Let’s Stop Pretending!

As leaders in our congregations, we are responsible for what happens when the services start. That is a serious responsibility and is an integral component of Facility Stewardship. Well-run programs do not just happen by chance. They all take planning. Proper planning can help facilitate a good event; bad planning will always lead to issues. So, why should we stop pretending? When we consider event planning in the church, we need to stop pretending that it is OK to excuse poor planning by claiming we want to do it this way for “ministerial” reasons.

Whenever you invite individuals into your facility, you are taking on some responsibility for their safety. There are rules you follow that have nothing to do with religious tradition and everything to do with local, state, and federal laws/ordinances. That is a reality when we choose to operate a dedicated facility for religious use. It is not wrong, from a spiritual perspective, to follow these guidelines. Willfully ignoring them is a negative representation of your witness.

How does this relate to event planning? Simple. Planning an event in church represents two essential and separate things. The two aspects are the potential for ministering through the event and the actual execution of the setup of the event. One has spiritual connotations; one does not. One is concerned with the subjective response of the participants; one is concerned with the physical needs to provide the framework of the event. Conflating these two purposes diminishes the effectiveness of both operations.

Perhaps you have heard this before; “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” Unfortunately, for many facility teams they face several avoidable emergencies each week resulting from poor planning. The more this occurs, the harder it is to recognize real emergencies or failures within the system. If everything is an emergency, then nothing is. I may have a shortage of chairs to support all the events I need to…but if I never know how many chairs I need for all my events I have a challenging time proving it. So, what can you do?

I am going to assume you accept that planning an event is an objective exercise. With that, there are essential pieces of information that need detailed and shared. When (time and date), where (location), what (required resources), how (it needs set), and who (who, if anyone, do you need to assist). Do you notice what is missing? Why. As a facility steward, I am willing to trust the ministerial team and accepting that the vetting of the “why” of the event is in line with ministerial efforts. I need to know all the rest so that I can support the event effectively. Let’s look at the essential components of event planning.

When. This is important for obvious reasons. To plan we need to know the date and time the event is occurring (and if it recurs as well). However, clarity in when is important. Yes, I need to know that the service starts at 11. I also need to know if there is an expectation of being in the space starting at 8. Or, perhaps an intent to decorate the day before. All these data points can impact an aspect of the facility that you, as an event planner/owner, are not aware of nor do you necessarily need to be. I do not need my pastor to understand the complexity of staging HVAC to minimize demand charges…I need them to tell me their required parameters so I can schedule appropriately.

Where. It seems obvious, I know. However, when determining a location do not neglect to include the additional support areas that you may need or are expecting to have. Assuming it will be available, or not utilized as a storage room for displaced items due to your event needs, can create drama. In the planning stage it is helpful also to consider if you will need different spaces at various times throughout the event. This has a real potential monetary impact. Specificity on the when for your where allows for the facility steward to only run HVAC, or turn on lights, or send staff over when required.

What. What do you need? Spoiler alert. Facility stewards are awesome, but they are not mind-readers. Sure, we may have done this event in the past…along with the five-thousand other events (which, by the way, is a pretty common average for the number of event setups/year for churches). If you make me guess what you need, and I mess up, the fault remains on you. I want to know everything you want. Telling me everything beforehand allows me to support you better, and to plan my staff efficiently. Having more than you need already present is preferable than having to scramble when the event starts.

How. This goes hand in hand with “what.” How do you need everything setup? Unless your desired setup would lead to a high likelihood of death and destruction, I am willing to set it how you request. If you tell me “just do what makes the most sense” mean it. Facility stewards know their facilities, they know what has worked and what has not regarding setups. If they offer a suggestion, it is not a negative towards you; it is merely a subject matter expert offering guidance learned over time. Again, a facility team wants your event to run smoothly; it makes our lives more enjoyable.

Who. Do you require a subject matter expert to assist you? Perhaps you need sound, maybe IT support. Maybe you need a specific coffee and tea spread. When you are planning your event identify all those individuals you may need assistance from. When you do, let them help determine the best way and manner to assist as well. If you are going to give a presentation, bring your gear into the IT team BEFORE the event, like a day or two, to give them time to make sure everything is compatible. If you are serving food, let the kitchen team know what you want in enough time for them to prepare.

