The Importance of the Facility Manager During a Church Construction Project

A number of years ago, I ran across an article by David Strickland, architect from Atlanta. I was impressed by the article and got David’s permission to re-print it (Thanks David).  There is a lot of good stuff for your consideration in this article…so enjoy!

Some of the most successful projects we have had have included Facility Managers as an integral part of the building committee or vision team. If we do our jobs, at some point in the process the collection of historical information will systematically transform into a plan for new or modified facilities.

There are a myriad of details to discuss about the needs that will have to be met during the pre and post-construction phases, as well as functionality during the actual construction process. How do churches provide for existing ministries during construction and for the ministries that are needed in future following construction? Challenges will surface somewhere along the way for every church. Utilities may be off line for a period of time or some groups will be forced to relocate due to the activities associated with the demolition and/or construction work or there is an unplanned event that must be accommodated without interruption such as a funeral. The Facility Manager typically is tasked to work with the design and construction team to develop a logistics plan that addresses these critical times of the construction schedule. Thereby, when it is possible, preparation can be made well in advance of the actual occurrence so that everyone is informed, and that all ministries are accommodated with minimal inconvenience throughout the entire process.

“Facility Managers truly are a vital part in the day to day planning and operations of the church.”

In addition to being the source for historical information and the keeper of the construction logistics plan, the Facility Manager can also be a great resource to help in developing the plans for the future. Others on the team may have great vision for what could be, but there should be discussions of how the vision can be a reality with regard to facility use. What can be accommodated in the existing facilities and what will best be accommodated in the new facilities?

Day in and day out, Facility Mangers deal with the challenges of maintaining and operating the physical plant. This can be vital information for the architect and engineers. During a major renovation or during a period of new construction the economy of scale may provide great opportunities to reduce costs and to easily accomplish upgrades. These upgrades could save the church a great deal of money over time with regard to the operations budget. As an example–energy management tools are now available that will allow Facility Managers to plan, schedule and control heating and air conditioning operations well in advance of the actual date needed. This can all be done from their desktop computer.

Questions about the maintenance of new or renovated facilities should be discussed during the planning period. For example, a Facility Manager would probably want to know; what types of light bulbs are going to have to be maintained for routine replacement? What type of floor finish is going to be used in each location and how will it be maintained? How do we access new equipment for routine maintenance? There are many very good questions that should be discussed during the planning phase—a happier alternative for all than the same discussion after construction when it is not as easy to make adjustments to enhance functionality.

No two congregations function exactly alike. Where a Facility Manager is in place, it is always prudent to include them throughout the planning process. They truly are a vital part in the day to day planning and operations of the church. Invaluable assistance will be rendered by the remainder of the team–church leadership and lay leaders—as well. A productive team will be formed of individuals with varying backgrounds and experiences. Our experience indicates these diverse teams constitute productive, cohesive groups capable of successfully addressing every vital issue and making the best decisions for the ministries of their churches. All are necessary to making the team functional, but a good Facility Manager always provides insight that no one else can.


Why Use Facility Management Software for Your Church: Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of our series on Why Use Facility Management Software for Our Church.  You can see the first 2 segments on our BLOG page.

In summary, we have established common language for this discussion and explored the first 2 most obvious reasons for using facility management software (Be intentional and Central Database/Repository).

Now, let’s expand that list and look at a number of other factors in making the right decision for your church/ministry:

  1. Hit by a truck: What would happen to all of your data, plans, procedures, systems, process, etc if the key facility person at the church was (heaven forbid) hit by a truck? Would you lose all of the data that is squirreled away in their head? Would you find yourself starting from scratch? What things might go undone or undetected until something major broke-down? Would you know where all of the files were stored and what vendors had contracts with the church or what promises had been made? I have met dozens of great facility managers. They know their facilities like the back of their hands and they are invaluable to their church. But…what if suddenly they were gone? Would you be prepared?
  2. Long Term Capital Improvement Planning: We have been pretty surprised by how many churches do not have an active “sinking fund” or some form of capital reserve process. When we ask them about their planning process for major capital expenses (i.e. replacing flooring, replacing HVAC equipment, resurfacing parking, etc), the oh too common answer is…”we wait until it breaks and then replace it.”  OUCH…that does not sound like planning! It is funny that we generally do a tremendous job when we plan for a building expansion or new construction project. We set aside money in a building fund…evaluate the costs…and plan accordingly. However, we find it more common than not that this level of proactive planning dies when a church moves into the building. Having a proactive means to project and plan for future capital expenditures is a key factor in using facility management software.

    “Trying to keep all of this in your head or on a legal pad will only increase the stock value for Advil.”

