The Value of a Guest

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Several weeks ago I was attending worship at Elevation Church, Matthews Campus. Pastor Larry Brey, campus pastor, was talking about our volunteers and the preparation they go through to get ready for the arrival of guests that weekend.

LB (as he is affectionately referred to) said something that totally rocked me.  Here is his quote:

“The value of a guest is based on the level of preparation of their arrival.”

I have written before on the topic of “guests” vs visitors.  I have a strong opinion that words mean things and we should use the word GUEST when referring to first time attendees.  Here are the definitions I have used previously:

“Visitor” – is typically somebody who comes and goes without much preparation on our part or much thought afterward.

“Guest” – is typically a person who is cared for and has been intentionally prepared to attend. Most of the time, a guest is somebody who is a participant…a person looking for a specific experience.

For me it is pretty clear that if you are a church, you really are looking to have guests and not just visitors. We want people to feel a part…to feel welcomed…to feel as if we were expecting them to come and that we cared enough to prepare for them…and to follow up with them after.

To our guests…especially those that may not be believers or be far from God…these intentional shifts can make the world of difference. For the most part, we can make this adjustment to our “language” with little or no cost. Imagine that…a transformational change for little or no cost?!?!

But it is more than just our language…it is our preparation.  What are we doing to receive, welcome and make feel a part. Many churches have a “Guest Services Team” which is great…but unless you have a sense of what a guest is expecting or how to prepare for them, we will default to just winging it.  That is not intentional!

So here are some things that I see at churches that take guest service seriously:

  1. Appealing, current and relevant website.  It is the new “Front Porch”.
  2. Grounds and facilities are clean, fresh and maintained.
  3. Parking lot ministry…this is so critical and SOOO easy.
  4. Guest Parking.
  5. Greeters…and not just at the main entrance…but throughout the facility and even in the parking lot and gathering spaces.
  6. The greeters need to have smiles, name badges and even similar color shirts…and they MUST BE FRIENDLY, but not too pushy.
  7. They pray for the guests BEFORE they arrive.
  8. Have an information area…NOT A WELCOME DESK (Note:  Coffee is an option, I see plenty of thriving ministries without it).
  9. Stable WiFi. (A church without WiFi for its guests, sends a strong signal, a negative one!)
  10. Clear and intentional wayfinding.
  11. Clean and supplied restrooms.
  12. Proper climate control.

What else would make your guest feel at home?

*Image Credit: North Point Community Church



 

Are you Lying to Yourself?

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The surprising thing isn’t that we’re irrational about how we spend our time and money. It’s how much effort we put into lying about it. That may sound like a strong term, but if your kids told you a story that was untrue, would you call it lying?  So, if we tell ourself an untruth, are we not lying to ourselves?  Makes sense to me.

One of the best examples of this premise is when I was attending a Mega Metro XP conference with 25-30 of the largest Southern Baptist Church XP’s in attendance. The members of this group have the following criteria in order to join:

  • Serve in a Southern Baptist Church
  • Be full-time
  • Serve in the role of Executive Pastor* with primary oversight of staff, ministry, and budget
  • Report directly to the Senior Pastor
  • Church attendance averages 3,000+ in worship
  • Have $5 million+ in charitable giving

The discussion was on a roll discussing budgets, utilization of funds, allocation of funds to and the like.  The conversation quickly moved to pet projects, “game playing” by staff to get more allocation and the like. One of the XP’s told the group that they were trying to get a better grasp on the REAL use of funds, and not just what the the General Ledger line item said it was.

This led to them addressing a $100,000 + line item for the “Singing Christmas Tree.” This event was listed in their budget as OUTREACH.  The astute XP asked his team a couple very piercing questions:

  1. How many people have come to a faith decision that attended a Singing Christmas Tree?
  2. How many people attend the event that are not already attending the church?

Surprisingly (or not), the answer to both were “little to none.” Ouch…that will make you think long and hard.

