The Intersection of IT, Facility Management and the Internet of Things (IoT)

I have been involved in church for over 56 years (born into a pastor’s home) and have served the church facility “market” for about 32 of those years. I can tell you first hand that for the majority of my association and work with churches, the church tends to be laggards when it comes to adopting new trends, means, methods…and technology. This is not a slam on the “church” as an organization, but just a reality.

It is true that many churches are now keeping up with trends and in many cases leading the charge (especially with sound systems, video production, etc). Think about the YouVersion Bible app (Happy 10th anniversary!). They are actually leading the way. Also, think how online giving and text-to-give is almost as common place as the offering plate.

There is a technology that is trending that I believe will impact all aspects of your world…including church…so let’s get familiar with it – Internet of Things (IoT). According to a Forbes article, it can be described as:

Simply put this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig. As I mentioned, if it has an on and off switch then chances are it can be a part of the IoT. The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices…that’s a lot of connections (some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion). The IoT is a giant network of connected “things” (which also includes people). The relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things.

So what does this all mean for churches…YOUR church?

Here is what I see happening and where we are heading:

  1. Major facility systems will be more integrated with themselves and with their management tools (i.e Church Management Software and Event Scheduling Software).
  2. Given the incorporation of API’s (Application Programming Interface – a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other), more and more of this integration is going to interact via API’s and not through proprietary protocols.
  3. So…seeing that API’s are an IT world widget and not an everyday Facility Management tool, the IT department at your church will play a much larger role in the selection, implementation, training and maintaining of these systems (via IoT).
  4. Most of these IoT integrations will require Ethernet or WiFi connectivity which may require the incorporation of Firewalls, networks, servers, static IP’s, cloud connectivity and storage, etc, etc, etc.
  5. These applications will likely have cost and budget implications. Some will have significant reductions in cost as we become more effective and efficient…but some of the savings may be offset by subscriptions, hardware, software and the maintaining of the same.
  6. That leads to to the real crux…IT and Facilities must collaborate.
    • They must communicate.
    • They must seek information from each other before decisions are made.
    • They must determine the WHY they need an application before they decide on the WHAT and HOW.
    • It may also require budget discussions. As stated above, there may be cost savings and offsets. Whose budgets do these savings and costs impact? Same for staffing.

As you can see…this is not to be taken lightly…and unless you plan to continue to live in a cave rubbing 2 sticks together to make fire, this is coming to us all. Remember, the iPhone is only 11 years old…and yet if feels like we have always had one (or similar).

Is this on your radar?  If not, if needs to be!

eSPACE Now Unlocks Doors

That’s right…you heard us. Not only is eSPACE the industry leading Facility Management Software…it is also the leader in Facility System Integrations.

Nearly 9 years ago we developed the first COOLSPACE integration with the Niagara Framework for HVAC Building Automation Systems. Since then, we have developed even more (see HERE for a more information on this).

Well…we have taken facility system integration to the next level…and that is to allow eSPACE or your Event Scheduler (remember eSPACE integrates with 14 other Church Management Systems) but to also unlock and lock doors. BOOM!!!!

  • No more late night trips back to the church to make sure the doors are locked.
  • No more double entry of schedules in the event scheduler and your door system (or HVAC system).
  • Enter events one time and be DONE!

You can now create and approve your event in eSPACE (or one of our ChMS integration partners) and simultaneously communicate with your HVAC systems when to come on and off…AND…determine which door(s) you want unlocked/locked for that event. This is FREAKING AWESOME!

There are, however, some requirements from you…such as:
  1. You need to have an access control system
  2. That system needs to have an API that we can communicate with
See…that wasn’t so bad.

Do we have your attention?  If so, reach out and let us know how we can help you increase operational efficiency as well as what your facility uses. We are more than happy to investigate and make this a reality for YOUR team!

PS:  Lighting and  security cameras are next on the integration train to efficiency!


