utilization of their space (flow/circulation, right-sizing, contextualization of space based on today’s ministry means and methods, etc).
  2. Understanding the Life Cycle of their facility (and components) and their deferred maintenance.
  3. Desire to improve their Facility Management (Facility Stewardship) means, methods, systems and knowledge.

This is encouraging for us…not because it could generate more business for us…but because we believe that church leaders are coming to the realization that Facility Stewardship is a Biblical mandate and as such, we are seeing leaders take the care, management, utilization and INTENTIONALITY of the stewardship of the ministry facilities entrusted to them much more seriously.

To that end, we are expanding our SUSTAIN services to help lead, train and support church leaders in all of these areas.  In fact, we believe so strongly in this that we have added a new member to our team.  I would like to introduce you to Nathan Parr as our newest full time team member.  Here is what Nathan has to say about this transition:

I am excited. Excited to begin this new journey, excited to be a part of this new team, excited to partner with folks across the country in being intentional with their facilities…excited to be where God directs me.

For the previous 12 years, I served as the Operations Manager at First Baptist Church in Belton, Texas. First Baptist Belton is unique in that it is in a small town, but operates on a scale usually seen in much larger municipalities. In addition to normal church services, the church hosts a private school, operates a state licensed child-care facility, averages over 11,000 room uses a year, supports a Spanish and Chinese mission church, and maintains around 9 acres in downtown Belton. That is a sampling of how it serves the community; it is a seven day a week operation. In my time at FBC Belton, God grew me in ways I never imagined.

Prior to my tenure in Belton I held a few different positions. I served in the United States Marine Corps, I owned a construction company, I worked commercial construction in South Carolina, I worked in the construction shop for Kansas State University, worked commercial lawn care for three years, and even have some paid theatrical design work in my portfolio. It was in high school in Kansas that I met my wife, and we were married on campus at KSU in the old limestone chapel. While at FBC Belton, I completed my BS in Social Science, Master of Arts in Theological Studies, and an MBA.

Nathan is one of the brightest Church Facility Managers I have ever worked with…which is why he is a perfect fit for the Cool Solutions Group Team.  He could truly be seen as a “Pastor of Facilities” for nearly any church in America…and now he can come alongside churches across the country to share his passion for ministry, excellence in processes and expertise in all things Church Facility Management.

Here are some of the expanded services we will be making available:

Standards & Procedures

Great Facility Stewardship starts with “Best-In-Class” systems, standards and procedures. This also includes understanding “WHY” you do the things you do. Our services include:

  • Means and Methods Review
  • Facility Management Best Practice
  • Facility Staffing Reviews
  • Hiring Procedures and Qualifications
  • Budgeting and Reserve Planning
  • Preventive Maintenance Plan
  • Data Storage and Software Applications

Facility Training

Once you know WHY…make sure you know HOW. Our team of skilled Church Facility Management professions provide training in the following areas:

  • Security Planning – developing the best fit in your facility for:
    • Policies
    • Equipment
    • Personnel
  • Cleaning 101 – developing a base cleaning program that keeps your guests and staff safe in the most cost-effective manner
  • Cleaning 201 -Building upon your base to create a program that continually improves in effectiveness and efficiency
  • Team Building and integration of the Facility Staff in the mission of the church
  • Project Management
  • Procurement processes -finding the best solution for the long-term; developing vendor relationships
  • Role of the Facility Manager in Church activities – Integrating them early to ensure more time is spent on the mission, not logistics

Facility Assessments

Do you have a firm grip on the condition and life cycle expectations and expenditures related to your facility? Our team of facility professionals and engineers can provide detailed assessments of these aspects including:

  • “Fresh Eyes” Assessments
  • Deferred Maintenance Evaluation
  • Life Cycle Assessment
  • Energy/Operational Efficiency Including Facility Staffing Assessment
  • Spatial Planning

If you have a church facility…then you will benefit by what we offer.  Give us a call or email Nathan at nathan@coolsolutionsgroup.com

What “Story” Does Your Church Facility Tell? Delta vs. Former USAir

I fly a lot.

