Your Church Needs More Weenies

Just to disarm you, I am not referring to wimpy people.  I am not suggesting that you have hot dog carts in the lobby (although it would be a neat twist on your pre and post service experience).  What we are talking about are icons.  Let me explain.

When Walt Disney was designing his world class theme parks, he used the analogy of how you can lead a dog to illustrate his concept of using attractional elements.  He said that you can get a dog to do what you want in one of 2 ways;  you can take a stick and beat the dog…or you can take that same stick, place a weenie on the end of it and lead the dog.  One requires brute force and is not pleasant for the recipient (or the enforcer) while the other creates a sense of anticipation of a treat…a reward…something special at the end of the journey.  Which would you prefer?

How many of you have been to a Disney theme park?  If you have, then you will be able to take this mental journey with me.  Close your eyes and image you have just arrived at the park.  You have paid the admission and walked through the turnstiles to be greeted by the train station which is encompassed by the most incredible array of landscaping and the image of Mickey Mouse…but you cannot see anything else except the entrances to either side of the depot. They draw you in with a giddiness childlike sense of anticipation. “What could be on the other side?” is a common thought that rushes through the minds of even the eldest of guests.

The vine covered train trestle creates a gateway that identifies the start of a truly magical journey.  With its magnetism you are sucked into the park and thrust into Town Square.  At first glance of your new surroundings, you are faced with so many choices.  The fire station with musicians…or maybe Goofy and Minnie to give hugs…or possible see Mickey Mouse himself at the theater.  Regardless of which venue, personality, or feature you gravitate to first…or second…or 10th, all roads in Town Square lead to one place…MAIN STREET USA.

As you round the corner from either side of Town Square, you are transformed into Marceline, Missouri, the home town of Walt Disney. You have stepped back in time to the early 1900’s…a time of simplicity and a era almost forgotten by many.  MAIN STREET is where turn-of-the-century architecture and transportation bring the small-town Middle America of the early 1900’s to life.  There are shops, a dentist office (listen for the drilling in the open window), Walt’s apartment and so much more. But if you stand anywhere on MAIN STREET and look in the direction of the park, what is the thing that will always catch your eye?

Cinderella’s Castle!!!!!

It is a “weenie”.  It leads all of the park guests in that direction. You do not need a tour guide (although they are available) to tell you where you are heading.  You do not need a big flashing neon say that says, “Go to the castle.”  It is iconic and it sucks you in.  It is almost like a force field that gets stronger and stronger the closer you get.  It is magical. It is intentional. It communicates a story.  It WORKS!

So…go ahead and open your eyes and let’s apply this to our churches.  Our campuses and facilities need weenies.  We need these elements that draw people in and shout a message…a story.  What if the entrance to your kids environments was designed in such a way that it would be so obvious to a guest that they would immediately venture to that area…without a sign or someone telling them where to go, the entrance would shout KIDS COME HERE.  Now, I am not suggesting you do not have signs or greeters.  What I am suggesting is that the experience for the guests will be enhanced by providing other visual clues to communicate the story.  It is not an either/or…but a both/and.

Make it attractional (what ever that means in your DNA and culture…don’t get hung up on the above example of Disney.  If you do, you will have missed the point).

Be creative.

Be intentional.

Provide the environment for life change to occur for your guests.  Disney is selling the “Happiest Place on Earth”…we are selling the greatest gift this world will ever know.


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.

Avoiding the "Chicken Little" Syndrome

Security in church is a big deal. Google it; and over 155 million resources show up, some good, some bad. The reality is that violent events happen at houses of worship. A gentleman by the name of Carl Chinn is someone that has about the best and most sobering statistics collected on it. From 1/1/99 through 7/1/17 he has collected verifiable data on 1573 deadly force incidents, 447 of which resulted in death of others (*update* this was written prior to September 24th; yet one more incident that will be added). Carl not only collects the data, he has a heart for security in church; I encourage you to check him out.

So how do we not let those statistics cause us to scream warnings (like Chicken Little) and have them ignored until it is too late (like his peers)? We have quite a few options available to us. One, we know that the evil in this world is a direct result of sin, and our Savior has defeated sin. And lest we forget, as believers, Matthew records these words from Jesus:

28 Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28. HCSB)

We do not fear the evil of this world; a personal relationship with Christ means we know the eternal love of our Father. That does not mean that we just stand aside and let whatever may happen, happen. It means we become intentional in protecting our churches so that we can provide the safest place possible so that all people may hear the Gospel.