The Precursors of Facility Stewardship

For the past 10 years I have been beating the drum of Facility Stewardship. You can search through the archives of this blog and find dozens of posts on the subject.  Heck, we even produced an almost 300 page Facility Stewardship Manual (hint…get your copy today). I believe in this principle. In fact, at a recent meeting of our leadership team, we reiterated that our WHY, as a company, is to “To assist organizations be EFFECTIVE, EFFICIENT and INTENTIONAL with the facilities they have been entrusted to steward.”

This is what we do. This is who we are. This is what drives us.

Going back through most of the information we have produced on this topic, I realized that the majority of the content is based on the assumption that a church already has a facility that needs to be stewarded…and that is true, given the majority of the life cycle costs of a facility are after you move in.

But…you cannot move into a facility until after it is dreamed about, planned, and built. You cannot steward something that does not exist. (What came first, the chicken or the egg?)

With that as the backdrop, the precursor to Facility Stewardship has to include all of the phases leading up to the existence of a facility. I know that sounds over simplified, but that’s the facts. In many instances, the time, energy and intentionality invested in these precursor activities will set the tone…if not the costs…of the long term life cycle stewardship initiatives. Poorly designed and built facilities generally cost more to operate, thus increasing the life cycle cost.

We see the life cycle comprised of 4 primary components:

SUSTAIN: The “Sustain” component is where we (or at least I have in my writing) tend to focus our attention when we think of Facility Stewardship given all the existing churches that have facilities to maintain/steward. There is actually a very small percentage of churches planning/building in any calendar year…usually 1-3% of all churches in America are in a “building program” in any given year…so we are inclined to equate Facility Stewardship to the other 97-99% of the churches that have facilities whom need to maintain, pay utilities, clean, replace light bulbs, repair HVAC systems, etc.

“We cannot look at Facility Stewardship and Life Cycle as a “one and done” process…the term “cycle” would infer that it repeats itself…and so it is with the life cycle of a facility.”

But we cannot look at Facility Stewardship and Life Cycle as a “one and done” process…the term “cycle” would infer that it repeats itself…and so it is with the life cycle of a facility. Once you have been in a building for any period of time, there is a natural occurrence that starts the cycle over again (and again, and again). We tend to start to dream of new ways to do things…thus the need for new tools (or re-purposed tools) which in turn requires planning and some facet of building…then sustaining…repeat.

Given the above, there are 3 precursors to the “sustain” portion of Facility Stewardship:

DREAM: This is a critical step in the process of every facility initiative which provides the platform for church leaders to ask “what if” and understand a variety of scenarios that might be possible depending on God’s leading and the intentional uniqueness of your church. Dreaming is not just “blue sky” thinking (although there is a component of that) but needs to be weighted by intentional “next steps”.

PLAN: Intentional planning is required to achieve a desired goal. Period. Most church leaders miscalculate or under estimate the value and impact of this phase. Here is a fact; You will spend most of your total project budget during the planning phase. That may sound un-intuitive given that you will likely write checks for less than 15% of the total cost of your project during the pre-construction process. However, the reality is that every decision you make during this phase will impact the cost of your project. The “Build” phase is merely the execution and fulfillment of the planning. Do not take this lightly.

BUILD: Building and construction can be confusing and feel adversary for those not actively involved in the industry. There will be hundreds of items that must be addressed and resolved. There will also be times of frustration, concern about quality, doubt about the validity of a “change order”, schedule issues, budget issues, closeout, warranty, etc, etc, etc. It can be overwhelming…but it doesn’t need to be that way. You need an advocate and “construction-eese” translator making “cloudy” issues clear. Someone sitting on your side of the table allow you and your team to do what God called you to do…minister and lead.

Don’t assume that the precursors are not as equally important to the sustaining elements of Facility Stewardship. Taking the above for granted can cost you dearly. Facility Stewardship is not an “either/or” but rather a “both/and” process. Let me put it another way…the Dream, Plan and Build are not merely precursors, but integral parts of Facility Stewardship.