  3. Prioritize work: Does the “urgent” take precedence over the important? Does that last e-mail or call take you off task? Ever walk into the office and know you have a  million things to to…but don’t know where to start? Do you feel like you have a mountain of work…e-mail or projects or emergencies?  Well…you are not alone. Frankly, I feel exactly like that as I am typing this. I have a fence to repair, bills to pay, accounting to update, and so much more.  Well…the use of a software solution can be a tremendous asset to staying on point and keep work prioritized. If it was not for Outlook, I would forget where I am to be, everyone’s phone numbers and even when to take certain meds (I know…I am a mess). If it was not for my PipeDrive account, I would not be able to stay on task with the people I need to follow up with or to get a proposal. Facility management software can do the same thing for your facility team. It can set the priority of the work, set an ETA for the work to be complete and send e-mail alerts and reminders. Trying to keep all of this in your head or on a legal pad will only increase the stock value for Advil.
  4. Manage Vendors: Who is approved to work on your site? How do you track their names, addresses, e-mails, phone numbers, etc? How do you dispatch work to the vendors? Fax? Phone? Smoke signals? Most good facility management software solutions will, at the very least, provide a section to list all of the pertinent data about your vendors and subs. This is a necessity. The better systems will also provide a means for assigning work orders to vendors and dispatch the work orders via an automated system through e-mail, text messages or some similar method. We believe that these tools are vital to the success of your work flow and will save you a great deal of time and frustration in the future.

Well…that is it for this time…there are several more factors that need to be discussed…but they will have to wait until our next post.

By the way…if you have not already downloaded your free copy of our HVAC eBook…you can do so HERE.

It’s Not a Project…It’s a Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Your Facilities Shaping You?

Have you ever heard the old adage about the 2 happiest days of boat ownership? “The day you buy it and the day you sell it.” If you are a boat owner…or owner of many other “toys”, this saying may best describe your ownership experience.

So what about our ministry tools? While most of us will never sell our church facilities, there are 2 very clear stages in the life cycle that evoke emotions similar to the boat analogy. They are Elation and Frustration…let’s explore:

Elation – The day we move in to utilize the new tool for the planned and envisioned purpose.  In most cases, there are months and years of planning that goes into the development of a ministry tool (i.e. facility for this conversation).

In most cases, the cycle generally looks like this – Church Growth > Crowded Conditions > Inability to Sustain Growth in Current Facility (Frustration) > Dreaming (of new space) > Planning (of new space) > Building (of the space…some might call this the Child Birth phase) > Elation (after move in and launching of the expanded ministries) > REPEAT

Conversely…there is the frustration component that initiated the above pattern…and will once again raise its predictable head and causes the cycle to begin again.

Frustration – This is the point in the cycle when it become painfully obvious that either the tool you have is not sized appropriately…or in many cases…is not designed to do ministry the way you want given your current context. If you go back to the cycle above, you can see about where that lands (I made it pretty obvious…just saying).

In 1943, Winston Churchill gave a speech to the House of Lords referring to the recent decimation of the House of Commons due to the war’s bombing raids. His most famous line in that address is:

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”

No truer words have ever been spoken related to the built environment…and it is so apropos to our ministry facilities. We spend months and years envisioning, dreaming, planning and building our facilities. We are diligent (most of the time) of being intentional about the space needed to facilitate ministry the way we believe will have the greatest impact on our community and target. We spend tens of thousands of dollars shaping the spaces…ensuring every door and window is in the right place…planning the audio/visual and environmental graphics…selecting just the right colors for walls, flooring and furniture…etc, etc, etc.

How you address a life cycle of the utilization of your built environment allows you to once again “shape your buildings” in lieu of them shaping you.

But at some point in the growth and cultural context of your church and community, that tool starts to shape how you do ministry. You start having to develop “work-arounds” to try to conform your ministry initiatives to the space you have access to.

Here are some real world example of what I mean:

  1. 25+ years ago, the “foyer” of most churches was merely a place to funnel people from the outside into the worship space…maybe to also get a bulletin. In that context, you only needed 1-2 square feet per person for a foyer. However, in most churches today, people are seeking the opportunity to do life with other believes and to gather and hangout. Cafes, lounge areas, soft seating, kiosks and the like need to be housed in these lobbies.  They are no longer just a “cattle shoot” to egress people.  In most cases, significant interaction and ministry is done, and as such, most churches need 5-7 square feet per person for this common space…sometimes even more.
  2. Many years ago, the Southern Baptist had a division called The Sunday School Board that provided direction and guidelines for best practices for doing education on Sunday. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the common suggested space utilization for education was a medium sized central room with a series of very small rooms off that space.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been called on to consult a church that is in one of these buildings and experiencing the Frustration milestone as they tell me they do not have enough space.  Upon further examination, we find that they actually have lots of space, it is just poorly configured…thus shaping how they do ministry.
  3. Technology has become an incredible tool for providing better utilization of space.  For example, if you need more worship space, but also have some spaces on the campus that are “dark” (i.e. not used simultaneous to your worship times), then consider video venues or other ways to best utilize the space God has entrusted to you before you venture into a costly expansion program to add more seats in a worship center that may sit dark 6 days a week.