Living in Charlotte, NC, I used to predominately fly USAir (now American) as Charlotte is their primary hub.  Most any where I want to go is a direct flight.  They have a significant number of flights every day to most of the destinations that I fly to. Most of the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport is designed to cater to them and their clientele.

So, why do I almost exclusively fly Delta Airlines? Why would I subject myself to having to fly through another port (unless I am specifically flying to Atlanta, Memphis, Detroit, NYC or Minneapolis)?

Let me share some of the reasons why I fly Delta and then we will look at how this applies to the story our church facilities tell:

  1. About 80% of my travel is paid for by the clients I serve as part of reimbursable expenses.  In light of that, I am constantly looking for the best value I can for our clients…helping them be good stewards.  Seeing I generally have to subject myself to a “two-legger” (meaning a connection flight to get to the destination), the flights are less expensive than the equivalent direct flight with USAir/American. Seeing that stewardship is important to me, it influences my buying and partnering decisions.
  2. With the exception of their small CRJ 100/200 planes, every flight has WiFi.  If you know me, you know I love my email and connectivity…so I do not mind sitting on a second flight if I can be productive.  Our family recently took a vacation that required a 3+ hour flight each direction.  We flew USAir/American as I had significant miles accumulated and we used them for the trip. We flew a standard 757 going and a transatlantic 757 on the return. NEITHER plan had internet service.  GRRRR!!!  While I was glad not to be “working”, I still wanted internet access for other things like social media, videos, cloud accounts, etc. My expectations were grossly unmet and I was frustrated and very disappointed.
  3. For the most part, the Delta fleet is newer and better maintained…or at least they appear to be for the areas of the planes I see (i.e. the cabins, seats, flooring, etc.). The flights I mentioned above were older planes…old decor…straight out of the 1970’s: frayed seat upholstery, worn our carpet, 0ld seat controls, retrofitted video monitors, and in-flight entertainment systems that did not work or were not activated. The condition of the planes I submit my physical life and safety are important to me. If they are not taking care of the areas where paying customers sit for hours, what else are they not maintaining?  HMMMMM.
  4. On the flights our family recently took,  we received a single beverage in coach…and no snack…on a 3+ hour flight.  REALLY!!! The stinginess or generosity experienced influenced me in a significant way.
  5. Flying can be stressful…especially for the infrequent flyer…like my wife and kids…and the majority of the people on a vacation destination flight.  So the attitudes, outgoing personalities, approachability, and over all demeanor of the crew, gate agents, and flight attendants is critical.  Again, poor marks for our recent experience…and Lisa and I were sitting in first class on the way home. Still, it was below average customer service compared to what I expected and what I am used to experiencing. It was clear that the first class flight attendant was not invested in her role on this flight. Personal interactions are a direct reflection on the culture, DNA, and attitudes of an organization, and this spoke volumes to me.

I could share more about the airline industry pros and cons, but that is not really my point.  The point is, that the experiences people have as a guest at your church (or any organization) will impact them and can play a significant role in determining if they return (become a patron, enthusiastic customer, and ultimately a raving fan) as they find their way on their spiritual journey.

We have talked about how First Impressions are so critical…and it tells a story, whether we intent to or not. This is a real life example of how this is played out in an everyday occurrence.

Does your church offer a WOW experience and tell a story that is congruent with your mission, vision and ministry objectives? If not, you may be missing an incredible opportunity to meet the needs (especially spiritual) of those in your community.

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.

Church Facility Projects – You've Moved In…But You're Still Not Done

You’ve moved into the new facility and are enjoying the “new car smell” and excitement that comes with seeing the vision become reality.  As you celebrate this momentous occasion, there’s still work to be done to keep this new building running at peak performance.

Capital Reserves

Start setting aside money in a Capital Reserves Account.  Ideally, this is a separate bank account used only for facility maintenance and repair expenses.  At the very least, it can be a separate line item in the general ledger.  Don’t forget to include reserves for IT and AVL (audio, visual, lighting) equipment.  How much should you set aside?  For a new (or fairly new) construction, save $1.00-$3.00 per square foot each year.