500+ Reasons to Join Church Facility Management Solutions

A number of months ago we announced the release of the ONLY Online Community/Forum 100% focused on Church Facility Management. This community is the only one of its kind and we have seen great response. In fact, we have nearly 500 who have joined to improve their Facility Stewardship prowess.

Want to know why?

Church facility management is the responsibility of all churches…any size…everywhere…all denominations…all colors…all styles. Get my point?!?!  The data being provided as part of Church Facility Management Solutions…the content…the resources…the webinars…the access to other church professionals…the access to vendors and the like is incredible and this is the only resource on the market focused on this topic.

Don’t just take our word on it…here are what the CFMS members are saying:

Just joined today and I am very impressed with this website. I have been Facilities Manager for almost 3 years and I wish I had known about this site when I started this job. Looking forward to gaining more knowledge and insight . Thanks Tim – Bill Dickerson

 

Thank you for making this Free! Most churches are running on shoe strings and duct tape so this opens up for greater participation. I have been in the corporate facilities/real estate for 24 years and I am always learning new things. Looking forward to gleaning and sharing. Thanks – Steve Armstrong

As a reminder, your FREE 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.
  6. Availability to Consulting and Training Services.

Join us TODAY completely FREE!

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


Facility “Management” (Leadership) vs. “Maintenance”

As part of developing Cool Solutions Group, I have met with dozens of business administrators and facility personnel. As I have documented these experiences I see that there appears to be a discrepancy between facilities “management” and facilities “maintenance”. To some of you, this may sound like semantics, but I think that it is much, much deeper than two “words” that some would consider synonyms. Let me describe what I have seen and then let you decide if there is or is not a difference.

First, let’s explore how dictionary.com defines these 2 words:

man-age-ment

1. The act or manner of managing: handling, direction, or control
2. Skill in managing; executive ability
3. The person or persons controlling and directing the affairs of a business, institution, etc.

main-te-nance

1. The act of maintaining
2. The state of being maintained
3. Care or upkeep, as of machinery or property

As I look at these definitions, I see a couple things that jump out at me:

  1. Management appears to define the act of being proactive.
  2. Management requires a skill to lead and direct activities of an organization or team.
  3. Maintenance appears to be developing a way to maintain the status quo.
  4. Maintenance is focused on the care and upkeep of something which may be seen as reactive.

There has been much discussion and many books written about the difference between management and “leadership”. From a pure business perspective, I understand the differences. However, in this instance I would suggest that Facility “Management” is more congruent with leadership than maintenance. Even the above definitions would lead to that conclusion.

What words could be used to describe management vs. maintenance? See below the word pictures that we would use:

MANAGEMENT MAINTENANCE
Proactive Reactive
Preventive Corrective
Lead React
Plan Respond
Systematic Scramble
Save over the Long Term Spend as needed
Increase Life Cycle Band-Aid

So, as you explore your facility stewardship needs, are you providing management/leadership, or merely maintenance?

Food for thought…


The Established Church

I have worked in the church facility arena for over 32 years.  I have seen all sorts of trends, initiatives, flash-in-the-pan ideas and those that last through the ages.  I have seen shifts in music as well as what version of the Bible to preach from as well as the “how” we do church. I am a firm believer that the Word of God never changes…but our means, methods, systems, organizational structures, etc. MUST change.

In the design and construction segment of the church facility world, there is a huge clamoring to be on the cutting edge…to find the next Saddleback or Willow Creek or Elevation Church or Life Church. Most people in the space I work in want to be with the “cool” people. The trend setters. The hottest new thing.

I get it.

There is something very exciting to be part of a movement that is changing the landscape of church and impacting the world in incredible ways. There is great notoriety for those firms that can help design, manage and build facilities for these organizations. I have been blessed to serve such ministries and continue to serve many to this day. Again…I understand the allure.