The above life cycle of the utilization of your built environment is inevitable. How you address it allows you to once again “shape your buildings” in lieu of them shaping you. In addition…how you plan today must be done in the context of what might happen down the road.  Plan wisely…plan for flexibility and change. Be Intentional!

King Solomon and the Building Official

As part of my regular Bible reading,  I read 1 Kings 6. Take a minute and at least read versus 2-6…I will wait.

The entire chapter is fascinating to me as a person involved with worship, ministry, and facility development…but as I started reading those selected versus, I could not escape my mind wandering into the realm of the absurd. I started thinking what it would have been like for Solomon if he would have had to get a building permit for the Temple based on many of the requirements in modern day building code. I could not help myself (I am weird that way).  The more I thought about it, the more I realized how overwhelming these kind of issues can be to church leaders who just need more space and yet seem to have to deal with a flood of requirements that impact their design, function…and particularly their budget.

So what might it have been like for Solomon?

The following are some of the things a code official might have confronted the King with had our current codes been enforceable.

Enjoy…and Merry Christmas! 


Dear King Solomon:

It has come to the building department’s attention that you are constructing a new temple for assembly occupancy and public meetings. While we support the development of such structures, we need to bring several critical issues to your attention that require immediate correction and adjust.

Please read the following and then contact our office with any questions or clarifications and to provide us with the required documentation. Your prompt compliance with these requirements is appreciated:

  1. After searching our files and the scroll room, we are not able to locate an application for a building permit. As a government official, I am sure you understand the need to adhere to all required rules, regulations and ordinances. We require a detailed set of plans for our review and approval (please do not submit on stone tablets as we do not have the storage for such).
  2. Based on information obtained by our team, it appears that you intend do build the assembly building 90 feet x 30 feet. This would equate to 2,700 square feet. Using our occupancy formula of 7 square feet per person, this space could accommodate 385 people ( 2700/7). The current building code requires all assembly buildings with an occupancy of 300 or more to have an approved automatic fire sprinkler/suppression system. Please ensure that this is reflected on your submitted plans.
  3. We understand that you intend to construct the side walls to a height of 45 feet. We have 2 serious concerns about this. First, please get with the zoning office to ensure that you are in compliance with the height restrictions for that zoning district. Secondly, your project is in a seismic zone that requires special attention given to the structural components of all buildings with special consideration given to buildings with such height. Please ensure that your submitted plans address all of these requirements.
  4. It is our understanding that you intend to build this structure with 3 floors. This is of great concern and need to draw your attention to our accessibility ordinance. You will need to provide for the vertical accessibility by means of an elevator to reach all 3 floors. In addition, you will need two (2) other means of fire rated egress from each floor to a fire rated exit to the exterior of the building. In addition, please review the ordinance for the required Area of Refuge and the required 2-way communication system. NOTE: The use of ram-horns are not acceptable means of communication.
  5. Our new building code no longer allows beams used to support an upper floor to merely rest on the structural wall below.  The new code requires the following:
  • Structural footings and pads under all structural members
  • Columns or other structural accommodation to support upper beams
  • All beams must be mechanically fastened to the columns below using the approved seismic fasteners, hangers and straps
  1. Based on the occupancy calculation above, and your chariot parking requirement of 1 space per 4 seats, you will need to provide 97 parking spaces (385/4) which must include the appropriate ratio of handicap enabled spaces. As an aside, while the 4:1 ratio is code minimum, we have found that other such assembly facilities require a ratio closer to 2:1.

We believe there will be more items to address once we receive and review your signed and sealed building plans. However, these are critical items that must be addressed before you submit.

Thanks you for your understanding and prompt attention to these matters.

As always, please remember that we are the government and are here to “help.”

Mr.  Building Official

COMING EARLY 2018…the only online community focused on Church Facility Management. If you want to get on the early bird list, click HERE.  There is no obligation…just letting us know you have interest.

Your facility, staff and congregation will thank you!

