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.

Is Sunday School Making a Comeback in 2019? Part-1

I must admit that I never thought I would write a blog with that title. NEVER. And yet…here I am.

For many years from the late 1990’s to say a year or so ago, the pundits, church “leaders’, seminarians, and most of the church consultants…including yours truly…were convinced that Sunday School was like your “Father’s Oldsmobile”…irrelevant. That is how church used to be done.  That worked good for our parents, but modern culture does not support or embrace it (so we said).

During this time churches all across the country said that the solution was “Small Groups” so scads of churches jumped on the Cell Group, Home Group, Small Group, Covenant Group, etc. model. Then we saw a trend toward calling Sunday School by names such a Grow Groups, Discipleship Group, Community Groups and the like.  They were still basically Sunday Morning educational classes.

When a church called us and said – “We are thinking of building a new building on a new site, how big should we build for?” (and we have been asked this question more times than I can count), we would respond with a question, “Do you have Sunday AM adult education.” That one question could swing the tide of space requirements by at least 50% (increased SF needs) and in some cases even more.  Not just that but the amount of parking required if you have more than one service and even more than one Sunday Adult Education would increase.

I am not ready to say we were wrong over the last 15-20 years…but I have a sense that things are changing (The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change – Heraclitus). Allow me to elaborate.

Our team has developed a master plan process called an Intentional Workshop. The first step in our process is to gather information on attendance trends for that local church. From that data we develop what is referred to as a Program Study. This study looks at current attendance, considers how a church would “like” to do ministry in the future, past trends and a growth factor…usually 100%..with ratios of how many square feet is needed per person per space and function. It is a combination of art and science.

That provides the needed/desired amount of square footage to meet ministry objectives.  That, in turn, is compared to the existing square footage of the campus and the variance is the delta of potential net new space to be added. That is then extrapolated and run through a series of financial calculations and projections to determine a possible cost for the project.  This is then compared to the financial capability of the church.

OK….that is likely too deep in the weeds.  Sorry.

To my point.  We have had numerous clients over the past 24 months that are making us sit up and take note.  Here are the trends we have seen:

  1. All have an active Sunday School/AM Adult Education.
  2. All have educational attendance that is in the 80-90% of the largest AM Worship Service.
  3. Sunday School is embraced by all age groups…and particularly with the families with children.

This fascinates me. What does this mean?  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?

We will continue this conversation next time.

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If you don’t have time to do it right…

Let that quote sink in for a minute…

Ever do a task, and then have to do it again a short time later?

Why? Because you didn’t do it right the first time.

You left it half-done. You didn’t put it away. Or you didn’t give it your full effort.

The difference between doing something and doing it right is usually only a few seconds.

Here are 10 things you should do right the first time according to timemanagementninja.com :

  1. Putting Things Away – Most items take only a few moments to put away. Yet, we leave them out. Do that a few times, and suddenly you have a much bigger mess to clean up.
  2. Finishing a Task to Done – You almost complete a task. You take it to 99% done. But, then you leave it undone. Why?
  3. Cleaning Up – There is a big difference in doing the dishes right after dinner, and doing them the next morning. This simple analogy applies to most clean up jobs.
  4. Throwing Things Away – When in doubt, throw it out. That is a good motto to help prevent clutter buildup. Don’t keep things “just because you might need them again.”
  5. Preparing for a Meeting – How many meetings have you gone to only to discover that the organizer isn’t ready for the meeting? Before a meeting is held, make sure that all preparations are done. This includes the basics like booking a room, distributing materials (in advance!), and setting an agenda. Too many meetings end up creating secondary meetings because the first one wasn’t done right.
  6. Filing Paperwork – Paper continues to be one of the biggest disorganization issues most people face. It piles up so fast it seems like it is multiplying. Yet, if you file that piece of paper when you get, you won’t end up with piles on your desk. It could be as simple as putting it in a file, or scanning it, or throwing it away. Same applies to your email and digital docs.
  7. Addressing Bad Behavior – Don’t let poor behavior go unchecked. Whether it is sub-par performance or simply bad conduct, the longer it continues the more damage it does. Address bad behavior right the first time it happens, and you can avoid a repeat pattern from developing.
  8. Responding to Email – How many times do you open an email only to close it and leave it in your inbox? Don’t fall into this half-done trap. Answer it, file it, or delete. Otherwise, don’t bother reading your email.
  9. Saying No – If you clearly “Say No,” you won’t be forced to continue making up excuses later. Instead, of saying you can’t because of so-and-so, just directly Say No at the start.
  10. Fixing Something that is Broken – How often do you put up with something that doesn’t work? Not only do “broken” items waste time, they can be dangerous when safety is involved. When something is broken… fix it.