But let’s step back…there are over 375,000 churches in America. Of those, there are less than 2,000 that would be considered Mega Churches (over 2,000 weekly attendance)…that is only .5%…less than one percent. And of that group, many have been around for more than 20 years…so they are not really the “newest gig” in town.

In addition, there are about 5,000 new churches planted every year (which helps to offset the closures). And of those, most are smaller than 200 people so they are not [yet] the new model for church in America.

Then it hit me (I am a slow learner at times)…the majority of all ministry that occurs in the USA is done from/within/based out of an ESTABLISHED CHURCH. In fact, I would surmise that 95-99% of ministry is generated by an established church. Let’s be clear…”established” does not necessarily mean “old” or “dying” or “stuck in a rut” or even “traditional” in their music style. I have churches we are serving that are 50-75 years old that have started their 6th campus or are reaching their communities in very new and fresh ways.

So what? Who cares?

Well…I do, and you should too.

The leaders of these established churches need encouragement. They need training on how to navigate the issues and opportunities related to leading an established church. They need to know how to honor the past and yet move toward the future. How do you love and respect an aging congregation and yet attract and foster relationships with the next 1-2 generations? How do you lead a church with deferred maintenance or “tired” facilities that may be dated and incongruent with your vision?

Well…I am so excited to have been asked to participate in the first ever EST Conference this fall in Dallas, Texas. The list of conference speakers includes Dr. Thom Rainer, Sam Rainer, Micah Fries, Josh King and John Myzuka…and me.

This one day event will be held on October 4, 2018. Registration has just opened, so make plans to gather your team and spend the day with this great line up of church leaders.


Church Security – Building a Strong Foundation

At Cool Solutions Group we strive to provide the best content to all that are searching for ways to be stewards of what they have been entrusted. In the past few years church safety and security has been a growing focus. We get many calls regarding this, and work with many great partners in the industry to get the best information out to as many as possible.

What we have found is that security is like any other process in a facility. To be successful it must be done intentionally. One of our favorite quotes that is generally attributed to the Greek soldier Archilochus circa 650 B.C. is “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training”.

That concept is the basis for our new free e-Book series entitled A Measured Approach to Church Security. This series has 4 separate eBooks:

Part 1: Church Security – Preparing for the Process

Part 2: Church Security – Laying a Firm Foundation

Part 3: Church Security – Building Upon the Foundation

Part 4: Church Security – Supported by a Firm Foundation

For a safety and security program in your church to be successful and effective, you will need to have a strong foundation. This series is designed to introduce you to the concepts that allow you to begin building the best program for your church. There are many references provided, some to articles and some to service providers. Take the time to dig deep and begin building and training on a safety and security program that can accomplish your objectives. Developing your response during the storm is the opposite of intentional planning.

Download this FREE series today, and encourage others to do the same. Develop the plan that is right for you and your church culture. We are here to help.


The “Real” Cost of Facility Ownership: What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary

As many of you know, I come from a background of planning and building ministry facilities. I have been blessed to invest over 30 years of my life in serving churches to develop new and renovated ministry facilities. That phase of my life brought me great joy and fulfillment. But now I am very burdened by the millions…and billions of dollars that are spent each year on religious construction without a clear understanding of the “real” cost of ownership. I also think that most ministry leaders do not understand that the ongoing costs eclipse the initial costs and do so in a much bigger way than you would imagine.

Let’s look at the REAL cost of ownership of our ministry facility:

  1. INITIAL COST: For this exercise, let’s assume that our new ministry facility is 30,000 SF for $4,777,550
  2. COST OF “MONEY”: Let’s assume that we borrowed $3,000,000 to pay for the project and we did so based on a 15 year loan at 6%…but paid it off in 7 years. In this scenario, you will have paid approximately $1.1M in interest.
  3. COST OF OPERATION: Based on our research and bench-marking provided by IFMA (International Facility Managers Association), the average church in America will spend $4.50 to $7.00 per square foot annually for janitorial services, utilities and general maintenance. In addition, a church will spend an additional amount in capital improvements that will be in the $1.00 to $2.00/SF range (if the capital reserve account is started at the time construction is complete…this number grows significantly higher if you neglect the capital reserve account during the early years of the building’s life cycle). For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume that we will spend $6.00/SF for operational and capital reserve items. This may be low…but I want the calculations to be realistic.