The XP went on to say that he challenged his people to call it what it is.  Given the questions and responses, this event was NOT really an outreach event.  It was entertainment for the members. With that said, that does not immediately disqualify it from the budget, but let’s call it what it is…“We like choral Christmas music and we are willing to fund it.”  That is a little long for a typical journal entry, but the point is well taken.

To call such an event Outreach was lying to themselves. It was not Outreach. But calling it Outreach makes you feel good about the budget, allocation of resources, or obtaining notoriety for having a larger Outreach budget than the church down the way.

As you look at your budget, are things properly labeled and allocated?  It may shock you. We need to face the truth and stop lying to ourselves.


Polo vs. Gildan – The Tale of 2 “Boxers”


That’s right…we are going to talk underwear.  But more than comparing underwear, we are going to explore how this relates to our church facility.  Stick with me.

In my underwear drawer at home, I have a selection of boxers (I am one of those guys).  About 50% are Ralph Lauren Polo…and the others are predominantly Gildan. The other day I was struck by a recurring thought about how I (we) spend the money God has entrusted to us and the ramifications.  I know…underwear?!?!?!? Hang in there.

As I stared at the under garments in my drawer, I had the following thoughts related to their similarities:

  1. All of them do “the job” of covering my body
  2. All perform basically the same “task”
  3. Most fit me about the same…with some variations with the Gildan
  4. They all have elastic waist bands
  5. They all are about the same length

Then I started thinking about the differences:

  1. I paid nearly double for the Polo products…not quite double
  2. The polo have a more comfortable waistband…but I can live with the other
  3. The quality of the fabric of the polo is of a higher grade

But here is the kicker…I had some Polo garments that were 4-5 years old, while the Gildan were showing need for replacement in about half that time. Then the correlation to our facilities came rushing in.

CHEAPER IS NO BARGAIN

In fact…it appears that I will spend the same amount of money over the 4-5 year period.  And if I had invested in the Polo, I would have also been able to enjoy the other benefits shared above.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?


Honeywell Now Integrates With eSPACE


FINALLY…we have developed integration with one of the largest providers of HVAC controls – Honeywell.

For as long as I can remember, Honeywell has been the leader in Building Controls. Whether in the commercial or residential arenas, they have been the leader…and the 800 pound gorilla. With that “notoriety” also comes a certain level of inflexibility, bureaucracy, “king of the hill” mind set and a stigma that they do not “play well with others”.

While all of that may be true, Honeywell has started to provide 3rd party integration and API access to a limited number of their devices. This has opened the door for many companies to develop means by which to allow the end user (i.e. YOU) to integrate their controls with other systems…such as eSPACE Event Scheduler (and the 13+ ChMS systems that eSPACE integrates with).

Our team has now developed, tested and released integration with the following Honeywell controls:

LYRIC PLATFORM

  1. T1 Pro
  2. T4 Pro
  3. T6 Pro (Z Wave, Hydronic, Smart)

NOTE:  Honeywell does not have a means by which we can communicate with their API for their “Total Comfort” systems….which is most of their residential stats.

For more information on the above integration or potential other integrations, contact our team and see how eSPACE integrations can increase energy and operational efficiency!



Facility Stewardship Realities Exposed by Data

I realize that many of you know what I mean by a plumb bob. While there are new lasers and other devices available today to assist builders in getting things plumb, there is something fun about knowing how to use a more traditional device. No matter what tools I purchased to add to my toolbox, I still always kept one handy. Gravity never seemed to run out of batteries or need recalibrating. And no matter how bright it was, I could always see where the mark should be.

The same is somewhat true for evaluating how well our facilities and our programs are performing. There are lots of new and exciting programs that are being developed to help us quantify and track things. However, no matter how advanced those things get, it always starts with the same thing…data.

Creating a measurable standard means we must establish what the standard is. For walls, we like to know if they are perfectly plumb (vertical) and level (horizontal). We use the constant of gravity to figure that out. For facilities, we need to see what things cost and how we address things that happen in most facilities. For houses of worship, we also must recognize that our operational tempo can be somewhat unique. Many times, our facilities are used multiple times a week for several diverse types of activities. Taking the standard for a facility that is open two days a week and trying to apply it to a seven day a week operation does not work well, the opposite is true as well.