I ask Coach Wooden’s question again –

If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it again?

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Going, Going…Gone?: HVAC Replacement 201

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Last week we looked at the Going, Going…Gone?: HVAC Replacement 101

EVALUATING THE EQUIPMENT

Now that you have taken all the preceding into account, how do you evaluate the equipment itself? Obviously, if you can afford it, an evaluation from a mechanical engineer is a great approach.

However, that is not an option for many churches, nor is it always necessary. That is especially true if you have no structural changes and you have common systems in place.

As you look at all the system component data you have gathered, first evaluation point is the age of the unit.

That is not always the primary driver, but it is an important one. It should be weighted with the amount of run-time the unit has annually and if it serves a critical use area. For example, a 20-year-old unit would generally be a prime candidate for replacement. However, if it is still functioning and only serves a couple of classrooms that are scheduled infrequently, that would drop it lower in priority than a 12-year-old unit that runs 5-7 days a week and serves preschool classrooms. The ROI and functional return on operations is much lower on the 20-year-old unit.

The next evaluation point is a visual one.

How does the unit look? Is the paint and informational tags faded and illegible? Are the fins on the coils reminiscent of a braille sign? Is there a great deal of rust and oil marks in and around the unit? Does it look good or not? All of these can indicate a unit that is got some potential issues that are more than skin deep. Roof top units that are severely weathered can indicate that they are either old, or in an area that has environmental conditions that deteriorate mechanical equipment. Either condition increases the need to consider replacement, as well as making sure if you are near salt-water or industrial parks you consider coated coils and other parts specified for harsher environments.

Next, you should consider the type of refrigerant being used.

If it is R-22, make plans sooner rather than later. R-22 is no longer manufactured making the amount remaining very expensive. One suggestion is that if you have several units that utilize R-22 on your campus but cannot change them all out at once…have your HVAC contractor purchase recovery tanks for you, and when they pump down each unit (as you can replace them) store the used R-22 on your campus. Use it for your other units as you limp them along until you can replace them. The cost of a recovery tank is made back the first time you must add a pound of R-22 to one of your older units.

Finally, how is your HVAC controlled?

If it has a proprietary control system that can only be utilized with a specific thermostat or control system, it can be a problem.

If your HVAC company is not an authorized rep of that brand, getting parts or trouble-shooting issues can be problematic. Internal controls in the unit are great, but it should be able to be turned on or off through a readily available communicating thermostat.

When an older unit with proprietary controls starts to fail, it may save you money in the mid and long-term to replace it sooner. A unit that requires advanced controls to operate is a unit that is very inefficient when the controls are not operating correctly.

The preceding is intended to help get you started on the evaluation of your facility equipment. It always starts with data collection; what is it, how old is it, where does it serve, how often? Once you know that, you can start evaluating the rest of the physical conditions.

Trust your instincts, if it does not look right, it probably isn’t. There is a great deal of information on why changing a unit out is beneficial, this hopefully helps you begin to prioritize your investments.


Going, Going…Gone?: HVAC Replacement 101

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In less than a second, you get over 83 Million returns. That is what happens when you type in “How do I know when I should change out my HVAC” into a search engine.

You can get some interesting results as you head past the first, second and third pages…but who does that? Results past the third page in a search engine are like the third verse in a hymn…it may be there, but no one ever looks at it.

Regarding your facility, there are some basic things you need to know about your HVAC before you can really make an informed decision regarding replacement.

To begin, what type of systems do you have?

Expected service life will vary based on the size and type of the system you are looking at. A 5-ton unit that you are accustomed to seeing in your home is vastly different (from a mechanical perspective) than a facility that has a cooling tower and chilled water pumped throughout.

Knowing what you have is the first step in being able to determine when you need to change it. It is easiest to identify the components in a life cycle calculator, CMMS, or a spreadsheet.

The next foundational element is to understand how your HVAC systems work and how the components go together.