Assume a 40 year life cycle (which is not that long)…at 1.5% per year of inflation. Remember that operational costs are perpetual and paid for with inflated dollars…so this is going to increase, and 1.5% is probably TOO LOW. $210,000/ yr x 40 years at 1.5% per year inflation for 40 years…without compounding = $13,440,000.00

So let’s look at what this means:

  1. Initial costs including design – $4,777,550
  2. Cost of Money – $1,100,000
  3. Cost of life cycle operations and capital reserve – $13,440,000 (that is $448/SF…OUCH)
    TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP = $19,317,550

WOW…that is a BIG number…now…here is the shocking part:

  1. The combined cost of the construction partner and the design professionals is only 3% of the total cost of ownership.
  2. The construction cost…including the design…is only about 22% of the total cost of ownership.
  3. The interest paid is only about 6% of the total cost of ownership.
  4. Leaving…71% of the total cost of ownership in operation costs and capital expenditures.

As I indicated prior, State Farm Insurance found that they spend about 80% of the total cost of ownership of commercial buildings on operational costs over 40 year. Further, a book was published in 1969 by THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS entitled – LIFE CYCLE COST ANALYSIS 2: USING IT IN PRACTICE by David S. Haviland. In this book, Mr. Haviland states:

“The INITIAL DESIGN and CONSTRUCTION of a facility comprises about 15% of the total cost of a building over its 40 year lifespan. The remaining 85% is made up of the building’s OPERATIONS and MAINTENANCE COSTS.”

So…what costs more…the initial cost…or the cost after you occupy? I think the numbers speak for themselves. So…do we invest the same amount of time and energy in planning our operational costs as we did when we developed our master plans and floor plans? Why do we get all in a tiff about an architect charging 7% instead of 5%…or the construction partner charging 6% instead of 3%? The fees that encompass only 3% of the total cost of ownership feel so important at the time we hire them…but the decisions, direction, means and methods that this team suggests and implements will be with you for the life of your buildings. Do we have our eyes on the REAL cost of facility ownership?

If Facility Stewardship is really about being wise stewards of all God has entrusted, then I think it is fair to say that most of us have our priorities upside down. Facility Stewardship must include:

  1. Purposeful Facility Planning – Taking the time to really evaluate the “genetic code” of the church, reviewing the vision, determining IF facilities are needed to accomplish the vision and mission of the church in addition to evaluating the potential financial implications.
  2. Proper Facility Development – This is not just about construction…but also encompasses the financial stewarding of the resources God has entrusted to us by planning facilities that meet the ministry objectives…AND…that do not bankrupt the church in the future with operational costs. As seen above…most of your long term cost of facility ownership WILL BE established based on the planning during this phase of any project.
  3. Proactive Facility Management and Long Term Care – This is where we too often fall grossly short in our Facility Stewardship Initiative.
    Think about it…then do something about it.

Do you need some help getting started? Don’t forget to order your copy of our manual –   Facility Stewardship: Managing What God Has Entrusted To You. It is a must have for every church that has a facility!


 

5 Ways Your Parking Lot Might be Holding Back the Redemptive Potential of Your Church

This week we are thrilled to share the wisdom of a great church leader and friend, Rich Birch of unSeminary.comRich has become a trusted friend the past few years and I really appreciate his insights. For example…believe it or not, your parking lot could be the thing that is holding back the potential of your church. In fact, your church might not be living up to its total calling because of what is happening at the parking lot. Rich is going to unpack this for us below.  Thanks Rich for all you do!