“We become intentional in protecting our churches so that we can provide the safest place possible so that all people may hear the Gospel.”

Paying attention to security is yet one more way we help further the mission of the church.

Second, we want to encourage you to be proactive, not reactive, regarding security. There are three areas that deserve attention:

1) Policies/Procedures – How do you ensure that all the best security practices are in place and followed if you do not know what they are. Not known, like a great deal of church operations (meaning oral tradition), but known and trainable because it is written down and codified. Have a plan. It may not be the best one at first, but if it is written down it means it can get edited later.

2) Equipment – What things can you install/procure to make your church safer? This can be signs, new locks, cameras, panic buttons, even access control. The beauty of equipment is that if you are intentional with how you begin to implement, you can improve and expand the equipment in the future.

3) Personnel – Never forget that policies and equipment mean nothing if you do not have personnel trained on it. Training on security is never a one-time proposition, it is on-going.

If you are serious about security in your church, what are you waiting for? Now is the time to begin investing; develop your plan before the storm, not during. At Cool Solutions Group we understand that security is important to the church, but must be implemented in a way that ensures that all who need to hear the Gospel feel welcome and wanted. Our Facility Specialists stand ready to come alongside you to help assist in the development of the best plan for your church.


Are you…

  • Spending too much on utilities?
  • Investing enough to keep up with the natural rate of deterioration?
  • Properly staffing for your facility needs?

If you can not answer these definitively, then you need more information. To that end, we have developed this FREE Church Facility Evaluator. This simple tool will provide you with a snapshot of some key indicators associated with facility operational costs.

Your Church Facilities Should Suck

Have you ever driven by a park, mall, restaurant or other building that caught your attention and sparked your interest to the point that you just had to pull in and check it out?  Maybe it was the design of the building?  Maybe it was the look and feel of the campus/grounds.  Maybe it was the crowds of people in the parking lots or those mingling throughout the campus or maybe it was some other attribute that was so compelling that just sucked you in.  There was this innate and unspoken draw that was irresistible.  You may have fought the suction the first or second time you passed by…but eventually, the gravitational pull and indescribable suction pulled you in like being sucked in by a massive vacuum.  I know I have.

The design of a facility and campus are far more critical in telling your story than most people realize.  Road appeal matters.  Aesthetics matter. I am not saying that your facility needs to be opulent or look like the Crystal Cathedral (sad what has happened there), but it is going to make a “statement” and tell a story to those in your community. It can also be the catalyst to suck people in or repel them.

I once attended the Exponential Conference and loved being with thousands of church planters and leaders with a passion to expand the reach of the gospel. But let me give you a common mistake I see many, not all, church planters and new churches make far too often.

Church Planters will do their due diligence and locate their church in an area of the community that fits their “target market”.  They understand the community and the people they plan to reach.  Momentum builds…which leads to growth…which leads to crowded conditions in their rented facility…which leads to buying land…followed by the planning and building of a facility.  As with most new churches, money is tight and yet space is needed for ministry. So they find themselves in the conundrum of space vs. dollars.  They have bought land in an area of $250-$500,000 homes…right in the heart of their target. That is GREAT! But because of their need for “cheap” space, they throw up an austere structure…most likely a plain looking metal building. They cut corners on the street scape, landscaping and entrance signage, or worse, they put some something incongruent with who they are and the community they are trying to reach.

What story have they just told their community?  Will people whom spent $400K plus on their house…who are not yet believers, want to come to the little metal building around the corner? To a “passer-by”, what are you communicating with your building and campus? Is it appealing?  Does it draw (suck) them in? Does it spark a positive emotional reaction? Does it say “WELCOME…come check us out” without posting a billboard or sign? Does the community see you as an asset or a detriment?

Now, I totally understand the need to have space to fulfill the vision, mission and ministry of the church.  I get the reality that there is a limited budget.  These are real issues. What I am suggesting is that we be intentional with our campus and facility design…and intentional does not necessarily mean more expensive…but it does take effort, planning, vision, and vigilance.