Why am I talking about this? Well, you may be aware that we are undertaking a church facility specific benchmarking study. For the study to be as accurate as possible we are trying to receive responses from as many houses of worship as we can, across the country. We currently use information from several types of commercial properties, and that does provide a great initial basis. We want to drill down even further and see how all our houses of worship are performing to create an even more impactful benchmark based on facilities that operate in similar manners with similar missions.

We still would like your help. There are over 350,000 houses of worship across the United States. While getting a response from everyone would be difficult, getting several hundred to 1000 responses is attainable. If you would like to participate and help us (if you haven’t already) please click on this link and take the survey. Be prepared to spend about 30 minutes and there are several questions that require knowledge of budget figures. The survey is anonymous, and we do allow for you to provide your contact information at the end if you want to receive an advance copy of the results.

Please consider helping us and sharing this with other churches you may know. The more informed we are, the better we can be the best stewards of what He has entrusted to us. Thank you for your consideration.


Operational Efficiency MUST Include Automation

Over the past 4 years, our team has done numerous Facility Condition Assessments. These are evaluations of a church facility that include:

  1. Fresh Eyes Assessment
  2. Identification of deferred maintenance
  3. Development of a Capital Reserve Plan
  4. Bench-marking of facility operational expenses

As we have analyzed these assessments (which every church should have done) we have identified a significant pattern…and not a good one. What we have seen in every one of the FCA’s we have performed, where the facility has some level of deferred maintenance (which has been all), there are 3 significant budget line items that are underfunded:

  1. General Maintenance Budget – the stuff you need to do to keep up with the natural rate of deterioration and wear/tear.
  2. Facility Staffing – Best practices have been proven that you need 1 full time general maintenance staff member for every 35,000 SF of facilities.
  3. Capital Reserves – these churches have deferred as they did not properly plan for the inevitable costs of capital replacement and renewal.

So…how do we remedy this?  GREAT QUESTION!

The easy answer is increase the budget for each of these. There you have it…case closed. NOT!

Most churches cannot immediately increase their budgets to be in keeping with intentional Facility Stewardship.  This means we need another approach. Consider these:

  1. What if we could make our current staff more effective and efficient?
  2. What if we could free up 10-30% of their time to inspect the facility? I would suggest that this kind of increase would reduce the calculation of the number of full time staff needed.
  3. What if the time they had on-the-job was utilized to perform tasks that only a human can perform?
  4. Perform a periodic walk through, meet with vendors and negotiate the best rates, get on the roof every month?
  5. Verify all the emergency lights are operational.
  6. ETC!

With the introduction of the INTERNET OF THINGS over a decade ago, there are few reasons or excuses to not add automation to the routine and mundane tasks of setting HVAC setting, unlocking doors, setting up digital signage.  What if you could automate those tasks…how much more time would your staff have?

If you have not added FACILITeSPACE to your facility automation…now is the time! *Click below for more information.

Plant Your Tree Before You Need the Shade

Just over 20 years ago, Harvey Mackay wrote a book that shaped much of my thinking and approach to investing in people, situations, business planning and so many other aspects of my personal and professional life.  The book is entitled: “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.”

Later in my career I had a business coach that would tell stories about how we intentionally would treat his cab drivers (this was also about 20 years ago…before Uber…but the same applies), the receptionist at the hotel, the flight attendants, etc.   Why was this important?  He said that beyond human decency and respect for other humans (which should always be the basis even if there is no secondary motives) that you never know when you may need their help.  You may need them to provide a level of service that is more likely to exceed your expectations if you have already built a relationship.

In a recent blog, Seth Godin once again provides a thought provoking and yet practical example of this same tenet of human interactions, acceptable behavior and forward thinking.  See what he said here or below:

  • If you wait until you really want an avocado, the market won’t have any ripe ones. You need to buy them in advance.
  • If you eat an avocado that’s not quite ripe, you won’t enjoy it. AND, you won’t have a chance to enjoy it tomorrow, when it would have been perfect if you had only waited.
  • If you live your life based on instant gratification and little planning, you’ll either never have a good avocado or you’ll pay more than you should to someone else who planned ahead.
  • Buy more avocados than you think you need, because the hassles are always greater than the cost, so you might as well invest.
  • And since you have so many, share them when they’re ripe. What goes around comes around.

