Sacred Space Reimagined: It Takes a Village to Build a Village

Many of us have heard politicians and speakers talk about it “taking a village” to do X, Y and Z. Most of the times that comment is used in a self-promoting way or to make a statement of the need for volunteers and partners to step up. That is understandable.

But that is NOT what we mean.

Before I share the meaning of the title of this post, let me provide a reminder of church history.

When you look back on nearly any Medieval village or any original American colony, what was generally the first building built?  What was at the center of the town?  What was built to accommodate a host of cultural activities?

A Church.

In many of the early American colonies, the church was called the Meeting House. A colonial meeting house was a meeting house used in colonial New England built using tax money. Can you imagine…tax dollars to build a house of worship? The colonial meeting house was the focal point of the community where all the town’s residents could discuss local issues, conduct religious worship, and engage in town business. The colonial meeting house was the central focus of every New England town. These structures were usually the largest building in the town.

In modern America, the above is not generally the case. The “church” building is not the center of the village, town or city. It is not the cultural and business epicenter of our communities. In most instances, it is separated from the rest of culture and an outlier. Some of this separation occurred with the separation of “church and state” legislation. Further contributors to the erosion of the church being the center of culture can be attributed to local zoning ordinances as well as self-imposed separation by the church itself.

Unfortunate!!!

As many of you know, I have been assisting churches for over 34 years. During that time, most of the churches I served were isolated from community…whether intentional or not. However, our firm has been involved with a church revitalization project that will be the first of its kind in the USA. Not just Charlotte, but anywhere in the county.

SouthPark Church (formerly Sharon United Methodist Church) is the project I am referring to. We have been serving this congregation for over 5 years to make their dream a reality. What dream is that? Let me explain.

Sharon UMC found itself in a steady decline and had grown itself down from 500 to less than 250. The facility had several million dollars of deferred maintenance and no budget to correct those items or address any life cycle planning. They were in a NO WIN situation. The building was deteriorating. The congregation was dwindling. They had become irrelevant to the community. And with the annual budget declining, things were only going to get worse.

However…they felt God had called them to serve the SouthPark region of Charlotte, NC.

SouthPark is an area “edge city” in CharlotteNorth Carolina. Its name is derived from the upscale SouthPark Mall, which opened on February 12, 1970 (the same year the church was built). At nearly 1.8 million square feet, SouthPark Mall is the largest shopping mall in Charlotte and all of North Carolina. By the way, the church campus resided on 7 acres of land directly across Sharon Road from the mall. Not a bad area to own property.

The area is geographically centered at the intersection of Fairview Road and Sharon Road in the south central sector of the city, about six miles south of Uptown Charlotte. In addition to being home to the mall, SouthPark is also a residential area and one of the larger business districts in Charlotte.

Economically, SouthPark is the home to the Fortune 300 company Nucor, as well as Dixon Hughes GoodmanNational GypsumCoca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, AmWINS Group, Carolinas AGC and Piedmont Natural Gas. FluorBank of America Mortgage, First Citizens BankSunTrust Banks and CSX have major divisional operations located in SouthPark.

Back to the dream.

The church wanted to be the “Spiritual Crossroads” of SouthPark. There was a literal cross roads at the major intersection of Sharon and Morrison Blvd. But the vision and dream far exceeded a physical address. The church wanted to be the spiritual hub of a village within the “village” of SouthPark. They could have easily sold their land and moved out of the area…but that would not have fulfilled the vision.

The next steps were bold indeed. The steps they took are not for the faint of heart or for anyone that is not deeply convicted and committed to a vision.

The church decided it wanted to explore the concept of a mixed use development with the church being a central part. This lead to our team being retained in early 2014 to assist the church to navigate the process.

The first step was clearly articulating the WHY. Not the WHAT…but WHY would they venture into such a project? I can testify to you today that the church has NEVER backed down from the WHY. Every decision, every selection, every meeting, etc. were bathed in the WHY. That is critical to grasp. This initiative, like any other capital improvement, must not be a about a building. It must be solely about fulfilling a vision of ministry.

As of the writing of this post, the Apex development and the construction of the SouthPark Church facility is underway and going full speed with most of the multi-story buildings for retail and apartment use already topped off.

