Do You Really Know How To…

…clean a church facility?

…sanitize your children’s spaces?

…differentiate the difference between Motel 6 “clean” and Ritz Carlton “clean?”

…determine the amount of staff needed to clean and maintain your church facility?

…keep your facility and its occupants safe?

…spot the first signs of trouble?

…establish a capital reserve plan?

If you cannot affirmatively answer any of the above, then it may be time for us to talk.

To learn more about the Facility Management and Security Training services provided by Cool Solutions Group, check them out HERE.

Your facility, staff and congregation will thank you!

What “Story” Does the Condition of Your Facility Tell?

Have you ever walk into a restaurant that you read about online or someone recommended…full of anticipation and excitement…only to be turned off by the lack of care of the facility? I have been disappointed more times than I can list when I was in a mid to upper priced establishment, to then visit their restroom and be totally repulsed by the lack of care and cleanliness, or to look up at their ceilings (that is a habit for me…so if you invite me to your facility, know I am looking at your ceilings…you have been warned.) to see stained ceiling tiles…or worse…dirty HVAC grills and cobwebs. What does that say about you and your church? What does it say about what you value? Obviously not the health and well being of your guests and occupants if you are okay allowing dirt and dust to blow down on their heads or have them breathe dirty air.

What story is that telling?

To me it indicates that either you do not care about your facilities…or are not intentional about their care…or are in bad financial condition to where you cannot maintain them. Now that is just me…but could that message also be the one conveyed to your guests?

Not a great witness in my opinion.

In his book “First Impressions: Creating WOW Experiences”, Mark Waltz, pastor of connection at Granger Community Church in Granger, IN., addresses what it may be like to be a guest in our churches and how the first impression may not always convey the story we desire. In addition, the first impression may be the only chance we have to impact their lives. He writes;

“When your guests are distracted from the real purpose of their visit to your church, you’ll have a difficult time re-engaging them. In order for people to see Jesus, potential distractions must be identified and eliminated.”

Have you ever considered that the condition of your buildings could affect your ability to engage and minister to people? Most of our previous blogs have focused on the physical attributes related to the built environment. We have looked at the design, the way-finding, weenies and other attributes of the campus and structures. But what about the condition?

“The first impression may be the only chance we have to impact their lives.”

Over my 28-year career of planning and building church facilities, I have witnessed firsthand the use, abuse and misuse of ministry facilities. I have seen churches spend millions of dollars on new facilities and then neglect to change the HVAC filters, repair leaks, change light bulbs, caulk annually as required and so on. In my opinion, this is similar to collecting the offering during our worship services and taking 10%-20% of the monies out of the offering plate or basket and setting it on fire. We would all agree that that kind of action would be ridiculous and obscene.

“We would never do that … that is God’s money.”

I ask, who provided the funds to build your facilities? We all know the answer: God provided the resources. It was and is His money. And they are His buildings. Yet, we too often act irresponsibly with these assets.

I find that many church members take better care of their homes, boats, cars, motorcycles and even their pets than they do their ministry facilities. Is this acceptable to you? It is not to me, and I suggest that the church (big “C”) wake up, take notice and do something about it. I believe that God holds each of us responsible and accountable for what we do and how we handle every resource entrusted to us.


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.

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.

Parables (Stories) Are For Outsiders

What is a parable? To most of us who have been raised in the church or have spend much time on our spiritual journey, we have read, re-read and heard teachings on all of the parables of Jesus. If you use YouVersion for your Bible reading, they have a plan that will walk you through all of the parables of Jesus.

Let’s look at how a par·a·ble [par-uh-buhl] is defined:

Online Etymology Dictionary“saying or story in which something is expressed in terms of something else”

World English Dictionary: “a short story that uses familiar events to illustrate a religious or ethical point”

Dictionary.com: “a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by the use of comparison, analogy, or the like”

OK…now with that as our backdrop, let’s look at why Jesus told his disciples He used parables. Take a minute and read a couple translations of Mark 4:10-11:

NLT: Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant. He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders.

MSG: When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight.

Is it really that much of a stretch to want our facilities, campuses, commons and the like to communicate with stories?”

There are 2 words (or concepts) that jump out at me. Do you see them and how they apply to our blog series on “story”?

  1. Parables = Stories. I know that most of you are saying “DUH, Tim…do you think we are that stupid?” No I don’t…but I want make sure we do not gloss over the fact that Jesus was the greatest storyteller of all time. He used word pictures and mental images to convey the truths of life, love, evangelism, generosity, salvation, forgiveness, mercy, grace and virtually all of the spiritual gifts. He used culturally relevant stories to communicate His truths so that the listeners/observers could understand it. In fact, while all of the parables in scripture are relevant today to our lives, many reveal an even deeper meaning when we understand the contextualization Jesus was communicating to the specific audience. It is that little nuance that makes a story and storyteller great. Understand your audience (i.e. target market) and then communicate your story in such a way that will suck them in and deepen their understanding.
  2. Parables were for “outsiders”…people not already followers of Christ…people who did not speak “church” or religion. I would recommend that the word outsider is synonymous with what we would call guests in our church world. An outsider can best be defined as “a person or thing excluded from or not a member of a set, group, etc.”