Your Parking Lot Might be Limiting the Redemptive Potential of Your Church!

Cars have a profound impact on the manner in which we “do” church across the country. As the adoption of the car took off in the first half of last century, our approach to churches changed and morphed accordingly. The local parish gave way to the regional church which ended up paving the way for the entire mega-church movement, which became a fertile ground for the multisite movement. We would do well to understand the impact of cars and connecting our parking lots to our ministry because they are so connected to what we do. Here are a few ways that parking lots might be negatively impacting your ministry.

A Full Parking Lot is Limiting Your Church

Obviously, most church leaders are inside their buildings when their services start. Your people might know that you have a problem and you’re never around to see it. Full parking lots are a great sign because that implies lots of people are attending your church. However, if they are “too full” like a packed auditorium, it can actually turn people off.

Most municipalities’ bylaws are inadequate to tackle the required parking spots per seat in the main auditorium. Lots of cities typically only require 1 spot for every 4 seats in your auditorium. (I know one city by us that only requires 1 for every 40!) My experience suggests that your church needs 1 spot for every 2 seats in your auditorium. Most legacy church buildings were not built with this much space and might get cramped every week.

If your parking lot is more than 70% full as your services are starting, it’s time to start looking for better parking solutions. You want your guests to be able to find a spot easily.

Four Tactics for Dealing with a Full Parking Lot:

  • Street Parking // Diving into your municipalities parking bylaws might reveal that your area allows street parking on Sunday. In many regions, the rules pertaining to weekend street parking are different during the week. It’s worthwhile investing the time to figure out if this type of opportunity exists on the streets around your building.
  • Cross Use Agreements // Look around your immediate neighbors and find someone who you could borrow spots from. Oftentimes, other businesses and organizations will be open to you using their empty parking spots. However it’s much better to approach them and talk about it rather than just starting to use it.
  • Park Your Leaders Off Site // Those who volunteer and lead at your church should be encouraged (or even required) to park off your location. Cast vision with them around the idea of creating more space for visitors and ask them to do the extra walk.
  • Shuttle Buses // Churches facing a more acute parking problem might need to resort to off-site parking that isn’t adjacent to their property and might need to offer remote parking supported by shuttle buses. This approach should ideally be the “last stop” before you look at building more parking spaces. It can be a great solution and provide good service for families connecting with your church.

Church Parking Lots without Volunteers Are Missed Opportunities

If your church doesn’t have people serving on a parking team, you must know that people within your church are missing out on a perfect service opportunity. Over the years, I’ve found that churches that have parking teams are actively engaging a group of volunteers that lots of other churches seem to be unable to connect with. I love the churches that have parking teams which espouse an almost superhero-like ethics as they serve outdoors all year long. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this team from the swift completion of their appointed service” … even the postal service can’t claim that anymore!

Your church grows when more people get plugged in and they spread the word among their friends. As you get this group of volunteers plugged into your church, they will start telling other people. Also, churches develop faster when they see more people getting plugged into the community. As you move a group of people from anonymity to community through serving on a team, the church is inevitably strengthened.

5 Tips for Launching a Parking Team

  • Start with the Who // The team leader is critically important for this team. (Any team, really!) Find an outgoing team builder who doesn’t mind asking people to join the team. Typically these are high energy folks because it takes a lot to push and stay outdoors all year long!
  • Launch in a Mild Season // Please don’t launch this team in July if your church is in Florida, or in January if you’re in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Launch the team in a “shoulder season” where your team can effectively do its task before the heat or cold sets in.
  • Consider the Uniform // Give your people something to wear that will help them stand out while serving. Think about the different kinds of weather when considering various parts of the uniform.
  • Training! Training! Training! // Make sure to think through exactly what kind of experience you want your guests to have upon their arrival. Talk it over with the team before they start. Draw it out on a diagram or two for the visual learners. Oftentimes, theme parks do a fantastic job of parking people. Maybe you could take your people to visit a theme park to watch and understand what they do.
  • Celebrate Lots! // This team needs lots of public celebration and admiration. These people are considered to be heroes of the church because of what they do for you. Talk lots about them from the stage and celebrate their service. You can’t overemphasize how amazing this group of people really is!

