Over the past several weeks we have been asked how COVID-19 will impact our church facilities in 2021 and beyond. This is a great question, and our team has been developing thoughts on the matter. As we move into month two of 2021, I want to share several church facility management trends along with intentional tips.
Now, before I share these trends and tips, let me provide a few disclaimers:
- No one really knows all the answers because we have never been here before.
- There will likely be restrictions in how we use our church facilities, and we believe that it will be more determined by the local ministry and not a wide-sweeping national change.
- I am convinced the “gathered church” needs to meet. We need to be in community, and while micro churches and small groups are a critical component to the spiritual community, I believe corporate worship is still important and part of our North American church culture.
- Things are going to change. In fact, I would guess we may see a number of ebbs and flows over the next 36 months. In short, we may be pivoting on a regular basis.
So, with that said, here are some church facility management trends we are seeing currently that may continue in the foreseeable future (whatever that means in this upside-down world):
Church Facility Management Trends in 2021
COVID Has Been an Accelerator
While the pandemic has put a lot of things on hold, it has also accelerated a few operations. For instance, handfuls of churches were utilizing online giving and online services, but now both of these are commonplace.
On the other hand, we have been working with many churches that have been in a downward trend in reference to attendance, funds, and facility care. COVID-19 has accelerated these facility trends, and we are seeing more churches prepare to close their doors. Deferred maintenance has also increased, which may make a “comeback” harder in the future.
Heightened Awareness of Cleanliness and Care
We have seen an incredible increase of inquiries and assessments for churches trying to r understand how to effectively clean and care for their buildings. This starts with facing the reality of the current condition of the facility. Take that and couple it with the current staffing, means, and methods related to overall facility stewardship. For many churches, this starts with either a consultation or the performance of a Facility Condition Assessment.
Rental Space May Be an Issue
Several of our clients were meeting in schools, YMCA’s, and theaters before COVID-19. Since the start of COVID, most church facilities have been vacant.
Depending on where you are located in the country, this trend may continue for quite some time, which could be a real issue for church plants, portable churches, and multi-site campuses. With that said, there may be more empty church buildings available for use, rent, lease, or even purchase. There is going to be a significant amount of empty retail and big box stores that may be available for church use.
How Do We Do Ministry in The Future?
This is a question we hear regularly. People are concerned about “how” the facility will be used in the future. Yeah, me too. I firmly believe that we WILL use our facilities. But the “how” is likely to fluctuate.
Therefore, it would be prudent for churches to relook at the vision and mission of the church without the facility as part of the equation. It is our recommendation that churches revisit the “why” they exist and “how” they want to do ministry. Then, determine how your facility can facilitate the vision and if there need to be any modifications. We envision there will be renovation/re-utilization of spaces than new construction in the immediate future.
Automation Will Be King
Many churches were moving to automate HVAC, access controls, digital signage, etc before COVID. Going forward, I see more and more churches looking for ways to automate their systems. Along with automation, the use of facility management and event management software will become mainstream and a critical part of an intentional facility stewardship initiative.
Fresh Air and Filtration
There is going to be a HUGE move toward addressing fresh air intake in all our buildings as well as changes in the grade and quality of HVAC filtration. This should be coupled with more intentional HVAC preventive maintenance and filter changing cycles. Consult your local HVAC service company for suggestions and applications.
Analytics Will Drive Decisions
Analytics and data will be used more by church leaders to make decisions for many areas of ministry. This trend has been on the rise for the past several years but is just now making its way to the surface We see leaders looking for trends related to the following:
- The number of events in a given week or month. These can indicate the need for more maintenance, cleaning, and a potential increase in utility costs.
- Number of completed work orders in a period of time and the amount of time it took the team to complete them to track staff efficiency.
- A number of work orders or tickets required to address the same recurring issue so that a more permanent “fix” can be considered.
- Cost of work in certain areas so budgets can be better maintained.
- Number of events in a certain space to determine if energy automation would be a viable way to say energy and increase operational efficiency.
- The list goes on!
Intentional Church Facility Management Tips for 2021
Now that we have covered the trends, let’s review practical church facility management tips so you can steward your facilities well this year and in years to come.
It is more critical now (with decreased activity in the facility) to be intentional with running water through pipes, checking panels, clearing out junk, testing backflows, etc.
Minimalism Will Be the New Normal
With ever-changing requirements, churches that have minimalized their possessions will fare better. Every decorative piece becomes one more thing to clean and maintain. If it does not positively move your “why” forward, then why are you investing time, effort, energy, and money in it?
Recycling is an Option
If you have committed to being a minimalist, there is an opportunity for you to “recycle” those knick-knacks and furniture. If they are in good condition (good enough for you to use if you weren’t being a minimalist) could a local non-profit benefit from the donation? Could you sell it to raise funds for community mission work? Think creatively about how you can give back to your community.
It is time to rethink your landscaping. Xeriscaping can help you save money on water and maintenance while creating a pleasing “first impression”.
Several contracting industries are feeling the pinch as well. Work with other churches or non-profits in your community to see if you all can combine a project (like parking lot repair) that you can pitch to a local contractor. Having smaller projects that are assured, plus being able to mobilize and buy material in bulk (lowering their costs), might save everyone money while supporting the local industry.
Relook at Your Budget
Given many of the above, you may need to relook at your budgets as you are likely to see an increase in cleaning personnel, a number of cleanings, cleaning products, paper products, HVAC servicing, etc.
Preventative Maintenance on Equipment
With an emphasis on cleaning, many have purchased new equipment to make disinfecting easier. With the equipment, there is always preventative maintenance that will help extend the life of the toll and ensure it operates correctly. If you do not perform the maintenance, you will not receive the full benefit of the investment.
With new equipment and processes, training is critical. We have less wiggle room in letting things slide. Cleaning that is not done correctly can have immediate consequences. Have you trained your team on all new processes and equipment maintenance needs? Do they understand the “why” of what they do? Have you empowered them to push back when other staff members want them to cut corners?
Are you scheduling your events with a program that others can see? That can help deconflict. That provides all the necessary information to everyone. Can it work with a maintenance program that can help schedule cleaning and shut spaces down if necessary? Now is the time to either start or upgrade your scheduling capabilities. Cleaning times and the need to deconflict are constants, a proper scheduling software can ensure that you are still doing the right thing when activity levels rise.
For additional guidance, our team is here to help. Contact us today to talk through any of the points above.