Avoiding the "Chicken Little" Syndrome

Security in church is a big deal. Google it; and over 155 million resources show up, some good, some bad. The reality is that violent events happen at houses of worship. A gentleman by the name of Carl Chinn is someone that has about the best and most sobering statistics collected on it. From 1/1/99 through 7/1/17 he has collected verifiable data on 1573 deadly force incidents, 447 of which resulted in death of others (*update* this was written prior to September 24th; yet one more incident that will be added). Carl not only collects the data, he has a heart for security in church; I encourage you to check him out.

So how do we not let those statistics cause us to scream warnings (like Chicken Little) and have them ignored until it is too late (like his peers)? We have quite a few options available to us. One, we know that the evil in this world is a direct result of sin, and our Savior has defeated sin. And lest we forget, as believers, Matthew records these words from Jesus:

28 Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28. HCSB)

We do not fear the evil of this world; a personal relationship with Christ means we know the eternal love of our Father. That does not mean that we just stand aside and let whatever may happen, happen. It means we become intentional in protecting our churches so that we can provide the safest place possible so that all people may hear the Gospel.

“We become intentional in protecting our churches so that we can provide the safest place possible so that all people may hear the Gospel.”

Paying attention to security is yet one more way we help further the mission of the church.

Second, we want to encourage you to be proactive, not reactive, regarding security. There are three areas that deserve attention:

1) Policies/Procedures – How do you ensure that all the best security practices are in place and followed if you do not know what they are. Not known, like a great deal of church operations (meaning oral tradition), but known and trainable because it is written down and codified. Have a plan. It may not be the best one at first, but if it is written down it means it can get edited later.

2) Equipment – What things can you install/procure to make your church safer? This can be signs, new locks, cameras, panic buttons, even access control. The beauty of equipment is that if you are intentional with how you begin to implement, you can improve and expand the equipment in the future.

3) Personnel – Never forget that policies and equipment mean nothing if you do not have personnel trained on it. Training on security is never a one-time proposition, it is on-going.

If you are serious about security in your church, what are you waiting for? Now is the time to begin investing; develop your plan before the storm, not during. At Cool Solutions Group we understand that security is important to the church, but must be implemented in a way that ensures that all who need to hear the Gospel feel welcome and wanted. Our Facility Specialists stand ready to come alongside you to help assist in the development of the best plan for your church.


Are you…

  • Spending too much on utilities?
  • Investing enough to keep up with the natural rate of deterioration?
  • Properly staffing for your facility needs?

If you can not answer these definitively, then you need more information. To that end, we have developed this FREE Church Facility Evaluator. This simple tool will provide you with a snapshot of some key indicators associated with facility operational costs.

Church Facility Projects – Before You Move In

The facility is almost ready and it’s easy to see what the final product will look like.  As you make plans to move in and use the new building, there are several items left to manage.

1. Request the “as-built” drawings from the builder.  These are different from the initial plans the architect provided as they show exactly where the construction crew placed ducts, plumbing, electrical wiring, and more (in other words, all the supporting elements hidden behind the drywall). You’ll want these drawings in the future when you need to track down where a water leak is coming from, what electrical wires to reroute for a remodel, etc.

2. Think through what service providers you’ll use for ongoing maintenance and repair work. Who will maintain the HVAC systems? Who will handle janitorial work? Who is your preferred plumber? Which vendor will you purchase your paper products from? Create this list and keep the contact information of each vendor in a central location.

3. Interview vendors and get new or updated preventative maintenance contracts (and other contracts for cleaning services, paper products, etc.).  Preventative maintenance helps you avoid a catastrophic breakdown of any key system.  What would happen if your air conditioning stopped working during a Texas summer and you can’t get it replaced for a week?  That’s not an ideal scenario for Sunday services. Preventative maintenance contracts could include maintenance for roofing, elevators, HVAC units, commercial kitchens, fire extinguishers, and more.

4. Once you’ve selected the vendors you want to use and have contracts with them, enter that information into the system you plan to use to manage ongoing maintenance (such as eSPACE’s Work Order Management application).  The General Contractor should provide you with a list of all equipment (an owner’s manual of sorts).  You’ll need to enter that list into your maintenance system as well.