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing more about this project from the perspective of some of the “village” members that made it a reality.  You will hear from:

  1. Pastor Kyle Thompson, SouthPark Church
  2. Childress Klein, Real Estate Developer of Apex
  3. Alan Wildes, Generis Capital Campaign
  4. Yours truly

In my 34 years of assisting churches, this has been the most impact, challenging, stretching, learning, invigorating project I have ever done. Stay tuned to learn more. In the meantime, check out these videos about the project:

Explanation Video

Campaign Video

Progress Video


Worship Requires Planning

Back in the mid 1990’s, I was a “remunerated volunteer” at a large church in Charlotte leading the instrumental music…a role I thoroughly enjoyed. During that tenure, which was about 12 years, the Minister of Music position was in transition on 2 occasions. During those times, the Senior Pastor called on me to lead the choir, lead congregational singing and prepare the seasonal concerts and events. BTW…this was all PRE-TRIPLETS!

Fulfilling this role as Interim Ministry of Music was a great experience for me. I had the opportunity to work side-by-side with senior staff and volunteers. The pastor and I would meet each week to plan the “order of service” including sitting at a restaurant with our hymnals out to select songs. I would then plan a month or more of choir anthems and call to worship as well as instrumental specials.

While I really enjoyed that time, looking back I have to confess that I did not do a really good job on being intentional with planning the worship service. Sure, we randomly picked 2-3 hymns, a special music component and the like. But…was it really intentional? I don’t think so. We checked a box and then moved on.

Today I see the need for far more intentionality and planning. Here are just a few examples:

  • Which instrumentals are needed and who can participate?
  • What if one of them cancels, who is next in line?
  • What is the order of service?
  • Has the timing been considered for each component?
  • What are the transitions between components?
  • Do we have key changes?
  • When do the musicians, singers or choir leave the platform?
  • When do the come back up?
  • Who from the tech team is available?
  • Do the slides flow well and match the order of service?
  • Do we have ushers assigned?
  • Etc!

I am sure you are asking why a “facility guy” is making a big deal out of this. Actually it is pretty simple. I am a huge proponent of “FACILITY STEWARDSHIP” and one of the key aspects of being an intentional facility steward is in the proper utilization of the facilities God has entrusted to us. That includes, among many other things, the planning of our worship services.

“But we are a small church, why do we need to plan?”

Here is a great quote from one of our Technology Specialist, Tom Metz, regarding that question:

Being intentional is important for every church and ministry size. Planning is the real world manifestation of being intentional. When you’re going on a long trip, do you say “I don’t need to plan my route because I drive small car”?

Get the point?

I have one final word: P-L-A-N.


Polo vs. Gildan – The Tale of 2 “Boxers”


That’s right…we are going to talk underwear.  But more than comparing underwear, we are going to explore how this relates to our church facility.  Stick with me.

In my underwear drawer at home, I have a selection of boxers (I am one of those guys).  About 50% are Ralph Lauren Polo…and the others are predominantly Gildan. The other day I was struck by a recurring thought about how I (we) spend the money God has entrusted to us and the ramifications.  I know…underwear?!?!?!? Hang in there.

As I stared at the under garments in my drawer, I had the following thoughts related to their similarities:

  1. All of them do “the job” of covering my body
  2. All perform basically the same “task”
  3. Most fit me about the same…with some variations with the Gildan
  4. They all have elastic waist bands
  5. They all are about the same length

Then I started thinking about the differences:

  1. I paid nearly double for the Polo products…not quite double
  2. The polo have a more comfortable waistband…but I can live with the other
  3. The quality of the fabric of the polo is of a higher grade

But here is the kicker…I had some Polo garments that were 4-5 years old, while the Gildan were showing need for replacement in about half that time. Then the correlation to our facilities came rushing in.

CHEAPER IS NO BARGAIN

In fact…it appears that I will spend the same amount of money over the 4-5 year period.  And if I had invested in the Polo, I would have also been able to enjoy the other benefits shared above.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?


Honeywell Now Integrates With eSPACE


FINALLY…we have developed integration with one of the largest providers of HVAC controls – Honeywell.

For as long as I can remember, Honeywell has been the leader in Building Controls. Whether in the commercial or residential arenas, they have been the leader…and the 800 pound gorilla. With that “notoriety” also comes a certain level of inflexibility, bureaucracy, “king of the hill” mind set and a stigma that they do not “play well with others”.

While all of that may be true, Honeywell has started to provide 3rd party integration and API access to a limited number of their devices. This has opened the door for many companies to develop means by which to allow the end user (i.e. YOU) to integrate their controls with other systems…such as eSPACE Event Scheduler (and the 13+ ChMS systems that eSPACE integrates with).

Our team has now developed, tested and released integration with the following Honeywell controls:

LYRIC PLATFORM

  1. T1 Pro
  2. T4 Pro
  3. T6 Pro (Z Wave, Hydronic, Smart)

NOTE:  Honeywell does not have a means by which we can communicate with their API for their “Total Comfort” systems….which is most of their residential stats.