These are the basics of event planning. By the way, your worship service is an event too, and the planning of it should follow the same approach. Can you do this with pen and paper or shared documents and spreadsheets? Sure…if you want to be ineffective and inefficient. There is affordable event scheduling software available for all church sizes. Size does not matter. When you have a facility and events, you need to be intentional in how you plan.

A thoughtfully planned event helps remove potential distractions from the attendees. This, in turn, increases the opportunity to impact folks in a spiritually meaningful way. Proper planning also creates a type of memorandum of understanding between the event planners (typically ministerial staff) and the event support team (usually facility staff). When you, as an event planner, commit to provide me all the information and desired setup needs before the event, I, as the event support team, commit to supporting your event in the exact manner and time you requested. I will do whatever it takes to respect your event because you have appreciated my contribution. We are all one Body, with distinct functions. Let’s celebrate that and do all we can for each other.

By Nathan Parr, Facility Specialist, Cool Solutions Group


Operational Efficiency MUST Include Automation

Over the past 4 years, our team has done numerous Facility Condition Assessments. These are evaluations of a church facility that include:

  1. Fresh Eyes Assessment
  2. Identification of deferred maintenance
  3. Development of a Capital Reserve Plan
  4. Bench-marking of facility operational expenses

As we have analyzed these assessments (which every church should have done) we have identified a significant pattern…and not a good one. What we have seen in every one of the FCA’s we have performed, where the facility has some level of deferred maintenance (which has been all), there are 3 significant budget line items that are underfunded:

  1. General Maintenance Budget – the stuff you need to do to keep up with the natural rate of deterioration and wear/tear.
  2. Facility Staffing – Best practices have been proven that you need 1 full time general maintenance staff member for every 35,000 SF of facilities.
  3. Capital Reserves – these churches have deferred as they did not properly plan for the inevitable costs of capital replacement and renewal.

So…how do we remedy this?  GREAT QUESTION!

The easy answer is increase the budget for each of these. There you have it…case closed. NOT!

Most churches cannot immediately increase their budgets to be in keeping with intentional Facility Stewardship.  This means we need another approach. Consider these:

  1. What if we could make our current staff more effective and efficient?
  2. What if we could free up 10-30% of their time to inspect the facility? I would suggest that this kind of increase would reduce the calculation of the number of full time staff needed.
  3. What if the time they had on-the-job was utilized to perform tasks that only a human can perform?
  4. Perform a periodic walk through, meet with vendors and negotiate the best rates, get on the roof every month?
  5. Verify all the emergency lights are operational.
  6. ETC!

With the introduction of the INTERNET OF THINGS over a decade ago, there are few reasons or excuses to not add automation to the routine and mundane tasks of setting HVAC setting, unlocking doors, setting up digital signage.  What if you could automate those tasks…how much more time would your staff have?

If you have not added FACILITeSPACE to your facility automation…now is the time! *Click below for more information.

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.


The Simple Church (Scheduler)

 

Did you know that between 60-75% of all churches in America average less than 200 people on a weekend? That is over 210,000 churches!!!

Do you want to venture a guess as to how many of those churches have facilities that they use on a regular basis? Yeah…me either, but I would venture to say that it is at least 75% (if not more). That is almost 160,000 churches.

Given these statistics and Cool Solutions Group’s passion to serve churches of all sizes, we are so excited to announce the release of the SIMPLE SCHEDULER.

This new facility and event scheduling software is the ideal tool for churches with smaller facilities who just need a “simple” scheduling tool, but need more than Outlook, Google Calendar or paper/pencil can offer.

Here are some of the features of SIMPLE SCHEDULER:

  • Can schedule up to 25 rooms
  • Real time conflict checking and resolution
  • Schedule tables, chairs, projectors and other resources for your event
  • Website calendar integration
  • Simple reporting
  • Simple custom forms
  • In-app communication
  • Event Approval process
  • API to integrate with other ChMS platforms
  • UNLIMITED USERS

All this…and only $25/month.  REALLY?!?! That’s right – you heard us right.  Only $25 a month with no long term contracts.

Do we have your attention? Click HERE and start your free 14 day trial.  We will be right here to help you get started.

Where’s My Money!

Let’s face it, you are more than likely asked to accomplish a great deal with minimal resources, especially funding. I wish it was different, but it is a reality in the church facility world. Another reality is that as technology improves, and the Internet of Things continues to expand, leveraging technology to gain savings is a real way to do more for less…eventually.