5. Other factors to consider before move-in:

  • How are we going to key the building?
  • Who will have access to those keys?
  • What security plan do we have in-place?
  • What’s our facility use policy for the new facility?
  • Do we have certain rules?
  • Will we charge for certain types of facility usage? If so, what’s the rate and criteria for usage?  You’ll need to document this information and communicate it to the church staff.
  • Inventory – Consider taking and maintaining an inventory of certain supplies.  This list may include light bulbs, paper products, HVAC filters, cleaning supplies, and others.
  • Outsource vs. handle in-house – Will we outsource janitorial or other facilities maintenance work?

6. Re-review your operational budget for the new facility and start to make “payments” for these costs (to yourself) to start to get accustomed this new spending reality.

7. From a funding perspective:

  • Keep the vision of the project alive and celebrate it.  Keep it at the forefront in the hearts and minds of your congregation.  This helps them stay enthusiastic about the project and provides a gentle reminder to keep their financial pledge.
  • Take any milestone moment that’s connected to the vision and celebrate that moment with the church.  Share why the project is mission critical to achieving that vision.

Intentional organizations plan today for tomorrow’s costs. That’s why it’s critical you establish a capital reserve account now. Download our FREE eBook to learn more.

Church Facility Projects – So You Want to Launch a Building Project?

Whether you’re renting a facility or want to expand the one you already own, the decision to embark on a building project isn’t one to take lightly.  This effort will require a significant amount of time, energy, money, teamwork, and prayer.  If you don’t have prior experience in the construction industry or an unlimited budget (who does?!), then this is time to pause and consider what you’re about to do as a church.

It’s always helpful to have a road map or GPS available before you set out on a trip into unfamiliar territory.  With that in mind, we’ve developed a series of posts to guide you through key milestones in the construction journey.  From architectural drawings to financing and more, we’ll walk you through the major issues and point out potential pitfalls.

To get started, let’s address what you need to do first.  There are lots of behind-the-scenes details to manage as you start planning this significant effort.

Determine Your Why

The first phase of any construction project starts way before you hire a construction crew or start moving dirt.  You have much planning to do before you can get to those steps.  In fact, the first thing you should consider is “why”.

  •      Why do we want to do this project?
  •      Have we outgrown our current facility?
  •      Do we see a need in our community that this project could fill (that our current facility can not)?

Getting clarity on the vision behind the project is a pivotal first step.  Without a clear vision, you’ll have trouble making decisions and communicating why people should donate towards this project.

Gather a Team of Advisors

As we read in Proverbs 15:22, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.”  Unless you are fortunate enough to have people within your congregation with these specialized skill-sets, you’ll need to bring in outside experts to give you wise counsel.  This is the time to start talking with potential architects, lenders, and capital campaign consultants.  It’s tempting to think you should start with an architect before talking with potential lenders so you know how much money you’ll need.  However, talking with lenders as you meet with your architect can help you determine what a lender is willing to loan to your church.  That can have a significant impact on what you can afford to design with an architect. Remember: You can do a building project in phases as your budget allows.  Trying to do it all at once isn’t necessary.  Check out “If it’s Phase-able, It’s Feasible” for more insights into that approach.

Get Your Facilities Manager Involved Now

Whoever is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of your current facility needs to be involved in the planning process from day one.  This is the person who knows the constraints of your current facility, who hears the complaints from staff and volunteers, and who has to figure out where to store everything for multi-functioning rooms.  Even if you’re renting a facility, this is the person who knows how your congregation uses a building and what you’ll need in a new facility.

One example of where you’ll need to involve the facilities manager is in discussions with your project management team.  Here are a few questions your facilities manager may want to ask:

  • How can we setup the lighting and HVAC controls so we can save money by making the use of electricity more efficient?
  • How are we accounting for storage?  Consider how you’ll use each room.  If a room is multi-         functioning, decide where you’ll store extra tables and chairs for various room configurations.
  • How will we maintain this new facility?  If we have lights 20-30 feet in the air with pews or theater seats below, how will we replace the bulbs?

Consider the Total Cost

The total cost doesn’t simply include what it will take to build the facility.  Construction costs are just one piece of the overall puzzle.  Construction costs typically don’t include design elements such as theatrical lighting, sound, furniture, décor, flooring, paint, environmental graphics, IT components, etc. You’ll also need to factor in what it will cost to operate and maintain the facility once you’ve moved in.  This includes monthly utilities, maintenance and repairs, janitorial services, and maintenance staff.