Maintenance-Related Expenses

Add or update the maintenance-related expenses in your church’s annual budget.  Expect to spend roughly $2.00-$2.50 per square foot annually on general maintenance.  You’ll also need to budget for additional facilities staff to handle those general maintenance tasks.  Plan for one FTE (full-time equivalent) for every 25,000 – 35,000 square feet.

Utilities

Update the budget to account for the change in utility costs at your new facility.  A good place to start is $1.00-$1.50 per square foot each year.

Janitorial Services

Whether you handle this in-house or outsource janitorial work, you’ll need to budget approximately $1.75 – $2.50 per square foot each year.

Handling these behind-the-scenes tasks will help keep your new facility running smoothly and efficiently for years to come.

Intentional organizations plan today for tomorrow’s costs. That’s why it’s critical you establish a capital reserve account now. Download our FREE eBook to learn more.

What “STORY” Does Your Church Facility Tell? – The Basics

Over the past several years we have become acutely aware of the essence of “story”. We hear this term used in the church world and in business settings.  It has been used to prompt people to open up about their lives and life experiences…to tell their story. On a “corporate” level it is the interwoven thread used to identify the mission, vision, direction and passion of organizations. The reality is, we all have a story.  Some of these stories are sensational while others may seem mundane or routine and others grip our emotions and pull on our heartstrings while transforming us into the story.

What has really grasped me lately is that everyone and everything has a story to tell. People are “reading” those stories even when they are not aware. We do not have to write a screenplay or book to tell our story. When you walk into a room full of people, you will start to read certain aspects of people’s stories and they will start to read yours as well.  They might not see the entire story, but they will see some pretty obvious chapters in that story.  The way you enter the room will tell the chapter of your story related to your self-confidence, or possibly your physical attributes or limitations. The way you shake the hands of the other guests will convey yet another part of the story as will the clothes you are wearing…and you may not have even said a word. In addition, the room itself tells a story (more on that later).

The concept of “story-telling” has become an “Ah Ha” moment for me.  I have learned that some of the most interesting, complex, intuitive and compelling parts of my story are those observed and not heard. If I have to verbally communicate that a component of my story is generosity and kindness, then it is very likely that those attributes are not really part of my non-fiction story, but rather a fictional (Fairly Tale) trait that I want people to believe about me.  Conversely, congruent stories are generally seen and felt long before they are verbally communicated.  In fact, I believe that some parts of our story, those with the most intrinsic value, are never spoken. We did not need to hear Mother Theresa tell us she loved orphans. We do not need to hear a speech by Shaquille O’Neil to know that he is a large man who has done well for himself as a professional athlete. We do not need to have a mother, rocking her baby, to tell us that she loves that gift from God.  No, we can see it.  We can feel it.  There is something that communicates the story to us just by looking at the person or the situation.

“Story” is all around us…in virtually every aspect of our daily experiences, which means that our church and ministry facilities also tell a story. The questions for church leaders are:

What story is your facilities/campus telling?

Are we intentional about the story?

Is the story congruent with who we are, who we “think” we are, what we believe/value, and who we want to reach for Christ?

I believe there are 7 primary factors to story-telling that we need to be cognizant of in relation to our church facilities and a first-time guest’s experience:

  1. Story vs. Fairy Tale
  2. The New “Front Porch”  (click HERE for more on this)
  3. Design/Street-scape
  4. Parking Lot Experience
  5. Way-finding/Environment
  6. Interactions
  7. Condition

We will be exploring each of these areas in more detail and I believe that as we become more acutely aware of the impact of our ministries unique story, and how it impacts our guest and the people God had called us to read in our community, the greater the impact we will have on fulfilling that calling.

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.

Church Facility Projects – Before You Move In

The facility is almost ready and it’s easy to see what the final product will look like.  As you make plans to move in and use the new building, there are several items left to manage.

1. Request the “as-built” drawings from the builder.  These are different from the initial plans the architect provided as they show exactly where the construction crew placed ducts, plumbing, electrical wiring, and more (in other words, all the supporting elements hidden behind the drywall). You’ll want these drawings in the future when you need to track down where a water leak is coming from, what electrical wires to reroute for a remodel, etc.