Unfortunately for us, to leverage the long-term savings on emerging technology will generally require an upfront investment. In that investment, those figures can be a hard pill to swallow. Consider an average facility that wants to install 20 WIFI stats and integrate them with their scheduler…that project cost could easily be around $6500. For a facility looking at saving money, how do you justify the investment?

That is where learning how to calculate a return on investment (ROI) is critical for every facility steward. The concept is simple, but the execution is difficult. In general terms, a ROI will give you a qualified estimate as to how long your investment will be paid off through (typically) operational savings. Every moment after that point would then be considered savings (or newly available dollars for other areas).

A simple ROI formula is [(Gain from Investment-Cost of Investment)/ Cost of Investment]. Because it gives you a percentage, it is easy to compare returns from different investments. For us, we are trying to justify an investment by providing an estimated time it achieves a return of 0 (meaning we have saved enough to pay back project cost). Once it is paid back, theoretically it is now additional income (or rather reduced operating expenditures).

So, how would we approach it as a facility steward? Energy Star states that with simple energy efficiency measures, facilities can achieve 2-10% savings annually on their costs. More aggressive programs can achieve up to 60% savings. I recommend that you are conservative with your target and use a reduction potential of 18%. If you are serious about saving money, 18% is easily attained.

How about a practical example. Remember the church from above, a project cost of $6500 to invest in connected stats. Let’s say their monthly utility bill is $7000. (I know, for many of you that number would be awesome). If they could achieve an 18% per month reduction in utility bills ($7000x .18 =$1260), they could save $1260 a month. Taking the project cost divided by the savings ($6500/$1260= 5.2) tells us that in a bit over five months the ROI is at 0%. Every month after the five-month point the church has $1200 that can be invested elsewhere. The counter-point to the example is this: for every month that you do not invest, you are spending $1200 you shouldn’t have to. In 12 months if you do the investment, you gain approximately $8400, if you do not you spend an extra $14,400.

This is very simplistic in presentation, but this method is easy to understand and reproduce. If you want to start getting deeper, then for ROI’s in energy savings you can start getting in to KwH difference and so forth. The facility steward should always include an ROI when presenting or asking others to approve an efficiency project. The ROI is a critical part of an effective decision-making process. By leveraging emerging technology to improve efficiency, it is an actual investment into the facility. The “sticker shock” that comes with many of these types of projects needs a tempering figure.

When you have taken the time to evaluate the ROI on total project completion, then you can also consider ways to spread the project out. Many times, companies will let you purchase in stages to spread out the cost if you will commit to a total order. It draws out the time to achieve 0%, but it can make it easier to get approved.

Bottom line, calculating an ROI informs both you and those you present the project to where the money is, and how to get it back from the facility and into other ministry areas. If you want some more info, or help putting one together, let us know in the forum, we are here for you.

5 Abuses of Church Property Insurance

Since early in establishing Cool Solutions Group, I have had a number of beliefs and convictions around how we insure our church facilities and why insurers do not “appear” to be more interested in the condition of the facilities they insure. Still don’t get that.

When you couple that with the fact that I have been watching the intersection of Facility Stewardship to Financial Stewardship to Personal Integrity to “Doing What is Right” as it relates to church property/facility insurance claims, I have been both bothered and concerned.  I have seen things that really bother me from both sides of the insurance “table”, and not just a little.

Let me share with you 5 abuses I have witnessed and why I think they need to be addressed:

  1. Pray for a Hail Storm – I have seen this first hand more than once.  A church does not plan for the inevitable cost of roof maintenance and replacement and start praying for a hail storm.  That is just wrong! Why should any company (insurance or not) pay for your lack of planning for the inevitable cost of roof maintenance and replacement? To take this a step further, I do not understand why church insurance continues to increase the value of church facilities when they are incurring more and more deferred maintenance that actually decreases the value. This really perplexes me (I told you I have concerns on both sides of the table). Can you imagine the outcry of churches whose coverage is reduced based on deferred maintenance or lack of maintenance? On the flip side, can you imagine what elation there would be to have little to no premium increases for churches that could empirically prove they were maintaining their facilities?  I would LOVE to see that. That would be true Facility Stewardship!
  2. The insurance company has lots of money – Aren’t you glad they do?!?!  I know I am glad Allstate does when we have a claim at the house. If they did not, how would claims get paid?  But here is the real fallacy with that line of thinking.  Where did that money come from?  Right…premiums. And who pays the premiums?  Right…all the churches (or people) they insure.  So when the insurance company pays a claim, the likelihood of all their other church clients premiums increasing is high. This is as much a Kingdom issue as it is insurance…maybe more. Talk about Financial Stewardship.
  3. We Won The Lottery  – “We just had a major insurance event…NEW SHOES FOR EVERYONE!” Insurance is bought in order to have coverage to repair/replace content and facilities that were directly impacted by the insurance event. It is not a “get out of jail free” card or a license to spend or the golden egg to offset a deficit in your budget. Yet, far too often the mindset of church leaders and staff is not aligned with the real reason for the claim dollars.  Think of it this way…if the insurance event had not occurred, what then?
  4. Pushed to the limit – We have insurance limits in the policy…let’s max them out. If there is a limit for contents or extra expenses or the like, are we not entitled to use ALL of it. Answer = NO.  In fact, not just no, but…
  5. 10 and 10 –  This one is an abuse that the insurance companies have allowed for too long. The term “10 and 10” is a construction industry term for 10% profit and 10% overhead. That means you take the raw cost of material and labor, then add 10% for overhead and 10% for profit…and you allow the general contractor to include their “General Conditions” cost of the superintendent, project manager, etc, the contractor is likely to walk away with 25-30% of the claim. Let me drill this down.  Say you have a $2 Million claim and you allow the contractor to charge 10/10 and general conditions…that could be $500,000 and a nail is not even driven.  In contrast, take that same project value for new construction, the current going rates we see are 6-8% plus general conditions…which equates to only about 15-17%. That is a potential swing of over $200,000. Now, I am not suggesting that the church get that money (refer back to #3 above), but it should reduce the amount of the claim the insurance company pays out…which saves them money…but…as indicated above in #2…it ultimately saves all the insured churches money in the form of less premium increases. NOTE:  The “10 and 10” issue I have is not with the small sub-contractor, but rather with larger claims where a bonafide General Contractor has to be engaged.

So…I realize that the above may not make me popular with many churches and even some insurance companies.  I am OK with that…because Facility Stewardship…coupled with Financial Stewardship are not just a good idea, but spiritual tenets.

Cheap Shower Curtains (and church facilities)

If you have read my blogs for just about any time at all, you know that I am a big Seth Godin fan.

Recently he posted a blog entitled “Cheap Shower Curtains” that really caught my attention. Here is an excerpt:

The unskilled cost accountant might suggest you outfit your new hotel with cheap shower curtains. After all, if you save $50 a room and have 200 rooms, pretty soon, we’re talking real money.

On the other hand, experience will demonstrate that cheap shower curtains let the water out, causing a minor flood, every day, room after room. And they wear out faster. Cheap shower curtains aren’t actually cheap.

This is so in line with one of our recent blogs – “Cheap Is No Bargain”

Let’s take the analogy above a little further:

PERCEIVED SAVINGS: – $50 x 200 rooms = $10,000

AFTERMATH COSTS:

  • Damage to the floor and substrate of 200 rooms
  • Ceiling damage from water leaking from rooms above – about 75% of the 200 rooms requiring patch and repaint
  • Potential unseen issues such as mold, wet insulation, water migration to electrical fixtures, etc.
  • Increased humidity issues due to moisture causing HVAC to work “harder” to obtain comfortable levels
  • Replacement of floor covering to all 200 rooms
  • Loss of revenue due to repairs being made
  • Truncated life cycle of 200 shower curtains (this will be at least the cost of the original savings but at inflated dollars)

I am not going to venture a cost for the above…but I would say it is fair that it will be at least 10 times (and I actually believe it is 25-50 times) the perceived savings. So, unless your intent was to sell the hotel within the first few months of completion, you have just made an incredibly unwise decision. BY THE WAY: If you did plan to sell, you just sold a money pit to your buyer, damaging the one thing that really counts…your integrity and reputation. Another unwise decision.

“But Tim…we are not building hotels…we are a church.”

Right…all the more reason to not make such unwise decisions as you are utilizing Kingdom dollars entrusted to you and your church. You have been asked to steward them…not just on the “spending” of the initial costs/purchases, but of the long term value. The principle is the same whether you are building hotels, shopping centers or investing monies into the construction, renovation or sustaining your ministry facilities.

Sounds a lot like Facility Stewardship.