For more information on the above integration or potential other integrations, contact our team and see how eSPACE integrations can increase energy and operational efficiency!



Professional vs. Amateur

For the sake simplicity…let’s use the following as definitions of these 2 words:

PROFESSIONAL: A person engaged or qualified in a profession…someone intentional about their craft that is constantly learning and improving.

 AMATEUR: One who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession.

Those are pretty broad…so allow me to add some observances.

As a college student trying to master my craft, trumpet performance, I had a very wise teacher tell me the following:

“Amateurs and professionals both make mistakes. What differentiates them is that a professional does not make the same mistake twice.”

Noted!

Since that time, as I have lead people, organizations, projects and yes, myself, I have seen another stark difference:

Professionals accept responsibility…accept “blame” and rebuke. Learn. Collaborate. Improve.

Amateurs on the other hand make excuses. Shift blame. Avoid responsibility.

It is too common in business, leadership, church, etc. that someone is being “paid” for their profession…which automatically qualifies them to be classified a “professional.” HOWEVER…their actions, deliverables, mindset, etc. is more akin to that of an amateur.

As a final observation, I have found that this differentiation is more  of a mindset in lieu of a compensation or “title” issued (I could go on for days on how titles are meaningless if the role performed is not congruent with the title).

I have seen professionally minded people that were volunteers at church…the difference is not about what you get paid. In fact the more a person is compensated monetarily, there is a likelihood of entitlement and complacency…with is not professional.

As you look at your team, are you filling seats with professionals…or something less?

Be INTENTIONAL. Be PROFESSIONAL.


Don’t Be The First “Taper”

Most behavior patterns start with a single decision that is then never questioned or challenged.  Because it is not challenged it slowly defines your culture (This is how we do things around here) which then leads to the 7 words of any dying organization – “We have always done it that way.”

The above begs an answer to the question…Who made the first decision? Followed by…Was it INTENTIONAL?

Here is a section of a recent blog by Seth Godin that describes this process in no uncertain terms:

I’m sitting on a black couch in the lobby of a nice theater. The couch is cracked and peeling, with seven strips of black gaffer’s tape holding it together. And you don’t have to be an interior geologist to see that it has developed this patina over time, bit by bit.

The question is: Who was the first person who decided to fix the couch with tape?

The third or fifth person did a natural thing–here’s a ratty couch, let’s keep it the best we can.

But the first taper?

The first taper decided that it was okay for this theater to have a taped couch. The first taper didn’t make the effort to alert the authorities, to insist on getting the couch repaired properly.

The first taper decided, “this is good enough for now.”

This is how we find ourselves on the road to decay.

BOOM…this is an excellent example about how deferred maintenance gets started.  A “first taper” makes a conscious decision to “tape” over the problem or worse, ignore it all together.  Then the pattern of unintentional culture kicks in and deferred maintenance runs rampant. (REMINDER: Deferred Maintenance =The practice of postponing maintenance activities such as repairs on real property in order to save costs, meet budget funding levels, or realign available budget monies.)

Don’t be the first “taper.” Set a culture of care, pride of ownership (not your ownership by of the person who actually owns it…God), stewardship and intentionality.

-Tim



 

Retirement Planning…for your Facility

 

Unless the Lord decides to call you home premature, we all will be faced with some variation of “retirement.” That means plans need to be considered for that period in our lives when we are not producing income based on a full time 40-hour +/- work week.  For most, that takes the form of:

  • 401K or 403b
  • IRA’s
  • Annuities
  • Life Insurance
  • Investments
  • Pensions

For others, it may simply be hoping that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will be adequate.  I think we would all agree that is not very wise.

We will project what we believe our costs will be in retirement…then plan a strategy to utilize one or more of the above to ensure we have the basis from which to generate the level of income to sustain the desired lifestyle.

This all sounds prudent as we plan for the INEVITABLE stage of life.  Would you agree?

So what are we doing to prepare for the “retirement”of our ministry facilities? I guess the first question is…do you think it is necessary?  If you don’t, then why would you plan for your personal retirement?

Sorry for being snarky…could not help myself.

Even at the very worst of personal financial planning, their is a partial safety net (although tenuous) is Social Security and other entitlements (did you realize that Entitled and Entitlements are not mentioned in the Bible…just saying). Considering our facility retirement concerns, we do not even have a social security safety net.

You may be saying – “We do not plan to retire our facility.” Oh Grasshopper…that is flawed thinking.

You may not “retire” the entire facility…but you WILL retire nearly every component of the facility.