Another item to consider is your long-term life cycle planning.  This is your plan for stewarding the new facility and the equipment associated with it so you can maintain and replace items as needed.  Each item has a life cycle or amount of time it will last.  HVAC units eventually stop working.  You’ll need to replace the soundboards and flooring at some point.  Consider the cost of replacing each item and what you should set aside in a capital reserve fund each month so you can easily pay for those replacements when the time comes.  eSPACE provides a free Life Cycle Calculator you can use to start this planning process.

Add up the monthly mortgage payment, what you’ll spend each month to maintain the facility (including insurance costs), and what you need to set aside for capital reserves.  Is that amount something your church can comfortably afford?  If not, now is the time to adjust plans and expectations before you’ve invested any money into the project.

Start Planning for the Capital Campaign

Unless you’ve already been saving for years, you’ll likely need to run a capital campaign to raise money for this project.  Before you announce anything to the congregation, you will need to do careful planning on how and when to cast this vision.  Brad Leeper from Generis offered these tips:

  • Start talking with church staff, leaders (elders, deacons, etc.), major givers, and small groups to align leaders before presenting the campaign to the full congregation.
  • Make sure you’re clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing.  You’ll raise more money by taking a longer view of the capital campaign process.  This is more about creating a culture of generosity and leveraging that cultural change than a short-term campaign.

This planning phase is vital to the success of your building project.  Don’t shortcut or skip anything in this phase.  You’ll end up having to deal with these tasks at some point anyway, so it’s best to handle them now before you’ve invested considerable time and money.

In addition, we have recently developed a FREE Church Facility Evaluator. This simple tool will provide you with a snapshot of some key indicators associated with facility operational costs.  This 2-3 minute evaluation will give you some real time data…based on national averages…as to whether you are GOOD TO GO…or in need of help.

Don’t wait…get started HERE!

If It's Phase-able, It's Feasible

We have just wrapped up a 2 part series on the 5 Consequences of Too Much Building As part of that series, we scratched the surface of the issue of building too big from the get-go. We noted that this is generally done when proper planning is not performed or when the “build it and they will come” mentality replaces reasonable thinking.

When I talk about “proper planning”, I am referring to the fact that every church that plans to build a new facility has a budget; and as such, there is only so much they can afford as part of the next project. (PS:  If you have an unlimited budget, please call me immediately as I have 3 kids in college!) What I have seen far too often is the project team plans and designs a facility to meets the churches desires, wishes and “perceived” needs; it is a grand plan and every component is thought through.  The plan has the right amount of seating, incredible kids spaces, “Google-ish” office space, and world class commons.

What could go wrong?

It costs HOW MUCH?!?!?! – Yep, that is what can go wrong.

This is not the end of the world and it does not have derail the process…unless, there is no way to phase the project.  As stated above, I am yet to find that one church on planet Earth that has an unlimited budget. As such, 99.9% of all projects have to be done in phases…sometimes many phases.

Welcome to reality.

I was recently with a friend of mine, Bob Bergman, when he made a statement that completely embodied the methodology of planning, design and construction I have been preaching for 31 years – “If it is Phase-able, it is Feasible.”

BOOM. BINGO. EXACTLY. THAT WILL PREACH!

Let me explain.  This may seem intuitive and simple, but I have seen millions of dollars of design and building plans sitting in the corner of a pastor’s study with an inch of dust on them…for a project that was well intended, but not feasible.

As I describe in my book PLAN 4 IT, churches need to establish a Financial Master Plan before they start on the Facility Plan. By doing so, you will know your financial capability.  If you, as the project team, start to develop the programming based on the church’s desires and needs, you will need a comparable benchmark (financial feasibility).  If the budget capacity falls short of the programming needs, then you will be in a phasing scenario.  As such, you need to prioritize the programming needs into financially feasible phases, then design with those phases acutely in the forefront of the teams mind.

Now…I fully believe that God can intervene and provide more funds than any of us can perceive.  That is GREAT, but don’t plan the project with that as the basis for the project size and scope.  Instead, plan your PHASING to take that into consideration.  There is no law that says you can not build Phase 1 and Phase 2 at the same time if the funds are available. There is, however, a spiritual, physical and financial law that says you cannot build Phase 2 if you only have funds for Phase 1. Pretty simple…but hard to implement without proper planning and diligence.

Plan wisely…and phase-able.