Decision Making

All of us must make decisions…it is inevitable. We decide to stay fit, make certain purchases or we even make decisions that are going to impact our lives and those around us. Like taxes and death, making decisions are are part of life…even a decision to not make a decision is a decision (that was a mouthful).

I was with another Christian businessman last week who gave me the following from a business leaders group that he attends. This is some great stuff.

DECISION MAKING
  1. Do I want God’s guidance? Do I want to follow God’s plan, or do I simply want God to bless my plans?
  2. Am I in fellowship with God? Am I in a good spiritual condition to make certain decisions? Sin, relationships, attitudes and deeds in my life can cloud our moral judgement.
  3. Have I asked God for wisdom? James writes: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to you. (James 1:5) Praying and searching the Bible should go hand in hand.
  4. Do I have all the facts? Solomon writes: Every Prudent person acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly.(Proverbs 13:16)
  5. Would I want everyone to know about it? If you are making a decision and you would be embarrassed if other people found out about it that means it is probably not a good decision. Proverbs 10:9 says: The person of integrity walks securely but the one who takes crooked paths will be found out.
  6. Is this going to make me a better person? Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial, and not everything is constructive. (I Corinthians 10:23)
  7. Will this choice control me, or will God still be in control of my life? Could this be something that is addictive to me? No matter how enjoyable it is, or how simple it may be, will it dominate my life? Paul writes: All things are lawful for me but I will not be dominated by anything. (I Corinthians 6:12) I won’t let anything master me, consume me or control my life.

These are great reminders for us all…especially me.


Stop Wasting Money

Seriously, stop.

If you are not seeking and following energy saving guidelines, you are spending money you do not have to. Money spent on facilities, when not necessary, take away dollars available for your ministerial mission. The logical response to this opening is to ask, “What can we do?” I am glad you are being logical, because I have some real simple steps for you to start with.

Step 1: Commit to it. Being energy efficient is not something that happens by accident. If you are not committed and intentional, you will not fully succeed. With the increasing connectivity in facilities management (think Internet of Things), opportunities to save will either change or new possibilities added. It takes someone committed to stay informed to take advantage of all that is out there.

Step 2: Turn it OFF. Find a way to turn things off when you do not need them. Use power strips and shut devices off at night, use time clocks, install motion switches, etc. Anything you can do to create a culture that turns the switch off when it is not needed will make a difference. Consider a time clock on water fountains…why do you need to keep water cold overnight? Motion sensors and light sensors on hallway lights. Why keep it lit if no one is there and the sun is shining? You get the idea.

Step 3: Check your bulbs. There have been lots of improvements in lamping technology over the last decade. Survey all the lamps you use; see if there is a more energy efficient option. If you have older fixtures, there probably is. Consider exit signs; if you are not running LED signs you are spending too much. If you have T-12 fluorescent lamps, you are spending more than you should. Simple changes here can earn significant savings.

“If you are not seeking and following energy saving guidelines, you are spending money you do not have to.”

Step 4: Check your HVAC. Your HVAC is one of the largest contributors to your energy bills. Keep doors shut, change filters regularly, keep the coils clean, and only run them when you need them. Smart thermostats, an EMS system, computerized controls, WIFI stats…anything that can provide additional controls, integrated scheduling, and monitoring is what you should be using. In addition, consider your set-points. Varying set-points between vacancy, occupancy, and events can reduce energy consumption. Targeted improvements in HVAC make the most sense – they provide a very quick return on investment.

Step 5: Plug it Up. This step is referring to your building envelope. Check for air infiltration and plug the leaks whenever you find one that shouldn’t be there. Temperature always seeks equilibrium, any leaks in your building will cause the conditioned and unconditioned air to mix and affect your desired comfort level, which in turn makes your equipment run more than necessary.

Step 6: Keep learning. Similar to step 1, you must keep trying to learn the best ways to be energy efficient. There are many State and Federal programs that you can access to learn more. Check out Energy Star for Congregations for some great info to start.

Also, conveniently enough we are offering another FREE webinar through CFMS on Energy Management on July 26th. What a deal, a free resource to learn how to save even more money in your facility. We hope to see you there, and may you find the ways to save in your facility.


