10 Keys to Maximizing Your Church Facility – Interview with Thom Rainer

Do you know what you need to focus on related to your church facility in 2018? If not, you will want to hear this podcast with Dr. Thom Rainer.

Some highlights from this podcast include:

  • Your church is more inclined to experience a parent in a divorce case trying to abduct a child than it is to experience an active shooter.
  • Presence is the #1 thing your church can do to increase security.
  • Is your church facility congruent with your mission?
  • In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have deferred maintenance; you’d have enough money to handle facility issues as they arise.
  • Your facility team is an important part of your church’s ministry.

Is your church facility congruent with your mission?

The ten keys to maximizing your church facility are:

  1. Safety and security
  2. Flow of the space
  3. Contextualization of facilities
  4. Capital reserve – facing the inevitable
  5. Addressing the 4 buckets of budgeting
  6. Staffing
  7. Defining CLEAN and how that impacts staffing and budget
  8. Spatial utilization
  9. Integrating the facility and facility staff in your ministry
  10. Empowering the membership to be active in facility stewardship

Listen to the entire interview with Dr. Rainer HERE


The Church of “Generica”

I travel a lot and I am in many cities across the county.  One thing that has really struck me is how similar one city is to the next…especially in the “burbs”. Almost every Outback, Chili’s or Applebee’s  has the same basic design.  I can be taken blindfolded into almost any Home Depot or Lowe’s, remove the covering and not know what city I am in. In most cases I can be plunked down in a community with developments that are less than 10 years old and much of the architecture of the  shopping centers, the so called “urban” housing, and office buildings look very similar.

I am conflicted when I see this.  A part of me feels comfortable and “safe”…but a deeper emotion wonders if we have settled for a generic, industrial, revolution mindset and formations. What happened to unique? What happened to original and innovative? Have we commoditized everything to the point that we press them into existence like we were running a Ford assembly line? Have we accepted that we live in “Generica” (A term not learned from Jon Crosby)? If so, are we also content with worshiping at The Church of “Generica”?

Recently, I read a blog by Sam Rainer III in Church Executive Magazine entitled “Hurdles to Established Church Innovation”.   I have a lot of respect for Sam and his dad Thom.  They are passionate about the local church and live it out in their personal and professional lives.

Sam starts the article by asking 2 questions:

“Does the established nature of some churches hinder innovation?”

“Is an established structure antithetical to quick, nimble changes?”

These may seem obvious or possibly rhetorical, but I think they are far more thought provoking than they may appear on the surface.  He drills down on what is “innovation” and “established”.  According to Sam, innovation is “the process of successfully establishing something new” while establish means “to create firm stability.”  Sam goes on to poke a couple holes in both by writing:

“Established churches, in particular, can take comfort in the establishment. Traditions and history can easily become a guise for complacency. Innovation can take a back seat to the entrenched processes that help create the stability.”

As I read further in to the article, I believe that Sam is communicating that it is a both/and scenario. We need to have innovation in all of our ministries.  We need to be exploring new and fresh ways to “be the church” instead of getting comfortable with our holy huddles.  It may require serious paradigm shifts, and yes…you may very well lose people because of it.  If that happens, and you believe that the innovation you have implemented is going to further the Kingdom and the mission of the church, then wish them well and let them go because they may very well have been the limiting factor to you reaching your God given vision.  I like what Joyce Meyers say…”Rejection is Protection”. When we are rejected, many times it is the Lord protecting us from a potentially bad situation or relationship.

At the same time, church plants and new works can not stay in a mode of only innovating and primarily focusing on being “cool”. At some point you need to establish systems, processes and core values. There needs to be a sense of stability and permanence.

“Generica” can be just as prevalent in a contemporary setting as a 100 year old traditional church. When I go to a conference of church planters or “cutting edge” churches, it strikes me as odd to see many pastors/leaders with the same hair style, same untucked shirts and pointy shoes. Or I will visit a contemporary church to witness the  same haze machines, 3 video screens, drum cage and mono-sloped roof lines.  What we think is cool, relevant  and cutting edge can be just as generic as the coat & tie, 4 white columns, red brick and steeple. This “condition” is an equal opportunity malady that can infect any church, any movement or any ministry organization.

Sam wraps up his article with 4 hurdles that may be hindering a church from innovating.  They are:

  1. Lack of intentionality –When resources are plentiful, the temptation is to be less intentional. The practice of spaghetti-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks is not true innovation. It’s haphazard chaos.
  2. Lack of originality –  Innovation is introducing something new, not introducing something with the façade of newness or a new logo.
  3. The wrong metrics -What gets measured gets done, and what you measure is typically an indicator of what you value. A mature church will measure different things than a new church. However, an overemphasis on the metrics sustaining the establishment will inevitably de-emphasize innovation and dissuade team members from attempting innovation.
  4. The ease of appeasement – In an established church, some leaders prefer the ease of appeasing members rather than innovating to reach new people. Appeasing existing members is much easier than challenging a church to innovate and reach new people.

