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.

Why Use Facility Management Software For Your Church: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of our series exploring why using Facility Management Software for our church facility may be a smart move.

Last time we developed some “common language” to establish a baseline for our future discussions.  The terms we defined were:

  1. Work Order Process (a better term may actually be Work Order Management)
  2.  Scheduled Maintenance
  3. Capital Improvement/Reserves
  4. Vendor Management
  5. Equipment Tracking/Inventory Control

So…why should your church consider using some form of Work Order Management software or Facility Management software? Isn’t that just for big churches with big facilities and big budgets and big staff and big…(you complete the rest)…

If you have followed any of our past blogs, then you know that I have stated that our church facilities are large, complex commercial structures. Even if your facility is less than 10,000 square feet, it is a commercial structure…and it is complex. It may be the “house of God” but it ain’t no house. How many of you live in a “house” that is over 10,000 SF?

Regardless of the size of your facility, take a minute to answer the following questions:

  1. Does your facility have more than one HVAC unit? If so, do you have more than 5 “tons” of cooling/heating capacity?
  2. Does your facility have an electrical service that is larger than 200 amps?
  3. Do you have paved parking spaces with a curb cut to a city, town, county, state or federal road?
  4. Do you have an automatic fire sprinkler system?
  5. Do you have a fire alarm system?
  6. Do you have exit signs and emergency lights?
  7. Do you have ceilings higher than 10 feet with light fixtures in those ceilings?
  8. Is any part of your roof over 30 feet tall?
  9. Do you have more than one 40 gallon water heater?
  10. Is any part of your building made of steel/metal?

If you answered yes to 2 or more of the above questions, then you likely have a complex, commercial structure and with that type of structure comes the need for scheduled maintenance, repairs, service, etc. In most cases, these tasks exceed the ability of the typical “residential” handyman. They need to be completed by skilled professionals in these trades…whether from inside your congregation or not.

I can hear you saying…“OK…we agree with you in principle…but so what?” Good question.

Let me start with 2 of the most obvious this week, and then address more next week.

  1. BE INTENTIONAL:  There is a quote that most of you have heard…but I believe it is so appropriate for this discussion...“People do not plan to fail, we fail to plan”. We do not plan to forget to change the HVAC filters or to clean the coils or to clean the carpet. However, without a plan, these things become lost in the hustle and bustle of the “urgent” items that consume our daily activities. When that happens, the low cost maintenance items become higher cost repair issues (i.e. deferred maintenance). Having a proactive system that will serve as your “reminder” for these items will not only save you time, but assist you in being intentional with the care and maintenance of your facility…remember, these facilities were entrusted to our care.
  2. CENTRAL DATA BASE/REPOSITORY: Do you have a spreadsheet here…a post-it note there…an e-mail requesting work be done…a legal pad full of ideas…your computer calendar with dozens of reminders? Unfortunately, this is more the norm than the exception.  We met with a new client the other day who said “When all 4 of us involved in the care of our facility are together, we then have all the needed data”.  So, what happens when only 2 of them are together…do they only have 50% of the needed data and information? We are hearing this over and over from small churches to those with hundreds of thousands of square feet. This “plague” is an equal opportunity offender. Having a single source to input and store your facilities data is critical. You need to have a single secure place to store data, process work orders, track historical data, evaluate work orders and manage vendors…and it needs to be accessible to all the key players and stakeholders at the church. Without this single repository, you will always be subject to missing critical data when you need it most.

There are a number of other critical issues to discuss…so join me next time…and please join in and provide some insights that may help all of our readers.

9 Diseases of the Church Facility

The below are 9 “diseases” that many church facilities suffer from. Gary Nicholson, church architect, developed this list and thought you would enjoy playing doctor to diagnose if your facilities suffer from any of these ailments.

Enjoy (and thanks Gary, good stuff)!