2. Think through what service providers you’ll use for ongoing maintenance and repair work. Who will maintain the HVAC systems? Who will handle janitorial work? Who is your preferred plumber? Which vendor will you purchase your paper products from? Create this list and keep the contact information of each vendor in a central location.

3. Interview vendors and get new or updated preventative maintenance contracts (and other contracts for cleaning services, paper products, etc.).  Preventative maintenance helps you avoid a catastrophic breakdown of any key system.  What would happen if your air conditioning stopped working during a Texas summer and you can’t get it replaced for a week?  That’s not an ideal scenario for Sunday services. Preventative maintenance contracts could include maintenance for roofing, elevators, HVAC units, commercial kitchens, fire extinguishers, and more.

4. Once you’ve selected the vendors you want to use and have contracts with them, enter that information into the system you plan to use to manage ongoing maintenance (such as eSPACE’s Work Order Management application).  The General Contractor should provide you with a list of all equipment (an owner’s manual of sorts).  You’ll need to enter that list into your maintenance system as well.

5. Other factors to consider before move-in:

  • How are we going to key the building?
  • Who will have access to those keys?
  • What security plan do we have in-place?
  • What’s our facility use policy for the new facility?
  • Do we have certain rules?
  • Will we charge for certain types of facility usage? If so, what’s the rate and criteria for usage?  You’ll need to document this information and communicate it to the church staff.
  • Inventory – Consider taking and maintaining an inventory of certain supplies.  This list may include light bulbs, paper products, HVAC filters, cleaning supplies, and others.
  • Outsource vs. handle in-house – Will we outsource janitorial or other facilities maintenance work?

6. Re-review your operational budget for the new facility and start to make “payments” for these costs (to yourself) to start to get accustomed this new spending reality.

7. From a funding perspective:

  • Keep the vision of the project alive and celebrate it.  Keep it at the forefront in the hearts and minds of your congregation.  This helps them stay enthusiastic about the project and provides a gentle reminder to keep their financial pledge.
  • Take any milestone moment that’s connected to the vision and celebrate that moment with the church.  Share why the project is mission critical to achieving that vision.

Intentional organizations plan today for tomorrow’s costs. That’s why it’s critical you establish a capital reserve account now. Download our FREE eBook to learn more.

The Magic of Place

The concepts of “story” and “place” are not new concepts…but they seem to be coming more vernacular with churches dedicated to reaching their community and being intentional about communicating their unique story (which is a reflection of their vision and mission).  We are going to take some time looking at the implication, strategies and contextualization of place and story, and how they can be more than just a strategy, but a critical component to your churches DNA and culture. Let’s start with The Magic of Place.

The magic of Place has three faces: natural, constructed, and virtual.

Natural Place Magic is intrinsic to those wonders of the physical world that thrill and awe us by simply existing. It’s the stuff of National Geographic  specials that create magic through their natural grandeur. Our primary memories of these places will always be the magic of the natural wonders themselves.  Even so, skillful service magicians can subtly but measurably enhance our experience of Place Magic. A subtle balancing and blending act is the key to creating consistent Place Magic by showing off the main attraction at its best.

Constructed Place Magic comes in a greater variety than does Nature’s Place Magic. While few man-made places are palaces, castles, or world icons, even the most mundane can also be magical. There are hotels and grocery stores and retailers and automobile dealerships and hospitals and dental offices that stand above others and sparkle. People should feel attended to and comfortable in your constructed place.

Virtual Place Magic demonstrates that place is not always a physical location. Successful organizations must have a presence, a story, and a sense of experience in their virtual world, as well as the physical world. The look and feel of your online presence – your digital front door – must reflect the look, feel, and ambiance of your brick and mortar place.  Distinctive and eye-catching design is only beginning of creating a virtual place; you must also build trust and create a unique experience. From the first click, guests should be drawn in, made curious, and delighted by the virtual place you have created.

