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For the past five to six years, we have expressed the importance of one Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staff member for every 25-35,000 square feet for general maintenance. However, over the past 24 months, we have leaned toward the 1:35,000 square foot ratio. The original range came from a staffing survey. The 1:35,000 was in line with some of the best-run facilities and lined up with data from IFMA.

Since we have reported these numbers, many people have questioned us about this ratio’s validity. We have discussed this with some looking for clarification, and we understand their perspective.

Understanding Ratios

Data from other sources in non-church settings suggest a ratio of 1:40,000  to 1:50,000. (Click HERE and HERE to see some of these sources.) Our team read these reports along with others. In turn, we see reasons why the 1:35,000 ratio may be more applicable to churches.

Given my superficial knowledge of other secular markets, I would suggest that they need less FTE for some of the following reasons:

  • They outsource more of their preventative maintenance, repairs, and the like. In many of these markets, the norm is outsourcing.
  • They generally have more funds to outsource.
  • In many of the "leasable" spaces, the tenants are responsible for much of the facility maintenance expense. The organization does not have to staff for general maintenance.
  • They utilize technology more readily and frequently, reducing the need for more staff.  As we generally see, the church world is often about a decade behind other markets.
  • In many industries, they expect that the building has a life cycle with the anticipation that there will be a significant capital renewal investment or a complete gut/demo and start over. This is far different from the church world.

Is One Enough?

Earlier this year, we discussed the importance of saving time and stewardship. We discussed how utilizing eSPACE (and technology in general) could increase the ratio from 1:35,000 to 1:40,000. Therefore, our team contends that this is the correct ratio for churches. Now, let’s say you have 50,000 square feet and only have one FTE dedicated to general maintenance. If they stay on task for 40 hours a week, you may be okay with just one. In fact, you may only need one for 60,000 square feet. But that is if they stay on task for 40 hours each week.  

Our Benchmarking Report Tells Another Story

Our 2020 Benchmark Report offers a bit of insight here. The report suggests that maintenance staff only stays on task 50% of the time. As we have reviewed the data, there is an issue with the number of FTEs dedicated to facility maintenance and the amount of time spent on-task. This further causes concern as the 1:35,000 square feet appear to be eroded by not staying on task.

We could not determine if this was a management issue or a lack of overall staffing. Meaning people who are supposed to perform maintenance are setting up tables, unloading paper for the office, setting up a Christmas tree, or cutting grass. As we reflect on the other markets, my guess is people dedicated to facility maintenance for an office building are not setting up tables for tenants. This could be another possible reason those facilities need fewer people per square foot.

I hope this helps add some context to our ratio and gives your church some things to ponder and then take action on. Early next year, we will post a blog series on increasing your efficiency and effectiveness to a staffing level closer to 1:50,000 SF. You will not want to miss this series. Onward!

Tim Cool
Chief Executive Officer
Tim Cool is the founder of Smart Church Solutions and takes great pride in helping churches optimize their facilities. When he’s not at the helm of his company, he’s dedicated to his family, being a husband to Lisa and a father to 27-year-old triplets. An enthusiast of the outdoors, Tim enjoys the simplicity of hiking in the North Carolina mountains.