In Christ’s day, this may have been devout Jews or the ultra “religious” or  just curious passer-by. In any of these cases, they were not yet devoted followers of Christ in a personal way. They may have been religious or criminal. They may have been circumcised at birth or Gentiles. They may have observed all of the rituals and feasts growing up or they may have worshiped pagan gods…or no gods. They may have been rich or poor, dark or light skin, young or old, male or female. Regardless, they were an outsider regarding a personal relationship with Jesus.

So, who are the “outsiders” in your community? Do parables (i.e. stories) still apply in our approach to reach those people…especially if words are not spoken? If so, then is it really that much of a stretch to want our facilities, campuses, commons and the like to communicate with stories?


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.

Don’t Just Raise the Bar; Be the Bar

I love the new television commercials for the Ford F-150 that ends with: It Doesn’t Raise the Bar, It is the Bar.

The obvious connotation is that Ford is not raising the bar…but they ARE the bar that everyone else chases and tries to obtain.  I love that.

Now, let me be clear, I am not a Ford guy…in fact…I am not an any “brand” guy. I have owned Fords, Chevy, GMC (I am still driving my 14 year old Yukon with 198,00 miles), Toyota and others.

I do like Ford’s confidence and guts to claim to be the best. Is it true? I am not getting into that discussion. But what I do want to look at is being BEST-IN-CLASS…more than just bravado or words, but in actions and deeds. I have used the analogy that you can get a chicken sandwich (and a taco and a burger and…) from Jack-In-The-Box, but if I am looking for a “best-in-class” chicken sandwich, I go to Chick-fil-A.

Our team has made a very INTENTIONAL decision to be the Chick-fil-A of the church software market.  We are not trying to be all things to all people. It is not our competency. We are FACILITY PROFESSIONALS that have developed best-in-class Facility Management software solutions for those responsible to steward their ministry facilities. PERIOD…end of story. No if, and, or but!  We are here to serve the church as it relates to their facilities usage, management, maintenance, integration, controls, training, services, and life cycle planning.

eSPACE does not accommodate member management, child check-in, small groups, accounting, missions trip planning, worship service planning…we are all about FACILITIES.

As we shared last week, given our conviction, we have integrated with many of the “best-in-class” Church Management Software applications…you can see the whole list HERE.

If Facility Stewardship is important to your church, then you owe it to yourself and your congregation to give us a look and see how we can assist you to be EFFECTIVE, EFFICIENT and INTENTIONAL with the facilities God has entrusted to you to steward.

We ARE the Bar!


eSPACE integrates with the tools you use to manage your church. You can now integrate your Church Management Software with the industry leading suite of Facility Management applications including HVAC Integration, Event Management, Work Order Management, and Capital Reserve Planning

Write a Script to Tell Your Story

In the world of film, a script is a written work by screenwriters for a movie or television program. In a script, the movement, actions, expression, and dialogues of the characters are narrated. It is the compilation of the components of the end product. A well written script reveals the authors intentions of the story and identifies the elements that will be required to accomplish the engagement of the observer/reader.

I have done some research and found that a script has many components that maintain the story and organize the thoughts so that it does not become boring, ineffective or disjointed. Here are the common elements of a script:

  1. TIME and PLACE: What time and/or place is the script set? What is significant about the time or place regarding the plot? How does it impact upon the characters and the plot?
  2. CHARACTERS: Establish the main characters. What gender are they? What do we need to know about them? How do they contribute to the story? Are we supposed to engage with them?
  3. ACTION: Who is doing what and why? Does that action move the story forward?
  4. DIALOGUE: What is to be literally said and figuratively communicated?
  5. PLOT: What is the primary reason for the story?
  6. SCENESScenes are the events of your story. The plot is divided into three components/scenes—a beginning, middle and end…so what do each look like?

Not being a skilled film screenwriter, I am sure that I have missed some key elements, have them out of order, or have overly simplified their roles. Regardless, the point is that an intentional film starts with a script. Can you imagine if George Lucas showed up on the set of Raiders Of The Lost Ark and told Harrison Ford that he wanted to tell a story that is engaging and draws people in but that they were going to let the cast develop their own plot, scenes, dialogues, costumes, etc. as long as it all ended up with the Ark being put in storage? Can you imagine how chaotic that would be? Do you think anyone would have paid to go see the final release (assuming it could ever have been completed)? Without the script to focus the entire team, there is chaos, inconsistencies, missed opportunities and frustrated patrons (guests).