We will keep unpacking these factors in the weeks to come.  But in the meantime, drive around your community with a set of fresh-eyes…and notice the way some of the facilities and campuses (not necessarily churches) look and see what kind of story they communicate to you. When we are aware that design matters, we start to see things that will cause us to pause and either be sucked in, or merely say, “Huh.”

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.

What "Story” Does Your Church Facility Tell? – Intentional

What does it mean to be intentional? When I use this word in conversation, I think of it in these terms:

  • On Purpose
  • Premeditated
  • Done with a specific result expected
  • Attention to details

These are words and phrases that are totally opposite to concepts such as:

  • Do it on the fly
  • Let’s see what happens
  • Make it up as we go
  • Hope for the best

Most successful ministry leaders adherer to the first list rather than the latter when planning sermon series, accounting methods, ministry initiatives, music sets and transitions between songs, website design, blogs and the like.  They plan.  They have an eye on the net result of their plans and goals.  They do not leave things to “chance”. And they, or someone on their team, is paying close attention to every detail.

I have used the example of Disney before and how they are all about the guest experience.  Do you think they care about the details or the “story” they want their guest to tell their friends and family after their experience? Do you think they leave that experience up to chance?  HECK NO!  Let me give you some examples:

Trash Cans – Did you know that Disney studied and learned that the maximum amount of steps a person will walk to get to a trash can is 30 paces. In order to promote  the cleanliness of the park, trash cans are placed no farther than 27 paces away from each other.  Wow…that will keep things clean. And not only that…they are not just trash cans…they are a prop and part of the story.

On-Stage/Back Stage – Disney makes a clear distinction between what people see and what people don’t see. This goes back to Walt Disney’s desire for Disneyland to be a “show.” Whenever “cast members” walk on-stage, the show is on. This distinction continues into how cast members dress and even the conversations they have with other cast members. This is part of their culture.

Street-scape – Disney knows that most of its guests entering the park are excited to see Sleeping Beauty’s castle…which happens to be at the end of Main Street.  To enhance this visual, the buildings along Main Street get shorter and the awnings extend out further along down the sidewalk. This makes the castle appear farther away and larger than life. This draws you toward the castle  and starts that transformation process (more on this in future weeks).

Sight, Sounds, Smell and Texture – When you get near the end of Main Street you are presented with a myriad of options as to where to venture next.  With each of these options, whether it is Tomorrow LandAdventure Land or Frontier Land, you will be drawn in and transformed incorporating all of your senses…and then some. Disney is very intentional with the imagery that greets you at the entrance of each “land”…and that theme draws you in and stays consistent. They also use music, sounds, and other audible effects to make your experience congruent with what your eyes see.  It then draws you deeper into this transformation by appealing to your sense of smell and “texture”.  Next time you are there and start to explore the various lands, look down and make note of what you are walking on…and so the intentionality continues.  Amazing!!!

What I have seen and learned by observing this is that many, if not most, of these impactful impressions are not that much more expensive, if at all, than their “basic” counterparts.  And in areas where additional investment is made, it is counterbalanced by a reduction in investment in others.

So…the bottom line is that “intentionality” does not have to equate to it being more expensive….it just means you have to be intentional. Purposeful. Thoughtful. Deliberate. Focused on the outcome.

As you consider your church and ministry facility, have you been intentional with its design, story and sensory elements…or have you left it to chance?

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.

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.

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.

Church Facility Projects – Preparing for the Capital Campaign

This next phase is all about raising money.  While that may sound unappealing in ministry, the practical reality is any building project will require a significant financial investment.  Thankfully, raising funds doesn’t have to feel slimy or worldly focused.  In fact, this is an opportunity for your congregation to come together to achieve a common vision.  It’s much less about the actual dollars than it is about developing a culture of generosity and rallying around the vision.

We spoke with Brad Leeper from Generis to get his insights on a successful campaign.  Here are his tips for preparing to launch a capital campaign:

Tip #1: Don’t assume people will be in church every weekend to hear multiple presentations about the campaign

Generis recommends a typical campaign (at least the public version) run for about five weeks.  Most people in your congregation will miss a Sunday or two within that five-week window.  Therefore, you need to tailor your communications with that in mind.

Tip #2: Campaigns shouldn’t be boring

Don’t just present a few architectural drawings and expect people to rally around those pictures.  The campaign should be fun, crazy, exciting, and life-giving.  Any guilt trip or sense of condemnation if someone doesn’t give isn’t going to work.  This should be a watershed moment in the life of the church.

