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If we build facilities that decay by natural law at fairly predictable rates throughout its birth to burial, why do we not plan for it? Kevin Folsom, Former Facility Manager, Dallas Theological Seminary

According to a research project done a few years ago, facilities…any facility…will deteriorate at a rate of 1-4% per year, assuming regular preventive maintenance. However, this rate of deterioration will in most cases more than double if the regular, systematic preventive maintenance is not performed.

So, why do we, as church leaders, avoid addressing and planning for the inevitable? Would you drive your new car and never change the oil until the engine seizes up and then cough over a huge amount of money for a new engine?

Let’s step back and look at the big picture for a minute. An appropriate preventative maintenance program should be funded on an average of 1.5 percent annually of the CRV (Current Replacement Value) of a facility. Using the Fram Oil Filter analogy and advertisement from 1972, let’s look at how the “pay me now or pay me later” principle might be applied to your facility.

Let’s assume you put 15,000 miles a year on your $25,000 car…you are prudent and change your oil at a minimum of every 5,000 miles…and the average oil change costs $50.00. That would be $150.00 a year. In addition, let’s assume you have 60,000 mile tires, meaning you should get 4 years of wear (life cycle). If the tires cost $150 each, that would be $600 or $150 per tire/year. There is some other miscellaneous filters, belts, etc that need to be replaced every year or accounted for every X number of years. Let’s assume that we need to allocate another $100 a year for those items. That totals $400 of “preventive maintenance” on your car. Based on the above assumed purchase value, we would invest 1.5% of the value annually to keep the car running smooth. Is there anyone out there that thinks it is a waste of time or money so spend $400 (1.5% of the value) each year to maintain your vehicle and extend its useful life?

Do you see a pattern here?

Here is another factor to consider:
If your $25,000 car has a life expectancy of 8 years (15,000 miles for 8 years, for a total of 120,000 miles), how much do you need to set aside to replace the car? We know we need to invest $400 +/- annually to keep it running, but that money is going to be spent and we still need to plan for the new vehicle in 8 years.

If I make the assumption that vehicles are going to experience a 5% cost inflation per year (compounding) then the cost of that replacement vehicle will be $36,938 which means I need to set aside $4,617 each year in a “capital reserve/life cycle” account.

I find that many church members take better care of their homes, boats, cars, motorcycles, and even their pets than they do their ministry facilities. Is this acceptable to you? It is not to me, and I suggest that the church (big “C”) wake up, take notice, and do something about it. I believe that God holds each of us responsible and accountable for what we do and how we handle every resource entrusted to us.

Growing up in church, I have always heard that our ministry facility is the “house of God.” Yet, in many cases, I have found we assume that we can maintain this “house” like you might maintain a residential rental property. However, in reality, ministry facilities are large, complex commercial buildings with sophisticated systems that require regular maintenance. They need not just repairs—but routine, regular, preventive maintenance.

I’ve conducted a lot of study on this topic. I have been shocked by the statistics and analysis done in the secular markets with facility management services such as hospitals, manufacturing plants, retail, office, and government buildings. Unfortunately, as with many other issues of relevance, the church is trailing the leading edge of thought leaders and forward thinkers by at least 10-15 years, which means that our buildings may be in even more need of maintenance and repair than we know.

Remember: your ministry facilities have been ENTRUSTED to you, making you the steward of God’s stuff.

So, if we are inclined to subscribe to the above 2 models for maintaining and replacing your vehicles, does it not make sense to do the same for your facilities? God has entrusted you to steward them…right? If so, to quote Sean Connery in The Untouchables“What are you prepared to do?”

Did you enjoy this blog? For more great information and perspective on being a faithful steward towards our facilities, check out our latest book ENTRUSTED. Get your copy today!

Tim Cool
Chief Executive Officer
Tim Cool is the President and CEO 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.