4 Reasons Why Connecting Spaces Trump Cattle Chutes

When I started my career in church facility development in 19XX (you venture a guess), the foyer/lobby/narthex (for my liturgical friends) was generally sized to be 1-2 square feet per seat in the main worship space. In those days, this space was intended to be used as a place to funnel people from the worship space to the outside or down a series of narrow corridors that led to the education, administration or fellowship areas. There was often a small table for giving/tithing envelopes or general information along with 1-2 uncomfortable high-back chairs…usually not ones you would enjoy sitting in for any length of time, nor were they arranged in a manner to encourage conversation or community.

For all practicality, the foyer was nothing more than a well appointed cattle chute (MOO).
Not anymore.

That line of thinking has fortunately gone the way of the dodo-bird. Why? Because people want to connect. People want to do life together. We want to linger. We want to hangout. We want to do more than just pass through a space to merely get to the other side.

Let’s look at 4 reasons why this is a major shift in church space:

  1. People Want Connection– In “Mistakenly Seeking Solitude,” published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Professor Nicolas Epley from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and co-author Juliana Schroder found that participants in their experiments not only underestimated others’ interest in connecting, but also reported positive experiences by both being spoken to and to speaking with a stranger.

“Connecting with strangers on a train may not bring the same long-term benefits as connecting with friends,” Epley states. “But commuters on a train into downtown Chicago reported a significantly more positive commute when they connected with a stranger than when they sat in solitude.”

Deep down, we want to connect with others.

“People want to connect. People want to do life together. We want to linger. We want to hangout. We want to do more than just pass through a space to merely get to the other side.”

  1. Community– Over the past half decade or more,  the term “doing life together” has become a mainstay in modern vernacular. We are seeking the opportunity to connect with people. For the past 30-50 years the American population has become experts at separatism, isolationism and back yard living…fences and all. If we are ever invaded by extra terrestrial beings, they will report back to the mother ship that Earthlings vacate their domiciles early in the morning…then return late evening and are not see again until the next morning. However, the trend is the opposite. Ask the people of Celebration, Florida. Talk to masses of people moving back into urban and walk-able settings. People are seeking community…why not let the church lead the way in this cultural shift instead of being the typical laggards.
  2. Death of the Fellowship Hall– Several years ago, Dr. Thom Rainer conducted a research project that identified the least effective and “inspirational” type of construction/development project was the “fellowship hall”. While community is desirable, the idea of a contrived or forced “community” setting is not working. Frankly, the dedicated fellowship hall is a very poor utilization of space and tends to become the dreaded multi-useless building. Properly sized lobby spaces can more than suffice for these “fellowship” functions…so why do we need to pay for the space twice?
  3. Third Place and the “Well”– In the early to mid 1990’s the term “Third Place” (thanks to the book  The Great Good Place, by Ray Oldenburg) came in vogue referencing the third place in a person’s life that they would engage them with others (the first place is where you live…the second is where you go to pay for where you live…and the third place was that comfortable place where you could unwind, get away, hang, connect, etc.) The most popular example of a Third Place was from the TV sitcom, “Cheers”…where “everyone knows your name”. In the majority of instances where churches talked about a third place, it referred to a coffee shop or cafe. While that is “an” option, it is not the only option. In fact, I would prefer to talk about “wells” (vs. Temples) as the draw. Think about the women at the well. She did not wake up and decide to go to the temple or “church”.  No. She had to do a 7-day a week event…get water. Part of her culture and daily routine. But she met God in the form of Jesus at the well. After her encounter, she ran home…but did not load up the family station wagon and drive her family to the temple. Nope…she took them to the WELL. Think about that…how can we develop more wells on our campus?

Given the above as well as many other cultural and practical influences, we are seeing these gathering/connecting spaces…what might be called the “commons”…be at least 50% the size of the worship seating with a preferred factor of 75-100% of the worship seating space. If we use 8-10 SF per person for worship seating, that means we need to allocate 4-10 SF per person in the common space vs. 1-2 SF.  In fact, one of the industry partners we collaborate with is trending their designs and concepts closer to 150%. That is a ton of space…and there are times that not all of it needs to be included in the “built environment” but can be captured in adjacent spaces outside the building and create an inside/outside commons that can be equally as effective and in many cases, be even more inviting. If you design your commons to be 75%  of your worship seating, but also an additional 75% in natural environments, you could potentially save enormous amounts of money as the conditioned space might cost you, say, $150/SF or even more while the exterior space would be in the $30-40/SF range. That is a 75% savings.

Bottom line is we need to provide common connecting spaces and not just a cattle chute. You need to determine what is contextual for your church, culture, DNA and other such factors.