Having a clear understanding of how the engineers originally designed the system to function is necessary when evaluating effectiveness. The mechanical engineering field is like any other field out there. There will always be certain designs and installations that are somewhat “tried and true” that you will see under specific conditions.

There are also, however, systems that get deployed that are considered cutting edge that do not make the cut long-term. Usually they do not make the cut because they are not the easiest to maintain, which means from a commercial standpoint they are not as profitable.

For churches there is a benefit for staying with more tried and true technology. If you have “cutting-edge” systems or special features that are not maintained correctly, or your service tech does not know all the components that need maintenance, you are not able to effectively evaluate everything.

Consider what subjective data you are going to use as part of the evaluation process.

As you are aware, church members are not slow to provide their opinion on how the system performs. While it is always beneficial to hear folks out and how they feel, it does not mean that it should carry the most weight in your decision. There will always be folks who think it is too hot, too cold, too windy, too loud, etc. Perceived comfort does not always match engineering specifications. A unit can be performing as designed and still not meeting current occupant needs.

Finally, know if there have been any changes to the layouts in the spaces you are evaluating the HVAC.

Many times, churches will open a wall here, close in a space there, make offices out of this large room, etc. Unfortunately, not all changes in room layout are combined with a mechanical engineering review. Your systems were designed to operate with a specific layout. Anytime you change it you can fundamentally change the effectiveness of a unit. It may be operating perfectly, but it is trying to condition a space layout that no longer exists.


In the Long Run…

We have all heard the phrase – “In the Long Run.” Leaders use it regularly to cast vision for what is potentially in the future as well as to muster up encouragement for their team to continue to being intentional with the tasks at hand. Wikipedia defines it as “over or after a long period of time; eventually.” There have been songs written with that title and lyrics.  There have been television shows and movies titles with these words.  It is common…but do we really grasp the implication and requirements to accomplish something “In the Long Run?”

In a recent blog by Seth Godin, he writes:

I hope we can all agree that the long run is made up of a bunch of short runs.
That seems obvious.
The surprising thing is that we live our short runs as if that isn’t true.

That may seem really obvious to you as you read that…but there is some very poignant realities that I fear many of us don’t grasp…especially as it relates to Facility Stewardship.

We have been the evangelists of the concept of Facility Stewardship for nearly 11 years. This is not some quip saying or marketing ploy.  This is reality (See our free eBook). We have written, spoken, and thumped the pulpit on what a church should be saving for capital reserves, and driven home the point what they should be investing in general maintenance, janitorial and utilities.

I understand that much of the things we have been trying to communicate can feel unattainable and overwhelming.  That is true….if you only look at the end of the journey.  But to accomplish any of the principles we promote…and deeply believe in, you have to start somewhere…with “small runs.”  Here are some examples of short runs:

  1. You may not have adequate Capital Reserves for the inevitable costs of capital replacement.  You are not alone.  While we recommend $1-3/square foot annually set-aside funds, you may need to start with $.25…then increase over time.
  2. Use our free Life Cycle Calculator to start to track the items in your facility that are at the greatest risk of failure or replacement.
  3. Your church may not have adequate staffing for facility operations.  We get it…but how can you assist your team to be more efficient by automating tasks that can be automated to free up your team to do what only they can do?
  4. You might need to solicit more volunteers to help until the church can sustain more staff.
  5. Adjusting your HVAC set points by 1-2 degrees can start to save energy/money.
  6. Add some occupancy sensors in rooms (i.e. restrooms) that are notorious for having lights and fans left on for days on end.
  7. Be intentional to do a complete facility walk-thru each month looking for initial signs of issues/failures, and address them before they get worse.

We could go on all day…but you get the point.  These “short run” tasks will compound over time…to the LONG RUN! And let’s be honest, as the Church…are we not in this for the long run?

To discover what COOL can do for you visit www.CoolSolutionsGroup.com


Don’t throw good money after…

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The above title was going to be “Don’t Throw Good Money after Bad” but I am not sure money given to a church for ministry can ever be considered “bad” money.

We have all heard that adage.  Most of us have probably used it when discussing financial prudence and not wanting to waste money. So let me explain how this applies to Facility Stewardship.

As we have written about several times recently, we strongly suggest that churches have a Facility Condition Assessment performed to understand the current condition of their facility, the presence of any deferred maintenance and to develop a plan for long term budgeting and capital reserve. We feel free strongly about this.