“It Takes a Village” to Manage a Church Facility

Over the past 10+ years, I have meet with hundreds (maybe thousands) of church leaders possessing “titles” such as Business Administrator, Operations Pastor/Director, XP (Executive Pastor), Facility Manager, Office Manager…and many others…including Pastor. The size of their congregations have varied from less than 50 people to over 20,000 people on a weekend in multiple sites.  Some have a bent toward traditional music while others were, what I lovingly refer to as, “full contact worship.” Some were urban…some rural. Some had an aging demographic while others were predominately millennial. Some liturgical…others Pentecostal. So on and so forth.

But do you know what 99% (my guess…not based on scientific research) had in common? They meet in a facility and the majority of them had some level of responsibility for the care of that facility. “A facility” was the one common denominator. I take that back…the one REAL common denominator was  feeling overwhelmed with what it took to care for, maintain, manage and plan for the future of the facility as well as the realization that they didn’t know what the did not know.

This really concerns me!

There are numerous organizations available to provide guidance, coaching and support for pastors. There is an organization structured to provide help to over 6,000 Church Administrators (of which I am a member). I am aware of about a dozen groups to support XP’s in their roles…and yet…there is NOT ONE designated to help and support any and every church leader that has a facility. Oh yeah…as a reminder, there are almost 350,000 churches in America that have a facility…with no organization focused to provide collective support. REALLY?!?!

There is one organization that focuses on “Facility Managers,” and that is helpful…but what about the thousands…tens of thousands of churches that do not have a facility manager? Those where the pastor is the facility manager, or the deacon board leads that charge, or the trustees get together to fix things, or where the pastor’s kids come in on Saturday to clean the building (I have first hand experience with that!). What further exacerbates this is the number of churches that “think” they have a facility manager, when in actuality they have a maintenance person.  That is not a disparagement…just fact.

That is why we will soon be releasing CHURCH FACILITY MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS.

This will provide the support, interaction, resources, camaraderie, information, feedback, coaching, and tools…for EVERY CHURCH of ANY SIZE.

This new offering will provide the support, interaction, resources, camaraderie, information, feedback, coaching, and tools for EVERY CHURCH of ANY SIZE.

This invaluable tool and resource is scheduled to roll out early 2018…but…if you want to get on the early bird list, click HERE.  There is no obligation…just letting us know you have interest.

Some of the features of Church Facility Management Solutions will include:

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

This is going to be so COOL! Join us to be the best steward of the facilities God has entrusted to you.


Story, Duct Tape, and Facility Condition

I love duct tape as much as the next guy.  In fact, I believe that I can repair just about anything in our house with duct tape. When I was in my early years of college I took a 2-year sabbatical to travel with a musical group out of Nashville called “Bridge”. We did over 350 concerts a year, traveling from town to town and church to church. Every night we did a concert in a new location and so we set up and tore down our sound system each night. We had wires going everywhere. In order to “dress up” the stage and to make it safe to navigate the performance area, we used duct tape to secure the wires.  We would buy a case of it at a time, burning through a case every few weeks. I even had to repair a pair of pants, due to an attire malfunction, with duct tape until we could locate a seamstress.

It is the dream product for repairing and securing just about anything. However, after our concerts each night, we pulled up the duct tape and threw it away. It did not stay as a permanent part of the décor of the church we were at. It was installed and removed the same day…because it was never intended to be a permanent fixture in the facility. Interestingly enough, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I visit a church that has elected to use duct tape as a permanent component of their interior design scheme. The congregation steps over the duct tape week in and week out totally oblivious to the grey stripe on the worn-out carpet.

The longer you live in a space, the less you see the obvious. For your regular attenders, they become immune to the condition of the facility. It is kind of like putting a frog in a pot of cool water then turning up the temp to bring it to a boil. We stop seeing the trees for the forest. We walk past the grass growing in the cracks of the parking lot. We step over the torn carpet. We know exactly how to avoid the potholes in the parking lot. We no longer notice the stained ceiling and overlook the odor and condition of our public restroom. But I assure you, your guests do not. These inconsistencies in the story can be just as distracting and repulsive as poor design and the lack of signage and poor interactions.

In recent years our team attended 2 conferences at large influential churches. The first was a church in Southern California with a campus that is the best keep facility I have ever visited. It has 5-6 buildings uniquely located on a 50-acre site with an attention to detail second to none. When you first pull on the property, you are greeted by signage at nearly every intersection of the parking lot to guide you to your destination. The grounds were immaculately manicured and all the hedges trimmed and neat. The buildings were clean and organized, lacking disruptive clutter in the common areas. The restrooms were neat, clean and odor free. Not opulent, but comfortable. The windows and glass was clean and I did not see any duct tape on the floors. I had to look really had to find a handful of things to complain about…and trust me, I was looking. But even the handful of items I found were not deal killers…just me being meticulous.