Diseases of the Church Facility

Just as our bodies contract diseases that can lead to problems and cause pain and discomfort, many diseases can infect church facilities so that the church can experience functional problems and great discomfort. Rarely are these merely cosmetic, but are often outward signs of much more deep seeded problems. Examples include:

  1. Growing Pains– Consistently filling of a space or spaces in the church to beyond eighty percent, often a positive sign of growing numbers in a church. If not addressed, can become a limitation and lead to stunted growth. The remedy is not always to build new space, but to examine the possibilities of a.) Redistributing the people into underutilized areas, b.) Utilizing the space in an additional session at a different hour or time slot, or c.) Considering adding space that allows for future growth.
  2. Bumpus Maximus– When too many people are in your church foyer or lobby. This occurs primarily between services and Bible study sessions. Made worse when the preacher doesn’t stop preaching on time and people are waiting in the foyer to get into the next service when the previous service is not yet over, so that people are exiting the worship center at the same time others are trying to enter (Can be made even worse when the entire congregation ate nothing but beans the night before at the annual world hunger banquet).
  3. Circulatory Disease– When hallways and corridors are clogged or jammed full of people so that movement becomes difficult. Worst in cases where multiple services are occurring so that there is traffic both coming and going in the halls at the same time. Easily rectified by a good church squabble to thin the flock and reduce the numbers, leaving only the few who will not leave regardless of the dysfunction in the fellowship.
  4. Architectural Senility– A rather sad state whereby antiquated facilities relate to the past much more than the present. Can take on many forms. One often cited example is extremely small rooms designed for adult Bible study groups of 6-8 people instead of today’s larger groups, or built for activities that never materialize, like a recreation facility that no one uses. Another example is a very small platform with room for piano and organ and no other instruments because that was the way church was done in the 1950’s.
  5. Flashback Syndrome– The visual state of a room that induces instant flashbacks in a person who enters, usually to the 1970’s or some other era, by the nature of the color scheme and patterns, such as shag carpet with harvest gold, or avocado green color schemes. Symptoms may also include floral wall paper, or garish plaids and mauve color schemes from the eighties, etc.  Communicates that the members are out of touch with the present, or simply do not think church is important enough to bother updating the environment.
  6. Architectural Vertigo– When a church facility has been designed with no sense of balance such as between the spaces allotted for areas such as building a huge worship center without regard for the space to balance it with children’s program space, or building without adequate parking. The result is often the communication of an unintended message such as: Bible study is not important, or even that we don’t care about kids.
  7. Scatter brain” Syndrome (scatterus incognito)– A common ailment where the various age groups and programs are not arranged in any logical order and finding the appropriate room becomes extremely difficult for new or infrequent attendees.
  8. Religious Edifice Confusionitis– When a congregation builds using architectural styles or trappings from a different religion while declaring it to be “the way a church ought to look.” Greek and Roman temple forms used in nineteenth and twentieth century church buildings are often confused as “Christian”, when actually they were created as tributes to ancient gods like Aphrodite and Zeus. Makes people wonder if you know why the church even exists.
  9. Pave-it-all Landscapeosis– A disease often seen in churches that have taken the desire for a low-maintenance landscape plan to the ultimate level. Everything (except the cemetery) is paved. Asphalt has replaced the grass all the way up the building with no room for landscaping because, well, that’s the point: They don’t want to have to maintain a landscape. It has an unattractive appearance, but at least it they don’t have to do anything to take care of it.

Infected with one or more? The cure can be a lot of hard work, but so worth the effort to be free of such maladies and able to function as a church should. I recommend diagnosis by an expert in church facility diseases. Give us a call! Your facility, staff and congregation will thank you!

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.

Church Facility Management Solutions IS LIVE!

Cool Solutions Group is so excited to announce the release of CHURCH FACILITY MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS.  That’s right…we are LIVE!

If you are one of the 250+ early birds, then you have already received your notification, but if you have been waiting…the wait is over.

Don’t just take our word for it…here is what Dr. Thom Rainer has to say:

Regardless of your church size, you need to be thinking about the best use and management of your facilities. There is no better place than this community. It offers the best of church facility expertise along with peer learning. You should not be without this resource!

Thom S. Rainer, President and CEO

LifeWay Christian Resources

Church Answers

As a reminder, Church Facility Management Solutions is the ONLY online membership community designed and intended to provided best-in-class facility management information for EVERY church, regardless of size, shape, denomination, city, state, staffing structure…ANY one! You also do not have to be a “facility manager” to benefit greatly from the information provided.

As a reminder,  your CFMS membership provides you:

  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.

If you are serious about the stewarding of the ministry facilities God has entrusted to you, sign up TODAY!

Crowdsourcing for Church Facility Management

  • Can you image having hundreds or thousands of church facility professionals assisting you and your church be the best steward of your facility?
  • Can you image having access to the best minds in the church facility management and maintenance world just a key stroke away?
  • Can you image being provided with free resources on a weekly basis that will provide your church the “best-in-class” data and information to be intentional, efficient and effective with the managing of your facility?