All of these truths lead to the real insight, the metaphor that’s just waiting to be lived in all ways: If you get ahead of the cycle, waiting until the first one is ripe and then always replenishing before you need one, you can live an entire life eating ripe avocados. On the other hand, if impatience and poor planning gets you behind the cycle, you’ll be just as likely to waste every one you ever eat.

Plant your tree before you need the shade.

What “trees” do you need to plant today? What kind of long term planning is needed to keep you in the “shade” of your planning (i.e. Capital Reserve planning…just saying).

-Tim


4 Principles of Facility Stewardship

Our team is not only committed to Facility Stewardship…we are fanatics about it.  We even have an eBook on the topic.  We have developed a FREE online community to support the premise. There is no doubt what we stand for!

We have been blessed to have established a lasting relationship with Dr. Thom Rainer and his staff.  We have participated in a number of podcasts where we have discussed topics around facility management, facility care, life cycle planning and right sizing of facilities when you have too much space. I love these opportunities.

Recently, we were recording another podcast discussing how planning is such a critical part of operating a church.  In particular we were discussing worship service and other event planning.  Dr. Rainer asked a compelling question to me that allowed me to articulate a believe we have, but have not done well with communicating.  He asked “Cool Solutions Group is facility and facility stewardship experts, so how does planning fit in that?”

I am SOOO glad he asked.

If you have ever been on our Cool Solutions Group website, you will see a graphic like this:

This has been a foundation belief for as long as we have been in business, and the foundation for our passion of Facility Stewardship. We tend to spend a great deal of time talking about issues related to the SUSTAIN phase (life cycle, capital reserve, maintenance, management, eSPACE Software, system integrations, etc). But that is not the crux of what true Facility Stewardship encompasses.

Here are the 4 Principles of Facility Stewardship:

  1. Properly initial planning, design and construction – If the facility is not planned correctly, design efficiently and built in a professional manner, then we are failing our Facility Stewardship initiative before we even get started….which is why we spend an inordinate amount of time addressing deferred maintenance and other facility “ownership” and operational issues.
  2. Utilization – If you are not going to use the facility to meet your vision and mission, then why have a building? A tent or a rental property would be far less expensive.  Intentional utilization of your facility starts with a focus on meeting your ministry objectives which leads to a need to properly PLAN all activities, utilization, events, worship services, etc. This component of Facility Stewardship is often swept under the rugs. Check out this eBook to help plan events and make sure to check out worshipplanning.com to use the most intentional worship planning and event management system on the market.
  3. Management and Maintenance – ALL facilities require both! Management is the art of planning, managing, being proactive, thinking to the future, vendor management, budgets, etc. Maintenance is the fulfillment of tasks needed to keep the facility operational.
  4. Life Cycle Planning – We have written many blog articles and eBooks on this topic…mainly because the church as a whole does an inadequate job planning ahead for the inevitable costs of capital renewal, replacement and reserves. I don’t need to reiterate what has been written prior.

I hope that clears things up for some.  Facility Stewardship is not just about caring for an existing facility.  All 4 tenets are critical.


Professional vs. Amateur

For the sake simplicity…let’s use the following as definitions of these 2 words:

PROFESSIONAL: A person engaged or qualified in a profession…someone intentional about their craft that is constantly learning and improving.

 AMATEUR: One who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession.

Those are pretty broad…so allow me to add some observances.

As a college student trying to master my craft, trumpet performance, I had a very wise teacher tell me the following:

“Amateurs and professionals both make mistakes. What differentiates them is that a professional does not make the same mistake twice.”

Noted!

Since that time, as I have lead people, organizations, projects and yes, myself, I have seen another stark difference:

Professionals accept responsibility…accept “blame” and rebuke. Learn. Collaborate. Improve.

Amateurs on the other hand make excuses. Shift blame. Avoid responsibility.