The same applies to our church experience for guests.  If you tell your parking lot team and greeting ambassadors to just be “friendly”, how many interpretations of that do you think you would get?  If there is not a script that helps your team know what their role is (character), the reason for the story (plot), what they should be doing and saying (action and dialogue), when it should occur and where (time and place), and in what order (scenes) you will get an inconsistent and incongruent group of individuals…working as individuals…instead of living out a well intended story.

As part of our development process with churches, we ask the leaders to write a script (and  multiple scripts per ministry area) of the preferred story for a first time guest. This exercise will do at least 3 things:

  1. Clarify what you want accomplished and confirm it is consistent with your vision, mission and culture
  2. Reveal your current blind spots in relationship to the preferred results
  3. Provide a training tool for your teams…both current and future

This can be revolutionary for your church. I have seen it transform hospitality teams, parking lot teams, greeters and overall interaction with guests.


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.

3 Reasons To Do Parking Right

Last week we were exposed to just what little time we have to make a first impression on a guest – 7 seconds. Not much time to impact the thought and emotional reaction of these guests. Every “touch” point during a guest experience has the opportunity to build on the previous interaction…or to destroy it. Every encounter and milestone of this first experience is critical…like building blocks. Without a strong foundation, the rest of the blocks find themselves less stable and tentative.

Assuming your first time guest has made the conscious decision to pull onto your site, their first 7 second encounter will be in your parking lot. Their first impression starts at the entrance of the parking lot and may continue until they reach your front door. Too often, church leaders think the parking lot is irrelevant and  just a place to store the means of transportation used by the congregation. They see it as just common place instead of a touch point and a place to impact people (thus souls). Big mistake!

As you think about your parking experience, here are 3 things that are foundational in making this the best 7 seconds possible:

1. Have a Parking Ministry – This is a great way to accomplish two significant ministry initiatives for 2 very different groups. The first group this impacts is obvious…the guest. A vibrant, proactive, enthusiastic and welcoming group of people can lift your spirits and defuse some of the anxiety that a guest may be experiencing. Seeing happy people waving, smiling (yes, Christians should smile), even acting crazy has more impact on others than you realize. The second group that this impacts is your team. Many of the churches we serve have met in schools or other temporary facilities for years…and now they have a facility to meet in. During those years of being a “church-in-the-box”, they had set up teams that would show up on Saturday night or Sunday morning at the crack of dawn to set up for the worship that day. These people have developed a bond and a kinship that is infectious. The setup team has actually become their “small group” and they love doing life together. But what happens when you do not need to setup every week? What do these people do? And let’s face it, most of the set team is made of men…and they are NOT going to serve in the nursery (nor would we want them to). I have been on set up teams with guys that were not yet Christ-followers, others that were new followers, and others that were more comfortable doing physical labor. To not provide a similar ministry opportunity once you occupy space that does not require setup robs them of a ministry opportunity that they are comfortable performing…which can drive them away or have them feel unnecessary. By starting or expanding a Parking Ministry, you open up a new opportunity for many of these people to serve.

2. See it as a ministry and not a mundane task – Do not see the “Parking Ministry” as just a functional activity, but rather an opportunity to impact people’s lives. Not only are the above functions important for the reasons given, but if you believe that  prayer is impactful, then your parking team should be praying for each of the cars entering the lot. Maybe it’s for their first experience. Maybe for an issue they are confronting at that moment. Maybe for peace that they did not experience on the way to church when the family got in a fight in the car. The parking lot should be blanketed with praying people…it should be the largest prayer chapel on your campus. Help set the tone for the rest of their experience and see what happens.

3. Function and safety – Church parking lots are not like a retail center, even though many designers and civil engineers lay them out as if they were. In a retail or other commercial application, most of the vehicular traffic is spread out over the entire day. Cars pull off and pull on at different times during the day. But a church parking lot is much more similar to an event venue…more like a concert venue or theme park or sports complex. You have a lot of cars trying to enter and/or exit the site at the same time. And if you have back-to-back worship experiences with 15 minutes or less between services, you have a real issue. Having a succinct plan for how to best get cars on and off your site will reduce the amount of stress for the drivers, but will also provide a safer environment. If drivers are not attempting to navigate the parking lot on their own, the likelihood of mishaps is greatly reduced. And not just for vehicular traffic, but for pedestrian.

Please do not see your sea of asphalt as just a place to park vehicles…but be intentional (we have talked about this before) and make it a safe environment that is bathed in prayer and enhances the experience of your guests. Sounds like a winner to me!


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.