Avoid becoming the Church of “Generica”…Innovate! This applies to how you “do” church, how you reach the community…and yes…how your facilities are designed.

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.

5 Consequences of Too Much Building – Part 1

In the past few weeks, I have been exposed to a couple of interactions that have really impacted me. The first was two days of workshops that I was asked to lead for the Center for Congregations in Indiana. Many of these churches are dealing with aging buildings and a declining attendance/membership. The second was a Podcast by Dr. Thom Rainer (What to Do When You Build too Big). Both of these shone a light on many issues churches are facing when they find themselves in a situation with more building than they need.

This issue is generally caused by a couple of factors:

1. The church has declined in attendance and facility use, and as such, the previous facilities are too large for the remaining membership and programming.

2. The church is built too big to start with, mainly because of:

  • Miscalculation of projected growth
  • Improper planning
  • A “build it and they will come” mindset

Regardless of the “cause”, the “effect” is serious business. In light of that, I want to address the 5 consequences for “too much building” and provide some possible considerations:

#1: – The Money Pit

1. Higher Utility Costs – An often over looked consequence of too much building is the cost of utilities to heat, cool and light a facility that is larger than needed. Many churches just keep paying the bills…because…well…”we have always done it that way”. But it does not have to be that way. If you do not need all of the space, then shut some of it down and stop paying for unneeded utilities. Other options may include:

  • Selling the facility and obtaining a “right sized” facility
  • Leasing, renting or sharing a portion of the facility, even it only covers the cost of utilities, maintenance and repairs
  • Merging your congregation with another. This trend has saved many congregations and provided facilities for others that may have only been renting (for more information read “Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work” by Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird).

2. Deferred Maintenance – This is very sad to me, but due to poor planning for the inevitable costs of natural physical deterioration (1-4% annually of the current replacement value), many congregations with aging facilities (over 25 years old) find themselves in a precarious situation. Many, if not most of the churches we serve that are 25 years or older have millions and millions of dollars of deferred maintenance with no capital reserve fund or a plan as to how it can/must be addressed. In many instances this causes a catch 22…you have deferred maintenance…but the congregation is shrinking…so the income is depleted…now what? Steps that are needed here include:

  • Understanding the situation – meaning you need a Facility Assessment to understand your deferred maintenance and capital reserve needs
  • Implement a proactive plan to address the above

3. Deferred Maintenance SQUARED The above issue of deferred maintenance is compounded when adequate attention is not given, thus more than doubling the impact of the natural rate of physical deterioration. This situation will force many, if not most, churches to face other considerations such as whether to close the doors altogether or just continue to let the congregation (and the deteriorating facility) die a slow death. I have worked with one church recently that was spending 70% of their operating budget to pay for the operations, maintenance and repairs of their 80+ year old building. In my opinion, they are no longer a ministry/church but rather a group of people donating to a property management organization. Sad!

There are four more, and we will hit them next time. In the meantime, make sure to get your free copy of the eBook on Capital Reserve Planning.

Thom Rainer Interviews Tim Cool

It was such an honor to sit down with Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe to talk “shop”…at least “shop” from my perspective and paradigm. But even more than the honor of doing the interview is the fact that top level church leaders are seeing how critical it is to steward the ministry facilities God has entrusted to them.  I have been beating this drum for over 9 years and it thrills me to see the attention churches are now giving to the life cycle and capital reserve initiatives needed to properly steward their ministry tools.

Take a few minutes and check our this interview.  It covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time…such as:

  • Everything on earth has been entrusted by God to us to care for.
  • Stewardship in the church isn’t just about money.
  • The expenses needed to take care of a facility are not an optional thing, they are an inevitable thing.
  • We know facility issues will come up in the church, it’s prudent for us to plan for them.
  • Facilities won’t save souls. They are tools for us to use to see people saved and to disciple the saints.
  • Churches need four master plans—ones for ministry, finance, facility, and sustainability.
  • Church utility costs should average between $1 and $1.50 per square foot annually.
  • Effective facility usage can lead to more effective ministry because you’re able to put more resources into ministry.

Click the image below to listen…and then apply what you hear!

 

Why Church Buildings Matter – RE-RELEASED

I am so excited to announce the RE-RELEASE of – Why Church Buildings Matter: The Story of Your Space

I want to thank Sam Rainer and the team at Rainer Publishing for their support, diligence, editing and re-releasing this book with its updated content.