Utilizing a Natural Setting

Few organizations will have the benefit of a serene waterfront setting or a majestic mountain view. But everyone has a place that can be enhanced by the following rules:

  • Find your “natural” story – All locations have a story; what’s yours?
  • Educate yourself – Steep yourself and your team in the details of your place
  • Create an “elevator” story – What 30 second story can your team tell about your locale and its uniqueness?
  • Dabble in décor – Consider enhancing your interior with visual representations of the natural setting
  • Sensory congruence – The smells and sounds need to be in sync with the sights and feel

Creating Illusion, Amazement, and Delight

There is no better contemporary example of building magic into man-made places than the world of the theme park. And there’s no better example of this than Walt Disney, who created an entirely new approach to the concept of entertainment, a business obsessed with the customer point of view, and the precise management of the customer’s experience. With the opening of Disneyland in 1955, Disney developed an obsession for anticipating and controlling every detail that will support – or detract from – his vision. He called it “Imagineering,” and defined it as the blending of creative imagination and technical know-how. It has been best codified by Marty Sklar, the first chairman of Disney Imagineering, in a set of principles dubbed “Mickey’s Ten Commandments.”

  1. Know your audience– Before creating a setting, understand who will be visiting your place
  2. Wear your guest’s shoes– Evaluate your setting from the customer’s perspective by experiencing it as a customer.
  3. Organize the flow of people and ideas– Think of setting as a story and tell the story in a sequenced, organized way.
  4. Create a “wienie”– Borrowed from silent film lingo, a wienie is a visual magnet used to orient and attract customers.
  5. Communicate with visual literacy– Language is not always composed of words; use the common languages of color, shape, and form to communicate through setting.
  6. Avoid overload by creating turn-ons– Do not bombard customers with data; let them choose the information they want, when they want it.
  7. Tell one story at a time– Create one setting for each idea to avoid confusing customers by mixing multiple stories in a single setting.
  8. Avoid contradictions; maintain identity– Every detail and nuance of a setting should support and further the organizational identity and mission.
  9. For every ounce of treatment provide a ton of treat– Give your customers the highest value by building an interactive setting that gives them the opportunity to exercise all their senses.
  10. Keep it up– Never get complacent and always maintain your setting.

You are practicing Place Magic by creating or enhancing environments that delight, support, and enliven your guests. Magical places are venues with physical attributes that attract and please, subtly enhanced by human endeavor.

Remember that as a church leader, you do have “customers” – they are the guests who come to your place every weekend.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to create a magical place in your organization!

Adapted from Service Magic by Ron Zemke and Chip Bell and reposted by permission from Bob Adams (@robertvadams) with Auxano and Curator of the  Vision Room.

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.

Church Facility Projects – What To Do During Construction

Once you’ve finalized the construction plans, secured a loan, and kicked-off a successful capital campaign, it’s finally time to start construction.  While you’ve probably hired a construction company to handle the actual building work, this isn’t a time for your team to take a backseat.  You need someone to be the central point of contact for the general contractor, architect, builder, project manager, AVL team, and capital campaign consultant.  This might be your Executive Pastor, Facilities Manager, another individual from your church, or an external “owner’s rep”/Project Manager.

You’ll want to visit the construction site often to assess progress and take pictures during construction. Nathan Parr, Operations Manager for First Baptist Church in Belton, Texas recommends going out at least once a week to take pictures once the construction crew is past the initial foundation grading work.  Take pictures of all critical systems and label each picture before they install sheet rock and flooring.  Keep in mind that hard ceilings will cover where drains and traps are located for other plumbing, so you’ll want to take pictures of that as well.

Nathan also advises you create a binder of all submittals including brands and model numbers of what’s installed.  Document the paint formula used for each room (not just the brand and type).  Include all this information in a “Building Standards” binder.  This will save your facilities team time and money for years to come.

Carl Jackson with 7 Hills Church recommends you take detailed notes and track conversations you have with the construction team, architect, and others.  Follow-up with people on commitments they made or questions they promised to answer for you.  Take the initiative to make sure you get the information you need throughout the project.

From a capital campaign perspective, Brad Leeper recommends you keep the project in front of people.  The best way to do that is to drip the vision out constantly.  You might mention after a baptism service that in the new facility you’ll have more space for discipleship classes and classes for those who’re considering faith.