It is too common in business, leadership, church, etc. that someone is being “paid” for their profession…which automatically qualifies them to be classified a “professional.” HOWEVER…their actions, deliverables, mindset, etc. is more akin to that of an amateur.

As a final observation, I have found that this differentiation is more  of a mindset in lieu of a compensation or “title” issued (I could go on for days on how titles are meaningless if the role performed is not congruent with the title).

I have seen professionally minded people that were volunteers at church…the difference is not about what you get paid. In fact the more a person is compensated monetarily, there is a likelihood of entitlement and complacency…with is not professional.

As you look at your team, are you filling seats with professionals…or something less?

Be INTENTIONAL. Be PROFESSIONAL.


Is Sunday School Making a Comeback in 2019? Part-2

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In our post last week we left you hanging with questions about the trends we are seeing in Sunday AM education programs, such as:

  • Does it mean that every modern church that has worship space and only enough education for Preschool and Children up to 5th grade are going to rush out and buy Sunday School Curriculum?
  • Does it mean that all churches need to add 50% more space to accommodate what could be an insurgence of Sunday AM education offerings?

I don’t think so.

But I would suggest that we need to take note and keep watch. In talking to several church leaders on this matter, they believe that the 20-40 year old adults in their congregation are looking for more connected community.  They want to be in community with others, and given their time starved work and family weeks, Sunday is the best time to do that.  We have also seen more “large group” education environments suggesting a bent toward higher quality teaching and/or broader community may be desired.

I was able to get some additional input from Dr. Thom Rainer and Dr. Sam Rainer (As I type this, the 1984 song by the Thompson Twins – Doctor! Doctor!, keep playing in my mind…sorry for the rabbit trail)

What does this all mean? Where is Robert Raikes when you need him (Bet most of you don’t know who that is)? Here is some of what they shared.

THOM: Many churches are re-discovering on-campus open groups, what we once called Sunday school. Two primary factors contribute to this comeback: childcare is easily handled, and the participants can get their group and worship experience in one trip.

The challenge, of course, is space. Can a church really justify group/education space that is used only one day a week? Or how does a newer church afford to build such space?

The conundrum.

SAM: We (West Bradenton Baptist Church) will not allow off-campus groups to occur in which children are present. There are far too many stories of bad things happening to kids in off-campus groups. Child safety has always been, and will continue to be, a major problem in off-campus groups. If given the choice, I’d rather spend the money on poorly-used education space than risk something happening to a child.

The way we’ve handled our excess weekly space is to open our church to the community. We have a day school and many different groups that meet onsite during the week. We added doors in our hallways that get locked to protect the day school kids during the week.

Given the current times in our culture/society related to safety and security, the ability to have planned, organized and SAFE child care for these “group” education meetings is not to be taken lightly.  As a church, we are addressing issues that were unthinkable 10-20 years ago.  Child security and safety is clearly on the top of that list.

Here is what I believe…take it or not:

  1. God created us for community and fellowship, regardless if it is Sunday AM, Saturday AM, Thursday night or any other time and in any location.
  2. Discipleship…however you live that out…is a critical part of spiritual development and formation.
  3. Online church is great…I love it…but it cannot put its arm around me to pray with me.
  4. I can “self-learn” a lot…thank you Google.  But God has gifted some to be teachers and preachers…I need to learn from them as well.
  5. What we call it…Sunday AM education…is irrelevant.  What we DO and how it supports the WHY of your church is what really matters.
  6. Things change…it is inevitable.  So we need to always be considering the means and methods of impacting our community, our congregation, as well as those who are NOT “here yet”. This means that what once was…may be again, but for different reasons.
  7. Start with WHY – is one of my favorite books of all times by Simon Sinek. Really look deep into your systems, processes, means and the like to understand WHY you do them.  Avoid the 7 worlds of a dying church – “We have always done it this way.” The reason for doing somethings ebb and flow…come and go…are relevant, irrelevant and relevant again. I firmly believe that the Gospel NEVER CHANGES! But our means and methods MUST church.  That is a topic for another day.