There are times that the above is not just good information that could improve your stewardships, but let me explain a time when it is imperative…non- negotiable…must-have…don’t pass Go and collect $200.  When is that time? Glad you asked.

Most of the churches that retain us to perform Facility Condition Assessments (FCA) are generally those with aging facilities. I am not sure we have yet done an assessment with a facility that was less than 25 years old….and most are 50+ years old. These are the most obvious facilities that need an FCA. But there is a growing trend and movement of churches revitalizing aging facilities.  In many cases it is a church that is on a path of ministry, community and vision revitalization and realize that their current facility is not congruent with their revitalization plans.  Others are facilities that have been “adopted” by another congregation as a merger…re-plant…multi-site initiative.

In both cases, it is prudent to understand the condition of these soon to be revitalized facilities. But the often overlooked consideration is the potential renovation/renewal of the facility.  In these cases, it is very important to do a combination of a FCA and “master plan” of the facility.  By doing them together you can avoid potential “double spending” during the process.  If the FAC identifies that the floor covering in an area of the building is past its Remaining Useful life…and that area is also going to have significant renovations, then it would not be prudent to change the carpet now….to only replace it again in 6-12 months.

Another example would be where there are HVAC systems that are inefficient and nearing their end of life, and that section of the building is going to have major systems overhaul.  In that case…keep using chewing gum and duct tape to keep the systems operational until the renovation is ready to go.

In many cases, where we have been involved in such dual assessments, we have saved the church hundreds of thousands of “deferred maintenance” dollars by delaying them slightly longer until the renovation was initiated.

This is not being slack…this is prudent. It is INTENTIONAL.


Maintenance Planning – PART 2

Last week we started the discussion on Maintenance Planning…click HERE if you missed that one. WE explored IMMEDIATE and INTERMEDIATE.  This week we will dive into the often forgotten FUTURE.

Before we go into Future, I think it is important to make a distinction. Immediate and Intermediate maintenance are concentrated on those things necessary to maintain the facility in its current state, with the equipment that is currently in use. There is not a “project planning” component to these two types of maintenance. They need to occur regardless. Future maintenance planning is unique in that it can also include plans for facility improvements and changeouts.

For many facility professionals, Future maintenance planning is the more exciting part of the job. This is where all the research and education we perform during the year come into play. We learn about VRF systems, for example, and then we realize that as we look at future facility renovations that VRF is the perfect solution for our HVAC needs. Or maybe we see that the exterior lights are no longer illuminating like they should, so we make plans to change them out to a hybrid solar light.

What you must remember in Future maintenance planning is that all the changes that you are considering will potentially bring about new Immediate and Intermediate maintenance needs. Recommended maintenance on a VRF system is different than a traditional split system. Solar LED lights require some additional maintenance regarding the batteries. Too often, when future improvements are considered, the maintenance cycle is not considered. When you are planning Future maintenance, you should seek to make sure you understand how the improvements will need to be maintained.

As a reminder, the preceding maintenance categories are not the “find it and fix it” maintenance that will occur in any active facility. When you are planning maintenance for the year ahead, it is important to remember that you do not have as much available time as you may think. By creating a calendar, you can also help share the maintenance story to others in the facility. It is not unusual for a “non-maintenance” person to not understand why something cannot be accomplished very quickly. It is not because they don’t care, it is that they simply do not know all that it takes and all that it is competing against. When you look at the Immediate and Intermediate, you may find that out of your week you only have 65% of your time available for “find it and fix it” tasks or new projects. Getting the story told is an important part of maintenance planning.

We want you to be successful in planning your maintenance this year. Proper planning and defining what you need to do will greatly improve your chances for success. That does not mean that you will not have to adjust as the year goes along; you will. But if you take the time to separate and define the Immediate, the Intermediate, and the Future, you will know where you can more easily adjust and accommodate the unknown.

Is Maintenance Planning a priority at your facility? If not, what can you do to change that?

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Maintenance Planning – PART 1

By now, you have probably abandoned many of the resolutions that you made on the first of the year. Why do we do that? The resolutions themselves are generally good ones and worthy to consider. The biggest reason that we abandon them is deceptively simple – we fail to plan accordingly.