The construction phase can be exciting, frustrating, and overwhelming.  Staying organized throughout this phase is important for the sanity of your team and for a successful project.

The Church of “Generica”

I travel a lot and I am in many cities across the county.  One thing that has really struck me is how similar one city is to the next…especially in the “burbs”. Almost every Outback, Chili’s or Applebee’s  has the same basic design.  I can be taken blindfolded into almost any Home Depot or Lowe’s, remove the covering and not know what city I am in. In most cases I can be plunked down in a community with developments that are less than 10 years old and much of the architecture of the  shopping centers, the so called “urban” housing, and office buildings look very similar.

I am conflicted when I see this.  A part of me feels comfortable and “safe”…but a deeper emotion wonders if we have settled for a generic, industrial, revolution mindset and formations. What happened to unique? What happened to original and innovative? Have we commoditized everything to the point that we press them into existence like we were running a Ford assembly line? Have we accepted that we live in “Generica” (A term not learned from Jon Crosby)? If so, are we also content with worshiping at The Church of “Generica”?

Recently, I read a blog by Sam Rainer III in Church Executive Magazine entitled “Hurdles to Established Church Innovation”.   I have a lot of respect for Sam and his dad Thom.  They are passionate about the local church and live it out in their personal and professional lives.

Sam starts the article by asking 2 questions:

“Does the established nature of some churches hinder innovation?”

“Is an established structure antithetical to quick, nimble changes?”

These may seem obvious or possibly rhetorical, but I think they are far more thought provoking than they may appear on the surface.  He drills down on what is “innovation” and “established”.  According to Sam, innovation is “the process of successfully establishing something new” while establish means “to create firm stability.”  Sam goes on to poke a couple holes in both by writing:

“Established churches, in particular, can take comfort in the establishment. Traditions and history can easily become a guise for complacency. Innovation can take a back seat to the entrenched processes that help create the stability.”

As I read further in to the article, I believe that Sam is communicating that it is a both/and scenario. We need to have innovation in all of our ministries.  We need to be exploring new and fresh ways to “be the church” instead of getting comfortable with our holy huddles.  It may require serious paradigm shifts, and yes…you may very well lose people because of it.  If that happens, and you believe that the innovation you have implemented is going to further the Kingdom and the mission of the church, then wish them well and let them go because they may very well have been the limiting factor to you reaching your God given vision.  I like what Joyce Meyers say…”Rejection is Protection”. When we are rejected, many times it is the Lord protecting us from a potentially bad situation or relationship.

At the same time, church plants and new works can not stay in a mode of only innovating and primarily focusing on being “cool”. At some point you need to establish systems, processes and core values. There needs to be a sense of stability and permanence.

“Generica” can be just as prevalent in a contemporary setting as a 100 year old traditional church. When I go to a conference of church planters or “cutting edge” churches, it strikes me as odd to see many pastors/leaders with the same hair style, same untucked shirts and pointy shoes. Or I will visit a contemporary church to witness the  same haze machines, 3 video screens, drum cage and mono-sloped roof lines.  What we think is cool, relevant  and cutting edge can be just as generic as the coat & tie, 4 white columns, red brick and steeple. This “condition” is an equal opportunity malady that can infect any church, any movement or any ministry organization.

Sam wraps up his article with 4 hurdles that may be hindering a church from innovating.  They are:

  1. Lack of intentionality –When resources are plentiful, the temptation is to be less intentional. The practice of spaghetti-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks is not true innovation. It’s haphazard chaos.
  2. Lack of originality –  Innovation is introducing something new, not introducing something with the façade of newness or a new logo.
  3. The wrong metrics -What gets measured gets done, and what you measure is typically an indicator of what you value. A mature church will measure different things than a new church. However, an overemphasis on the metrics sustaining the establishment will inevitably de-emphasize innovation and dissuade team members from attempting innovation.
  4. The ease of appeasement – In an established church, some leaders prefer the ease of appeasing members rather than innovating to reach new people. Appeasing existing members is much easier than challenging a church to innovate and reach new people.

Avoid becoming the Church of “Generica”…Innovate! This applies to how you “do” church, how you reach the community…and yes…how your facilities are designed.

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.