For assistance on Life Cycle Planning, download your free copy of the eBook, Capital Reserve Planning.

Plan 4 It: The 4 Essential Master Plans for Every Church

Plan 4 It CoverI am excited to announce the release of my latest book, published by Rainer Publishing – PLAN 4 IT: The 4 Essential Master Plans for Every Church.

I can hear you now…“He has lost his mind!!! Why would a church need 4 master plans?  We had a tough enough time just getting one completed.”

I assure you, I have never been more coherent and clear thinking than I am about this topic and the essential…may I say mandatory…need for 4 master plans. Let me explain.

First, we must define “master plan”. Here is what I believe is the best and most concise definition: a vision of the future, beginning with today’s realities. That may sound overly simplistic, but that is the true essence of what a (any) master plan really is. Did you noticed that is did not say anything about a piece of property or buildings or parking lots or any other physical attribute?

Do you remember this interchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in “Alice In Wonderland”:

“Would you tell me which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice. “That depends a good deal on where you want to get,” said the Cat.

“I really don’t care where,” replied Alice.

“Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Not having a “vision of the future” will leave you in the same predicament as Alice…no direction…no clear reason why you are going anywhere…just going somewhere because you can. That is why this “facility guy” is emphatic that master planning is a 4 pronged process and that NONE of them can be eliminated…at least not if you intend to have a successful process.

Here are the 4 essential master plans:

  1. Ministry Master Plan
  2. Financial Master Plan
  3. Facility Master Plan
  4. Sustaining Master Plan

I will not spoil your reading of the book, but let me give you a very brief explanation of each:

MINISTRY MASTER PLAN: This is the first, and most crucial, part of the master planning process: the exploration and discovery of philosophies, concepts, stories, and cultural context through intentional research. We have to start from the inside out. It is the plan that helps identify the who (we are), the why (we do what we do) and the how (we do ministry).

To skip over this process of ministry master planning is like getting the GO TO JAIL card playing Monopoly. You do not pass go; you do not collect $200. This step is the foundation of the rest of the processes. Avoiding the Ministry Master Plan will leave the other three plans on unstable ground.

FINANCIAL MASTER PLAN: Once you have developed your ministry master plan, you need to determine the financial feasibility of the short-term initiatives and long-term vision. What is needed to fulfill the ministry master plan from a payroll perspective? How will it impact the budget? Is the ministry master plan financially sustainable? Are facilities required to meet the plan? If so, given our financial status, what can the church afford?

The tendency is to go straight to the physical facility planning after the Ministry Master Plan is completed, but this second step is critically important. Without the perspective of the Financial Master Plan, your facility master plan could be dead in the water. While dreaming big and having a God-sized plan are important, financial prudence is also a biblical part of this process. If you only give stewardship lip service, then you will have plans and pretty pictures that never become reality

FACILITY MASTER PLAN: This is generally the phase that people immediate jump to when thinking about master planning…but it can not be elevated to the first or second step in the process.  There is ample time to develop pretty pictures, floor plans, site plans and 3D video.  Plan 4 It has an extensive section dedicated to this phase of the master plan, so I will not elaborate further.

SUSTAINING MASTER PLAN: The fourth master plan is one that most churches fail to consider, even though it is the most costly stage in the life cycle of any facility. In most circles, the term “life cycle” is related to the longevity or life expectancy of a physical element, such as our ministry facilities. It is also used in referring to processes, systems, and research.

While I believe that understanding and developing proactive initiatives is a critical component of the master planning process, we may be better served to think of a term that is more encompassing than simply a life cycle. The word sustaining is a better word to describe the real need and meaning of the fourth master plan. Let’s look at how the dictionary describes both terms:

Life Cycle: a series of stages through which something (as an individual, culture, or manufactured product) passes during its lifetime

Sustaining: to provide what is needed for something or someone to exist and to continue to exist.

The above definition of life cycle would imply a specific duration or “lifetime.” Something that has a prescribed time frame for its existence and function. Sustaining, on the other hand, carries the meaning of continuance, without an end in mind. I believe that for our discussion, both concepts are needed and, in fact, mandatory. We must have a plan to sustain our ministries, finances and facilities. The Sustaining Master Plan actually under-girds the 3 prior master plans.

That is just a highlight of the content of Plan 4 It…so get your copy and be a planning superstar for your church and PLAN 4 IT.

Plan 4 It Cover