Your Church’s Parking Lot is a First Impression … all week long!

The first thing that most people typically see about your church is your parking lot. This is not only the case on weekends when your guests arrive, but also all week long as most people just drive by your parking lot.

I’ve seen some churches with a small forest growing between the cracks in the parking lot by communicating that it’s a very long time since anyone parked there. We’ve all seen a worn out parking lot that hasn’t been painted since the Spice Girls were on Top 10 radio and it all looks far too depressing.

Stand back and look at your parking lot. If it were the only thing that people knew about your church, what would it communicate? For most of us, it is the only thing people know about and identify with our churches because they simply drive by and don’t come in. Ensure your parking lot communicates that your church is welcoming and open for one and all!

On a related note … have you ever stopped to consider what your parking lot communicates if it’s empty throughout the week? All of our buildings have their heaviest usage during the weekends, but does that mean they’re completely empty during the week? Does an empty parking lot throughout weekdays implicitly communicate that your church isn’t relevant to the lives of rest of the people? Just wondering.

Is Your Parking Lot Holding Back Single Parents?

Today, 1 in 4 kids are raised by a single parent. [ref] If your church isn’t seeing at least that number of single-parent-headed families in your church, the onus may lie on the parking lot. Traveling with young kids can be particularly challenging as a single parent. By the time a single parent has arrived at your church, they have already braved a lot to make that happen. The last daunting task is getting out of the car and across your parking lot into your facility.

5 Ways Your Church Can Be More Single-Parent-Friendly in Your Parking Lots

  • Designate “Parent Parking” Spots // You don’t need to make these “single parent parking spots” because people do appreciate some level of anonymity. Having spots that are closest to the front and have easy access to your children’s ministry is a gift to all parents!
  • Train Leaders to Look for Single Parents // The simple act of helping a parent with a stroller in your facility can be a sign of selfless love and care. Having team members walk with single parents and help their kids get into your ministry can make all the difference.
  • Have “Fun Transport” Options // Wagons are a simple yet effective tool that some kids love to jump into and get driven into church in style. A next level option would be to have golf carts or even a tram! (I love the tram at Disney World!)
  • Umbrellas Are A Must // Train your people to look out for parents on rainy days to meet them with an umbrella at the car. There is nothing more thoughtful than when someone steps up beside your car with an open umbrella on a rainy day to help you get your kids out!
  • Great (Obvious) Signage // If you have two or three kids in tow, you are focused on keeping them safe coming across your parking lot. It can be difficult to discern where to go. You can’t make your signage too obvious to people. Make it better, simpler and brighter so that a frazzled parent doesn’t need to exhaust their brainpower to figure it out!

Parking Lots Are a “Hidden In Plain Sight” Stewardship Issue.

Finally, parking lots are expensive. It’s not uncommon for parking lots to cost at least $5,500 per spot on a fairly low complexity build. [ref] As a point of reference, let’s say your church has 500 seats in the auditorium with only 100 parking spots. You’d ideally like to add another 150 spots to match the 1 spot for every two seats we quoted above. After factoring in all the design, drainage, curbing, painting, etc., it would be an investment of $825,000 for your church – assuming that you don’t run into any significant problems along the way!

Once parking lots are built, they become a recurring maintenance issue that often gets differed longer than it should; ultimately costing the church more than it needs to. If your church doesn’t keep up with resurfacing and patching on a periodic basis, you can be forced into a situation where major renovations need to be done at a massive cost. No one wants to invest massively in maintaining a parking lot when there are so many other pressing ministry needs, but ignoring its significance may have severe consequences down the road. You should be looking at regular maintenance of your parking lots on a bi-annual or at least annual basis!