7 Seconds: Make the Most of It – 1…2…3…4…5…6…7

7 seconds….that is how much time you have to make a first impression. Some experts say more, some say less…but most pundits would agree that seven seconds is the average time you have to make a first impression. Think about that. That is not much time.

There are dozens of posts on the internet that will give you hints to best utilize these 7 seconds when going to a job interview or making a sales call. But the same principle applies to the guests at our churches. Have you ever thought that your guests are looking at their experience in much the same way they might evaluate a “buying” decision? They are the “buyer” and they are interviewing/investigating you…your church…your ability to meet their needs…your ability to fill a role in their life. As we talked about a couple weeks ago, these first time guests are most likely approaching this guest experience from a consumeristic perspective. Don’t get defensive when I say that…it is a reality.

So what can you do in those first 7 seconds to influence their experience? I actually believe that a guest to your church will have multiple “7 second” encounters, unless the first 7 seconds is too painful or unfulfilling to lead them to the next interaction.

So what can you do in those first 7 seconds to influence their experience?”

 Here are the areas that I believe we should be cognitive of:

  1. The parking lot experience – We will address this more next week, but we need to be aware that if this is a challenge and their first 7 seconds on your site are frustrating, they may not stay…or if they do…you will already have one strike against you and their experience will be veiled by this first encounter.
  2. Where do I go now? – Way-finding and signage are too often under-whelming which can add to the anxiety of our guests.
  3. What door do I go in? – Guests do not want to ask questions and do not respond well to ambiguousness…they like obvious.
  4. Hey! Hi! Welcome to ____. – The first person to visually, verbally, and physically interact with them can definitely have the greatest impact on the experience.
  5. We have been preparing our house for your visit – As they step into your facility, will a guest see that you have been intentional about their arrival? Are things clean, neat, inviting, engaging, well maintained with a sense pride (in a good way)?
  6. Now what? – So, I am here…now what?  Where do I go?  Where do my kids go?  Where can I go hang?

We are going to look at many of these aspects in the weeks to come…but I challenge you to visit some other churches in your area and feel what it is like to be the guest. Then ask a non-believer to be a visitor at your church and then report back to you about each of their 7 second experience at all of these connection points. Seeing these interaction opportunities with fresh eyes can be telling. Don’t squander those 7 seconds. Be intentional. Be deliberate. And, be consistent.


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

 

Environmental Graphics and Story Telling

For some of you, the term “environmental graphics” may be foreign or one that you have not heard used in a church context.  I hate to admit it, but I was not aware of its meaning, use and significance until a few years ago.

In short, Environmental Graphics address the visual aspects of wayfinding, communicating identity & brands, information descriptors, and shaping a sense of place. The word environmental refers to graphic design as part of creating the built environment, not to the natural environment. So this has little or nothing to do with “environmentalism” or being a tree-hugger…unless that is the story your environmental graphics intend to convey.

To many churches, when they hear this term, immediately think “kids theming”. You have all seen the planes hung in kids spaces or half a fire truck that looks like it is driving through the wall or Noah’s Ark with animal heads peering through portholes.  And while those are definitely a component of this subset of story telling, it is not the only area of your campus where environmental graphics convey story.  In fact, I believe that it is a little disingenuous to have a kids facility/building/wing/etc. that is pimped out with the balance of the campus being passé?  I understand that your target market may be families with young kids, so having your kids space scream KIDS is congruent with your vision.  But don’t forget their parents…again…or your guests.

Environmental Graphics are not just for church.  Take a look at the collage below and tell me if you recognize the location by these images (HINT:  If you are a traveler, you may have an advantage).

Do you see a theme?  Is there something that jumps out at you…a story that these images are communicating?   Any guesses as to where these images are from?  If you are an HHonors member, it should be pretty simple…HILTON GARDEN INN.  They are communicating a story about a garden…their tag line is “Welcome to the GARDEN”. The story starts as you approach the front door…enter the lobby…even the carpet in the corridors has the same story telling theme. In keeping with this story,  their logo on their website has a vine growing.  All of the visual elements above, and so many more, are examples of environmental graphics that communicate a story.  I can assure you, that as a weary traveler, when I see the images of vines growing on the the front door, or the park like setting off the lobby, I begin to relax and become transformed mentally and emotionally.  These kinds of customer/guest-centric businesses know that the environment and the sense of place is an asset to their guests.

“The environment and the sense of place is an asset to their guests.”

 They have been intentional about setting an environment that is welcoming, warm and “familiar” all while communicating a story that guests relate to and regulars are comforted by.

Our guests see these kind of environments in many of the places they hang out and visit.  It is part of their every day life and culture.  The church does not have be the “world”, but lets not be so different in our built environments that guests are put off before they ever have a chance to hear the good news of Christ. Being intentional with creating an environment is as critical as determining how many seats you need in the worship center. Don’t miss this opportunity to impact people.


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.