  • You will retire all roofs…and replace them…and retire them again.
  • You will retire all HVAC equipment…and replace them…and retire them again.
  • You will retire all paving…and replace them…and retire them again.
  • You will retire all floor coverings…and replace them…and retire them again.
  • You will retire all lighting, plumbing, windows, doors, etc, etc, etc.

Need I go on?

These facility retires…just like our personal retirement…are INEVITABLE. There is no getting around it.  There no magic bullet.  There is no “Facility Fairy” to wave a wand.

Given the above…what are your plans?  Do you have a plan?  If not, how do you start? What is your baseline? How much is enough?

These are great questions that can and must all be answered…and starting with your current reality is the best place to get going.  In light of that, we strongly recommend a Facility Condition Assessment. Such an assessment will provide you:

  • Fresh Eyes Assessment
  • Life Cycle Assessment
  • Benchmark of Budgets/Staff
  • Deferred Maintenance
  • Facility Management Best Practices
  • Preventive Maintenance
  • Energy/Operational Evaluation
  • Capital Reserve Planning

Make your facilities “retirement” a positive experience by being intentional Facility Stewards.

-Tim


The 7 “A’s” of Intentional Facility Stewardship

As we all work to become intentional stewards of what God has entrusted to us (i.e. Facility Stewardship), there are several steps and paradigms that must be realized in order to be most effective.  These are not rocket science, but I assure you that each paradigm must be addressed and done so in the order listed below.

Awareness “knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.” The first step to addressing any meaningful action in our lives is first becoming aware of the need. Same applies with Facility Stewardship. Are we keenly aware that God has entrusted us with HIS church facility? Do we understand the gravity of that?  Start there.

Analysis“detailed examination of the elements or structure of something.” It is one thing to be aware, but do we understand? Do we know the current state of affairs related to our facilities and the current allocation of budget dollars (from tithes and offerings…another for of stewardship) and if those dollars are being spent appropriately?  Do we know if we have adequate capital reserves or deferred maintenance. Knowledge is power…and freeing.

Acknowledgement“acceptance of the truth or existence of something.” BOOM! Have you ever heard that the first step of change, is acknowledging that there is an issue that needs addressed? We must look in the mirror.  Take the results of the analysis and acknowledge…ADMIT…there are areas for improvement.

Action“applies especially to the doing, act to the result of the doing.”  An action usually lasts through some time and consists of more than one act.  It is not singular…it is plural!  There is something that needs to be done…now do it.

Adoption“the act of taking something on as your own.” Most times when we hear this word, we think of adopting a child…which is a wonderful manifestation of the definition…to take something as your own. In the case of Facility Stewardship, the same applies.  The adoption process is an emotional, physiological and physical manifestation of taking “ownership” of a concept, a methodology, a paradigm, and a core value.

Accountability“The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.” For Facility Stewardship to be long lasting, there must be accountability. I firmly believe that we will be held accountable to God for how we stewarded ALL the components he has entrusted to us.  But there needs to be some form of “earthly” accountability as well.

Acclimation –  “is the process in which an individual organism adjusts to a change in its environment.” Often this word is used in scientific applications.  But I believe it is critical for the complete shift that is required to make Facility Stewardship a way of life. “This is how we do things around here.” It should be so ingrained in the organization that it would be off-putting to see trash on the floor or dust build up on vents or grass growing in the sidewalk cracks…or that there are even cracks in the sidewalk at all.

Does the above sound overwhelming? IF it does…I get it…but it does not excuse any of us from taking the steps and making intentional long term changes to be the best Facility Stewards we can be.

Need help to get started? Give us a shout. 


How SMART is Your Database?

Like you, I love the SMART devices in my house – Echos, plugs, Hue lights. It’s so cool to walk into a room and have “Alexa” turn on the light or TV or tell me the weather outside or set a reminder or update me on the news.  

eSPACE is bringing this Internet of Things to church facilities, but what does that look like for interaction with your church database?  Answer:Text-To-ChurchTM

Online giving companies brought us text to give. Marketing companies brought us text to receive content.  In 2017 Churchteams released Text-To-ChurchTM , the SMART way to get your people to:

  1. Give
  2. Register for anything
  3. Complete a Communication Card (starting a follow-up workflow)
  4. Securely check-in their kids
  5. See contact assignments
  6. See their volunteer or training schedule
  7. Manage their groups
  8. Update their infoLink to anywhere

You know, all the stuff you wish your people could do by interacting directly with your database!

Here’s how it works.  You choose your own, local, ten-digit phone number that connects to your Churchteams database. Share the number with your people along with a keyword to do whatever you want them to do.

For example, I’d like to give you the chance to see how Text-To-ChurchTM  works for registration, check-in and workflow automation.  Hands on is the best way to learn (you can do this in one minute).  Get out your phone right now andtext SMART to (817) 677-9850.