“Will the condition of our facilities leaving a lasting negative impression on new believers and our guests?”


The other conference was in central Florida at a very large church. This is a church with an impactful TV ministry in central Florida and dynamic pastor. The conference had over 5,000 people in attendance, so this was no small campus. But I was very disappointed with the condition of the facility. The signage once on the campus was lacking and a significant amount of the parking was gravel. As I approached the buildings, after parking in the gravel lot, I was immediately taken back by the lack of care of the grounds. The yards were in desperate need of care and the trees and shrubs needed a good trim. The buildings felt old and tired, lacking any visual appeal. Then as I ventured deeper into the campus, the pathways lead me to the sea of modular classrooms…all looking like a bad public school. In fact, the speaker’s lounge was in one of these spaces, which gave the impression that “OK” was good enough for them. There was no sense of excellence or intentionality to the space. Touring the actual worship center revealed aged and worn pews, carpet that was wrinkled in lieu of laying flat and restrooms that really could have used some TLC.

Now, I am sure there maybe good reasons for this lack of care and as a believer and potentially a highly sensitive observer of spaces, I can still worship and enjoy my time with other believers. But what about our guests, especially those who are not believers. Will they be as forgiving? Will the condition of our facilities leaving a lasting negative impression on them? Will these roadblocks keep them from coming back or sharing their experience with others that may not darken the doors of your church because of  what they hear about your facility?

It would be a shame to have been intentional about the design of your facility, parking ministry, themed spaces and script writing, to then be neglectful with the care and condition of the facility. Don’t let the care and upkeep become the forgotten chapter of your story.

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.

The Four Letter Word That Is “OK” In Church

So, I am not an advocate of foul language, but there is a four-letter word that many consider “bad” that was never meant to be…OSHA. When you look at the push for improving workplace safety, OSHA came from a desire to see less people killed or horrifically injured on the job…seems legit right? I, for one, am thankful for New Jersey Senator Harrison A. Williams Jr. and Representative William A. Steiger, the key drivers behind The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, also known as the Williams-Steiger Act. Like any piece of legislation, it has morphed over the years in some unfortunate ways; however the fact remains that keeping people safe at work is a good thing.

So as a house of worship, does it apply? –  YES.

Here is chapter and verse of the sections that apply to churches and houses of worship:

1975.4(c) Coverage of churches and special policy as to certain church activities

1975.4(c)(1) Churches. Churches or religious organizations, like charitable and non-profit organizations, are considered employers under the Act where they employ one or more persons in secular activities.

1975.4(c)(2) Examples. Some examples of coverage of religious organizations as employers would be: A private hospital owned or operated by a religious organization; a private school or orphanage owned or operated by a religious organization; commercial establishments of religious organizations engaged in producing or selling products such as alcoholic beverages, bakery goods, religious goods, etc.; and administrative, executive, and other office personnel employed by religious organizations.

There is an exception during the performance of religious services, but it is a very specific exception. It is in the latter part of 1975.4(c)(1).

So, what does that mean for you?

First, it means there are some very specific OSHA regulations you should be addressing. Stay tuned for more posts about those.

Secondly, do you value your personal safety and the safe work environments of those around you? Great! Then develop, grow, and encourage a culture of safety in your building. It is not that hard…but it must be intentional. You see that word used a great deal at Cool Solutions Group; what we do is done on purpose and deliberate. Safety is no accident. My second child just recently got her license. She didn’t just walk into the DMV and say, “Hey guys, I want to drive, how about a license?”  She went through months of the class work and practical driving experience with us. We were intentional about going over the why and the how. She accepted that if she was going to earn her license, operating a vehicle safely was always required. It is part of the driving culture we created.

The same method is how you create that culture in your organization. You focus on your mission and what you are called to achieve; you also have to recognize that keeping everyone involved safe is a critical part of your mission.

“Keeping everyone involved safe is a critical part of your mission.”

The funny thing about safety…you really cannot force it upon individuals. If establishing rules was all it took to make people responsible, we would have fewer lawyers and insurance agents. Show your team how integral they are to your mission and in turn, you will have a team that sees the value in safely executing the role they have been called to…natural personal safety advocates.

We exist at Cool Solutions Group to help churches tell their story, and ultimately the greatest truth ever shared is the Gospel. If there is a way that we can connect with you to help with developing safety within your culture and mission, contact us. We are here to support you and your mission.

We have developed a FREE Church Facility Evaluator. This simple tool will provide you with a snapshot of some key indicators associated with facility operational costs.

Church Facility Evaluator


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 adhere 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.