You’ll need to infuse the campaign with credibility (hey, they’ve really thought this through), momentum (wow, I can see they already have key leaders onboard who’ve already donated), and energy (this is going to be an amazing building!).

Tip #3: Realize that potential givers will go through a thought process, including the following, before deciding to commit:

  •      “What’s the information?”
  •      “Why are we doing this?”
  •      “How do I participate in this?”

They’ll likely be less concerned about the information and more interested in the inspiration (the vision, the “why?”).  Whether they consciously go through this thought process or not, you’ll need to account for each of these three questions as you communicate with them about the campaign.

Potential Pitfalls to Consider

Keep in mind that church is one of many aspects of an individual’s life.  They have a job, a family, kid’s activities, and more consuming – their mental and emotional energy.  Since most people aren’t giving at a meaningful level now, they may not feel like this campaign applies to them since they aren’t giving anyway.  There’s an unspoken attitude of “why should I care?” that you’ll need to address.

An emotional appeal to rally around the vision will get some people on board.  However, others will also want to hear the practical reasons behind the project.  They want to know if it makes sense to do this project.  Be prepared to inspire and give practical reasons why to capture the attention of the widest audience.

Discuss why this project is critical to fulfilling the mission and vision of your church.  What happens if we don’t do this project?  What happens if I, as an individual giver, don’t contribute towards this effort?

Address why someone should consider prioritizing his/her finances so they can give towards this project.  What are you inviting them to be part of that’s bigger than themselves?  Don’t expect them to figure that out on their own.  Connect the dots for them and help them see why this is an effort worth sacrificing for.

As you can tell, it takes time to build up towards the public facing part of a capital campaign.  Consider the current culture of your congregation and how people will think or what they may ask as you get started.

The New “Front Porch”

If you lived around the turn of the century until the 1950’s, the front porch of the homes, general stores, and local businesses was a vital part of culture.  If  you wanted to know what was happening in your community, especially your immediate 5 minute walk, you could sit out on a front porch and see and hear what was going on.  My grandparents lived in an old house in Canton, Ohio with a front porch.  I can remember as a boy sitting out there and watching the neighbors interact…watching the “social media” of the day in full action.  My grandfather used to take me on a 3-4 minute walk up Second Street to the general store that also had a front porch that was occupied by people connecting, sharing life, and sharing experiences.  I also remember watching the Andy Griffith Show and seeing how the gents used to sit out front of Floyd’s Barbershop talking to the passerby’s and getting caught up on the local news (or gossip). If a new person or business came to town and you wanted to know more about it/them, you could hang out with these boys and get the skinny.

The front porch was a primary means of gathering information.  It is also the place that a “first impression” of something or someone might be developed. If the boys in the rockers said that the new hardware store was a great new addition to the community, your first impression would be positive.  The converse would also be true. If you wanted to know what was going on at the local church, you could hear the latest by hanging out on the front porch.  Or you would ask your neighbor as you swung on your front porch swing and they played catch with their kids in the street or front yard.

So what about in today’s culture? I would suggest that in 2017 (as in the previous 5-10 years), the new front porch is the internet, websites, social media and the like. While the traditional “front porch” has been decimated by zoning laws, busyness, and our desire to hibernate/escape society in our suburban settings (which is where I live as well), we have turned to other means and methods to gain the information that we desire. Like it our not, the new “first impression” of your church may have little or nothing to do with your facility, preaching, music, friendliness, denominational affiliation or any of the other things we think attract guests.  In fact, more times than not, a first time guest (not visitor) is going to check you out on the web before darkening your doors.  They will check out your website.  They may Google the church and see if there are any reviews or good/bad press about the church. What if they get to your site and there is a picture of Brittany Spears (see pic of a real church website…oh, my)? If you can capture their attention…which is usually less than 1 minute…they may even check out a sermon or podcast.  From that initial experience, they will make a determination if they want to physically come and check you out.  If your website and other internet interactions do not tell a story that impacts their interest, they will be moving on to the next website.  Period.