We often take this resource for granted and hence, it’s easy to not invest in. Typically, the cost of a parking lot gets hidden as part of a major capital expansion. This is why we don’t consider what an important resource it is to the church. Challenge that mindset because it really is an amazing tool for our ministry!


Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 15 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner.  He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church – a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is know for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact.

Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution. He has a weekly blog and podcast that helps with stuff you wish they taught in seminary at www.unseminary.com

Proactive vs. Reactive Facility Management

If you have been following these posts for any period of time, you know that we have explored the difference between facility maintenance and Facility Management.  As part of that discussion we looked at the differences between proactive and reactive maintenance.

Well, recently I was tracking a LinkedIn conversation with a Facility Management (FM) “group” that I am a member. I found the discussion to be very interesting…and I think you will too. Keep in mind that these comments are from people providing facility management services in the “secular” arena (i.e. complex commercial buildings…wait…don’t forget our ministry facilities are also complex commercial buildings…Hmmm). As you read these, substitute the word “company” with either “church” or “ministry”.

Here is the sequence of discussions:

You missed a critical part of the equation to switching from reactive to proactive. FM’s need time to analyze information, develop a strategy and implement things that are proactive. Unfortunately they are often too busy with the day-to-day issues and headaches. Many of them also are very hands-on, get-things-done kinds of people who don’t think they are earning their pay if they spend time in the office (or somewhere else, preferably) simply thinking and planning. Their colleagues within their organization do it, that’s why they get more attention, resources and support.

I gave a seminar at the IIDEX / Neocon conference in Toronto last year about selling FM in your company. I talked about this issue as one of the reasons their profession isn’t as respected as those of the finance, HR, lawyers, engineers and other professionals in their company. (TIM COOL INSERT – or the “pastoral staff” or the ministry initiatives)

FM’s need to step off the treadmill every now and then in order to switch from being reactive to proactive and strategic.

  • All the above are excellent points and critical to running a professional FM department. I think the difference between being considered a low-paid “necessary evil” for the company and a respected higher-paid professional is the strategic planning and value-driven dynamic. The strategic facility plan should be part of the leadership process that identifies current and projected facility needs and accommodations for growth (or reduction) and technology requirements which support the organization’s objectives. The other dynamic is to create value to the organization through cost identification and reduction methods, then monitoring, adjusting and documenting your savings contribution. A final area is to lead the process of identifying the use of facilities with the goal of assessing each area’s contribution to the organization’s profitability through the appropriate use of space.

I’m going to jump in here and say that of the 6,508 members in this group I bet every single one has had show stopping failures that grab all of your resources in a single minute. I managed 45 facilities in 33 states, over 3.5 million sq. ft. and I did not have a single tool box on my staff. I have one heck of a contact data base though…I totally agree that preventive maintenance is the only way to stay ahead of the curve or “stay out of the vortex” as I like to say but the only way to maintain your sanity is to make strong ties to project management consultants that can hit the ground running on any issues and jump right back on the sidelines (and off your payroll) as soon as issues are resolved.

If you’re like most and you are under resourced when things are going well, there is no way you can put monitoring management in place, keep it updated, and handle failures (they will happen anyway) without reaching for outside help.

  • In summary I feel that a balanced approach works best with different service levels depending on what is being maintained. There is no right or wrong answer in the planned vs. reactive debate but one thing is certain – any FM strategy needs to be underpinned by accurate and comprehensive asset data and a detailed understanding of the underlying business need.

So…how are you doing in developing a professional, proactive and strategic Facility Management department (or plan) for your church and ministry? Is the facility management efforts at your church the proverbial redheaded step child of the ministry? Is it only a necessary evil…or…is it a critical part of your overall stewardship initiative? If it is the later, I congratulate you and would covet your input as to how you are accomplishing that. I believe you are on the right track if you have embraced a “facility stewardship” perspective.