We believe that the collective minds, experience, knowledge and expertise of church facility and leaders should be unharnessed across the nation to ALL churches regardless of size, age, demographic, denomination, music preference or growth patterns.

Have you seen the new show on TV called “Wisdom of the Crowd?” It is a new cop drama about a man that builds a crowdsourcing computer to help find his daughter’s killer. The premise is that we are smarter together than on our own. While entertaining (and maybe not completely realistic…nor am I endorsing the show or any of its cast), it has made me think about the notion of crowdsourcing and my favorite topic…Church Facility Stewardship (Management).

Let me explain.

Crowdsourcing has been defined as: The process of getting work [or funding], usually online, from a crowd of people. The word is a combination of the words ‘crowd’ and ‘outsourcing’. The idea is to take work and outsource it to a crowd of workers.

A famous example would be Wikipedia. Instead of Wikipedia creating an encyclopedia on their own, hiring writers and editors, they gave a “crowd” the ability to create the information on their own. The result? The most comprehensive encyclopedia this world has ever seen.

While there has been some criticism about the quality that is derived from crowdsourcing, the principle of crowdsourcing is that more heads are better than one. By canvassing a large crowd of people for ideas, skills, or participation, the quality of content and idea generation will be superior.

There you have it. Getting ideas from multiple people on a topic or issue, can actually make the quality of the content…the information that is made available…by what might appear to be random folks…BETTER.

That concept is an underlying reason for the development of a new service calledChurch Facility Management Solutions.” We believe that the collective minds, experience, knowledge and expertise of church facility and leaders should be unharnessed across the nation to ALL churches regardless of size, age, demographic, denomination, music preference or growth patterns.

  • Do you realize how many churches have a facility?
    • ANSWER: Most of the 350,000 (+/-) churches in America.
  • Do you know how many have a full time skilled facility manager?
    • ANSWER: A small fraction.
  • Do you know how many churches have proactive means/methods for the maintenance, management and long term capital reserve planning?
    • ANSWER: A VERY scary…really scary…small number!!!!

We have developed Church Facility Management Solutions to be your partner in your Facility Management and Facility Stewardship initiatives.  This membership community will provide:

  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

If you want to be a part of this movement and join those that take the stewardship of the facilities God has entrusted to you and your church seriously, then sign up NOW to get started.


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!

Build Your Church Before You Build Your Building

A number of years ago I did a blog series based on a book with some pretty simple and insightful ideas. That series was based, with permission, on the book Simply Strategic Stufby Tony Morgan and Tim Stevens. I strongly recommend that you pick up the book as there are 99 great insights.

As I look back on 2017, the truths that Tim and Tony wrote about have become acute to me as I have served and met with dozens of church leaders. Our team has worked with a number of churches that could not articulate their vision, mission or focus. When asked to communicate about their vision, they were quick to tell us about the WHAT they do (programs)…but when challenged to drill down further, they could not explain WHY they did those things and heard crickets when asked to define WHO they were as a church.

To me, that is tragic…and sad.

I used to do a workshop for the NC Southern Baptist entitled “Why Build When you can Grow“. That workshop was intended to challenge the traditional thinking that you needed an owned facility to grow your church. Frankly, that is as far from the truth as you can imagine. With that said…if you have explored all of your options and facilities are still the right choice, then by all means pursue that…but do it the right way.

OK…enough soap-box preaching…let’s re-visit what Tim and Tony have to say:

SIMPLY STRATEGIC STUFF #38 – Build Your Church Before You Build Your Building

Those of us who have rented space for church services have heard people say, “Tell me when you are in your own building, and I might visit then.”

But the church building isn’t the church. The church is a living organism. It is the people. It is those who have given their lives to Christ and have gathered locally to make a difference in their communities. There are churches all over the world that have no building or facilities and yet are living, thriving local churches!

Addressing the ministry vision, mission, focus and values is the first step in lasting and intentional facility stewardship.

Putting up a building before the church is ready could cause troubles down the road. Do the following before you consider breaking ground:

  • Define your mission, vision and values
  • Build broad ownership of those defined values through your entire core of believers
  • Make sure that your leadership team is strong and growing
  • Develop a culture of volunteerism
  • Develop an infrastructure of leaders and systems that can handle the demands of a facility
  • Take the spiritual temperature of your church, and make sure that the people are continuing to take spiritual steps.