I know that many of you are thinking, “How shallow.” Really?!?!?  You think that? When was the last time you were looking for a good place to have dinner and you searched the internet before leaving your house or office?  Did you open a website to be unimpressed by the “presentation” and representation of the establishment, so you moved on to another?  I know I have…and I have missed out on some great dining experiences because the website turned me off. Whether we like to admit it or not, first time guests, especially a non-believer, is a consumer.  They are “shopping” for an experience and that experience starts on the web.  I know many “churched” people don’t like to think in these terms, but that’s reality…deal with it (in Jesus name).  Just like you “shop” on line for a restaurant that meets YOUR needs and expectations, people are doing the same thing with church.

One of the biggest factor for churches is being intentional about who you’re trying to reach.  For example, making a church style website with tabs like “ministries,” “service times” and “current series” will generally just appeal to your standard church audience.  The key is to really think through who you’re speaking to and trying to reach.  Is the site for your existing attendees?  Seekers who have never had a church experience?  Seekers who have walked away from church after being raised in a religious household?

Over the next several weeks we are going to talk more about the “story” your church facility tells.  “Story” is a huge part of our interaction with people and having a congruent story about or churches starts not at the front door, but at your new “Front Porch”. How inviting is your front porch?

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.

Impacting Ministry via the Thermostats

By Colby May, Certified Energy Manager and Mission Pastor of Lit – Energy Management Empowering Change.

QUESTION. What is the biggest factor on a building’s energy use? Is it the HVAC, lighting, building envelope, or behavior?

If you answered behavior, you are correct. According to State of the Plate we tithed $50B in 2013. Of the $50B, $10B was spent on utilities, maintenance and operations of our buildings yet only $1B on missions.  Facility related costs, including utility spend, is typically our second largest budget item behind salaries.  But imagine, if you will, how we could impact ministry by promoting smart energy use. We need our church buildings for a number of reasons, but the way we manage our facility, maintenance and energy has been ignored in many ways.

Part of our call as God’s creation is to also be good stewards of that creation. I believe Genesis 1:1 says it all: “God created the heavens and the Earth.” If we, and all that exists, are part of God’s creation, are we to be wasteful with that which God created? Throughout the Bible, we are called to be good stewards. In Greek, stewardship, or oikonomia, is the same word used to define management and administration. We are called to be managers or stewards of what has been entrusted to us.

On average (and this average changes based on building location, equipment and behavior) 50% of our electric use is typically our HVAC system, 30% is our lighting system, and the remaining 20% is plug load.  We also have many influencers that impact our energy use.  The strength of our building envelope can account for 1/3 of our HVAC use.  However, the largest impact on our energy and maintenance is behavior.  According to EPA 30% of the energy we use is wasted, which means we can recapture those costs through no or low cost practices.

What do thermostats have to do with Ministry? Of course behavior impacts all levels of energy management, but the largest target on a typical church is the ability to control HVAC use.  Most churches we serve have conventional thermostats or programmable thermostats that rely on continued occupant adjustments, but with that comes occupant error.  Many times we will walk a facility and find thermostats locked on hold at 65° 24/7 during hot summer months.  This is a very expensive practice, but it also provides the largest opportunity.  Of course a good option is to implement a computerized energy management system that will allow a church to control use from a centralized location.  These are really good systems available on the market, however there are problems that churches need to be prepared to understand.  Costs are extremely high to install ($1-2 per square foot), the systems require extensive training, some require long-term contracts, and many times replacement parts are hard to find.

In our opinion, and typically a first recommendation for our energy audits are implementing WIFI-enabled thermostats.  WIFI-thermostats allow a church to set schedules, setpoints, zoning and more from a centralized web-based location at a 10th of the cost. Every degree that we adjust on our thermostat equips the HVAC portion of our utility bill by 1.5%.  So an average cooling temperature of 72° verses 65° can save up to 10.5%.  Incorporating the thermostat software into church event scheduling, will go a long way into saving money.  And in our opinion the more we can save the more we can impact ministry opportunities.  WIFI-enabled thermostats truly equip the facility team to make easier and centralized HVAC decisions, minimize user error, and more importantly redirect energy spend to ministry needs.

Colby May is a Certified Energy Manager and Mission Pastor.  He formed a 501c3 called LIT that sits at the intersection of missions and energy management, where their mission is to leverage energy management and sustainable principals to impact the local church in the most vulnerable areas.  He has a degree from Gordon Conwell Seminary (Integral Missions) and has performed over 2,000 energy audits.   Colby@lit.church or www.lit.church.