The same is true for how we want to improve our facility. We probably have great ideas and thoughts on how to make improvements. Yet, come February or March, we are no longer making progress towards change, and we are back to “putting out fires.” Planning is the key to making lasting, positive change in your facility. The nature of church operations, however, means that we sometimes must plan a bit differently.

When beginning the process towards maintenance planning, it is helpful to consider that maintenance can be separated into the following categories: Immediate (must do), Intermediate (between now and future), and Future (greater than 6 months’ time). Looking at these categories when planning your maintenance for the year can help you be more successful as a facility steward.

Let’s look at the first category: Immediate. While this seems straight forward, there is a nuance to it. Immediate maintenance issues are those ones that need to be taken care of no matter what. This can be due to safety concerns, local, state, and federal guidelines, or as a result of use. They could be maintenance tasks required once a year or weekly. The primary consideration for Immediate maintenance planning is that it needs to happen regardless of other events. Immediate maintenance needs are not the “find it and fix it” maintenance tasks.

Examples of Immediate maintenance tasks that you need to plan for are elevator fire recall inspections (and the annual), gas line tests, fire extinguisher inspections (both monthly and annually), kitchen vent hood, and emergency light and sign inspections. This is just a sample of recurring Immediate maintenance tasks that are governed by statute. These are things that every state I have ever worked or consulted in has requirements regarding, and churches are not exempt.

In your maintenance planning, set a calendar (or use a maintenance management system) to identify the days and times these Immediate needs must occur. Treat these as non-negotiable. When you have it on the calendar, do not let another (non-life threatening) event or task supersede. Putting them on the calendar will also help you plan for the Intermediate and Future maintenance planning you will be doing as you will have a better idea of how much time you have in accomplishing other things. This is important; when you consider those recurring maintenance tasks that you need to do, you will realize that you have less time for other tasks and projects.

Next, consider the Intermediate maintenance tasks. Intermediate maintenance tasks are those that we know are a good idea and should be done. These include things like lubing and adjusting door closers, cleaning coils on our HVAC equipment, checking function of floor drains, or any other “manufacturer recommended” maintenance task. We know these are good ideas, but we have some discretion on completion. I may want to check all my door closures every 6 months, but I can usually shift that several months and not adversely affect the facility. Some tasks, such as cleaning coils on HVAC, have a secondary benefit (like energy efficiency) that needs to be considered. Waiting another 45 days to clean a coil will generally not keep the doors closed. Just like we did with Immediate maintenance, we need to put this on the schedule. We can shift them as needed, but we should not remove them. Again, this allows us to truly see what time we have available to devote to all the different maintenance that our facility needs.

That is a lot to chew on for now.  Next week we will explore FUTURE maintenance planning.


Don’t Be The First “Taper”

Most behavior patterns start with a single decision that is then never questioned or challenged.  Because it is not challenged it slowly defines your culture (This is how we do things around here) which then leads to the 7 words of any dying organization – “We have always done it that way.”

The above begs an answer to the question…Who made the first decision? Followed by…Was it INTENTIONAL?

Here is a section of a recent blog by Seth Godin that describes this process in no uncertain terms:

I’m sitting on a black couch in the lobby of a nice theater. The couch is cracked and peeling, with seven strips of black gaffer’s tape holding it together. And you don’t have to be an interior geologist to see that it has developed this patina over time, bit by bit.

The question is: Who was the first person who decided to fix the couch with tape?

The third or fifth person did a natural thing–here’s a ratty couch, let’s keep it the best we can.

But the first taper?

The first taper decided that it was okay for this theater to have a taped couch. The first taper didn’t make the effort to alert the authorities, to insist on getting the couch repaired properly.

The first taper decided, “this is good enough for now.”

This is how we find ourselves on the road to decay.

BOOM…this is an excellent example about how deferred maintenance gets started.  A “first taper” makes a conscious decision to “tape” over the problem or worse, ignore it all together.  Then the pattern of unintentional culture kicks in and deferred maintenance runs rampant. (REMINDER: Deferred Maintenance =The practice of postponing maintenance activities such as repairs on real property in order to save costs, meet budget funding levels, or realign available budget monies.)

Don’t be the first “taper.” Set a culture of care, pride of ownership (not your ownership by of the person who actually owns it…God), stewardship and intentionality.

-Tim