Just follow the prompts to add a (made up) child, and text the word CHECK to check-in. You will get 3 follow-up texts (1 hour, 1 day, 1 week later) from our Workflow Automation inviting you to a Meet The Software guided tour but that’s it.

Now, imagine what you could do with a SMART database?

  • Give guests and members who no longer carry checkbooks an easy way to participate in giving.
  • Get rid of check-in lines.
  • Offer an electronic communication card option in Worship.
  • Let people register for any class or event by texting a keyword.
  • Text staff and leaders of follow-up assignments.
  • Take adult class attendance on a mobile phone.
  • Automate guest follow-up so no one falls through the cracks.
  • Simplify pastoral care and leadership development follow-up.
  • Enhance church communication strategy.
  • Simplify data management.
  • All in ONE church software database!

eSPACE is leveraging technology for managing facilities.  Churchteams is leveraging technology for managing people and processes. Our recent integration helps churches get the best of both.  Now, that’s SMART.

Boyd Pelley is Co-founder / CEO of Churchteams.  He served churches in 3 states as Discipleship, Administrative, and Family pastor for 18 years. The last 8 bootstrapping the development of the company with Mark Horan, Co-founder / Software Architect.  Married since 1986, he and Pam have 2 grown, married children. They live in McKinney, Texas.

 

Engage Your Facility

Engage is an interesting word, and it has a number of meanings and connotations. For example:

  1. Engage is the root word for the time period between the decision to marry and the ceremony.
  2. Engage can relate to getting involved with an activity or conversation.
  3. Engage can describe someone engrossed in something.

In the world of church facility management and stewardship, engage has a place in all of the above, but it has another meaning, or at least a subset of a meaning. As I ponder this, it is actually a component of #2 above…the “activity” portion, but with a slight twist. Let me explain.

In the physical and mechanical world, systems have to be “engaged” in order for them to function. There must be a trigger or definitive action to cause the desired reaction. Basically a “cause and effect” or “action and reaction.”

When I flip a light switch (assuming the wires are properly connected and the light bulb is operational), the light turns on. The light fixture is engaged by the switch. I move the temperature dial on the thermostat, and the temperature in the space changes accordingly. I turn a key in a door, and the door locks or unlocks. It is engaged to a state of locked or unlocked.

That is how mechanical devices work. They must be engaged in order for them to operate. The trigger for engagement is what fascinates me.

My first car was primarily made of metal and rubber (I know, I am dating myself). Today, vehicles have over 100 microprocessors. These sensors and mini-computers are the new trigger to engage many of the safety features of newer models. For example, moisture on the windshield is now the trigger to engage the wipers. The sensors in the front grill are the trigger to engage the braking of the cruise control as I get too close to the vehicle in front of me. Putting the vehicle in reverse is the trigger to engage the “back-up camera.”

Get my point?

The same is now true with our ministry facilities. The world of IoT (Internet of Things) is growing at a rapid pace. This new interconnection of technology is what I described above in our cars. It is what allows your mobile device to engage other systems such as your home security camera, thermostat and Amazon Echo. This is not a Star Trek futuristic fantasy – we are living it right now. And it is not just at the consumer or “home” level. It is happening in commercial buildings at an exponential rate.

WHY?

Efficiency and convenience. That is why. Why have humans doing mundane tasks that can be automated? This is not about being lazy or reinforcing “First World” problems. This is being driven by a desire for people to do the things that only they can do – and automate (engage) the rest.

Think about these examples:

  • How many hours a week does your facility team spend adjusting thermostats (or Building Automation System)?
  • How many hours are spent locking and unlocking doors for events?
  • Are you entering event data in one system, then re-entering that same data in your Building Automation System or Door Access System (or BOTH)?
  • Does your communications team have to take that same information and re-enter it in yet another system?

Lord have mercy! Is that really the best use of the resources (human resources in this case) that God has entrusted to us? I have worked with dozens of churches that spend 8-10 hours a week in double entry of event data in multiple systems. Let’s assume that you pay them $18/hr and they invest ten hours a week performing dual entry or “engaging” systems manually (i.e. adjusting thermostats). That is $180 a week, or $9,360 a year. REALLY?!?!

What other intentional things could those resources be doing for those 520 hours in a year? We see so many churches with massive deferred maintenance issues. Could some of the deferred maintenance be mitigated by allocating an additional 520 hours a year to the general maintenance and upkeep of our facilities?

I think so.

Think about what other means you can incorporate to ENGAGE your facility systems, and, in turn, ENGAGE your facility team in activities that have long-term impact.

That is called Stewardship.