Make sure that having a facility will serve the purposes of God in your community. Make sure that it will facilitate reaching more and more people for Christ. Remember, the church is a living organism made up of the people Christ died for.  A building is only beneficial if the people are thriving.

Great insights! I would add that the above truths are not only for churches that are currently in temporary space or rented facilities…but for any church that is considering an expansion or building program of any kind. Addressing the ministry vision, mission, focus and values is the first step in lasting and intentional facility stewardship.

The above steps and tenets are universal. They can be your guide to an intentional impact; or if left unaddressed, can lead to a status of a country club or wandering in the wilderness.  In the words of the Grail Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade“You must choose. But choose wisely.”

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 If The Story Is Never Told?

If you have read my blogs or “Why Church Buildings Matter”, you know I am a fan and proponent of “story”. I believe that story is a critical part to our lives and particularly the physical manifestation of our church’s vision, mission and culture via our facilities.

But…what happens if the story is never completed or told? What if everything always stayed in a perpetual state of “draft”? Matthews 5:15 tells us,

“No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”

Stories were meant to be told, shared, enjoyed, and fulfilled.  Think about these questions:

  1. Is the script enough? Will the story be told if all we do is write a script?
  2. Is the set design enough? Will the story be conveyed if we only envision, plan and select the color pallets for the stage set?
  3. Is the storyboard enough? Who actually sees the storyboard? Usually it is just a handful of people.
  4. How many tickets can you sell to a concert of an incomplete symphonic work?

I am going somewhere with this, so hang in there and appease me for a minute.

Stories were meant to be told, shared, enjoyed, and fulfilled.

I did a Google search for statistics about the number of manuscripts that never make it to published book status and how many screenplays end up in the black-hole of the “could have been” file.  The numbers are staggering…here are some of the stats I unearthed:

·         On average, there are 50 spec screenplays sold every year out of 250,000 spec screenplays circulating around Hollywood and various other film making venues.  That translates into 5000 to 1 odds.

·         Odds of fatally slipping in your bath or shower are 2,232 to 1. So you have a better chance of dying due to a shower fall than getting a screenplay published.

·         Literary Agencies typically reject 99.5 of everything they see. Out of close to 500 queries a month (electronic and surface mail) they may receive, they invite perhaps 50 proposals for review. Out of that fifty, perhaps one or sometimes two is ready to be delivered to publishers. So your odds of getting your literary baby to a publisher is 500 to 1…or a .2% chance of getting published

These odd are not great and yet authors, scriptwriters and the like, continue to produce manuscripts, drafts, and screenplays year after year.  Why?  Because there is this hope that eventually they will be noticed or that their proverbial ship will come in and their life will be altered forever. Hope upon hope. Envisioning a better, more spectacular future.

So how does this relate to the story of our church facilities?

I have been serving churches for 31 years…built my first church project in 1986 (before many of you were born) for Bethelview United Methodist Church outside Boone, NC. I have been a part of some incredibly exciting development projects and ministry initiatives. I have been privy to some remarkable stories. The concern I have is when I see a church or other ministry invests tens, and even hundreds of thousands of ministry dollars…entrusted to them by God…to only develop the manuscript or screenplay. They spend countless hours and monies, contributed by people giving sacrificially, to develop pretty pictures, concept drawings, and even complete architectural plans that are just the manuscript of the story. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the creative process and the vision sessions I have been a part of and led. But is that enough? Is the pretty storyboard and fly-through videos of our planned spaces enough? Have we been prudent and diligent in our stewardship initiatives if that is as far as we get?

I say “Not just NO, but….” (you can fill in the rest).

If the story was worth the effort to commit the time and dollars to develop the manuscript…and it is financially feasible (which means your manuscript needs a section on financial responsibility)…and provides the right, intentional tools to fulfill the vision and mission, then the story needs to be told. It needs to come to fruition. It needs to be built…or leased…or purchased…or renovated…or converted.

Don’t allow your manuscripts and pretty pictures to windup in a closet at the church or the pastor’s trunk. We do not have the luxury to gamble with odds like the examples above, with Kingdom assets. We cannot spend dollars, given sacrificially, knowing that the likelihood of reaching the finish line has a success ratio of 500:1. That is a high-stakes venture and not very responsible as a leader. If your team has been properly lead thought a well-crafted process, and has fully vetted your ministry needs, culture, financial capabilities, congregational buy-in, team and other market conditions, then complete the work. Tell your story.

There is a world waiting to read it.

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.