As we have discussed prior, the church campus tells a story. Stories are all around us, in virtually every aspect of our daily experiences, which means that our church and ministry facilities also tell a story. This book offers a unique perspective on the importance of church buildings. These buildings are vastly more important than most understand. The church campus and the story of the people in the church go hand-in-hand and are interwoven into each other. We cannot neglect the power of story and how our church facilities communicate a story. In this book, several key questions about church facilities are answered: How does church space support the story of the people? How does the church space prime the heart, minds, and emotions of your guests? How does your facility bring people into the story of the church and the story of your vision and mission?

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. “Why Church Buildings Matter will reveal how to maximize your church facility enabling you to share the greatest story ever told…the gospel.

Get your copy today.

The Importance of the Church Facility is Renewed

I was recently re-reading an article by Sam Rainer (Lead pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church. He is also the president of Rainer Research and the Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Rainer Publishing as well as the eldest son of Thom Rainer) printed in Church Executive.  Sam lists out his set of 10 unexpected trends to surface in 2020.  This was a very insightful article…you need to read it. I was particularly taken by one trend relating to Church facilities…obviously a topic near and dear to my heart.

Here is a quote from the article:

The church is not a building, but a building is where the church meets. And buildings are the most expensive part of discipleship. In North America people go to buildings to do things — they go to the game in an arena, to the doctor at her office, to school in the classroom, and to the movie at the theater. Part of our culture is the expectation that things happen in buildings. This cultural expectation is true of the church — people go to church to be discipled.

Not all churches have buildings, nor am I advocating that they should. But church facilities are one of the most expensive and most critical tools church leaders use in shepherding God’s people. In short, buildings are important pieces in God’s mission of building his kingdom. Many building and design firms are becoming more intentional about creating space with the purpose of making disciples. In the next ten years, this focus will continue to grow. And churches will begin to view their buildings as part of their discipleship process.

What are your thoughts on this?  Is your local ministry effectively using your facilities as a discipleship tool?  If so…congrats.  If not…why not?  Is it not part of your strategy or are the “spaces” not adequate to facilitate discipleship…or are they not maintained properly to make them an effective tool?

Utilizing facilities for discipleship is like the 3 legs of a stool…the facilities must be:

  1. Designed to fulfill your vision and ministry initiatives
  2. Made available for people to use and properly scheduled
  3. Well maintained and cared for so that they are safe, clean and represent your ministry values

If you ignore even one of the above, your desires to utilize your facility to further your discipleship and ministry initiatives can be greatly impacted…just like a missing leg of the 3-legged stool.

Are you being intentional with the function, use and care of your ministry tools?  This is what we refer to as Facility Stewardship…these tools have been entrusted to you to properly steward!

 

Thom Rainer: 8 Causes of Concern for Bible Belt Churches

I am a Thom Rainer fan.  His influence on the local church is far more impactful and far reaching than many people may realize. where serving the local church or  serving at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism or leading research project. and most recently in his role as the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, Thom has impact the Kingdom in amazing ways (By The Way, I am a pretty big fan of his kids – Sam, Art and Jess…my publishers at Rainer Publishing).

In a recent podcast, Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe discussed concerns about church in the Bible Belt.  Living in the heart of the Bible Belt, this caught my attention. What am I, and those I live near, needing to be aware of?  What can we do? What new realities need to be faced and addressed?

Here are the 8 Causes for Concern that Thom and Jonathan addressed:

  1. They don’t recognize the decline in cultural Christianity.
  2. They have many “church rules.”
  3. They have leaders who have never led in a highly unchurched mission field.
  4. They confuse traditions with truth.
  5. They do outreach the way they’ve always done it.
  6. They have significant conflict due to frustration.
  7. They are very slow to respond.
  8. They have significant facility challenges.

Some highlights from this episode include:

  • > Culture and people have changed over time, but many churches have not.
  • > Many churches refuse to admit that the world around them is changing.
  • > Cultural Christianity no longer exists—even in the Bible Belt.
  • > Sometimes a church’s habits become “the only way something can be done.”
  • > Some people are more obedient to the traditions of a church than they are to the Bible.
  • > If you want to find out what a church’s idols are, start changing the bylaws.
  • > How do you change the culture in an established church? Slowly.

If you are in the Bible Belt (or any part of the country) how does this impact your approach to outreach and ministry? How is culture changing around you and are you addressing it?  Are there things that need to change at your church? How you do things?  Why you do things?

Click below and listen for yourself.  It is time well spent. And don’t forget your FACILITY CHRISTMAS gifts.

8 Causes of Concern for Bible Belt Churches – Rainer on Leadership #279